Buried Secrets: Chapter 2
"Land of the free, home of the under surveillance," Perry
said. "This kind of stuff makes me sick. I think you're
smart not to go back to your place until we figure out who
these lunatics are, Lois. Our lawyers called Justice, FBI,
State, CIA ... They even called the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms. The only answer we got was that
there is no official government interest in 'the person
calling himself Superman'. Nobody in Washington wants to
claim these boys."
"Then who are they?" Clark asked. He was sitting on the
corner of Lois's nearly empty desk, a somewhat worried
frown on his face.
"That's what we're going to find out," Perry said, grimly.
"There's apparently a bunch of loose cannons that no one
will claim running around out there, who seem to think it's
acceptable to go busting into newsrooms and hassling
reporters. We're going to find 'em before they can do it
"Especially," Lois said, "since they seem to think that I'm
the one to hassle."
"Well," Clark pointed out, "you interviewed Superman and
they want to find him. Maybe it was Hobson's choice."
"Just because I interviewed him doesn't mean I know
everything about the man," Lois said, somewhat crossly.
She tapped a pencil eraser against her desktop. "I have an
idea. If these guys really are government, the last thing
they're going to want is publicity. We can write up a
detailed story about the raid this morning and if anybody
from Washington tries to bury the investigation, we can see
where it goes from there."
"Be sure you give detailed physical descriptions," Clark
said, thoughtfully. "If anybody knows these guys -- if
they've done it before -- somebody might speak up."
Perry nodded. "I like it. Get on it right away."
"You can use my computer," Clark said. "I have to pick up
my tux before they close, anyway. I'll help you with it
when I get back."
"Maybe I should assign somebody else to that," Perry said,
thoughtfully. "You're going to be busy with this new thing
"Oh, no!" Lois said. "Perry, I've been trying to get an
interview with Lex Luthor for months! This is the first
time I've had a real shot at it. It's important."
Perry hesitated. "Well ..."
"Besides ..." Lois glanced around and lowered her voice.
"Clark and I think LexCorp might be engaged in some
questionable business practices. We've found a possible
link between it and the Rainforest Consortium, and the
attempt to mine the rainforest."
"*Lex Luthor*?" It was a testament to Perry's professional
instincts that, even startled, he kept his voice down.
"Not necessarily. It might just be one of his high-ranking
subordinates. In any case, we need to either prove it or
disprove it for certain. After all, Perry," she continued,
"how often has some supposedly squeaky clean politician or
businessman turned out to --"
"More times than I can count," Perry said. "This could be
huge! All right, you can stay on it for now. If things
get too hectic I can assign you some extra help if you need
"Well, we could use Jimmy," Lois said. "He has the
computer skills that neither Clark nor I have, and anyway,
he found the first link."
"The *first* link? There's more than one?"
"Yeah," Lois said. "We think it's tied to the break-in at
my apartment and at the Planet. And, I've been wondering
if it really was the goon squad that bugged my place. What
if it was the other batch, trying to find out how much we
know? I'm pretty sure it wasn't there earlier -- Clark and
I looked everything over pretty thoroughly -- but they
could have come back later. Somebody obviously did."
Perry pursed his lips in a silent whistle.
"And, speaking of which," Lois asked, "is there any
progress on getting me a new computer? I'm going to need
one, even if it's just to write my articles."
"I'm working on it," Perry said. "The Planet's had some
budget cutbacks recently and Accounting is making unhappy
noises about the expense, but if we get more headlines like
the ones we've had in the last week, circulation should
start to pick up pretty soon."
"In the meantime, you can use mine," Clark said.
"One more thing," Lois said, "if we can get hold of a
sketch artist, we might be able to get an artist's
rendition of that leader of theirs."
"That's a good idea," Clark agreed. "It wouldn't hurt to
put it with the article. These guys can't operate in a
"Exactly what I was thinking," Lois said. "I'll hold on
that until you get back, though. I'll want you to help
with the description." She ignored the incredulous look
Perry gave her at the admission. "You go on and pick up
your tux and I'll get to work on the article."
"Okay." Clark gave her a look she couldn't quite read and
pushed himself to his feet. "I'll be back as fast as I
A moment later, as she was taking a seat at Clark's desk,
she saw the door to the stairs close behind him and a few
seconds later, she looked up as a sonic boom rattled the
windows of the newsroom slightly. Well, if Superman was on
his way to a rescue, she'd find out about it when Clark got
back. In the meantime, she had an article to write, in as
colorful and descriptive terms as she could think of.
Whoever those goons this morning had been, they were about
to become famous.
"An armed robbery," Eduardo Friaz was saying, about an hour
later. "They'd just got out of the bank when Superman
dropped in on their heads. He caught the bullets and
squashed them flat. The suspects were so stunned they just
handed him their guns without a fight."
"Did anybody reliable see this?" Perry asked skeptically.
"That's a pretty unbelievable story."
"Besides me, that is? Just everybody who was there --
thirty or forty people, I guess, including the cops,"
Eduardo said. "Plus, they got it on the bank's
surveillance cameras. The Security people promised to make
the Planet a copy. This Superman guy is incredible!"
"Are you sure he's human?" Perry asked.
"I don't see how he can be, " Ralph said. "Maybe he's a
robot or something."
"He's not a robot," Lois said.
"Then, maybe he's a space alien." Ralph said. "Maybe
that's why those guys this morning were after him. Maybe
he eats human brains or something."
Lois didn't dignify his remark with an answer, but the
suggestion set up a train of thought. When she and Charlie
had first met, after she'd gotten past wondering about
supernatural possibilities, the thought that Charlie might
be an alien had occurred to her. They had never disproved
Could that possibly be why those guys this morning had
wanted Superman? What had Martha said -- a few days after
they had found the baby, some men claiming to be from the
space agency had shown up, looking for what they said was
debris from a Russian rocket or something. Hadn't that Air
Force inquiry into possible alien contact been going on at
about that time?
Turning to Clark's computer, she typed a phrase into the
search engine: Project Blue Book. That looked like a
pretty good place to start.
An hour later, she had graduated to a microfilm machine.
She was peering at a photo of several Air Force officers at
a news conference from the mid 1960s and a headline that
read "UFO Sightings Really Swamp Gas" when Clark
materialized suddenly by her elbow and set a cup of caf'
latte down on the surface of the desk. "Any progress?"
She nodded, indicating the photo. "Project Blue Book.
Take a look at that airman in the background."
He lowered his glasses for an instant. "That's ..."
"The piece of work who raided the Planet this morning. His
name is Jason Trask."
"*Nice* work!" Clark said.
"Thanks." She glanced at the sheaf of paper he was
holding. "What's that?"
"You said you wanted these." He laid the papers on the
desk surface. Lois picked them up.
The first page held two sketches: A very recognizable
pencil drawing of Jason Trask, face on, and another in
profile. The second page held a third, this one offset,
and another one, this time of one of his subordinates.
Lois riffled quickly through the stack, discovering that
all of them were very accurately drawn renditions of the
men who had invaded the newsroom earlier in the day.
"Where did you get these?" she demanded.
"I drew them."
Naturally. "These are really good. We can include them as
illustrations with my article. I don't think we'll include
the name, though. If his bosses think we know too much,
they might not see any point in trying to bury the thing.
We want to see where they lead us."
He nodded. "I agree. We need to use just enough
information to make them think a cover-up is urgent. Would
you like me to look your story over and see if I can add
She didn't even wonder why it didn't bother her that a
colleague thought he could actually improve on anything she
did. She nodded and pulled up the document, waiting while
Clark read it over.
"Very descriptive," he said at last, grinning slightly. "I
like it. You might want to change this one line from 'The
FBI says' to 'A spokesman for the FBI'. Other than that, I
can't see any improvements."
"The FBI isn't a person. It can't speak."
She grinned. "That's why we have editors, Kent." Quickly,
she made the alteration. "There. Happy, now?"
"Good. Then, let's get this stuff to Perry and I think we
can get out of here. The party starts in two hours."
The Christmas Charity Ball, sponsored by LexCorp, was being
held at LexCorp's corporate headquarters, specifically in
the ballroom of the owner's luxurious penthouse at the very
top of the tower.
It had begun to snow again very lightly and the tiny,
feathery flakes coated their hair and clothing when Lois
and Clark presented their tickets to the exclusive event at
the door and were allowed inside. In the marble-floored
lobby, a wide bank of elevators, occupying nearly one
entire wall, waited to whisk guests swiftly to the
penthouse to join the several hundred others who had
He glanced at Lois as she removed her coat to hand it to
the servant waiting to receive it. Dressed in a black,
strapless formal, her hair swept into a high, elegant
French roll, with a delicate diamond pendant glittering at
her throat, she took his breath away. The perfume she had
chosen, mixed with her own unique scent, wafted lightly
around her as she moved and literally made him slightly
"You look fantastic," he said.
"Thanks," she said. "You look pretty good, yourself. I
always admire a handsome man in a tux."
"Hmm. Maybe I can come up with an excuse to wear it at
work," he said.
Lois giggled softly. "Forget it, Kent. I have enough
competition for you with Cat, now."
"You don't have *any* competition," he said. "It wouldn't
She tucked a hand into his elbow. "I think that may be the
nicest compliment that I've ever received from anybody."
She nodded toward the door to the ballroom. "Shall we?"
The enormous, sunken ballroom was decorated traditionally
for Christmas, with holly and ivy and the big, red
poinsettias. A twenty-foot, heavily flocked Christmas tree
dominated one corner, gleaming and glittering with
ornaments and tinsel and its myriad tiny, twinkling lights.
The heavy, velvet curtains that would cover the huge, glass
window were open, treating guests to a panoramic view of
Metropolis's skyline and the millions of city lights,
slightly blurred by the softly falling snow. A live
orchestra was playing a waltz, and several couples were
dancing in the middle of the room. As Lois had observed,
everybody who was anybody was here tonight, Clark thought.
As they entered, Perry homed in on them, followed by Jimmy.
"Lois! Clark! I thought for a bit there that you weren't
going to make it after all."
"No chance, Perry," Lois said. "Where's Alice?"
"Over by the buffet tables talking to Henry Barrinson's
wife. Henry got dragged off to the poker table in the
library almost as soon as he got here." Perry gestured
across the room to where a wide staircase led upward.
"Keep an eye on that doorway at the top. Luthor makes his
entrance from there."
Clark glanced at the place Perry had indicated as Lois
released his arm. "Okay," she said, "wish me luck."
Clark gave her a thumbs up signal. "Go get him."
"Incredible, huh?" Jimmy watched her stroll away toward
the grand staircase. "She's really something."
"You don't know the half of it," Clark said. "Luthor won't
know what hit him. Have you ever met him?"
Jimmy shook his head. "No, but I read all five of his
unauthorized biographies. Like it said in the blurb on the
cover -- 'The remarkable story of a modern genius -- A man
who went from rags to riches, from the wrong side of the
tracks to become a self-made billionaire'." He added,
"He's been Man of the Year, every year since he first came
to Metropolis, and owns half the city, besides. If Lois
can get an interview, it'll be a first." He stopped.
