By Nancy Merckle (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Lois and Clark are stuck in a plane with a terrorist, two bombs, and no way for Superman to show up!
Lois took the last bite of the double fudge chocolate mousse she had ordered for dessert. "Mmmm, that really put a wonderful ending on a lovely dinner, Clark."
"I'm glad, Lois. These past few weeks we've really had some wonderful evenings together," Clark added between bites of his own dessert. "Oh, by the way, I spoke with Mom this afternoon and she wanted me to remind you about next weekend."
"Yeah, don't you remember? Next weekend is the Smallville Corn Festival." Clark watched Lois' expression turn unpredictable.
"Right, crop worship American Style."
"Now, Lois," Clark teased. "Didn't you finally wind up enjoying yourself last year?"
"How's farmer Jones doing?"
"You mean Wayne Irig? He's fine. No residual effects of his broken fingers."
"What about that pond? Was it dredged for that maniac's remains?"
"Jason Trask is dead and buried -- no need to concern yourself about him anymore." Clark felt exasperated answering her questions, but knew she was just making sure that there would be no complications like what happened last year.
"What about Maizie? Do you think I should take a draft of my novel for her to read?"
"I'm sure she would enjoy that," Clark replied, "but if it's any good, and I'm sure it would be, you can plan on it making the rounds in Smallville."
"Well then, maybe that's not such a good idea. I'd hate to lose all those sales, assuming of course it gets published," Lois told him with a big grin. "How's Rachel?"
Clark's demeanor suddenly changed. Why would she ask about her?
Lois watched Clark squirm. She kept a straight face while watching his reaction to her question about the woman he had taken to his senior Prom. She remembered how Sheriff Harris, though pleasant, saw her as competition. Lois was grateful to the woman though. The sheriff saved Clark's life by shooting Trask right before he could put a bullet in Clark's back. Gradually she began to smile, as Clark's expression remained hesitant. --- "Gotcha," she giggled.
It had been a long time coming but finally both Lois and Clark had gained a confidence in their relationship. Again, they felt comfortable with an occasional, friendly tease. It was part of what made their friendship special.
With their desserts finished, Clark paid the check and left an ample tip. The plan for the rest of the evening was a video of Lois' choosing at Clark's apartment.
Lois fed Clark's VCR the tape she had rented. As it began to play, she explained the reason she had chosen this film.
"I ran into a woman at the video store who recommended this to me. She said it reminded her of _Raiders of the Lost Ark_. Didn't you say you enjoyed that movie?"
"Yes, Lois, it was one of my favorites." Clark told her as he got comfortable on the couch.
"I know I did," Lois continued, joining him in front of the television. "Harrison Ford is really good, almost as good as Mel Gibson," she said cuddling close.
"Lois, you still haven't told me if you'll join me for the Corn Festival this year." Clark reminded her.
"Do you really want me to come?"
"I think it would be a relaxing weekend away from Metropolis, and I would certainly enjoy your company." Clark told her truthfully, as he put his arm around her to hold her close during the movie.
"OK, I'll go." Lois told him as the credits to _Stargate_ began to roll. "Wow! Even the music reminds me of Raiders!"
Friday finally arrived. Lois was looking forward to spending the weekend with all of the Kents in Smallville. It was her first trip back with Clark in a year, and again this visit coincided with the Smallville Corn Festival. Fortunately, she had it on good authority that Jason Trask would not be digging up Wayne Irig's property this year. She smiled at the thought of her conversation with Clark when he invited her to this year's festival. She had teasingly made him promise that no one like Trask would be anywhere near Smallville.
Clark did have second thoughts about asking Lois to the Corn Festival, not because he didn't want her there, but because he thought she wouldn't enjoy it. Last year had been such a fiasco and he was convinced she wouldn't want any part of it. His parents however were much wiser and persisted with their suggestion that he ask her if she would like to go. A smile cut in on his thoughts as he remembered the evening she agreed to go with him.
Lois finished her packing and included a small gift for each of them as a 'thank you' for inviting her to share the weekend. She picked up the printout of the latest draft of her romance novel and placed it her suitcase. She had been embarrassed, yet flattered that Maize had asked her about it. Obviously Martha knew about it since she had to have been the one to start the chain message that wound up with Maize. She wondered if there was anything she had forgotten to pack and looked around the room to see if something would remind her of anything else she might need. A thought came to her suddenly and she reached in and removed the printout of the novel. She realized a few of the characterizations might not be appreciated in Smallville and she had not had the time to rewrite them.
Clark had just finished packing and zipping up his suitcase when the phone rang. "Hello? ... Oh hi, Mom."
"Just wanted to check and make sure you were able to convince Lois to join you this time, Clark."
"Yeah Mom, we're going to rent a car at the airport in Wichita. We should be arriving about 2 PM on Flight 425." Clark reminded her.
"OK honey, your Dad and I will be waiting. Love you," she told him before hanging up the phone.
It was perfect timing. As Clark put down the receiver, he heard Lois walking up the steps to the apartment door.
It had taken several weeks to work out the status of their relationship after their first date, especially with their first romantic kiss interrupted by an assassin's bomb. This was to be their first non-business weekend together. Neither of them realized that just like Perry, Clark's parents were also working hard to get the couple together. Perry helped this plan by giving both of them Friday off for a three day weekend.
