Hello readers! Okay, yes, if you're reading this you're probably thinking I have some explainin' to do! So here it is. I've decided to put Changed For Good on hiatus. It is not on permanent hiatus; I'm just giving it a break so I can step back and recharge my Changed For Good batteries. I may even end up totally revising it, taking out some elements that were dragging the story down. But I'm running on fumes where that story is concerned and I need to give it a break.
I'd also considered doing a Man of Steel/Captain America crossover, but that wasn't working for me, either. So I've been pursuing this idea, one that actually came to me not long after I saw Man of Steel for the first time, and really loving it! Lois Lane fascinates me and after talking to some of you I know there's a real desire for more Clark/Lois stories based on the MOS universe. So this is my version of Lois Lane and the movie from her perspective. Hopefully I'll get to fill in some of the empty spots in her story (The cemetery scene, anyone? The Kryptonians searching her mind on the Black Zero?) and still use some of the headcanon I've developed in The Girl of Two Worlds and Changed For Good.
Obligatory disclaimer: Superman and Lois Lane do not belong to me, and if they did, I would definitely have them get married in Man of Steel 2 and make lots of sweet babies. Henry Cavill/Amy Adams as Clark Kent/Lois Lane. On with the show.
It's another day on the American military base in Seoul and I sit at the table, looking across the kitchen and into the living room. My mother had just turned the television on. She's not watching the morning news but I am. I'm only four years old and I'm captivated. President Reagan is on; he's telling someone to tear down the big wall right behind him and I wonder why he looks so angry.
My oatmeal steams in my face, rich and cinnamony. I take a big bite just before Mom's shrill voice breaks into my peaceful existence. She's shouting at Daddy about how she hates it here. How bored she is. How she misses her family in Metropolis. I don't know where Metropolis is and I don't care. My ears only perk up when I hear my name.
"Lois is picking up Korean words faster than she's learning English. Is that how you want her to grow up, Sam—is it?! Pay attention to me, Sam!" I hear something crash against the counter; I think it's the oatmeal pot. "God, you sicken me!"
And my little four-year-old self cringes, sinks down further into my chair, and I push my bowl away. Mother swoops in, pushes it back in my face. "Eat!"
"No," I whimper, "I'm not hungry anymore."
"Eat it!" Mother screams. Her face is red, her eyes are wide and snapping. My eyes fill with tears. Mother snatches up the bowl and jerks me out of my chair. "You both sicken me!"
A hand suddenly clamping on my shoulder woke me so fast, I heard myself let out a sharp cry of alarm. The hand shook me hard, and though I wasn't jostled as angrily as I was in the dream, Mom's voice was still there. The fresh memory of the nightmare made her sound as irritating as nails on a chalkboard and I barely suppressed a groan of misery.
"Wake up, Lois!" she hissed. "Perry White is on the phone."
"Oh gosh, Mom." I lifted my head from the pillow and pushed my disheveled hair from my eyes. "You scared me to death . . ."
"Get up, get up!" Mom grabbed my arm, pulling me into a sitting position. "He wouldn't call you on your day off unless he had something important to say to you. Come on, Lois, focus, focus, wake up!"
Then she started patting my cheek, trying to get me to wake up. That was really too much. I opened my eyes all the way and pushed her hands away, irritated.
"Stop that! I'm awake!"
Satisfied, Mom snatched up the telephone on the nightstand and extended the receiver to me like she was offering one of the gifts of the Magi. I bit back a smart comment and took it, cleared my throat.
"Hello?" My voice sounded like a frog's; I cleared it, tried again. "Perry?"
"Morning, Lane." My boss' voice was firm and calm—a clear contrast to the scolding chatter I'd had to put up with ever since I came to Mom's apartment last night. "I know I don't usually call you on your day off . . ."
"No, no, that's all right," I said hurriedly. Mom still stood over me, her arms crossed over the front of her dressing gown; I looked away, trying not to let her throw me off mental balance. "Is everything all right?"
"Yeah, but something's come up and I need you to come over to the office as soon as you can. We're shuffling some assignments around."
Shuffling assignments! I jumped to my feet and grabbed the telephone set, tucking it under my arm and moving myself away from my mother. "Thank God! Come on, Perry, tell me I don't have to report on the farm bill anymore. I don't think I've ever had to deal with such a boring story."