"Hey, there he is."
A figure had appeared at the top of the stairs. Clark
lowered his glasses slightly, allowing his better-than-
human vision to zoom in on the mystery man.
First impressions are often telling, and his first
impression of Lex Luthor was one of sheer, barely
restrained power. Not physical power, although the man
appeared to be in excellent condition, but the intangible
power of a man in full command of himself and of everything
around him. He was suave, handsome and somehow ageless;
this man would be a dangerous and ruthless opponent and if
it were actually possible for a man to raise his hackles,
Clark knew that his would be raised as he watched Lex
Luthor descend the staircase, a faint smile on his lips.
It was as if some previously unrecognized instinct in him
stirred and woke for the first time at the sight of the
billionaire. What it was, he couldn't say, but he didn't
like the man. It was as simple as that and as powerful,
and for an instant, the sheer intensity of the emotion
The newcomer reached the ballroom floor and was instantly
surrounded by his guests. Searching the room, Clark saw
Lois. She had somehow made her way to a spot only a few
feet from Luthor, unimpeded by other guests.
"Lex Luthor!" Her voice rang clearly over the voices of
the people around her. "Why haven't you returned my
For a startled instant, the chatter dropped to a few
murmurs and Luthor turned toward her. Clark saw his
expression change very slightly.
Easily, he turned back to the man whom he had been
addressing at the moment of Lois's interruption and spoke a
few phrases. Belatedly, Clark recognized the mayor of
Metropolis. The mayor smiled and the two men shook hands.
Just as smoothly, Luthor turned back. Clark held his
Smiling, he closed the distance between himself and Lois
and took her extended hand, raising the knuckles gracefully
to his lips, his eyes never leaving hers.
Lois acknowledged the gesture with a little smile of her
own. "Lois Lane, Daily Planet."
Luthor's smile widened. "I can assure you, I'll never make
that mistake again. Would you care to dance?"
"Yes, thank you." Lois allowed him to lead her onto the
ballroom floor while Clark stood on the edges of the crowd
of guests, listening.
"I hope you'll forgive me for being so bold," Lois said,
"Boldness is a trait I find very attractive in a woman, Ms.
Lane," Luthor said.
"Thank you." Lois fluttered her eyelashes. "Anyway, I was
wondering, Mr. Luthor ..."
"Lex, then. I know you're hesitant to give interviews ..."
"I hope you can understand, a man in my position," Luthor
said. "I wouldn't want to be misinterpreted, and I have
had one or two bad experiences with the media."
Lois looked up at him almost mischievously, through her
lashes. "But, not with me."
Lex Luthor smiled again, in Clark's judgement both amused
and charmed by Lois's direct tactics. "Why don't we make
Clark kept his face straight, but inside he was cheering.
She had done it.
"You're right, Jim," he whispered. "She is *something*!"
The library of the penthouse was relatively quiet. Several
men were seated around a table, playing poker, as Perry had
mentioned, and Clark didn't disturb them. He passed
unobtrusively through the library, rounded the corner of a
tall, ornate bookcase and paused in the doorway opposite
the door by which he had entered, lowering his glasses for
There was no one to be seen in the next room, which was
apparently an office -- a very large, luxurious office with
a wide, mahogany desk and elegant furniture. Very likely,
this was what he was looking for -- the office of Lex
He wasn't looking at the furniture in the sense of admiring
it. Clark Kent was well aware that this was probably the
only time he would legally be in this building without
supervision. If he was going to prowl around and look into
some of the business conducted by Lex Luthor, now was the
Sneaking around in the house of his host wasn't something
he actually enjoyed, but as he had told Lois a few days
ago, he wasn't totally inexperienced in the subject of
breaking and entering. A few years before, it had been the
only way to learn enough about the extra-curricular
business activities of a certain high-ranking government
official residing in Manila, to allow the local authorities
to shut down a drug-smuggling operation. Now, while Lois
was exerting her considerable talent in keeping Lex
Luthor's attention, was the time to find out what he could.
He scanned the room beyond the door carefully, noting the
location of a pressure sensitive alarm in the floor. That
was interesting in itself. Why should a man in a building
as secure as this one feel it necessary to set such
safeguards in his own office?
The door was locked, but he could handle that. The catch
wasn't rigged with any alarm; apparently, Luthor didn't
feel that more than the pressure alarm was necessary and
there didn't seem to be any spy cameras anywhere.
Cautiously, he checked the room behind him with his x-ray
vision, to assure himself that the men playing poker were
unaware of his presence. With the bookcase concealing him,
he was out of their range of vision, and the low-voiced
conversation of the men made it evident that their
attention was completely on their game. Cautiously, Clark
exerted a small amount of super strength and felt a
He waited, just on the off chance that he had missed some
subtle alarm, but no one in the building appeared to be
aware of anything irregular. Softly, he opened the door
No one but Superman could have accomplished the feat in
quite the way he did. To the normal human eye, the room
was dark but to his eyes it was not. The wide windows let
in the lights of the city and the glow of the moon through
the clouds. That was more than enough illumination for
Clark Kent to see clearly. He drifted silently across the
floor, his feet less than an inch from the carpet. The big
desk beckoned, and that was his first goal.
The desk drawers were locked, not a surprising
circumstance, but upon examining the locks of each drawer,
he discovered the surprising fact that one, the bottom left
drawer, was equipped with an alarm. Now that, he thought,
was very interesting. Presumably, a big corporation would
lock up its important papers, but why would one, single
drawer in the desk of the CEO, himself, be specially wired
with an alarm? It seemed that Lex Luthor considered the
contents pretty hot stuff -- which meant it was probably
something he should know about, too. If it turned out to
be harmless, well, he could keep a secret.
Clark floated silently in front of the desk and trained his
x-ray vision on the contents of the locked drawer.
"He asked me to dinner here in the penthouse, Sunday
night," Lois said, as she and Clark left LexTower a few
minutes after midnight.
Clark nodded, soberly. "Do you mind if I hang around
nearby?" he asked, keeping his voice low. "I don't really
like the thought of you being with him, alone, especially
since he might be the one behind Barbara Trevino, and the
attempts to kill you."
"Clark, he isn't likely to try to kill me when he's invited
me to dinner."
"Maybe he would," Clark said. "Would you really be anxious
to bet that he wouldn't have an alibi, if he needed one,
and people willing to swear that you never showed up for
your date? A man who would hire an assassin to murder
someone simply because she *might* have seen something she
shouldn't, and *might* have made a connection to him, isn't
going to be stopped so easily. It seems to me that Mr.
Luthor has a lot to lose."
Lois cast an odd glance at him. "You've sure changed your
attitude. What aren't you telling me?"
"I had a look in his office while you were keeping him
busy. I'll tell you about it when there's no one to
overhear us. Come on. Let's pick up your bag and head for
Lois opened her mouth and then closed it again. She didn't
speak until they had reached the little subcompact supplied
by the insurance company and were pulling out of the
parking space in LexTower's big, parking structure. "Okay,
Kent, let's have it."
Clark wiggled around in the seat, trying to get comfortable
and yet not put a dent in the dashboard with his knee.
"There was a drawer in his desk rigged with an alarm," he
said. "He had a bunch of very interesting documents in
"Get to the point."
"Yeah. One of them was a flight manifest for Flight 642."
He paused. "There was also a bunch of legal papers drawn
up by the company lawyers for some kind of legal challenge
-- no date on them. It seems that Josef Carlin owns 51
percent of the stock of Carlin Investments. The legal
challenge was against the heirs of Josef Carlin, intended
to enable LexCorp to acquire that 51 percent, or at least
enough of it to give Lex Luthor a controlling interest in
"His *heirs*?" Lois said, sharply.
Clark nodded. "That's right."
"So he was expecting Josef Carlin to die."
"I'd say that's pretty obvious."
Lois was silent as she maneuvered the small car out of the
parking structure. As she pulled out on the street, she
spoke again. "I thought Carlin Investments was a
subsidiary of LexCorp."
"Not exactly. Apparently, 49 percent of the company stock
belonged to Luthor's wife, Arianna Carlin Luthor. Luthor
seems to have control of it, now."
"His *wife*?" Lois glanced quickly at him and then back at
the street. Little snowflakes sprinkled softly against the
windshield, breaking the glow of the streetlights into
rainbow patterns, and were swished away by the wipers.
Little crusts of ice had begun to collect at the edges of
the windshield. "I didn't know he was married."
"From what I saw, she's not in the picture, anymore," Clark
said. "Probably we should get Jimmy on it to find out what
the situation really is. It sounds like this Josef Carlin
might be some kind of in-law."
Lois nodded. "Probably. I'm still keeping the 'date' with
him, Sunday night, though. I'm not supposed to know
about the wife; besides, this is just business."
"Okay, but Superman's going to hang around outside, just in
"I think," Lois said, "that I'd feel much safer if he did.
I wonder what happened to the wife that gave Luthor control
of her share of the company."
"For that matter," Clark said, "I wonder why he suddenly
wants this Carlin guy dead. Maybe that's something we
should check on. Maybe there's some kind of power struggle
going on between the stockholders. In any case, I don't
think we're looking for a LexCorp subordinate behind all
the things that happened this last week. I'd say our
target is Lex Luthor, himself."
"Maybe it's just a case of Carlin refusing to sell," Lois
said, slowly, "I wonder how many other acquisitions of
LexCorp came about in a similar fashion.
"Maybe we should take a look at that," Clark said. "I also
think we should try to find Josef Carlin. I'm betting this
isn't going to stop with the plane accident."
Lois nodded, looking worried. "If Luthor was willing to
murder everybody on that passenger plane to kill one man,"
she said, "it doesn't sound to me as if he'd draw the line
at much to get what he wanted."
"Probably not." Clark said.
"In fact," Lois said, "this is eerily like the situation
with the sabotage of the space program. I found a bomb in
the Messenger replacement rocket -- *after* Antoinette
Baines died in that helicopter explosion. Everyone assumed
that Dr. Baines was responsible, but why wasn't it spotted
after she died? It's not as if no one was in and out of
that rocket for the next twenty-four hours. What if she
took the fall the same way Barbara Trevino is taking the
one for the Rainforest Consortium? If the space station
project had been abandoned, Luthor would have a private
space station in the process of being assembled out there
right now. Am I being unnecessarily suspicious?"
Clark shook his head. "Not a bit. I remember you
mentioning that this morning. I think we should look into
the whole thing as thoroughly as we can. It's sounding
more likely every minute."
"I think I'll tell Jimmy to put tracking down her phone
records on a priority basis," Lois said. "This could turn
out to be huge, just like Perry said, but we're really
going to need to nail down our facts. Lex Luthor has a lot
of power and influence."