The flight itself promised to be interesting for Clark. Although he flew often, he was not accustomed to someone else piloting his flight. Lois was a bit superstitious as they boarded their flight from Metropolis airport. She tapped the plane by the door before entering. As the DC9 lumbered down the runway, Lois noticed a bit of trepidation on the face of her companion but couldn't figure out why. Was he nervous about flying? Nah, couldn't be, he flew all the time. She forced the thought to the back of her mind as impossible. He was always talking about how he visited his parents. She was convinced he had used his frequent flyer miles to purchase their tickets.
The plane landed at National Airport in Washington. Lois and Clark found the gate and boarded flight 123 to St. Louis. This plane, a 727 was larger and about three quarters full. It seemed to take twice as long for this plane to lift from the runway. Lois was a bit upset that they were on the wrong side of the plane to be able to see the monuments of Washington, as the flight slowly rose into the sky weaving slightly as it followed the path of the Potomac River. Their next stop was St. Louis, where they would again change to a smaller plane, another DC9, for the trip to Wichita. This time when they were airborne, the apparent nervousness Lois had noticed upon leaving Metropolis was gone. The flight was going smoothly, but it still bothered Clark that it took so long for this normal mode of transportation to get him to Smallville.
Lois was relaxed and reading a magazine in the window seat when he heard it. Couldn't be. He heard it again. The left engine had developed a strange noise. Concern covered his face as he leaned past Lois to gaze out the window at the engine. He tried his best not to alarm her as he noticed a thin wisp of smoke emerging from the engine. Trying valiantly to be nonchalant, he peered over his glasses at the engine using his x-ray vision. He could tell from his inspection that the engine had blown a gasket and was losing oil pressure.
Evidently the pilots noticed the problem in the cockpit at the same time; they turned on the 'Fasten Seatbelt Sign'. Clark's nervousness had returned. He knew the plane was fully capable of flying with only two of its three engines, but still it worried him. He began to wish that Lois had turned down his invitation. Without showing any outward signs of panic, he reached over and took Lois' hand in his. She looked up from her magazine and smiled.
Clark concentrated on trying to listen in on the flight crew in the cockpit. It was difficult for him to hear everything but he did hear enough to cause alarm. Evidently the dead engine was not the only problem facing the crew and passengers of flight 123.
Clark focused more on the cockpit and tried to listen in on the plane to ground communications with his super hearing. It was obvious the crew was in a bad situation and he really wanted to do something to help them but his second identity was still a secret from Lois, and he certainly didn't want the entire plane to know. For now he was contented to hold her hand, try to stay calm and discreetly listen in on the cockpit communications. When he figured out the best way to use his powers, then he would take whatever action was necessary. Besides, he sensed that at this point, they were in no immediate danger.
The flight attendants came through the cabin and gathered up everything they could from the in-flight snack and were speaking in hushed tones. Their actions would only be suspicious to the most seasoned and attentive of passengers. Clark looked over at Lois who was still reading her magazine and holding his hand.
Clark squeezed her hand and she responded as expected by taking her gaze from the magazine and looking into his eyes. Clark returned her gaze before leaning over toward her. "Lois, there's something I have to tell you but I don't want you to be alarmed," he whispered.
Lois' patented 'huh' look turned to one of concern as his eyes never left her face and his expression never changed.
Clark cleared his throat and continued. "I saw some smoke coming from the left engine earlier and I think the pilot turned it off. It was about the same time he put the seat belt sign on."
Lois started to panic, she let go of his hand, and plastered her nose to the window with one hand on either side of the small window. The magazine she was reading fell noisily to the floor. She strained at the window, wanting to see that he was telling her a lie. She hoped it was a lie but Clark had never been one to lie, let alone about something so serious as this. She didn't even think he'd ever lied to her -- well, maybe once, or twice, but never since they straightened out that little problem of his disappearing in the middle of meaningful conversations.
She couldn't see anything out the small and lightly scratched window. "Are you sure? How do you know?" She asked him in a quiet but severely agitated voice.
Clark took both of her hands in his own and spoke to her in a whisper. "Stay calm Lois, we can't panic here or the flight attendants will have more than they can handle. I think we are the only ones to know beside the pilots and the flight crew."
"That's great, Clark, we're the only ones allowed to panic, but only on the inside, since we can't panic on the outside until everyone else in the plane starts to panic on the outside, too. Right?"
"Perhaps I shouldn't have told you but...." His voice trailed off as he looked away toward the front of the plane. Several thousand thoughts flashed through his mind at super speed.
"But what, Clark?" She asked with concern in her whisper.
"Uh, I...thought you should know, just in case things start happening too fast. I also thought that maybe I should try to help somehow."
"Do you really think they need our help?" She asked leaning closer to him.
Clark put his arm around her and held her close. "Maybe not, but I'd like to be prepared *if* they do."
Lois rested her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes, "I'm glad you told me, Clark, but I'm still scared."
"Me too," he told her as he took her hand in his and rested his head on hers.