I heard him chuckle on the other end; it sounded, too, like he was laughing around a sip from his coffee cup. "I didn't know your feelings were so strong about it, Lane."
"You know me, I try not to complain," I said as seriously as I could, though I still caught myself grinning in the vanity mirror.
"Let's just say for now that I think I can make your life a little easier, then." I heard a clunk, as if he had just set his coffee cup down on his desk. "Meet me in my office in an hour, Lane. That should give you enough time to . . . well, wake up."
The teasing note in his voice was unmistakable and I turned red in spite of myself. "Sorry, Perry . . . I was up till two reading To Kill a Mockingbird . . ."
"Cut it out, Lane. What you do on your nights off makes no difference to me. Just be in the office at ten."
The line clicked on the other end and I slammed the receiver down, my heart thudding so loud I was sure my mom could hear it. Quickly I brushed past her and dropped on my knees to the suitcase on the floor, grabbing the capris and the sky-blue t-shirt I'd planned to relax in on my first free Saturday in two months.
"Lois, you can't be seen going to the Planet office in that," Mom said, raising an eyebrow.
"Yes I can. Perry's pretty much seen me in everything but my pajamas." I laughed, remembering the time he called me from the one and only exercise class I ever took. I appeared in his office with my hair scraped back from my sweaty face, dressed in nothing but a t-shirt and yoga pants. And he didn't miss a beat.
"He said they're shuffling assignments. If I could get relieved from that farm bill business—"
"Your work in Washington is indispensable!" Mother cried, following me as I darted across the room towards the bathroom. "And you've met so many nice people, haven't you? Why, just last night you were telling me all about your new acquaintances . . ."
I stopped, halfway in the bathroom, and cocked my head at her. "Yes, Mom—acquaintances like the Big Ag representative I interviewed yesterday who spent more time looking like he was mentally undressing me, or the small-town farmer who aimed pretty badly and spit tobacco on my shoes. Such pleasant acquaintances indeed. I need to take a shower—tell Corrine I just want some yogurt for breakfast."
"Lois Joanne—" my mother began, but I shut the door and pressed my back against it, facing the huge tub with a sigh of relief. Eventually I heard her leave the bedroom, muttering under her breath, and I peeled off my pajamas. The nicest thing about staying overnight at my mom's was the house itself, not necessarily her company; at least here I could practically swim in a bathtub, a luxury I did not have in my somewhat spartan flat on the other side of Metropolis.
If Mom didn't approve of my clothing—and really, that outfit was all I had in that suitcase other than my wrinkled work clothes from yesterday—at least she approved of the way I'd curled my hair.
Ever since I was a tyke she had disapproved of its color. "Too bad you didn't inherit red hair, Lois . . . that dull ginger just isn't becoming." She, of course, had gorgeous, Irish-red hair, and ever since she got to be on the wrong side of fifty she'd taken to dyeing it, forcing it to stay that way. Her only consolation was that I cared enough about my hair to make it look good.
She sat at the dining table reading the morning paper—The Daily Planet, I saw with no small satisfaction—and tilted her cheek up for a kiss. I gave it quickly, caught up the plastic yogurt cup her maid, Corrine, held out to me.
"I've gotta run, Mom. I'll come back later to get my stuff. Thanks again for a pleasant night."
Mom set down the paper and looked me in the eye. "If I'd known you were planning to stay up so late reading, Mr. Whitaker could've stayed longer. Of course you made him so uneasy, the idea of spending anymore time with you might be a horror to him."
I grabbed a spoon off the table, slung my purse over my shoulder, and simply didn't answer Mom's challenge to squabble. "I'll see you later, probably this afternoon."
"I won't be here, I'm going to have my permanent done." Mom snapped the paper open again and took up her coffee cup. "Have a good day, dear."
And that was pretty much the extent of our relationship. Ever since I got my degree eight years ago in investigative journalism and graduated from intern to staff writer at The Daily Planet, my mom had vacillated between outright disapproval of my career choice and an odd desperation to keep a close eye on me. These sleepovers at her apartment weren't uncommon and were often used as excuses to force me into having dinner with some handsome and/or wealthy young bachelor of her acquaintance. Last night was no exception and I must say, I flubbed it beautifully by "accidentally" spilling my wine all over Mr. Whitaker's starched white pants.