Clark nodded, frowning out into the darkness. "This scares
me, Lois. If he was really behind the attempt to down that
plane, and behind Barbara Trevino and the Rainforest
Consortium, as well as the attempt to destroy the space
program, all for his own enrichment, the guy is as
completely amoral as it's possible to get. He could do
anything." He shifted in the seat and barely stopped
himself from putting a hole in the dashboard with his knee.
The resulting dent was small, however. Hopefully, the
rental company employees wouldn't notice. "I wish I'd been
able to make copies of what I saw, but even if I'd had a
camera, I couldn't open the drawer without setting off the
"That's why I'm going to convince him that I have no
suspicions of him, whatever," Lois said. "If no hint comes
out that anyone thinks someone besides Trevino was
responsible, he'll probably leave me alone. He doesn't
want further investigation into it, remember. And, in the
meantime, we're going to start digging into everything
that's ever been documented about LexCorp, from the time he
founded it -- and everything he's ever been involved in
"Can Jimmy do that without leaving behind any traces?"
"Jimmy's pretty good with a computer," Lois said. "I'll be
sure to let him know how important this is. He'll be
careful." She turned the corner onto the street that ran
in front of the Daily Planet. "I'm going to park this
matchbox in the Planet's garage and we can head for
Clark was silent as she brought the tiny subcompact into
the subterranean garage and found a parking spot. There
were only a few cars in the echoing space now, probably
belonging to members of the night staff. Lois cut the
engine and pulled the lever to release the trunk. "Let me
just get my bag and we're off," she said. "I hope I can
get back into my apartment sometime tomorrow. It seems
like I've been living like a nomad ever since we met. We
can't forget our friend Trask and his trained monkeys,
either. I guess it just figures that there'd be some wacko
group somewhere with little green men on their minds."
"I guess I should have expected something of the sort,"
Clark agreed. "It takes all kinds to make a world."
"Yeah, well that doesn't mean we have to put up with every
group of nutballs with an agenda," Lois said. "Their
rights end where they start infringing on ours."
Clark gave a soft laugh. "I like your style, Ms. Lane.
And a lot of other things about you as well."
She grinned at him in the gloom. "Why Mr. Kent, are you by
any chance trying to flatter me?"
"You bet. Let's go. I think we both need a break."
A few moments later, Lois was snuggled tightly in his arms
as they launched from the roof of the Daily Planet and
headed west, but in the near future, she would remember his
remark with a sense of irony.
It was late when they arrived in Smallville, close to
midnight local time, and the lights of the Kent residence
were out. Clark quietly opened the door of the farmhouse
and let Lois enter ahead of him.
"I told Mom we'd be arriving late," he said, softly. "She
said just to come on in and go to bed."
Standing in the entranceway, Lois waited for her eyes to
adjust to the lowered level of light. Outside, the sky was
dark and clear and the stars had blazed down with
intimidating brightness, reflecting off open fields covered
with snow. Inside, the darkness was thick. Clark's arm
slipped around her and she was aware of movement.
Suddenly, they were standing at the top of the stairs where
a tiny nightlight in a wall receptacle gave enough
illumination for her to make out the door to Clark's room.
Stepping softly, he led her to the door and opened it for
"Is this okay?" he said, keeping his voice to a whisper so
as not to disturb his parents, only a short way down the
hall, and set her bag down just within the doorway.
She nodded. "This is fine."
"All right, then. I'll see you in the morning. Good
night." He started to turn and Lois caught his arm,
tugging him after her into the room.
He followed the pull of her hand. "Are you okay?"
She closed the door behind them and turned back, sliding
both arms around him. "Stay here a minute, would you?"
His arms encircled her, pulling her close. "Sure. Are you
all right, Lois?"
She nodded against his chest. "I just -- I just wanted to
have a chance to be here with you without anything
happening. It seems like everything in my life has shot
into fast forward."
"Oh." He rested his cheek on top of her head. "I know
what you mean. A little peace and quiet would be nice,
wouldn't it -- even if it's only once in a while."
Again she nodded. "I wouldn't trade my job at the Planet
for anything but every now and then, I'd like a break.
Between killer asteroids, murderous businessmen and crazy
government agents, I've kind of reached my limits for
Silence descended on the room as she stood wrapped in his
arms and she felt herself beginning to relax for the first
time since she had discovered her ransacked apartment
yesterday morning. Clark seemed willing to simply stand
there, holding her as long as necessary, she thought.
At last she stirred and his arms loosened slightly.
She nodded and pulled away reluctantly. "Where are you
going to sleep?"
"On the couch downstairs. I'll be right here if you want
She hesitated, reluctant for him to leave. "I suppose it's
the best we can do. I just wish you could stay here.
Not," she added, hastily, "for any -- well, you know -- but
just to be here. But I guess it wouldn't look good, would
it? Your mom and dad would think --"
"We could leave the door open," he said. "I think that
would be all right."
"Oh, but what am I thinking," Lois said, kicking herself,
mentally. "The bed's a single. Where would you sleep?"
He laughed. "You forgot again. I don't need to sleep in a
bed -- if you don't mind me floating around the room during
"Sure." She heard the smile in his voice. "I'll just go
change in the bathroom while you get your things. I have a
pair of sweats in the dresser. That should make everything
on the up and up."
By the time she had acquired her flannel pajamas and robe
and was stepping out in the hall, toothbrush in hand, to
find the upstairs bathroom, he was waiting by the door,
clad in a set of grey sweats with the logo of MidWest U on
the front. She looked him over, a little nervously. He
"Are you sure about this, Lois? I can still go sleep
downstairs if you'd like."
"I'm sure." She was surprised how certain her voice
sounded. "If you're here, I won't have any nightmares.
I'll be right back."
When she returned ten minutes later, she entered the room,
half expecting to find him floating near the ceiling but he
was simply sitting in the room's armchair, looking out the
window at the snowy fields. The little table lamp still
burned on the bedside table, filling the room with a warm,
muted glow. He glanced around. "Everything okay?"
She nodded. "Um -- why don't you look out the window for
another minute while I get into bed," she suggested.
"Okay." He turned to look out the window once more and she
quickly shed her robe and climbed under the blankets.
"It's okay to look, now," she told him.
He matter-of-factly pulled the window shade closed and
turned to face her. "If you're uncomfortable with this --"
"No, really." She pulled the blankets up around her
shoulders. "I want you here. I'm just not used to -- I
mean, ever since Claude -- I mean --"
He smiled. "Claude was a heel," he said, firmly. "And a
fool. I'm neither. Go to sleep, Lois. If you have a
nightmare, I'll be right here."
"Okay." She found that she was smiling shyly at him.
He began to rise from the floor in the same unconsciously
casual way that always amazed her, no matter how often she
saw him do it, and leveled out horizontally in the air, his
head resting on his arms. "Goodnight, Lois," he said,
She reached out to switch off the light and snuggled down
under the warm, thick blankets. Clark's silhouette was a
slightly darker shape against the pale starlight leaking in
around the corner of the window shade and it was amazing
how reassuring his presence in the room was. She closed
her eyes. "G'night, Charlie," she whispered.
Lois woke to the mixed aromas of bacon, eggs and coffee --
she could tell just be the way it tickled her nose that
this coffee was of far better quality than the sludge she
drank at the office -- and pushed back the covers. Clark
was gone, but she could hear his voice speaking cheerfully
to someone downstairs.
The floor was cold to her bare feet but she discovered that
someone -- probably Clark -- had placed a pair of somewhat
worn bedroom slippers (four sizes too large) next to the
bed and she quickly slid her feet into them, reaching for
her robe that lay across the foot of the bed. A short time
later, her morning routine done, she was descending the
stairs, dressed for the office.
Clark glanced around as she entered the kitchen, a slab of
toast laden with butter and strawberry jam in one hand and
a mug of coffee in the other. "Sleep well?"
"I don't think I moved all night," she said. "What time is
"Almost eight. I called the office and told them we were
going to be late this morning -- that we had some things to
check out. We have an appointment this afternoon to meet a
guy from Washington --a George Thompson -- who says he's
here to investigate the crowd that invaded the newsroom
"That was fast," Lois commented. "Do I smell fresh
"You certainly do." Martha Kent had taken a mug from the
cupboard and was in the process of filling it from the
electric coffeepot that had been sitting on the drain
board. "Do you take cream and sugar?"
Lois glanced around, noting the complete absence of sugar
substitute or low fat creamer. "Um -- sure." She took the
cup, thinking that if she stayed around the Kent farm much,
which seemed likely, she was going to have to increase her
workout sessions at the gym. A sip of the coffee made her
raise her brows. It was the best coffee she had tasted in
a long time. "What kind of coffee is this?"
"It's just a brand from a local chain," Martha said. "Uh,
Martello's Market Blend. Why?"
"It's really good," Lois said.
Clark grinned, dumping four heaping teaspoons of sugar, one
after the other, into his own coffee. The toast had
vanished in record time. "Maybe it's the real sugar and
cream," he said. "Not one of those newsroom substitutes."
"Probably," Martha said, comfortably. Lois had the feeling
Clark's mother hadn't been fooled for a minute.
"Anyway," Clark said, "before we head for Metropolis, would
you mind if we go into town first? I want to talk to
Rachel Harris. Mom says Rachel called her yesterday
afternoon. It seems that Bob Martin was driving by
Shuster's Field and saw four men walking around inside the
fence. He told them that they were trespassing and when
they didn't listen, he used his cell phone to call Rachel.
She drove out and ordered them off the property. They gave
her some kind of story about being interested in buying
land hereabouts and asked her about the ownership of
Lois nearly choked on a sip of coffee. "*What*?"
Clark nodded. "Exactly. Rachel told them to talk to Dad,
but they never showed up. I think it's something we should
"And your dad needs to do something about keeping strangers
out of that field!"
"He already did that," Martha said. The corners of her
eyes crinkled with mirth. "Right after Rachel called, he
moved Espresso into the field along with a truckload of
hay. Would you like some bacon and eggs?"
She nodded absently. "Sure. Who or what is Espresso?"
"Dad's prize stud bull," Clark said. He took a plate from
the cupboard and began to shovel bacon and scrambled eggs
onto it. He added a slice of toast and placed it on the
table. "There you go."
"Oh. But won't he get cold out in the open like that?"
Martha shook her head. "He's spent every winter outside
since he's been grown. Espresso is bigger than Ferdinand,
our last bull. He's jet black, the size of a small barn,
has a mean disposition and looks it. If those boys come
back, none of them are going to be too eager to climb the
As she took a seat at the table and picked up a fork, Lois
couldn't help grinning at the thought of Trask -- or
somebody -- and his men fleeing in terror from the Kent
stud bull. "Still, it worries me that somebody should be
snooping around the field where your ship landed, just when
Trask and his goon squad are taking an unhealthy interest
in Superman," she said. "Was there anything about the ship
that they could tie to you?"
Clark shrugged. "Never having seen it that I can remember,
I can't tell you," he said. "Mom?"