The minutes passed, with no change in the situation. Lois was dependent on Clark to keep her from going off the deep end and Clark was busy listening in to the cockpit conversations as best he could while keeping Lois close to him. He had no intention of letting her be hurt, if he could help it, even if it meant revealing his second identity to her and the world before he was ready.
Lois opened her eyes in response to a mild bump of turbulence. She was staring at the seat in front of Clark when it dawned on her. Retrieving her purse from under the seat in front of her, and startling Clark with her sudden movements, she picked up the air phone. "I'm going to call in the story, Clark. If they don't know about this, it will be a scoop. If they do, maybe they can tell us more about what's happening."
"Good idea, Lois."
Lois dialed the direct number to Perry White's office. "Chief, this is Lois. Clark and I are on this flight to St. Louis and we think there's a problem on the flight. Do you know anything about it?"
"Great shades of Elvis! You and Kent are on *that* flight?"
"What is it, Chief? What about *that* flight?" Lois slipped and let her voice betray her fear loud and clear to her boss.
"Lois, calm down. Is Clark there with you?"
"Yeah, Chief, he's right here, but you didn't answer my question." Lois was becoming even more upset.
"Lois, put Clark on the line."
Lois handed the phone to Clark as her eyes began to well up with moisture. She turned away from Clark and stared out the window. Her subconscious fears went into overdrive until she was convinced that with the way the chief had spoken, this would be the last story from the reporting team of Lane and Kent.
Clark could see the emotions on his partners face as he took the phone from her. "What is it, Chief?"
"Ah, well,...Kent, it's not good. I hope you can find a way to tell Lois, but this news requires calmer nerves." Perry hated to tell them what the wire service had picked up about the flight but he had no choice. "It seems that...ah, well...a terrorist group is claiming that they placed a bomb aboard the plane. It's set to go off if the plane drops below 20,000 feet." Clark was stunned. He could barely talk. "Chief, we have another *slight* problem then, too. I'm pretty sure the pilot had to feather one of the engines. I saw some smoke coming from it earlier."
"That's not good, Clark. We had gotten a rumor to that effect but there's been no confirmation. Just a minute, Clark." Perry covered the phone for a second but Clark could still hear him in the background, "Jimmy, get in here!"
"Yeah, Chief?" He heard as Jimmy apparently came running into the office.
"Jimmy, Clark just confirmed the engine problem; get that information to Applegate." Perry uncovered the phone. "Clark, are you still there?"
"Yes, I'm here. What do you want us to do?"
Perry was at a loss. Here his best two reporters were in the middle of the biggest story in weeks and he had to tell them of the other rumor they had picked up from the wires. "Uh...Clark, there's one more thing you should know. There is a rumor that one of the passengers is also a member of the terrorist group."
"Any idea who?" Clark asked as he realized the idea that had been forming would not work as well if this rumor proved true.
"Not really," Perry confided, "but I think I should contact some of my sources and see if I can find out." The necessity of verifying the rumor and finding additional information on the terrorist group suddenly took on a higher priority. "Meanwhile, see what you can find out from up there and call me back."
"Will do, Chief. We'll call you back in about fifteen minutes." Clark felt he should add the words 'if we can', but knew it would alarm Lois even more than she was already. He broke the connection and replaced the phone.
Lois turned toward him with her eyes a bit bleary. "I guess this is it, isn't it," she stated. "Exactly what did Perry tell you that was so terribly awful that he couldn't tell me?"
"Lois, it is a bit worse than we had first thought: there is supposed to be a terrorist on board." Lois leaned toward Clark, who took her in his arms and tried valiantly to curb her fears. He knew *he* was in no physical danger, unless there was kryptonite on board, but Lois was. Not wanting to tell her all of what Perry had told him, he simply held her and stroked her hair as she sought comfort from his closeness. Right now his first priority was to Lois, then he could look for the terrorist and the bomb. Perhaps he could even find a way to defuse it, although that would likely require someone finding out about his powers. He had thought about telling Lois but that was not his first choice. He was still not quite ready to reveal his secret to her, at least not until he knew that her feelings for Clark were at least as strong as those for his alter ego. Yes, it was selfish of him, but if he didn't know first, once the secret was out, he would never know for sure. Now with the complications of their current situation, it just might be too much for her to handle.
"Lois. I don't want to leave you here by yourself."
"Then don't. Stay here with me."
"Lois, Perry wants us to call him back after finding out what we can from up here. To do that, I need to talk to the crew," Clark explained. "I know you want me to stay here and hold you; believe me I'd like nothing more than to just sit here and hold you until we land in St. Louis.
"But you need to investigate for Perry." Lois sniffed.
"Yes, will you be all right?" Clark asked, as he supported her chin with his right hand.
Lois realized he was making sense. There was a story to get. "Clark, before you go...." Her voice trailed off as she carefully chose her words. "Clark, do you remember...how I told you I felt when those gangsters shot you and I thought you were, uh, you know...I don't want to feel that way again...especially up here."
Clark kissed her on the cheek, "I'll be careful, Lois." Unbuckling his seat belt, he still didn't have a definitive plan.