Served him right for that snide little comment of his . . . "So, Miss Lane, I guess the men of the First Division thought it was pretty swell to have such an attractive lady embedded in their team?"
I gave him a sour smile in response. "Actually, Mr. Whitaker, I'm not attractive. I've got the plainest face in the history of the universe and what you see is mostly the kind work of a little Maybelline and hairspray. You should see me when I get out of bed in the morning."
My mom looked like she wanted the earth to open up, swallow her, and close in again above her. Mr. Whitaker almost choked on his food. I just sat there still looking, I'm sure, as sour as a lemon, and refused to even offer my napkin when I knocked my wine glass over a few minutes later. I worked too hard in Afghanistan with those men of the First Division—I respected them too much to have anyone speak so lightly of them—and I'd do more than spill my wine on his pants for that insult if I didn't think my mother might disown me completely.
It would be a funny story to tell Jenny Olsen on Monday morning, that was for sure. She was off today, just as I was supposed to be; in fact, the bull-pen only contained about half the staff this morning. Steve Lombard was there, of course; weekends were big days for the sports staff, and when he saw me coming in regular everyday clothes he grinned teasingly at me.
"Lookin' good, Lois, lookin' good."
"Keep your eyes to yourself, Lombard," I said, only half-serious. Steve and I had an ongoing office flirtation that was far more on his side than on mine; he took me out on a date once two years ago and had been trying ever since then, unsuccessfully, to nail a second.
My boss' office was on the other side of the bull-pen; I rapped on the door with my knuckles, and without waiting for an answer, opened it. Perry White sat at his desk with his thin-rimmed glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, typing something up on his computer. When he saw me, he whipped off the glasses and waved his hand for me to come on in.
"And shut the door behind you," he said in his brisk, commanding way of speaking. I obeyed and plopped down in the straight-backed chair in front of his desk. I'd been working for Perry for eleven years total and was pretty proud of the fact that I knew him like the back of my hand. He was in a good mood today. I could tell by the way he sat back in his swivel chair and rubbed his big hands together.
"How're you doing, Lane?"
I smirked, shrugged. "Pretty well, in spite of the fact that I had a date last night who was so full of himself, it's a wonder he could stand up straight."
"Oh Lord," he muttered.
"All my mom's doing, of course. I don't know why she thinks I'd be interested in the biggest idiots in the country."
Perry snorted and I smiled just at the sight of his amusement. If I knew Perry, he knew me just as well; he'd seen me tear men—and women—apart in the bull-pen far too many times to imagine I'd have any patience with a conceited blockhead, no matter how rich or famous he was.
"So I imagine you haven't seen much news this morning," Perry said, bringing his fingertips together.
"No, I've only been awake for about an hour." I shifted in my seat, crossed my legs. "What's going on? Why the assignment shuffle?"
"I'll get to that. First off, what comes to your mind when you hear the words 'Ellesmere Island?' "
I frowned, my brain going back to every geography class I ever had in school. "North Pole?"
"Close. It's the northern-most island owned by Canada. Almost touches Greenland." Perry eyed me keenly. "Anything else?"
"Wait a minute." I narrowed my eyes and pointed my finger at him. "There was something, earlier this year . . . around the same time that I won my Pulitzer . . ."
"Exactly." Perry reached over the desk, handing me a stack of stapled articles he'd obviously
copied on his printer. "Unidentified object discovered in a glacier on the island back in March. Problem is, the glacier is located on NORTHCOM territory."
My brain kicked into high gear at that. "NORTHCOM, that's a US military command. They monitor any and all terrorism threats in North America, right?"
Perry nodded. "And since they're hung up on security, they haven't let independent scientists—or reporters—on the base to investigate. They have their own scientists, of course, and their own spokespersons, but you and I both know how that could turn out."
Of course, I thought; it's easy to communicate the narrative you prefer if your own people are feeding it to the public. Whether or not that narrative and the truth mesh is entirely a matter of coincidence.
"You think NORTHCOM is hiding something?" I asked.
"Not necessarily. They may just be ultra-protective of their base, which is understandable to a certain extent. But everything just changed this morning."