Martha nodded. "The 'S'," she said.
"The one on the front of the shirt. It was on the ship."
"So if they were to find the ship, they'd know it was
connected to Superman," Lois said.
"I'm afraid so," Martha said. "But the ship is buried
miles away. They're not going to find it by snooping
around in Shuster's Field."
"They could find whatever it was that hurt Clark, the other
day, though," Lois said.
"Maybe," Clark said. "Whatever it is wasn't obvious,
though, because I flew over the field, later and looked,
and I didn't see anything unusual. With all the junk
buried underground in that area, they're going to need a
lot of luck to find anything. Espresso isn't going to give
them much time to search. The thing is, if they're looking
around here, it means they may still be suspicious about
the 'space junk' that they were looking for when my ship
landed. That's what bothers me."
"Clark," Lois said, "I think we need to stop assuming. We
need to operate on facts."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, we're assuming that those men who came around
never found the ship your dad buried in Porcupine Gulch.
What if they did? We need to be sure. I know you don't
want anyone to notice that you have an interest in anything
there, but there must be some way of telling."
"Jonathan can give you landmarks," Martha said. "I think
Lois is right, Clark. We need to be sure. You can fly
overhead under cloud cover and x-ray the area. Your
detection equipment is certainly better than anything they
Clark nodded, thoughtfully. "You're probably right."
"Right about what?" Jonathan Kent stepped through the
"Lois has an idea," Martha said. "We have to be sure what
the situation is with Clark's ship."
"What do you mean?"
Martha explained. Jonathan listened, frowning slightly and
when she finished, he nodded. "Let me dig out one of the
topological maps of the area. I'll show you where I buried
it and you can go check."
"Lois and I are going to go into town to talk to Rachel
before we leave," Clark said. "I'll take a look when we
get back, if that's okay."
"Good idea." Jonathan turned toward the stairs. "It might
take a little while to find them, anyway. I think I put
them in the attic. I should have them by the time you get
The Sheriff's office in Smallville was quiet when they
arrived. Rachel Harris was seated at her desk, apparently
filling out paperwork, and looked up at the sound of the
door opening. "Clark! What are you doing here?"
"We caught a ride back from Metropolis for more of my
stuff," Clark said. "Mom told me about the trespassers,
yesterday. What happened?"
"Oh, that," Rachel said. "They were four city types. I've
never seen them around here before. Bob Martin was driving
by and saw them just inside the fence. He stopped and
asked what they were doing and if they knew they were on
private property, but one of them told him to buzz off."
"I'll bet that went over well," Clark said. "So, what
Rachel grinned. "Bob never did like being told what to
do," she said. "Especially by outsiders. Anyway, he
called me. I happened to be over at Wayne Irig's, checking
out a break-in at his barn. He figured it was probably a
drifter taking shelter during the night, but whoever it was
broke into his tool shed, as well. Didn't take anything as
far as he could see, but you might warn your dad that there
may be a sneak thief in the area. Anyway, I was only five
minutes away, so I drove over. The four of them had metal
detectors and were walking around like they were looking
for something. They didn't look much like treasure
hunters, to tell you the truth. They were all decked out
in that camouflage gear that a lot of city guys like to
wear when they go hunting. Anyhow, I told them they were
trespassing and if they didn't get off the property I was
going to have to run them in. The big guy that seemed to
be giving the orders apologized and asked who owned the
field. He said they were looking for land to purchase in
the area, which seemed kind of strange. They didn't look
like the farming type, to tell you the truth."
"Hmm." Clark looked at Lois, who raised her eyebrows. He
removed a folded paper from his pocket and opened it. "Um,
Rachel, I have an artist's rendition here. Could you tell
me if any of the four men looked like this guy?" He laid
it out flat on her desk. The drawing of Jason Trask as he
had appeared the day before stared up at them.
Rachel examined the sketch closely and when she raised her
head to look at him, she was frowning. "This is the big
guy that was doing the talking. Who is he?"
"His name is Jason Trask," Clark said, trying to keep the
dismay he felt out of his voice. "He and a group of about
fifteen other men barged into the Daily Planet newsroom
yesterday morning waving guns and a fake warrant, claiming
to be Federal agents."
Rachel looked back at the drawing. "What did they want?"
"They wanted information from me about Superman, since I
was the one that interviewed him," Lois said. "I guess
they thought he confided his deepest secrets to me, or
"You mean that guy that landed the jumbo jet?" Rachel was
clearly skeptical. "Why?"
"We aren't sure," Clark said. "The only thing we've been
able to dig up on him is that he was involved in the Air
Force's investigation of UFOs back in the sixties.
Whatever he wants, though, he was armed and impersonating a
"Just what I need," Rachel said. "Some kind of UFO nut
running around the county. What's he want with this
Superman fella, anyway? Does he think the guy's an alien
or something? He looked pretty human to me, except for his
taste in clothes."
"It's possible," Lois said. "I just hope Trask isn't
dangerous. Whoever he is, nobody in Washington seems to
have heard of him. We checked with every agency we could
contact and none of them knew a thing about the guy or his
"Hmm." Rachel glanced at the drawing again. "Would you
mind if I make a couple of Xerox copies of this picture?
I'd like to post it here in the station and circulate some
copies to my deputies. If we've got an armed nutcase in
the area, they need to know who to look for -- especially
if he's impersonating a Federal agent. But how did you
guess he was one of the trespassers?"
"It was kind of a hunch," Clark said. "He seems to be a
UFO nut and Mom told me there've been a couple of UFO
hunters around the farm now and then. When you mentioned
the metal detectors ... "
"Besides," Lois said, "we thought it might be possible that
he was checking out Clark's background, since he's my
partner -- if he thinks we're somehow mixed up with aliens.
The guy's a wacko."
"Yeah, I get it. If any more of them show up, tell your
mom to call me," Rachel said. "We get a few UFO types, now
and then -- mostly, they're harmless. They always seem to
congregate out in the country so they can signal aliens
without city lights to hide their spotlights and stuff --
but they better not be trespassing and threatening people
with guns or anything. I'll shut them down fast if they
"I don't want to tell you your job," Lois said, "but be
careful if you run into Trask. He and his buddies were
waving around a lot of guns, yesterday morning."
Rachel nodded. "I appreciate the warning, Ms. Lane. Armed
lunatics make me nervous."
"You and me, both," Lois said.
Behind them, the door opened and Clark glanced over his
shoulder. Roy Decker let it swing shut behind him.
"Rachel, we need to talk," he announced.
"Not now, Roy," Rachel said, sounding slightly annoyed.
"I'm working, or hadn't you noticed?"
Roy Decker pushed past Lois and she gave him a dirty look.
He ignored her. "Honey, this is what I'm talking about.
This is a man's job. A woman shouldn't be doing this
stuff. Her place is in the home, where she's safe. I
don't want my wife to have to go out and risk her life
chasing down poachers and housebreakers."
"Roy, we've argued about this for months." Rachel folded
her hands on the desk in front of her. "I've been the
sheriff for just over a year and I've managed so far
without getting hurt or killed. If you can't handle that,
then there's nothing more to say. Now, I'm busy, so why
don't you go somewhere else? I'll talk to you later if you
still think we have anything to discuss."
Roy opened his mouth to speak but Rachel cut him off.
"Later, Roy. I have a job to do."
"But ... "
"Later," she repeated, firmly. Roy closed his mouth with a
snap, turned and left the office without another word.
A short time later, at the Kent farmhouse, Jonathan
presented Clark with a map of Smallville and surrounding
areas. "Here you go, son." He indicated a spot in one
corner. "I buried the ship in Porcupine Gulch, back behind
the sycamore grove, just about here. There should be a
big, round boulder about ten feet north of the place. You
might have to scan a little to find the exact spot, but you
shouldn't have any trouble locating it."
Clark nodded, examining the map. "Okay. Look, considering
what happened yesterday, I'm going to take off fast so no
one can see me. I'll be back as soon as I can."
At the speeds of which Superman was capable, Porcupine
Gulch was split seconds away. Hovering within the lowest
layers of the snow clouds that covered the sky today, Clark
again consulted the map and surveyed the territory below,
comparing. The sycamore grove was easy to see and the big,
round boulder was prominently in the open. Quickly and
thoroughly, he began to scan the ground.
"The ship is gone," Clark said. "There wasn't even any
sign of anyone having dug it up. It must have happened
"So they've been waiting for all these years for the
'aliens' to show up," Lois said. "Do you suppose it was
"Probably. Who else would know where to look after I
appeared?" Clark said. He glanced at his watch. "Still,
they can't know for sure who buried the ship. Dad didn't
own the field in 1966 and he only bought it last year. We
need to get back to Metropolis. We have to meet Thompson
in a few hours. It sounds to me like the cover-up is
"Well, at least now we have a better idea what we're
dealing with," Lois said.
"Yeah." Clark said. Oddly, he was feeling better than he
had been since Trask had made his appearance. Maybe, he
thought, it was exactly for the reason Lois had stated.
They now had a much better idea of what was going on than
they had the day before.
"What are you going to do?" Martha asked.
"Try to find out what we can about Trask and who he really
works for," Lois said.
"I'd say our best lead is Thompson," Clark said. "He
showed up awfully fast -- none of the usual bureaucratic
stalling and delay."
"I noticed that," Lois said. "Do we know anything about
"Not much. Jimmy said some guy from Washington called and
arranged for us to meet Thompson at two o'clock. He's
supposed to be investigating 'the incident at the Daily
Planet' yesterday morning. Jimmy said the guy described
him as a government ombudsman -- which could mean anything
-- and his name is so common that it's a little hard for
him to do a background check."
"That's usually the term they use when they don't want to
tell you what he really does," Lois said. "I wonder if his
name is really George Thompson."
Clark shrugged. "Probably not."
"Both of you be careful," Jonathan Kent said. "If these
government types get their hands on you, Clark, you could
wind up in a lab -- "
"'--Being dissected like a frog," Clark said. "I haven't
"Well, I don't see how they could get you into a lab if you
don't want to go," Lois pointed out, "or dissect you, once
they have you there. As far as we know, nothing on Earth
can go through your skin."
"Unless they find whatever it was in Shuster's Field that
made Clark feel sick," Jonathan said. "That might be what
they were looking for with the metal detectors."
"I'm inclined to think that they don't know about it," Lois
said. "How could they, anyway? If they did, they'd have
found it a long time ago. I think they were just looking
for anything they could find, now that 'Superman' has
appeared. You just be sure to keep Espresso in the field
to discourage them from trying to search it. It's up to
Clark and me to track them down and de-fang them, whoever
they are. If they're some kind of secret government agency
hunting down 'aliens', I think the taxpayers should know
how the powers that be are wasting their money."
"Lois is absolutely right," Martha said. "There's nothing
like a little sunshine to discourage these sneaky types."
"And we're going to figure out how to do it," Lois said.
"Thanks for letting me spend the night again, Martha.