Walking toward the front of the cabin, he began to analyze each passenger in an attempt to determine which one, if any, might be nervous enough to be part of the terrorist group. This might be his only chance. If the pilot gave any indication of a problem with the plane, he wouldn't be able to separate a nervous terrorist from a frightened passenger. He didn't see anyone fitting his self determined criteria on his way up front.
He reached the first class area and parted the curtains. A few more passengers occupied first class. Across from the galley area was the lavatory. He opened the door and entered. Shielded from any passenger's view, he carefully surveyed the cargo area and guts of the plane. After a few moments, he located the bomb in a suitcase toward the rear of the plane. Then he began to search the passenger section for an indication to the presence of a terrorist on board. Unfortunately he found the evidence he needed in the carry on luggage of a man two rows behind Lois, but on the other side of the plane. There was a second bomb on the plane.
As he exited the lavatory, he nearly collided with a neatly uniformed gentleman. Walking over to the galley, he stopped and spoke to the flight attendant. "Would it be possible for me to see the cockpit?"
"Normally that might be arranged," she replied. "Admission to the cockpit is always at the Captain's discretion. Unfortunately I don't think he would permit it right now."
"Would you mind if I waited here a moment to ask him when he comes back out?"
"That's not the captain, he's the first officer."
"Perhaps he can intercede on my behalf. I'd really like to see the cockpit. I'm fascinated by flying." Clark told her honestly.
"Be my guest," the flight attendant replied. "But don't be too disappointed if it doesn't work out now. Maybe you can visit it after we land in St. Louis."
"Thank you," Clark told her as he looked around for a place to stand that was out of the way.
Lois was beginning to feel a bit better but while Clark was up front, she decided it was her opportunity to head back to the lavatory. She felt the need to wash her face and freshen up a bit. She was even more concerned when she returned to her seat to find Clark was still not back. If this was to be her last plane flight, she certainly did not want to spend it alone in the back of the plane. Checking her watch she discovered it was almost time to call Perry again but she had nothing new to report. She picked up her magazine which had been abruptly abandoned and tried to pick up where she had left off in the article that seemed so interesting less than half an hour ago.
Clark was still waiting when the first officer exited the lavatory. "Excuse me, may I have a moment of your time? It's rather important."
The first officer looked a little nervous but motioned Clark to follow him toward the front of the plane.
Clark followed him to the opening by the first class doorway.
"How can I help you?"
"I haven't really planned exactly what I want to say and I'm not sure where to begin. I know that this flight has a 'problem', and I assure you I am not involved in any way with what is going on. I was hoping to speak to the Captain to offer my help on resolving the situation."
"I'm not sure I understand Mr...."
"King, Charles King." Clark didn't really want to give the man his real name just in case he had to reveal more later. He used his favorite alias. "But, I should add that I'm traveling incognito."
"Maybe you should start at the beginning and tell me exactly what you know."
Clark told the first officer about the engine and the bomb in the luggage compartment. He also mentioned that he had found out that there was in fact a terrorist on board the plane with a backup bomb.
"How do you know who the terrorist is and where the bombs are? We weren't even aware that a second bomb was a possibility," the first officer whispered.
"I'm afraid that is classified."
"You work for the government then," the first officer asked.
"Not directly," Clark fudged. Technically sometimes he did do work for the government as Superman.
"Listen, I'm very interested in how you say you can help us but I've got to get back to my seat. There are regulations about having only one pilot on the flight deck and the Captain doesn't like having to wear that oxygen mask. Would you like to explain what you've told me to him?" The first officer really didn't know what to make of Clark's story.
After being ushered into the cockpit, Clark was surprised to find that it was fairly roomy and occupied by two people, the Captain and the Flight Engineer. There were even two jump seats allowing for five people to ride fairly comfortably in the cockpit.
"John, this passenger approached me and seems to know more about our situation than we do. He assured me he's not part of it. I think he works for the government."
The captain turned around to face Clark and his co-pilot. Sizing up the situation, he decided to at least hear out this passenger, as his first officer had. He replaced the oxygen mask on the storage hook. "Paul, exactly did he tell you?"
"Why don't you tell the Captain exactly what you told me?" The co-pilot told Clark as he returned to the right seat of the aircraft.
Clark began to repeat the story, adding a few more details. "Really, gentlemen, I'm sorry to put you through such charades...but as I mentioned I'm flying incognito and if my true identity were to become known, it would not only jeopardize my position but greatly disrupt my life."
"Let me see if I have this correct: there are two bombs on my plane, one in the luggage compartment near the rear of the plane and a terrorist with a bomb also in the rear of this plane. I'm sorry, but I find it difficult to believe that someone was able to get the explosives through airport security, especially in Washington." The Captain stated.
"I don't know about the security procedures in Washington; I made a connection there,but the explosives are there. If you can tell me a way to get to the luggage compartment secretly, without disturbing any of the passengers, I could go down there and try to defuse it."
"Now there we have a problem. There isn't a passageway big enough for a person to get down there and I'm not sure I want a passenger trying to defuse a bomb on my plane. Have you had experience with defusing bombs?"
"I've successfully gotten rid of a few without harm to anyone but if you have someone else in mind, I will be glad to let them handle it." Clark knew where the pilot was coming from. He didn't really know anything about him. He was just a passenger who was suddenly offering to handle a situation that could literally blow up in his face.
