Chapter Four

Blackness. That was where David Conner was. A dark space, devoid of any sense of space or time. David was falling. He had been falling for a long time. All around him, faint voices could be heard. The voices seemed to be very far off one minute and the next; they were so loud that the entire black void was filled with nothing but their sound. David strained to make out actual words, but it was useless. Everything was muttered and jumbled.

And then – a light.

The light washed over the falling David. He tried to cry out, but he could make no sound. The brilliant radiance filled the void completely. The voices were gone now. And David had stopped falling. He was –

With a jerk, David opened his eyes. He found himself in his apartment. The bathroom, to be exact. In the bathtub. And judging by the cold temperature of the water, he had to have been lying in the tub for at least an hour.

David brought a shaking hand to his face. He felt terrible. His head throbbed and for some reason, his jaw felt like it had been struck by a sledgehammer. And what about the bath? He couldn't remember drawing it or getting in the tub. Come to think of it, everything was a bit blurry. The last thing David could recall was studying the space ship back at S.T.A.R. Labs. Everyone else had gone home for the night but him. Yes. He had been working on figuring out where the ship had come from, and then… What? Everything else was gone. He simply had no memory of the events following his examination of the ship.

But how did he get back to his apartment? Trying to make sense of it all, David recalled the urban legend of the businessman in the bar. The businessman had been having drinks at a hotel bar when a beautiful woman approached him. They started to talk and the man invited the woman up to his room. Later, he awoke in a bathtub filled with ice. It turned out the woman had drugged him harvested a kidney from him while he was unconscious.

David looked down to see if any body parts were missing. Nope. Everything was fine. Hmm. Well, maybe he had just gone out for a round of drinks after work and had gotten a little drunk. That was why he couldn't remember anything. Except he was a very light drinker. And he had never been drunk before in his life.

The phone rang.

David stood up in the tub and stretched. He felt a little achy. Especially his face, for some reason. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he trotted into the bedroom and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"David! Finally!"

Dr. Kitty Faulkner. David's lab colleague.

"Kitty?

"Yes!" She let out a sigh from the other end. "Where HAVE you been? I've left like a million messages!"

David glanced at the answering machine lying next to the phone. Sure enough, the number "12" was blinking in bright red light on the screen. "Sorry," he said. "I've been out of town." Had he? Ah, well. It was as good excuse as any.

"Out of town? Out of town?!" Kitty's voice was high pitched and clearly stressed. "Well, you better get your butt back to the lab ASAP! We've got a situation."

"What situation? What are you talking about?"

"The spaceship!" Kitty shrieked. "The spaceship is gone and we have NO idea where it is!"

David almost dropped the phone. Could the spaceship's disappearance and his amnesia be linked? It was almost certain. Had he stolen the ship? Had a rouge group of scientists broken into the lab and taken it and knocked him out in the struggle? Maybe. All David knew was that he was suddenly in the middle of a huge mess, with no idea how to escape from it.

"What's your name again?"

Clark pushed his new glasses up further on his nose with his forefinger. "Clark Kent."

The man behind the large oak desk frowned and put his beefy hands on his hips. "Look, son. You can't just walk in here and get a job just like that, okay?"

"I know that, Mr. White," Clark said. "But I was hoping that my work would speak for itself." A file full of old Smallville Torch clippings and the de-framed essay was placed on the desk. "I would appreciate it if you could give me your opinion."

Perry White, the Daily Planet's editor and chief, sighed and loosened up his drab necktie. "It's hotter than blazes in here," he muttered. The tie was removed and thrown across a file cabinet in the corner of the office. "Alright, alright. I'll look at 'em. But I have other things to do beforehand. Why don't you come back in a few hours?"

Clark smiled. He already had one foot in the door. Now if he just keep from tripping on the welcome mat… "With all due respect sir, I'd just as soon stay here. I don't mind waiting."

Perry sighed and unbuttoned the top button of his dress shirt. "Fine, fine." He scooped up the file and tucked it up under his arm. "I'll be back sometime," he said. And then he was gone.

Alone in the office, Clark felt like he had just scored a home run. He felt sure his work would impress Mr. White. But then again, this was the Daily Planet. Could a report on drought and corn fungus really impress a man like Perry White? Perry had sent reporters off to war zones and placed them square in the path of Hurricanes just for a good story. He commanded the grandest and most prestigious newspaper in America! The Daily Planet. Planet. As in "covering-the-entire-world". Maybe Clark had gotten in over his head.