Don't worry. I won't let Clark get into any trouble."
Clark's mother laughed. "Why don't I believe that? Try to
be careful, anyway. And, if you need a place to stay,
you're welcome here any night, honey."
"Don't think I won't take you up on that, if it's
necessary," Lois said. She fastened the top button of her
coat and tugged on her gloves a little more firmly. "I'm
ready, Clark. Time to head for Metropolis to meet Mr.
Perry White was sitting at his desk when Lois knocked on
his office door. As he glanced up, she opened it a crack.
"Are you busy, Perry?"
"Just finishing lunch," he said. "Come on in. Did you
find what you were looking for this morning?"
"Partly," Lois said. She entered the office, Clark on her
heels. "Clark and I just wanted to check in to let you
know we were here. We have that meeting with George
Thompson in about an hour."
"Yeah. The 'government ombudsman'," Perry said, somewhat
dryly. "He sure got here fast, didn't he?"
"You noticed that?" Lois said. "Can you say 'cover up'?"
Perry laced his fingers and rested his hands on the desk
surface. "Could be. It sounds to me as if someone in
Washington isn't happy about yesterday's incident. You two
did a terrific job getting those sketches done. Who did
you tap for the drawings? That's some of the best work
I've ever seen."
"Um -- " Lois glanced at Clark. "Clark's an amateur
sketch artist. It's one of his hobbies."
"Really?" Perry looked approvingly at his newest hire.
"That's nice work, Kent. I've seen worse by
"I had Lois to help," Clark said. "She has a good memory
"That's true. Well, you two better get going. Let me know
what Mr. 'Thompson' has to say."
"We will. I just need to pick up a new tape for my
recorder," Lois said. She glanced at Clark. "This is the
kind of investigative journalism that gets my juices
"Keep an eye on her, Kent," Perry said, instantly. "I know
that look. It always means trouble."
"Don't worry, sir," Clark said.
"Believe me, I worry," Perry said, but he was smiling. "I
also smell a headline story. Just be sure you don't get
into water that's too deep for you."
"We won't," Lois said. "Trust us."
Perry simply raised an eyebrow.
The government building where they were to meet George
Thompson was neatly nondescript. Lois and Clark stepped
out of the elevator and walked briskly down the hall,
checking the numbers on the doors. "Room 26," Lois said.
"This is it." She raised her fist to knock.
Clark caught her hand. "Wait."
She lowered her hand, watching him expectantly. Clark
lowered his glasses, apparently staring over the frames at
the blank surface of the door. Once, she opened her mouth
to demand information, but he gestured quickly for silence.
The silence stretched for what seemed hours, but a glance
at her watch told her it had been barely a minute when he
pushed his glasses into place.
"What was it?" Lois asked.
"It looks like we've hit pay dirt. He was talking to Trask
on the phone." Clark's voice was barely above a whisper.
"Keep his attention for me, would you? I want to do a
little super-snooping." He opened the door and Lois saw a
small desk with a female occupant. She glanced up
"Lois Lane and Clark Kent," Lois said. "We're here to see
"Just a minute." She pushed a button and Lois heard a
faint buzz. "Mr. Thompson, Ms. Lane and Mr. Kent are here
to see you." She paused, seemed to listen for a moment,
then smiled perfunctorily and nodded in the direction of
the door to her right. "Go on in."
Clark knocked lightly on the panel and a voice said,
faintly, "Come in."
Her partner opened the door and let her precede him. Lois
schooled her expression to one of polite interest as a
slender, white-haired man rose to meet them.
"George Thompson?" she inquired. At his nod, she
continued, "We're Lois Lane and Clark Kent from the Daily
"Of course, come in. Have a seat."
Lois took one of the hard-backed chairs, glancing around as
she did so. It was a blandly uninformative government
office, with blank walls and a desk with the usual generic
accoutrements adorning its otherwise bare surface. Nothing
here to give a clue to the man who occupied it, she
thought. A briefcase sat next to the desk, closed and
probably locked. She was going to have to rely on Clark's
unique abilities if they were going to learn anything here.
She'd be willing to bet her last dollar that "Thompson", or
whoever he was, wasn't going to knowingly give them
anything they could use.
Clark took a seat next to her, letting his glasses slip a
fraction of an inch down the bridge of his nose. "So," he
said, "you just flew in from Washington?"
Thompson seated himself behind the desk, assuming the
position of authority, she thought. It was a subtle but
effective ploy, designed to put his visitors at a
disadvantage. He shook his head in answer to Clark's
remark. "Bullet train. I'm not much for flying. You?"
Clark shook his head as well. Seizing the opportunity to
grab the man's attention, Lois opened her purse and removed
her cassette recorder. Thompson watched her without
expression as she switched it on and set it on his desk.
"Who exactly do you work for, Mr. Thompson?" she asked.
Thompson smiled mechanically. "As I'm sure my secretary
told your man at the Planet, I'm kind of a government
ombudsman. I go where the problems are. Right now, my job
is to get to the bottom of this 'incident' at the Planet."
"That's our job, too," Lois said, flashing him a smile.
"What can you tell us? Do you have any idea who these guys
were or why they wanted Superman?" Out of the corner of
her eye, she was peripherally aware that Clark had glanced
casually at the briefcase and smothered a small stab of
excitement. Her partner was almost certainly reading the
only documentation that would tell them anything about
George Thompson and his real mission. "I mean," she
continued, "I printed everything he told me. I don't know
anything more about the man than anyone else, since my
article came out."
Thompson shook his head. "I'm afraid not. The first step
in our investigation process is to gather all eyewitness
accounts. We don't take it lightly when someone passes
himself off as an agent of the U.S. government. Can you
give us a physical description of any of the people
"Actually, yes," Lois said. "Have you seen a copy of the
Daily Planet, this morning? We managed to produce sketches
of the people involved, including the leader. He was a big
man, at least six feet tall, and very heavily built."
"I hadn't seen it, yet." Thompson, she thought, didn't
seem particularly pleased at the revelation.
"Here." Lois reached into her bag and produced several
pages of the Planet's morning edition. On the front page
of the paper, prominently showcased, was the face-on sketch
of Jason Trask that Clark had produced yesterday. She laid
it on his desk and spread out the second and third pages,
displaying the drawings of the men who had accompanied him
in his raid for Thompson to see. "Fortunately, I have a
very good memory for faces, and one of the people present,
when the raid took place, was a sketch artist."
"Are they accurate?" Thompson asked. His face had gone
blank, but she thought she could read a certain sourness in
"Very." Lois kept her voice level. "One of the so-called
'agents' frisked our gossip columnist, Catherine Grant,
twice -- although where she could have been hiding anything
in the outfit she was wearing, I have no idea. She
remembered him particularly."
Thompson was examining the drawings, and if Lois was any
judge of body language, he was most unhappy with this
development. It was too bad, she reflected, that he hadn't
learned to control that as well as his expression. At
least, for him.
Clark moved casually to shove his glasses back onto the
bridge of his nose. To anyone else, it would mean nothing.
To Lois, it meant that whatever snooping he had been doing
was completed. "I hope," he said, "that the drawings will
help your investigators to track down these people. I'm
sure that real government officials would have more respect
for the Constitution than these men had."
Thompson's expression flickered for just an instant. "I'm
certain they would have, Mr. Kent. Is there anything more
you can tell me?"
"I'm afraid not," Lois said. "You have no idea who these
people could be?"
Thompson shook his head. "No." He stood up and thrust out
a hand. "Thanks for coming."
The interview was clearly over. Lois got to her feet,
retrieving her recorder. "Well, thank you. You'll get
back to us on this?"
"When we find out something, we'll contact the Daily
Planet," Thompson assured her. Lois didn't answer as Clark
shook hands with the man and a moment later, they were
standing in the hall outside.
"'When we find out something, we'll contact the Daily
Planet'," she quoted, sarcastically. "What bull!"
"Come on, let's get out of here," Clark said, softly. "As
soon as he thinks we're gone, he's going to see Trask."
"How do you know?"
Clark led the way toward the exit. "I heard him on the
phone. I told you, he was talking to Trask. He was
"Both of them, actually. Trask is government, all right,
but apparently his bosses didn't authorize the raid
yesterday morning. The Director, whoever he is, sent
Thompson here to clean up the mess Trask made --Thompson's
words, by the way. They work for an agency called Bureau
39. Trask told Thompson that he'd deemed it necessary and
it was none of Thompson's business, and Thompson told him
that *he* called the shots for the Bureau and that he was
coming to see Trask as soon as he buried the story with us.
Trask hung up on him."
"This has possibilities," Lois said.
"I thought so. I x-rayed his briefcase. There's a folder
in there with a bunch of files on UFO incidents, called
Incident Analysis: Eyes Only. It's got stuff on Roswell,
in 1947, White Mountains, Arizona, 1975, Gulf Breeze,
Florida, 1986, Voronezh, USSR, 1989 --"
"Get to the point."
"And Smallville, Kansas, 1966."
"Bingo," Lois said. "The connection. Now we know who
found your ship and who we're fighting. Keep your ears
open. I want to know exactly when he leaves."
They were just exiting the building when Clark lifted his
head. "Oh, no; not now!"
"There's a fire at Metro General. A big one. The
Children's Ward. Lois -- "
"Go," she said, at once. "I'll get a cab and follow
"He's leaving his office now," he said. "Be careful."
"I will. Get going. The sooner you save the day, the
sooner you'll be back. There's a cab." She put two
fingers in her mouth and produced an earsplitting whistle
and, like magic, the passing vehicle pulled sharply to the
side of the street. "Go," she said, again.
"Thanks," he said, and daringly leaned forward to give her
a peck on the cheek. Then he was ducking down the nearest
alley. As Lois opened the cab door, she heard the sonic
boom that told her that Superman was on his way.
"Where to?" the cabbie asked.
She pointed to the cross street. "Pull over there and wait
for a minute."
"Okay, lady, it's your money."
It was barely four minutes before George Thompson walked
out the double doors.
The man paused, Lois saw him glance casually around and
then cross the sidewalk to a black, Ford sedan sitting by
the curb. As he was getting in, she leaned forward. "See
the white-haired guy getting into that car? I want you to
"Oh, sure," the cabbie said. "What do you think you are,
lady -- some kinda government agent?"
"I'm an investigative reporter," Lois said, shortly. "Can
you do it?"
The man shrugged. "Sure."
The other car pulled out onto the street and Lois gritted
her teeth, but her driver was more on the ball than she had
given him credit for. He turned the corner casually,
allowing several others to fill the space between their
vehicle and the one they followed.
"I guess you don't want him to see you," he said,
maneuvering skillfully through slowly moving traffic.
"Yes -- I mean no, I don't."
"Thought not," the man said. "Okay, let's give it a shot."
His voice had developed a spark of animation, Lois noted,
absently. She took a real look at him, noticing for the
first time that he was a young black man, and his thin,
narrow face had taken on an expression of interest.