"Look, we still have some time. Give us a few minutes to go over our options. We'll contact you at your seat if we need your help," the Captain suggested.
"If you want me to help, make some sort of generic announcement over the intercom and I'll come back up here." Clark told the crew as he prepared to leave the cockpit.
"Let's not take a chance on alarming the passengers. Instead of coming up here, go to the nearest galley phone and dial 51. If a flight attendant questions you, just tell them that Captain Fritz gave you the cockpit code. Thank you for coming forward with this information and offering to help." Captain Fritz shook his hand as Clark left the cockpit for his seat.
Walking back down the center aisle, he spotted Lois. She appeared a bit white knuckled but she certainly didn't look like she was panicking. He knew she was but she hid it well.
"Well what do you think, John, is this guy on the level?"
"I don't know," the Captain replied. "I think it's time we called down to flight operations and see what information they have. If that guy is right, we are in big trouble." Clark settled back into his seat, and refastened his seatbelt. He couldn't help but notice that Lois was practically staring at him hoping for good news.
"Well, what's up, Clark?" Lois asked when she couldn't contain her curiosity any longer.
Clark took Lois' hand and drew her close to him so he could tell her without alarming any other passengers, especially one that was only a few rows away. "I spoke with the Captain and told him what we knew. They didn't seem to know much more but the rumor about the terrorist on board has been confirmed. I guess we should let Perry know." Clark picked up the phone and dialed the direct number. "Chief, this is Clark," he whispered loudly.
"Why are you whispering, Kent?"
"Uh, when I spoke to the Captain he made sure to tell me that he didn't want me to say anything that might alarm any of his passengers."
"That makes sense. What have you got for me?"
"Well Chief, we were able to confirm the terrorist on board so there is a possibility of him having a bomb." Clark whispered that last word a little softer so there was no chance that any of the other passengers could hear it. "The Captain didn't deny the problems with the engine either. And for that other matter," he turned a bit away from Lois and spoke softer hoping that she wouldn't be able to hear him. "They are working on it but access will be difficult. What have you heard?"
"Clark, the FBI has confirmed that the terrorist group in question has the wherewithal to create the type of bomb they claim is on board. They are trying to contact Superman to have him do a fly by and see if he can determine if it exists. Unfortunately they are having trouble contacting him since they usually ask you or Lois to contact him."
"I see, well I don't know how I can help you with that one, Perry, I can't really contact him from here either." Clark fibbed. He didn't really want to tell Perry that he couldn't contact Superman but he certainly wasn't going to tell him that Superman was unable to help because he was *on* the flight. "Perry, this flight is scheduled to land in just over an hour. Do you have any idea what the FBI or anyone else has planned? We can't stay up here forever you know." Clark's frustration was evident.
"Clark, they aren't telling anyone what they are planning, especially the media. Too much chance of a leak. I wish I had better news, Clark, I just don't know what to say."
Although Perry would never let on, Clark picked up the inflection in his voice that betrayed his feelings. Concern for their well-being was not a strong enough word. He was down right scared that they wouldn't make it through this time. "Don't worry so much, Perry, I'm sure this story is overblown. Don't they have real strong security measures at National? How could this terrorist guy get through that kind of security with a bomb?" Clark was trying to make sure that Lois heard his side of the conversation so that she, too, wouldn't worry.
Perry shifted his attention to another matter at hand. "Clark, how is Lois taking this? It sounded as though that was as much for her benefit as it was mine."
"I'm sure you're right, Perry. Lois? You know Lois, she's handling this just fine." Clark looked over at Lois to find, from her expression, that she wasn't quite as fine as he was telling Perry. "By the way, Perry, did they happen to give any reason why this particular flight was targeted?"
"Well, Clark, it seems as though there is some sort of agent on board flying incognito. The rumor is that he's part of Her Majesty's Secret Service, the same outfit Nigel defected from."
"Interesting. Do you think Intergang might be involved?" Clark inquired.
"Possibly, but there's no way of telling for sure." Perry acknowledged.
"Listen, I think we better start jotting down a few notes for this story, Perry, we'll send it to you from Smallville."
"Clark, do you want me to call your parents?" Perry picked up the obvious reference to his hometown.
"I don't know, Chief; maybe that is a good idea. We'll call you as soon as we know anything more." Clark told him as he hung up the phone.
"Clark, why hasn't Superman come to our rescue?"
"You heard that, huh? They are trying to find him but their best contacts for him seem to be on a plane flight." Clark tried to make light of the situation. It wasn't working. "Didn't you once tell him that he couldn't be everywhere?"
"Well, yes, I guess I did, but still he told *me* that he would be there when *I* needed him."
"Lois, I'm sure that if he could be here right now, this second, he would have a difficult time figuring out how to stop something from happening inside a pressurized plane at 27,000 feet. He couldn't get inside from outside, without depressurizing the plane."
"I guess you're right, Clark. I'm just not taking his absence very well." Lois tried to be diplomatic, not so much for Clark's benefit, but to keep herself from falling apart yet again.