To ease his jitters, Clark got up from the hard backed chair and paced around the office. Numerous awards hung on the walls, half of them for "Excellence" and the other half for "Outstanding Quality".

Clark gulped.

One wall in the office was made up of a series of windows that looked out onto the newsroom. The floor of the newsroom looked just as chaotic as the New York Stock Exchange. People were rushing everywhere, important papers in hand. Phones were ringing like crazy. Computer screens were aglow. It all looked so darn cool.

After waiting for some time (two hours and forty-six minutes to be exact), the door to the editor's office opened and Perry stepped in. The dress shirt he had been wearing was gone. In its place was a white wife-beater style undershirt that revealed a tattoo of a naked woman playing the harp high on Perry's bicep.

He said nothing as he closed the office door behind him. The file was still in his hands. It was impossible to determine if it had even been opened. Perry sat in the large leather chair behind the equally large desk and ran a hand through his thinning brown hair. Clark was aching to find out whether or not he had liked his work. That was assuming Mr. White had read any of it at all. "I hate to say this," Perry began.

Oh no, thought Clark. I've just made a complete fool of myself for the second time with this whole job-interview thing. Great. Now I'll have to crawl on my hands and knees begging to get my pizza delivery job back.

"But I liked it."

Huh? Is he talking about my work? It? That's what he said. "It" must mean my work! Oh, wow! I can't believe this!"

Perry cast a quizzical look at Clark. "Son? You look like you're about to pass out or something."

A goofy grin broke out on Clark's face. "No, I'm fine. It's just such an … an honor to hear you liked my work!"

The editor shrugged as if he was unfazed by the roundabout complement. "You have talent, Kent. You're rough, no doubt about it, but I think you have what it takes to eventually become a first-rate reporter."

"Thank you, sir! Thank you!"

"Now keep in mind I said 'eventually'. If you do work here, you'll have to start on the bottom. It's only fair to the others."

Clark's breath caught in his throat. "Does that mean…."

Perry smiled. A little one, but a smile nonetheless. He got up from his chair and extended his hand across the desk. "Welcome to the Daily Planet."

"Sir! Oh, thank you! Thank you!" Clark grasped hold of the outreached hand and shook it firmly. A little too firmly.

"OW!" Exclaimed Perry. "That's quite a strong handshake you've got there."

Clark offered a thousand apologies and Perry waved them all off. He asked Clark if he could keep his work samples with him for just a while longer. That was fine, of course. Everything in the world was fine! A job at the Planet! Dreams really do come true after all. Perry led the mesmerized Mr. Kent out onto the newsroom. Instantly, Clark felt at home.

"You can start today," Perry said. "You can fill out all the paperwork tomorrow. For now, I'm going to assign you to somebody. You know, someone to help you get the feel of the place." He thought for a bit, mentally going through all the employees' names. "Ah! I've got it. You can partner up with Lois Lane. She should be over in that direction," Perry said, making a vague gesture to the north.

Once again, Clark started up with the embarrassing thank you's. His new boss smiled politely at first and then told him to cut it out. And with that last friendly remark, he faded into the tide of reporters running every which way.

Okay. So. First things first. Find this Lois Lane woman. Clark made his way through the horde of people, with no idea where he was going. And with no idea where he was going, it wasn't long before he ran right into somebody.

"OW!" Someone cried out. "Look where you're going!"

"I'm sorry," Clark apologized. "It's just that I'm new here and I don't know my way around."

The man whom he had run into rolled his eyes dramatically.

"Hey, I know you." Clark said. "Wow! Aren't you Ron Troupe, the sports columnist?"

The man, who was indeed the noted Mr. Troupe of "Ron's Time Out", said nothing.

"I can't believe it! Here it is, my very first day, and I already see somebody famous! Boy! Say, how do the Rams look this year? I think we got the short end of the stick with our defense, but-"

Ron put up a hand, made a "Ppsh" noise and walked away,

Clark frowned. Sheesh. That was rude. But wasn't that always how it was? You meet somebody famous, somebody who you've looked up to for a long time, and they turn out to be stuck-up fatheads. Hopefully the rest of the Planet staff was friendlier. If they weren't, Clark's dream job could easily turn into a nightmare.