Traffic was moderately heavy but somehow, they didn't lose
their quarry. Her driver always managed to keep a minimum
of three cars between his taxi and the sedan he and Lois
followed, and Lois had to give him credit that he managed to
do exactly as she had asked. When Thompson's vehicle pulled
to a stop in front of a drab, nondescript warehouse in a
row of similar ones on Bessolo Boulevard, which bore a
battered sign, reading: "Bessolo Discount Used Office
Furniture", he drove right past, pulled to the side of the
street half a block down and stopped. "How's that?" he
asked, sounding a little smug.
"Not bad," Lois said. Ordinarily, she would have withered
such pretensions with a single sentence, but Clark must be
having a softening effect on her, she reflected. Besides,
she could hardly complain about the service.
The driver was watching the scene behind them in the
mirror. Lois turned, also watching as Thompson got out,
shut the door behind him and headed straight for the
"Okay," she said, "what do I owe you?"
"Fifteen-ninety-two. Are you gonna stay here?"
Lois nodded, extracting the cash from her purse and as an
afterthought, adding a little extra to the tip. "I want to
see what happens next. Thanks. It's refreshing to meet a
cab driver in this town who can really drive."
He accepted the payment, looking slightly worried.
"Thanks, lady. You be careful, okay?"
She couldn't resist a slight grin. "You sound like my
boss. I'll be fine."
Upon returning from the hospital fire, forty-some minutes
after he had left, Clark saw no sign of Lois around the
government building, which he had expected. She was
probably still following Thompson, he reasoned, but the man
had not yet returned to his office. A quick scan of the
Daily Planet and of her apartment showed no trace of Lois.
He landed on the flat top of an office building, trying to
listen for her heartbeat but after ten, frustrating minutes
had passed, he was forced to the unpalatable conclusion
that there were simply too many people in the vast city of
Metropolis for him to pick out a single heartbeat, even
Lois's, without having at least a general idea of where to
Well, given that he couldn't locate her using direct
methods, what other options did he have? She had taken a
taxi, he recalled. Perhaps the driver could tell him where
he had dropped her off. He cast back in his memory,
visualizing the name of the company and the number of the
taxi she had boarded, and a moment later, Clark Kent was
waiting by a pay phone for a previous occupant to finish
The man, who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, seemed to
be having an argument with his girlfriend. Clark tried not
to listen, but it was almost impossible not to pay
attention to the raised voice. He glanced at his watch,
seriously considering finding another phone, when the man
slammed down the receiver and burst out of the booth,
muttering under his breath. Clark glanced after him, one
eyebrow raised. The guy was awfully mad over a choice of
videos, he thought and shrugged, forgetting the incident.
The phone number for the taxi service was posted on the
wall of the booth, probably for the convenience of
customers, and a moment later, a feminine voice answered
"Metropolis Cabs, can I help you?"
"I hope so," Clark said. "My name is Clark Kent. I'm a
reporter for the Daily Planet. I'm trying to find a
particular cab that picked up a passenger, my reporting
partner, at 95th and De Soto at about two thirty, this
afternoon. It was cab number 139."
"Is there a problem, sir?" the woman's voice asked,
sounding slightly suspicious.
"No, ma'am. I'd just like to ask the driver where he
dropped her off. She was supposed to meet me a short time
ago, but she hasn't shown up."
"Well ... "
"I want him to drop me off in the same place. If you could
send that cab here -- cab number 139 -- I'm at the corner
of Granholm and Pitts."
"Well -- all right, sir. But, if you want a specific cab,
we'll have to charge you extra."
"That's not a problem."
"All right, sir. It will be about twenty minutes."
"Thank you," Clark said.
The taxi arrived fourteen minutes later. Clark knew that
because he had checked his watch every fifteen seconds or
so since the dispatcher had hung up. Cab #139 pulled to a
stop at the curb and Clark reached for the rear door. The
cab driver, a young black man, looked him over measuringly.
"Are you Clark Kent?"
"Yes," Clark said, sliding into the back seat. "You picked
up my reporting partner, Lois Lane, at DeSoto and 95th at
about two thirty. She's a young woman, dark hair, brown
eyes, very attractive. She probably told you to follow --"
"Yeah. She wanted me to follow this white-haired guy."
"That's her. Can you take me to the spot where you dropped
"Sure." The driver looked worried. "I kind of had a bad
feeling about that. What happened to her? Is she okay?"
"I hope so," Clark said. "I'm trying to find her. I'm
hoping you can show me where she went."
"Okay, hang on." The man glanced over his left shoulder
and pulled smartly out into traffic.
Belatedly, Clark pulled the seat belt around himself. The
driver cut through early rush hour traffic to round the
corner and turn into one of the side streets, neatly
avoiding the crush of traffic that was beginning to build
on the main drag. "She said she was an investigative
reporter," he remarked.
"She is. She writes for the Daily Planet," Clark said.
"Wait a minute -- Lois Lane and Clark Kent? I thought your
name sounded familiar. You broke that big scandal about
the Rainforest Consortium. That was great work!" Clark
saw the man glance at him in his rear view mirror.
"I didn't think anybody would remember our names," Clark
said, feeling mildly surprised. Most people didn't usually
notice the names of the reporters who wrote articles in the
paper -- not even the big ones.
"Well, most people might not, but I'm a fourth-year
journalism student over at New Troy State. I only drive a
cab part time to help with expenses. I notice that kind of
That explained it. Clark glanced at the license clipped to
the sunshade on the right side of the windshield. "You're
name is Tony Daus?"
"That's right." He whipped the cab around a tight corner.
"Who was that guy she was trailing ... if you don't mind me
"We don't know his real name." Clark said. "Whoever he is,
he's not up to any good. I just hope nothing's happened to
"Yeah, me too." Tony's mouth tightened. "I dropped her
off by a big warehouse on Bessolo Boulevard. The white-
haired guy went in and when I left, she was sort of looking
around the place, maybe tryin' to find a way in."
"That's what I was afraid of," Clark said.
"Yeah." The man pressed down harder on the accelerator.
In spite of the growing rush hour traffic, it was barely
fifteen minutes before the cab pulled to a stop beside the
warehouse advertising "Bessolo Discount Used Office
Furniture". Tony pointed. "That's the warehouse where the
Clark was thrusting a pair of twenties into Tony's hand
almost before the cab stopped moving. "Keep the change,
"Sure. Be careful -- and find her, okay?"
"I'm going to," Clark said, pushing the door open. Without
a backward glance, he hurried toward the warehouse.
The big warehouse was situated in a row of similar ones,
but this one was separated from the others by an electronic
locking system that the others lacked. Clark lowered his
The space behind the door was not, as might have been
expected, the main body of the warehouse but instead, a
small, metal-walled anteroom, and on the opposite wall was
another lock, this one a combination. Obviously, he
thought, this wasn't your ordinary warehouse.
Past the second wall was the actual storage space. It was
crowded with objects smothered in heavy canvas, and a
couple of massive file cabinets against the far back wall
that instantly caught his attention. There was no sign of
Lois, but if she'd been here, he wanted to know what the
place contained. Maybe it would give him some idea of
where to look.
But he wasn't going to get in this way and standing out
here in front of the place was only going to make him
conspicuous. Glancing back, he saw that Tony's cab hadn't
left, yet. The young driver was watching him, a worried
frown on his face. Clark scanned the blank row of
warehouses. They presented a nearly unbroken wall along
the block, but in one place, a narrow gap opened between
two of them some fifty feet down the walk to his right. He
trotted toward the opening, glanced once more back at Tony,
lifted his hand in a half-wave and ducked between the
buildings. Once out of sight, he moved fast, zipping down
the space into the rear of the warehouses.
The area behind the structures was actually a narrow alley,
providing a space buffer between them and the blank, dingy
wall that marked the rear of another set of warehouses.
That was an advantage, Clark thought, because no windows
opened on the alley.
Quickly, he lowered his glasses again, scanning the
interior of the wall that faced him.
If there was any kind of alarm system, he thought, it was
probably at the entrance; it certainly wasn't here.
Probably, no one expected someone to come directly through
the wall. Carefully, he scanned the entire area behind the
wall. There was no living thing to be seen except a colony
of mice living in a stack of discarded crating material.
It was now, or never.
His heat vision made an excellent cutting torch, as he
neatly sliced a hole in the wall big enough for him to
enter the building. Gently and silently, he eased the
section out and leaned it against the outer wall, then
turned and slipped quietly through the entrance he had
created, into the warehouse.
The building was big and echoing. The place he had chosen
to make his entrance was apparently a de facto office. A
metal desk with a shaded light hanging above it and a
rolling, metal office chair faced the interior of the
warehouse. To the right and rear, the two heavy file
cabinets stood against the wall and he scanned them
In the cabinet were folders, each containing written
reports similar to the ones he had seen in George
Thompson's briefcase -- incidents that were allegedly the
results of extra-terrestrial visitations. In fact, the
ones he had seen in Thompson's briefcase were also there,
bunched in the very front as if hastily crammed into the
top drawer of the cabinet. Thompson had been here, all
right, and now he wasn't -- and neither was Lois. That
didn't sound good, but as yet he'd found only this trace of
Thompson to indicate that he'd been here. The fact that he
had apparently left the contents of his briefcase behind
worried Clark slightly. Thompson had impressed him as
someone in authority and the way he had talked to Trask had
sounded as if he felt himself to be Trask's superior.
But, maybe Trask hadn't thought so. The way he had spoken
to Thompson over the phone certainly suggested that. What
that indicated, he wasn't sure, except that perhaps there
might be some kind of power struggle going on in Bureau 39.
Trask didn't impress him as the most stable of persons. He
had apparently gone outside the authority of his own agency
yesterday morning, and faking a Federal warrant didn't
sound like the best of judgement in Clark's opinion. From
what he'd heard of the phone conversation, the man seemed
quite obsessed with the possibility of an alien invasion.
Just how far was he likely to take it?
Without hesitation, Clark opened the drawer and
appropriated the files. Scanning the remainder quickly, he
assured himself that nothing remained of any references to
Smallville. There might be copies elsewhere, of course,
but at least taking the entire contents of Thompson's
briefcase might confuse the strange agency as to what the
real goal of the theft really was.
Gripping them in one hand, he turned to survey the rest of
the place. The room was dark except for the light that
streamed in through the hole he had made in the outer wall,
but with his enhanced vision, he could see the big,
shadowy, canvas-shrouded hulks cluttering the floor beyond
the desk and he began to scan them through their coverings.
The objects under their canvas coverings puzzled him at
first. They seemed to be pieces of miscellaneous junk
welded together haphazardly -- until he saw the ship.