Clark put his arms around Lois and tried to comfort her again. He wanted to hold her, to kiss her, to tell her that he loved her, and to tell her that everything would be all right, that he was really Superman. Well, he could do three of the four things, and, if given the chance, eventually all four. Most of all he wanted to dispel her fears that this was to be their last story.
He was still trying to figure out how he was going to get to the bomb when he heard the intercom click on for the Captain to make an announcement about some land feature they could see from the right side of the plane. It was his clue that Captain Fritz wanted to speak to him. "Lois, can you excuse me for a minute? I need to use the facilities."
Lois let go of his hand. As he unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up, he looked down at Lois who returned his gaze. Her eyes pleaded with him to hurry back to her. She was still very frightened. Clark leaned over and placed his hand along her delicate jawbone. There was a longing in her eyes that compelled him to kiss her firmly. "I'll be back soon," he reassured her.
Clark headed for the back of the plane. When he was out of her sight, he picked up the galley phone and dialed the cockpit code. "Captain Fritz? I got your message. How can I help?"
"We've decided that we have run out of options. Assuming that the altitude bomb is really there, we need to neutralize it within the next ten to fifteen minutes." The Captain informed him. "How certain are you that it is in the cargo hold?"
Clark didn't want to lie to the Captain but could he really tell him that it was on board with 100% certainty, and not tell him how he knew? "I can't be 100% sure but I'm convinced the threat is real enough to check it out."
There was a momentary pause before Clark heard the captain's voice again. "OK, air traffic has given us clearance to descend to 21,000 feet, and we are proceeding to that flight level. Once there, we should begin the approach to St. Louis, that will take us below 20,000 feet. Now we can delay this some but not for very long without declaring an inflight emergency which will alert every news organization from Boston to St. Louis."
"Captain, I have an idea. If I were to cut through the floor to get to the cargo area, where could I do it without damage to your controls and not have the terrorist back here see me?"
"Assuming you had a blow torch and sufficient maneuvering room one of the rear cans would be the best place. Most of the controlling cables go through the center of the plane under the aisle. Just how do you plan to cut through the floor?"
"Agents for Her Majesty's Secret Service do have a few gadgets that might be able to do the trick. Oh, and just in case someone hears something, you might want to disconnect all of the air phones so our friend back here can't contact his friends when we start our descent. I'll be in touch." Clark hung up the phone and headed to the lavatory closest to the location where he had spotted the bomb.
After making sure the door was locked, exposing the occupied sign, Clark used his super vision to check the lavatory floor and spotted the few cables running through it. Hovering above the floor, he carefully aimed his heat vision to avoid the cables. The hole in the floor was not very large, but he was able to remove the piece of flooring and slip through into the luggage compartment below. He found the bag quickly with his x-ray vision. Now was the hard part: how to get rid of the bomb. The safest way for all on board would be to open the cargo door and throw the bag out of the plane.
As he reached for the door with luggage in hand he stopped. Unfortunately opening the cargo door would depressurize that section of the hold. The plane was still above 20,000 feet, and the difference in air pressure would suck everything in the hold out of the cargo area and could be devastating. Even though the hold was compartmentalized, the sudden depressurization of one section might even affect the passenger compartment due to the access way he had created, or it could cause the pilots to lose control. One thing he knew for sure, it would definitely alert the terrorist that someone was aware of that particular bomb. He had to think of a second plan and he didn't have much time.
Clark scanned the suitcase. It didn't look like it was wired but just in case it was, he decided to freeze the entire piece of luggage with his superbreath. Upon opening the suitcase, he found half a dozen sticks of dynamite disguised as common roadway flares. The alarm clock in the suitcase was actually an altimeter from a small aircraft. Connecting the two were razor thin wires shielded by clear plastic tape. This ingenuity was probably part of the reason the ground security didn't realize that it was a bomb. Over in the side pocket of the suitcase was the power source disguised as a portable radio. He froze all three components and used his heat vision to separate all of the wires from the altimeter and the battery to the TNT. Each component, except for the dynamite, was carefully placed in a different section of the luggage where there would be no chance of their coming into contact by accident. He then closed the suitcase and placed it by the cargo door with the dynamite outside the suitcase and underneath it so it could easily be found by the ground crew unloading the plane. For safety, he put a few other bags around the terrorist's suitcase.
Clark floated back to the entrance he had made in the lavatory floor and exited the cargo hold. Then he replaced the floor the best he could. Upon leaving the lavatory, he told the flight attendant that the lavatory was stopped up and asked that an out of order sign be put on the door.
With that taken care of, Clark called back up front to the pilot. "I found it and it's been taken care of," he told Captain Fritz. "The suitcase containing the components is on its side just back of the cargo door with the explosive underneath the bag so it won't get too jostled during landing."
"Great," the captain told him. "We've just been cleared to descend to 17,000. Any ideas on the other situation?"
"Actually I'm still working on that one. Do you have any ideas?" Clark asked.
"The only thing I can think about is a similar situation in the movie _Airport_, and that didn't work too well." Captain Fritz replied.
"Well, we probably need to do something soon or he'll start figuring things out. I'll let you know when I come up with something." Clark said before hanging up the intercom phone.