"Hey, man?"

Clark turned to his right and saw a boy who couldn't have been any older than 20. The boy's hair was a bright shade of red and almost down to his shoulders. He had multiple piercings – several in his ears, one in his nose and another jeweled speck was lodged above his eyebrow. He was clad in a Pink Floyd T-shirt and baggy kaki shorts. A tribal-looking tattoo circled his upper arm. Whoever this kid was, he would've looked rough and tough if it wasn't for the burst of freckles across his nose and the kind, innocent look in his light blue eyes.

"You new here?" The boy asked.

"Uh, yeah." Clark said. "Clark Kent."

The boy shook his hand. "Jimmy Olsen. I'm a photog here at the Planet."

"Wow. So do you work here part time?"

Jimmy looked confused. "Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well, aren't you in high school?"

Jimmy apparently thought that was the funniest thing he had ever heard. "Ha, ha, ha! That's a trip, man! How old do you think I am, anyway?"

"Uh. Eighteen?" Clark was being generous. The kid looked more like 12, come to think of it.

"Eighteen? Eighteen?! No, man! I just turned 21 last month. Legal now, you know?"

Clark smiled stiffly. This Jimmy kid was a little nutty.

Jimmy caught sight of Clark's look and laughed again. "Lighten up, man! I'm just kiddin'. I don't touch the adult beverages. My body's a temple and only the purest incense gets burned in my temple. Know what I mean?"

Yes, Clark thought he knew just what he meant. The kid was starting to really freak him out a little, so he started up his goodbyes. "It's been nice meeting you, Jimmy, but I have to find someone named Lois Lane. I'm supposed to get her to show me around and everything."

"Oh, I know Lois! She's a nice lady." Jimmy paused. "She just has her moments. You know how it is. Yeah… Anyway, her desk is over there in the corner."

Clark said his thanks and approached the corner desk. Sure enough, a woman was bent over some papers there, her back turned. She was dressed in a tight red dress and the matching red spike heels on her feet gave her a six-inch boost in height.

"Excuse me," Clark said as he came up behind the woman. "Are you Lois Lane?"

The woman turned. She was ravishingly beautiful. High cheekbones, smoky eyes, highlighted medium length brown hair. And a plunging neckline. Yep, this lady looked like she belonged in the pages of Vogue instead of toiling away in the offices of the Daily Planet. "Why, yes," the woman responded in a seductive throaty voice. "Can I help you?"

"Uh, yes. I hope so. Mr. White said that since I'm new here you could show me the ropes."

The woman hoped up onto the desk and sat on the edge. "New guy, huh? And a cute new guy at that. Sure, I'll show you the ropes." She leaned forward and grabbed Clark's tie and pulled him close. "And anything else."

Clark was about to have an accident on the floor when another female voice broke in.

"What is going on here? Cat, get off my desk!"

The woman seducing Clark sighed and plopped back onto the floor. The other woman in the picture had her hands on her hips and a displeased expression on her face. "How many times do I have to tell you that this is my personal space? This six by five foot area is a 'No-Cat' zone. Got it?"

The woman, whose name was apparently Cat, batted her eyes at Clark. "Sorry about the mix-up, handsome. I get confused so easily. My name's Cat Grant." She pointed to the other woman. "That train wreck is Lois Lane."

The wreck in question didn't seem too offended by the snide comment. Although it was obvious that Cat and Lois clearly came from different worlds and had different priorities. Cat was gorgeous and was dressed in a figure-hugging tight little red number, while Lois seemed like she had fallen off the 80's mobile. Her frizzy black hair was pulled back from her face and secured with a clunky brown clasp. Her clothes were painfully out of date. Huge shoulder pads, a dreary gray pantsuit, gold oversized jewelry. It was a little sad, really.

"Cat?" Lois asked sweetly.

"Yes, dear?" Cat responded.

"Go. Away."

With a series of sighs, moans, and eye rolling, Cat left, but not before patting Clark on the cheek and offering to "show him around" some other time. With that taken care of, Lois began sorting through some loose papers on her desk. "Fantastic. That's just great! Here I have everything organized and categorized and along comes Hurricane Cat and messes everything up!" She muttered some more words under her breath and shoved the jumbled up papers into a drawer. "So who are you? I haven't seen you around here before."