It was small and sleek and the padded interior was nowhere
near a size that could possibly accommodate an adult human,
but it could easily hold a baby. Along the sides,
imprinted into the metal of the ship's skin, was a row of
hieroglyphs of a type he had never seen before, and on the
nose, was the symbol that Superman wore on his chest. He
moved forward swiftly and above all, silently, his feet not
quite touching the floor, and pulled back the canvas. The
ship that had brought him to Earth lay there, solid
evidence that Bureau 39, whatever that might be, had been
behind its removal. Hanging prominently from a protrusion
on the ship itself, was a bag, labeled "Smallville, Exhibit
A" and Clark shook the contents into his hand.
It was a ball, about the size of an orange, made of some
material he had never seen before and, as his fingers made
contact with it, it began to glow with a soft, white light.
Clark found himself staring at it as if hypnotized, unable
to look away.
And unexpectedly, its surface changed.
It was a representation of Earth. The green and brown
continents and blue oceans were unmistakable. For a long
moment it stayed that way and then, before his eyes, the
surface blurred and changed again. The entire globe
acquired a reddish cast and on the side facing him, a single,
large continent glowed a brilliant red.
Clark blinked, and a long-buried memory quietly surfaced.
"Krypton," he whispered.
Getting the ship out of the warehouse without being seen
wasn't easy, even for Superman, but he had advantages
others lacked. It was ten minutes later when Clark
deposited the ship and globe in the bedroom of his new
apartment. Sitting amid the dirt, trash and general
debris, the sleek, little ship looked distinctly out of
Carefully, he locked the apartment door with the new keys
that he and Lois had picked up on their return to
Metropolis that morning, fastened the two mechanical locks
as well and sat down in mid air, trying to think.
George Thompson had apparently had some kind of
disagreement with Trask and was quite possibly in trouble.
Lois had been hanging around the warehouse and might very
well be in the same kind of trouble, even if he hadn't
found any evidence of it. He'd restored the holes he had
cut in the wall in order to enter and then to remove the
ship as well as he could in the limited time available, and
hopefully, with all the junk in that place, they wouldn't
notice the missing files or the missing ship before he
could locate Lois and get his property to a safer location.
Just now, however, Lois was his top priority. How on earth
was he going to find her if Trask had managed to get his
hands on her? He didn't have any means of contacting her
or she him -- did he?
His pager beeped suddenly and he removed the device from
his pocket, checking the number. The Planet was calling
The answer to his problem was staring him in the face.
Silently kicking himself, Clark left the apartment in a
rush via the window. The Daily Planet had his pager's
number, and Lois's.
He had to find a pay phone.
"Perry wanted me to check on you," Jimmy was saying. "He
expected you and Lois to be back an hour ago."
Clark glanced out of the phone booth. Evening had
descended on the city while he had been in the warehouse
and engaged in removing his ship to safer quarters.
"Jimmy, has Lois contacted you?"
"She hasn't called back," Jimmy said. "That's not unusual,
"Hmm. Do me a favor, would you? Page her again a couple
of times. We got separated and I haven't been able to find
her. I'm starting to get a little worried."
"You got it, CK," Jimmy said. "I've got that other stuff
you wanted, by the way."
"Great," Clark said. "I'll look at it when I get back.
Page Lois now, though, would you? If she calls back, page
me again right away."
Stepping out of the booth a second later, he made a beeline
for the nearest alley, but all his attention was focussed
on listening for the distinctive beep of Lois's pager.
There it was, and it was coming from above and slightly to
the north. The only explanation for that must be that she
was in a plane somewhere over the city. An instant later,
Superman was in the air.
The sound of the plane engine was loud in her ears. Lois
shifted uncomfortably on the hard seat and glanced sideways
at George Thompson, who slumped in the seat next to her.
His face was bruised and dried blood streaked his upper lip
and chin. The older man met her eyes fleetingly and
dropped his gaze to stare at the floor.
Jason Trask and two soldiers sat across from them. Trask's
expression was shuttered, but she thought she could see
traces of a smug smile on his lips. She instinctively
glanced at her watch and then dropped her hands into her
It had been nearly three hours since Clark had left her to
deal with the fire at Metro General. Surely, her partner
would be looking for her by now. She prayed that he was,
but even so, how was he going to find her? Surely, even
his incredible abilities had limits.
"Sir." One of the fatigue-clad men who manned the plane
summoned his superior's attention. Trask rose and moved a
short distance down the aisle to where several men bent
over some kind of electronic equipment. Lois watched them
for a moment and then turned to glance once more at her
companion in misfortune.
"They're going to kill us, you know," Thompson said. "You
shouldn't have followed me, Ms. Lane."
"Why is he doing this?" Lois asked.
"He believes this 'Superman' is the advance guard for an
alien invasion. And he thinks he can trap him using you as
bait. Me -- I'm an inconvenience."
"He's insane," Lois said, with conviction.
"Yes," Thompson said. "He is."
"Mr. Thompson -- if that *is* your name -- " Lois
hesitated. "What *is* Bureau 39?"
Thompson didn't reply for a few seconds. "No one is
supposed to know such an agency exists, Ms. Lane."
"You'd be surprised what I know," she said. "Personally, I
think Bureau 39 should take a good look at some of its
agents, if your Mr. Trask is a good example. I know he
used to be with the Air Force's Project Blue Book, and it
looks to me like Bureau 39 is a direct descendent of it --
or maybe its crazy uncle that should have been locked away
for its own good. Since we're probably both going to die,
would you mind telling me if I'm right -- and why Trask is
so sure Superman is a threat? All he's done so far is help
us. He even diverted the Nightfall asteroid. Why would he
want to hurt us?"
"He's here to lull Earth into a sense of security," Trask's
voice said. Lois turned her head to see the man standing
next to her seat, the smile that she had decided three
hours ago was incredibly irritating playing on his lips.
"If the denizens of his world want to take over ours, they
don't want it destroyed, do they, Ms. Lane? He may have
fooled you, or you might be cooperating with him, hoping
for favoritism when the others arrive -- but it doesn't
"What do you mean?" she asked.
While they had been talking, two of the soldiers had begun
to unlatch the door in the plane's side. Trask smirked.
"I assume you two are familiar with the scientific method."
Lois frowned. "I didn't take much science in college. I
think it was something like 'Advance a theory and submit it
to a test'."
"Very good, Ms. Lane." The man's smile widened and became
a mocking grin. "My theory is that you know how to contact
this alien creature."
"And how do you plan to test it?" Lois demanded.
Trask shrugged. "If you suddenly become airborne at twenty
thousand feet, without a parachute, I have to assume you
will focus all your energies toward contacting this
"And, if you're wrong?"
The man shrugged. "Pushing back the frontiers of science
is not without risk."
"And, what happens if Superman does show up?"
A blast of air whipped hair into Lois's face as the
soldiers threw the door open. Trask braced himself against
the sudden turbulence. "Does the worm need to know if the
fish is going to be fried or charbroiled?" He nodded to
his subordinates. "Do you want to be first, George?"
On cue, the soldiers seized George Thompson by the arms and
hauled him to his feet. The man struggled unsuccessfully
as they manhandled him toward the open doors. Lois half
started to her feet, only to have Trask grasp her by the
wrist. "Don't worry, Ms. Lane, you're next."
"You're crazy!" she gasped out. "You can't do this!"
Trask smiled mockingly. "But I can, Ms. Lane. I know
where my duty lies."
In her purse, Lois's pager began to beep. Trask laughed,
shortly. "I'm afraid whoever's paging you is going to have
to wait a while."
George Thompson screamed as he was hurled out the doors.
Trask thrust Lois after him toward the soldiers, who seized
her and proceeded to shove her through the opening.
Lois screamed; she couldn't help herself. She squeezed her
eyes shut against the panic she felt as her body hurtled
"Char... -- Superman!" she screamed. "If you can hear me,
drop everything and get over here! Superman -- help!"
She didn't expect a response as quickly as it came. A pair
of familiar arms closed around her and Clark's shaken voice
said, "Lois -- are you all right?"
"Charlie!" She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Oh,
thank God!" She caught her breath. "Clark, Trask is using
Thompson and me as bait for you!"
"I figured that," Clark's voice said in her ear. "Let's
get Thompson and then I'll take care of Trask."
She nodded shakily, then found herself held close to his
side, one of his muscular arms around her waist, diving
headfirst after the tumbling body of George Thompson.
He was falling fast, gaining speed by the second, but Clark
-- Superman -- accelerated after him so swiftly that Lois
had to put both hands over her ears against the shriek of
the wind. Somehow, she had retained a grip on her shoulder
bag and it flapped behind them in the air. She let it
slide up her arm until the strap reached the crook of her
elbow. If she lost the entire contents, she thought, it
didn't matter. She would never forget this flight as long
as she lived.
They were overtaking Thompson, she saw. The man was
struggling, his arms and legs flailing frantically and
uselessly in the air. His mouth was wide open and she knew
he was screaming, although she couldn't hear a sound. He
hadn't seen them yet, she thought and then grinned as they
neared him because she could see that his eyes were
squeezed tightly shut. Clark drew even with the terrified
man and closed his free arm around his waist. George
Thompson gave a gasp that was half a yelp and wrapped both
arms around his rescuer. It was a good thing Clark was
invulnerable, Lois thought, or Thompson would have
strangled him in his panic.
Then, they were leveling out in a long, straight glide
above the city. Clark brought them down onto the sidewalk
in front of the Daily Planet and set them on their feet.
George Thompson almost collapsed and Superman grabbed him.
"Easy there." He lowered the man onto the bus stop bench a
few feet away. "Are you all right?"
Thompson nodded, breathing hard. Superman turned to Lois.
"Ms. Lane? Are you -- "
Something moved in the air at the edge of her vision. Lois
looked up, past his shoulder and gasped. "Superman! Look
He glanced around and instantly took in what she had
already seen. "I'll take care of it." And he was
launching himself toward the missile that was homing in on
the three of them.
Lois watched him arrow upward toward the menacing object.
He couldn't be hurt, she reminded herself. Clark had
slammed headfirst into the Nightfall asteroid and had lived
to tell the tale. This puny weapon couldn't possibly harm
It was one thing to know something in theory and another to
see it in front of her. The tiny figure in red and blue
zipped toward the oncoming projectile so fast that her eyes
could hardly follow it. As he approached it, he hovered
for a split second and then changed direction, flashing
sideways and around it. It followed, more slowly. It must
be registering his heat signature, but Clark was faster
than the missile, she thought with a rush of sheer relief.
He simply didn't want it to impact in the city and hurt, or
kill, innocent people.
"My God," Thompson said.
What he was reacting to, she wasn't sure but she didn't
comment as she saw Superman slow his speed, keeping barely
ahead of the deadly thing, leading it upward, beyond the
point where it could cause harm to the city and its
inhabitants. As she watched, the tiny figure paused in
mid-air and waited. The missile seemed to accelerate
toward him, and then, for an instant, a new sun blazed in
the sky in the place where Superman had been.
The brilliance dissipated, leaving only black smoke behind.
Shading her eyes, Lois stared at the spot, stunned. There
was no sign of Clark.