Clark was deep in thought as he headed back toward his seat beside Lois. He couldn't take his eyes off the terrorist. If it weren't for the bomb in the briefcase he was holding he would look like any other tourist...blond hair, blue eyes, and wearing a navy suit with a light blue turtleneck sweater. Yet he was nervously fingering the briefcase on his lap. Clark paused near a vacant seat in the rear of the plane. From here he could analyze the terrorist and his bomb a little more easily so he sat down to try and think up a plan.
Lois got up to check on Clark since he had been gone over fifteen minutes and spotted him sitting in the last seat of the plane. He spotted her a brief moment after she spotted him. She returned to her seat in a huff.
Clark returned to his seat and found Lois was staring out the window watching the clouds get closer. "Lois, are you okay?" After a few minutes of silence, Clark realized that Lois, being Lois, was ignoring him. "Can I at least have a chance to explain?"
Lois slowly sat back in her seat still not calm enough to look at him. "This better be good," was all she said. Clark cleared his throat. "After I came out of the lavatory I noticed this guy back there acting a little weird. I thought maybe he might be the terrorist Perry mentioned. So I stayed back there for a few minutes to watch him."
"Well, is it him?" Lois asked. She wasn't going to come out and say 'Yep, that was a good enough explanation to stay away when you know I really need someone to be with me'. That wasn't Lois' way. Think it, yes; say it, no.
"I think so," Clark told her simply.
The brave front Lois had put up began to melt away. She took Clark's hand in hers. "I'm sorry, Clark, I was worried about you being back there so long. I thought you might have been ill or your allergies were kicking up again. Then when I saw you sitting back there I thought you just didn't want to be around some weird babbling woman who tends to get overly emotional in a crisis."
"Lois, I like your babbling." Oops. Clark didn't mean for that confession to slip out but it did seem to have a positive effect on her. Lois smiled and moved a little closer to him so that she could again rest her head on his shoulder.
It took a moment for it to sink in before she sat bolt upright. "Clark, we have to call it in!"
"Call what in? That I like your babbling?"
Lois glared at her partner. "About the terrorist!" Lois whispered.
"They already know about it, Lois. What can we add to the story?" Clark asked trying to keep her calm. Besides, he didn't want her to figure out that the phones had been turned off. "But maybe *we* can do something that will make a difference," Clark suggested.
Lois' little pout vanished immediately. "Just what kind of something did you have in mind, Clark?"
"I think, with a diversion, I could get the bomb away from the guy," Clark told her.
"Didn't you see _Airport_? They tried that in that movie and it almost worked until some jerk yelled 'Grab him. He's got a bomb,' and the whole place panicked." Lois stated matter-of-factly.
"Well, it was a good thought while it lasted." I must be the only person who hasn't seen that movie, Clark thought. "Do you have an idea?"
"No, not really," Lois told him frankly. "Are you sure he really has something in his briefcase?"
"You saw him, Lois; wouldn't you be suspicious of someone acting the way he is?"
Lois peeked around Clark at the man who was still sitting there looking straight ahead. "Yeah, I think I would. I also think he looks a bit flushed."
Clark turned around to look at the suspected terrorist. Lois was right; he was either sick or very nervous. Clark suspected he had almost run out of time to come up with an idea to disarm him.
Clark gave Lois a long meaningful look, one she eagerly returned. Pulling her tightly into his arms, he kissed her lost in a shared emotion. Forcing himself to release her from the embrace, he knew the time for action was now. "Make sure your seatbelt is tight, Lois. I'll be back soon, I hope."
She knew what he was going to try to do but didn't know how he planned to do it or if he would succeed. She watched him back out of the row and into the aisle as if it might be the last time she would ever see him.
He looked at her with concern and love.
As he got to the aisle, he bumped into a flight attendant who was passing by.
"Sir, the captain has the seatbelt sign on. You really need to be in your seat, buckled in."
"I understand but I have to use the rest room, then I'll come back and buckle in."
"OK, but be careful," she admonished him.
Just as the words finished leaving her mouth, Clark turned around took two steps and fell right on the terrorist and his briefcase. In the confusion, he managed to cold conk the man and make it look totally accidental. He slipped the briefcase under his jacket before getting up. "I'm very sorry, sir. I hope I didn't hurt you," he calmly said before walking off toward the rear lavatory, leaving the flight attendant to try and assess the man's injuries. Clark slipped into the lavatory that had the out-of-order sign on it and looked at the prize he had managed to get away from the terrorist. After freezing the case with his superbreath, he again opened the briefcase and disarmed the bomb. It was very similar to the one in the cargo hold but this one depended on a manual triggering device. Once all of the wires were cut, he placed the briefcase in the lavatory trash bin and let himself out. There was still a big commotion back where the passenger was unconscious so he took a moment to call Captain Fritz on the intercom.
"Captain, this is Charlie King. I was able to put the terrorist out of commission; he's unconscious. The bomb in his briefcase has been defused and is in the 'out-of-order' lavatory trash. Everything should be safe for your landing now."
"Thank you, Mr. King. I have police waiting to take the man into custody once we land in St. Louis."