Perry handed me another article, this one looking as if he'd just printed it; the ink was slightly smeared on one edge where his thumb had accidentally touched it. I skimmed it, a sudden bubbly excitement rising up in my gut, and read the headline out loud
" 'Appellate court strikes down NORTHCOM injunction, allows press onto Ellesmere base for submarine site investigation.' "
"That's what they think it is—a Soviet submarine that got lodged in the ice one winter." Perry shrugged. "It's a good explanation but I want to know more. I want the scoop on this, Lane—and I want my best reporter on the job."
My head jerked up and I'm sure I looked like a kid who's just been offered free rein in a candy shop. "You want me to go to the North Pole, look a NORTHCOM official in the eye, and tell him I want the scoop on a mysterious object buried in ice?"
Perry raised his eyebrows. "You know of anybody else capable of looking aforesaid official in the eye and telling him off if he tries to throw his weight around?"
I cocked my head at him, unable to hold back a smile. Of course I don't know anyone better. I'm Lois Lane. I'm the one who spent six months in Afghanistan last year with the First Division. Part of that time I spent wearing a bulletproof vest under a jilbab—the vest to protect myself from snipers, the traditional robe to avoid alienating the friendly Afghans I met whenever the division went into town. I'm adaptable, I'm experienced, and I'm not easily intimidated.
"And what about the farm bill?" I asked coolly.
"I'll give it to Miranda."
I nodded, tapped the stapled articles on my knee. The photos of heavy equipment looming over a snowy landscape suddenly looked infinitely more appealing that the prospect of hours listening to debates over some farm bill I honestly couldn't care less about. I drew in a deep breath, sat straight up in the chair, looked my boss in the eye.
"So when can I get a flight to Ellesmere?"
When I dashed by Mom's apartment that afternoon to pick up my suitcase, she was gone to the salon. Corrine was in the kitchen and paid me little mind except to say, "Hello, Miss Lois—yes,
Miss Lois, she's gone to get her perm—no, Miss Lois, I don't think she'll be home anytime soon, Mrs. Burbank called and invited her to go out for dinner with her and Mr. Burbank."
Excellent, I thought as I lugged my small suitcase out the door and down fifty-five floors to the busy Metropolis street. I didn't want to tell my mother about Ellesmere Island. I could already hear her dismay and contempt; prior experiences—especially my Afghan trip—taught me not to expect her to see opportunity in any of my adventures.
Daddy would've seen it differently. My father had been a general and served his country well; his last distinguished act before he had to retire was to supervise the transfer of provisions into Gotham City, when it was under the control of that terrorist-tyrant who called himself "Bane." He always liked a good adventure, especially if it involved white knights and dastardly villains. It bothered the hell out of him that he couldn't go out and challenge Bane himself with a division of strapping American infantry.
"Of course," he told me a few months later, after Gotham was free and he lay in a hospital bed with chemo dripping into him through an IV, "sometimes we're just called to stand behind the real heroes. And that role oughtta be good enough for us."
I let myself into my flat, dropped the suitcase with a thud. I'd lived here for five long years and it showed; for all my cubicle at work was so orderly, my house was a wreck. Laundry from the past week was piled on the couch, waiting to be folded. The supplies in my fridge were sparse, the pantry only a little better.
Calm and order were centered only around my writing desk, a heavy piece of furniture that had moved in from Daddy's house after he died. My laptop lay on its surface. I opened it up, turned it on, sat down, typed in my password.
And then I just sat there, thinking.
If I was traveling almost to the North Pole, I needed to pay a visit to the mall and buy a good coat. Post-Christmas but still in the dead of winter, a parka could probably be bought for a reasonable price. I needed to pack up my Nikon and make sure all the lenses were clean and in shape. Perry was taking care of my plane tickets.
The only other thing that needed doing was researching the NORTHCOM base and finding out all that I could about this odd discovery. I reached into my purse and grabbed the articles Perry gave me. There wasn't much information about the find itself, but every article invariably called it a Soviet submarine.
That must be the official government narrative. It would be my job to see if the narrative and what I found on Ellesmere went together, or if they clashed. And if they did clash . . .
Well. That would make for a good story, wouldn't it?