"He let it hit him!" Thompson's voice was hoarse. "He
could have gotten away. Why did he -- "
"Look!" Lois said. She pointed at the little speck of blue
and red that had appeared from nowhere, following the
silver arrow of the plane that bore Jason Trask and his
followers. "He's all right!"
Thompson stared at the vanishing speck and then closed his
mouth with an effort.
"Well, that settles one thing," he said, at last.
He gave a short bark of humorless laughter. "If Superman's
the advance man for an invasion, he has a funny way of
showing it," he said. "If there are others like him, they
wouldn't *need* to soften us up first."
"No kidding," Lois said.
"Not that it will make a dent in Trask's paranoia,"
Thompson continued, a trifle grimly. "The man should have
been shut down years ago. In any case, I know what my
report will say. Trask isn't stable; he's a loose cannon.
His unit will be disbanded as soon as I can find a phone
and he'll be under arrest before the day is out, Ms. Lane.
You have my word on it."
"As long as he poses no threat -- and it's pretty obvious
that he doesn't -- my recommendation will be that he's to
be left alone," Thompson said. "He could easily have let
me fall to my death and he didn't. That seems to speak for
itself. Besides," he added in a meditative tone, "after
that demonstration, I'm not sure there's anything we could
do to him, anyway."
"Besides, isn't there some sort of thing in the
Constitution about being innocent until proven guilty?"
Lois knew her tone of voice had an acidic edge to it. "He
hasn't committed any crimes that I know of."
"Well, there's a question of residency," Thompson said,
"but that's not my jurisdiction. If Immigration wants to
take it up with him, that's their business. Personally, I
doubt there will be any problem. Our government wouldn't
want to have someone like him working for anyone but us."
"Besides," Lois said, "we don't even know for sure that he
*is* an alien. Trask simply assumed that he is. Maybe
he's the result of some kind of scientific experiment or
"That would be *some* experiment," Thompson said, with a
slight grin. "In any case, as I said, it isn't my
jurisdiction." He boosted himself to his feet. "Can I
impose on you to direct me to a phone, Ms. Lane? I have a
report to make."
"Kids, this is incredible," Perry said. "This Trask
nutcase must have really gone off the deep end to launch a
missile like that right over the city. And to throw his
superior out of a plane -- "
"He was completely out of control," Lois said. "I don't
think he'd have listened to the President, himself.
Anyway, Superman turned him and his men over to Henderson
and left it to Thompson's people to deal with the
situation. Fortunately, Clark was nearby when the whole
thing broke and he got the story, and the statement from
Superman. I got the statement from Thompson and my end of
Clark nodded. "The Feds arrived a little while later to
collect Trask. They were pretty close-mouthed but I got
the feeling they weren't very happy about all the exposure.
Trask was livid, of course. He was calling Thompson a
traitor, and Henderson, and the entire Metro police force.
A couple of bystanders had cameras and I borrowed one.
Jimmy's developing the pictures as we speak."
"And the warehouse?" Perry asked.
"Henderson got a search warrant before Thompson's people
managed to clear it out -- although they showed up with an
Order to Impound half an hour later," Clark said.
"Unfortunately for them, too many people had already seen
the so-called 'UFOs' to pretend they didn't exist. I got
pictures of them, too."
"Good," Perry said. "We'll print them and let the public
make up its own mind. At the very least, it will raise
some uncomfortable questions about how the government is
spending our tax money."
"Good idea," Lois said. "Maybe they'll be a little more
circumspect in the future. I mean, at the first sign that
they *might* have a visitor from another planet, they try
to kill him. It sounds just like those bad old science
fiction movies on Midnite Theatre or something."
"It does, at that," Perry admitted. He leaned backwards in
his seat, stretching his arms and shoulders. "Anyway, nice
work, both of you. Now, on that other subject. You know -
"We're on it, Chief," Lois said. "Jimmy already gave me a
lot of the information I was waiting for. And I'm having
dinner with Lex on Sunday night."
Perry nodded. "Okay, then I'll leave you to that." He
made shooing gestures. "Scram. I've got editing to do."
After the door closed behind them, Lois turned to Clark.
"Okay, Kent, what aren't you telling me?"
"You've been looking like the cat that just finished off
the canary. What happened that you haven't told me about?"
"Oh, that." Clark allowed the slightest of smiles to hover
on his mouth. "Now that you mention it, you know all those
UFOs in Bureau 39's warehouse? There's one I'd like you to
"A picture?" Lois asked, slightly puzzled.
"No. I've got it at my new apartment."
The light dawned. "You found it?"
He nodded. "That and some other information. Want to
"You bet I do!"
"Well then, let's go."
"Why do we have to come in through the window?" Lois asked.
"Because I locked the sliding latch and hooked the chain
from the inside," Clark said. "I don't know if Bureau 39
knows about this place yet, but I wasn't taking any chances
of them looking for their missing ship here -- if they've
noticed yet that it's gone. Considering what's going on
right now, it may be a while before they discover it's
missing -- and by then, I intend to have it in safer
Lois nodded vigorously. "Good idea." She reached out to
pull the window open and Clark floated them through. He
set her lightly on the floor and closed the window behind
"Let me turn up the heater, before you take off your coat,"
he said. "It's freezing in here."
"I suppose you can tell by the icicles hanging from the
faucet," Lois said. "Where did you put the ship?"
"In there." He led the way into the bedroom of the
apartment and Lois found herself staring in awe at the tiny
ship that had brought Clark to Earth as a baby. "You say
you remembered about this 'Krypton' when you saw the
"When it changed to -- let me show you. Maybe it will do
it again," Clark said. He opened the clear, plastic-like
hatch and reached within to retrieve a milky-white globe.
"This is it."
As he held it up, the object began to glow and the surface
blurred in a swirl of colors that resolved themselves into
a representation of the Earth.
"Wow," Lois said, softly.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," Clark said. "It changed to
this other world and all of a sudden, I remembered about
Krypton. A little, anyway. I guess a baby can't be
expected to remember much."
"Probably n --" Lois broke off in mid word as the colors
swirled again and the globe began to glow with a reddish
hue. She watched, enthralled, as the surface became that
of the world Clark had described. "That's your home
"I guess so," Clark said.
"But, why did they send you here?" she wondered. "Why
would anyone put a baby in a ship and send him off, alone,
to another planet? There must have been a pretty
compelling reason for something that drastic -- like a
woman throwing her baby out the window of a burning house
to someone outside -- because she couldn't escape,
"Like an atomic war, or something," Clark said.
"Or something," Lois agreed. "It's as if someone was
desperate to save you and that was the only way. It would
have had to be a worldwide catastrophe of some kind. I
wonder what happened to them."
"To whoever sent you here. They didn't come with you;
"We'll probably never know for sure," Clark said. "At
least, now I know where I came from. No more of the
'failed Russian experiment' theory." He shrugged, suddenly
looking a little worried. "Does it make a difference to
Lois shook her head and reached out to take his hands. "I
figured you'd worry about that, if you ever found out one
way or another," she said, in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Clark, I think I fell at least halfway in love with you
back when you were still Charlie and I knew nothing about
where you came from. All I knew was that you were a guy
who couldn't remember a thing about yourself but who had
all these weird powers. I guessed back then that you
probably weren't from Earth -- but it didn't matter. I
kept thinking that it was a shame that we hadn't met a lot
sooner. Does that answer your question?"
He nodded, tugging lightly on her hands, pulling her toward
him. "Yes," he said. "I kept wishing the same thing.
Somehow, I knew even then that I'd met the woman I'd been
looking for without knowing it, all my life."
Lois freed her hands from his and slid her arms around his
neck, even as his hands made their way around her waist,
drawing her against him. "You know," she said, "for a
spaceman, you're the most romantic person I ever met.
Earth guys don't stand a chance."
"I guess I have a reputation to maintain, now," he said.
"Too bad I don't feel the slightest bit romantic about
anyone but you."
"You better not," she said. "You're mine, now. Cat can
keep her claws to herself."
"And you're mine," he said. "Does that mean I get to kiss
"It means you'd better," she said.
Clark didn't hesitate, and the apartment grew very quiet
for the better part of a full minute, the silence broken
only by the thump and wheeze of the ancient heater as it
labored to bring the air temperature of the room up to a
decent level. At last, just as Lois was beginning to feel
distinctly short of air, Clark lifted his head, smiling
slightly. "I guess I'd better let you breathe," he said,
"even though I'd like to go right on doing this for the
rest of the night."
Lois inhaled, deeply. "Wow," she said.
"Yeah," Clark agreed. "Wow."
They were silent for another minute and then Lois glanced
at the window where darkness had descended on the city. "I
guess our dinner plans are put on hold for tonight," she
said. "I'm glad the story broke, but it kind of messed up
Clark shook his head. "No, of course not. I'll fly you to
your apartment and then come back to take the ship to a
safer place. I'll be dressed and ready before you are.
Isn't nine o'clock a fashionable dinner hour? Besides,
it's only about four in Honolulu. I thought we could visit
Waikiki Beach and have dinner at a place I know. I was
going to take you to Paris, but it's past midnight there,
so we'll save that for another night."
"Dinner in Hawaii?" Lois felt her eyebrows fly up at the
thought. Being Superman's girlfriend definitely had its
perks. "All right, flyboy, you're on!"
In Smallville, Kansas, a blizzard was blowing in. The wind
pounded against the sides of the houses in the little town,
buffeting the branches of leafless trees and piling snow in
massive drifts against every obstacle in its way.
Outside of town, the wind was even stronger. Martha Kent
winced at the sound of the storm battering against the
kitchen window and the rattling of tiny grains of snow
against the glass.
The kitchen door banged open and Jonathan lurched into the
room amid a cloud of flakes. With some effort, he pushed
the storm door shut and closed the thick wooden door
against the gale and then paused, breathing hard.
Martha hurried over to him to help him remove his thick
overcoat and muffler. Clumsily, he stripped off his heavy
gloves and laid them on the nearest table, followed by the
"Really blowing out there," he commented. "Looks like a
bad one but all the livestock is safe. Even Espresso is
under cover. He'll be fine, and nobody could possibly
search that field in this weather."
Several miles away, Wayne Irig started up from his
armchair. The fire crackled in the living room fireplace,
and there was an occasional hiss as melted snow dripped
from above into the flames. The faint crash in his back
yard had been muffled by the sounds of the blizzard, but
something had fallen, that was certain. He made his way to
the back window to peer out into the darkness, but nothing
was visible through the blur of blowing snow.
Heaving a resigned sigh, he reached for his overcoat. He'd
better be certain that the animals were safe. Other than
that, whatever had happened could wait until the storm blew
It was for this reason that for a considerable time, he
wouldn't discover what had been exposed when the big
sycamore tree in the rear of his house crashed to the
ground. Nearly concealed in the disturbed dirt beneath the
waving roots of the uprooted tree and rapidly being covered
with a layer of snow, a chunk of crystal glowed brightly