"You also might want to have an ambulance standing by. He may be more severely injured than I thought. Oh, and please, don't mention me to anyone. I'm still trying to stay incognito."
"I understand, Mr. King. Please then, accept my thanks on behalf of the entire crew and the airline. I wish I could do more to thank you but I'm afraid it would compromise your anonymity."
"You're welcome, Captain. I'm glad I could be of help." With that, Clark hung up the phone and began walking toward his seat. He tapped the first flight attendant he met on the shoulder and took her aside. "This guy was acting real strange before he 'passed out'. You might want to talk to someone about arranging an ambulance for him when we land in St. Louis."
The flight attendant nodded and went to use the same phone Clark had just used. Cautiously Clark made his way back to his seat, gingerly moving through the small group of people trying to help the man he had fallen on. No one noticed that the man working his way back to his seat was the same man who had created the situation or how dangerous the still unconscious man really was.
Lois greeted Clark with a big smile as he returned to his seat, and buckled in. "That was brilliant Clark, just brilliant," Lois told him taking his hand in hers. "Just wait until Perry and Jimmy hear how you saved the day."
"Lois, it was just luck. Let's not go overboard on this."
"But Clark, you're a hero," Lois told him as she snuggled closer to his side. "Perry and Jimmy deserve to know what you did, and how brave you were."
"OK, *they* deserve to know, but let's not tell the whole world. Can we just say 'a passenger' fell on the terrorist in our story? I don't want everyone to think I'm clumsy, you know."
Lois smiled. "Okay, Clark. A heroic passenger saved the day... almost like Superman would have...if he'd been here."
Clark winced a bit at her comparison, and hoped she didn't notice as he pulled her into his arms to hold her the rest of the way to St. Louis.
The plane landed without incident in St. Louis. Lois was safe along with the other passengers. Now all Clark had to do was blend in with the other passengers and hope that the flight crew didn't try to single him out as a hero to the rest of crew and passengers. He also expected a lot of media waiting for them at the gate.
As they were leaving the plane, Clark spotted the Captain emerging from the flight deck. He began shaking the hands of various passengers as they left the plane. When Lois and Clark reached the exit, the captain first shook Lois' hand, "I hope you had a good flight." Then he took Clark's hand. "Thank you for flying with us today." Clark could see the real feeling in those words as he shook the Captain's hand.
Lois and Clark headed out into the boarding area to see families greeting their loved ones and plenty of media with cameras and microphones, hoping for an interview with one or two of the emerging passengers. Clark followed Lois' lead in working through the massive crowd. After all, they did have another plane to catch and their own story to write.
With a few spare moments on their hands they went to the pay phone and dialed Perry's private number for the third time today.
"Hi Perry, we made it to St. Louis."
"Lois, it's good to hear your voice. We saw the plane land on the news. That must have been some flight! A perfect landing with only two engines after the terrorist was captured."
"Yeah, Chief, just a little *trip* on Clark's...whoops...*an unnamed passenger's* part, and the terrorist was disarmed. That passenger is a real hero," Lois told her boss while she looked into the eyes of her hero.
"That was pretty amazing, Lois, but how did they defuse the bomb in the cargo hold?"
"Cargo hold? What bomb in the cargo hold?" Lois was struck with a look of confusion on her face. She glanced between Clark, the phone and the terminal window waiting for an explanation.
"Didn't Clark tell you? There was a bomb in the cargo hold set to go off if the plane went below 20,000 feet."
"No, Perry, he *didn't* tell me that. Maybe I should put him on the phone so he can tell both of us about that bomb." Lois told her boss as her temper flared. She handed the phone to Clark.
"Hi, Chief." Clark said trying to sound innocent and melt into the background.
"You *didn't* *tell* *her* about the other *bomb*?" Perry said, stressing the important words.
"Um, well...." Clark looked at his partner as her eyes bore into him and he knew from the tone of Perry's voice that if he were there in person he would be facing two similar stares. "It's like this chief...um...Lois was upset enough about the terrorist. I didn't want to make her more upset so I left out that 'tiny little detail'.
Lois and Perry responded almost simultaneously: "Tiny. Little. Detail!"
"Anyway," Clark continued after recovering from the verbal lashing, "the rumor is that the agent traveling incognito was able to defuse that bomb."
"Wow, you both are lucky he was on that plane. Then again, if he was the target maybe...oh, I'm just glad both of you are safe and sound."
"Thanks, Chief. Gotta run. They're calling our flight to Wichita. We'll work out our take on the story and fax it to you as soon as we can. Bye, Chief." Clark hung up the phone. He was ready to board the plane to Wichita but Lois continued to stare at him and stand her ground in front of him. Her gaze softened as she slowly reached out to hold him. Clark stepped into the embrace. He was glad she was safe and in his arms.
"Clark, I understand why you left out that detail. Next time you conveniently leave out a 'tiny little detail' how about telling me first? I don't like hearing it from someone else."
"I'll remember that, Lois." Clark took her hand as they boarded their final flight for the day.
"Oh, and Clark, remember when you said Jason Trask wouldn't bother us on this trip to the Corn Festival?"
"I think you lied." She paused to watch him absorb her accusation. "Wasn't twenty thousand feet *his* number, too?"