It took Clark a while to figure out that she was addressing him. "Oh. Yeah, I've just been hired. Clark Kent."

"Lois Lane." Lois said, not looking up from the other papers scattered across the desktop.

"Perry thought maybe you could show me around."

That caught Lois' attention. She stopped what she was doing and turned to Clark, her body stiff and rigid. "He thought what? Oh, the nerve of him! That is so typical!" Her voice became deep as she mocked Perry. " 'Uh, Lois, uh, since you're not doing anything, can you, uh, show the new guy around?' This just really steams my clams!" With a sharp tug, she opened up another drawer and shoved the rest of the papers inside. The drawer caught on something and as a result, couldn't be shut. "He never treats me as an equal!" Lois continued. "How can I move up in the world if nobody ever gives me a chance? This is outrageous! This is unbelievable! AND WHY WON'T THIS STUPID THING CLOSE?!"

Half the newsroom halted in their tracks, taking time out of their busy schedules to enjoy another Lois Lane freak-out.

Clark gulped. It was true. All city folks were nuts. "Look, I'm sorry about this. I'm sure I can find my way around. I'll leave you alone, okay?" He was about to sprint off in another direction when Lois stopped him.

"Sorry about that," she said. Her voice had taken on a more normal tone and the veins in her neck were gone. "It's just that these things are always happening to me. See, I've known Perry since I was a little girl. He and my dad were in the Army together. Anyway, when I expressed interest in journalism, Perry offered me a job at the Daily Planet. He probably did it out of respect for my father. But I didn't care.I thought 'Hey, this is my dream come true!' Working for the most respected paper in the business, using the power of the press to help people who can't help themselves. Know what I mean?"

Clark nodded.

"Well, I got the job. A job, anyway. I restock the toilet paper in the ladies' room. On good days, I proofread the recipe section." The bitterness was apparent in her voice. "I know I could be the world's best reporter, but nobody will give me a chance to prove it. I'll take any assignment! I bet you I could turn a story about a dog show into a Pulitzer Prize winning article!" Lois shrugged and sank down into her chair. She looked so depressed and dejected. Clark could sympathize with her. They both had aspirations toward becoming "champions of the people". Both had the willpower and the drive to do it, but they were new to the game and didn't exactly know all the rules.

After gushing all that out, Lois looked a little embarrassed. "Will you listen to me? Sorry I put you through that. I guess I confused you with Dr. Phil."

Clark shrugged. "No problem. I kind of like hearing life stories anyway."

"Well, that was only chapter one," said Lois ruefully. "So. Where are you from? You can't be from Metropolis, that's for sure."

"Why do you say that?"

"You just have that ol' deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. I bet you're a old-fashioned country boy, am I right?"

"Uh, maybe. I'm from Kansas. Smallville, Kansas."

"Smallville?" Lois looked at Clark as if he had giant centipedes crawling out of his nose. "That can't be a real town."

"It is. It's, well, you know, small."

"Interesting. Yeah. I have an uncle that lives in Kansas. Kind of the black sheep of the family."

"Really? What's his name?" Asked Clark, trying to start up a friendly conversation.

"The state of Kansas has over 2 million people in it," Lois said. "I doubt you'd know him."

Clark apologized for the hundredth time. He was starting to feel like a nerd.

"Anyway, there are only a few things you need to know about the Planet," Continued Lois as she chewed absentmindedly on a pencil. "We have a fitness center on the 16th floor and a cafeteria on the first. My advice, don't ever step foot into the cafeteria unless you are absolutely dying of hunger and three seconds away from going into a coma."

A phone rang on an unoccupied desk nearby and Lois snatched it off its cradle before it could go into the second ring. "Hello? No, I'm sorry. Tommy Blake has just stepped out for a cigarette break. Can I take a message? Yes. Yes." She motioned for Clark to hand her some paper and he did. "Something big happening at S.T.A.R. Labs. Got it." She scribbled something down on the paper and hung up the phone. "Something else you have to remember, Farm-boy. Never under any circumstances leave your desk unattended. You never know who might scoop you."

Clark watched in amazement as Lois grabbed an oversized purse from behind her desk. "Well, come on!" She exclaimed, irritated by the confounded expression on his face. "I have to show you around don't I? And this might be the story that gets both our careers jumpstarted."