By Scott E. Johnston (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Jack is back, and Lex Luthor has been paroled. Lex's quest for power — and revenge upon Superman — leads him to Jack, whom he suspects of having secret knowledge of Superman.
(This story takes place just before the final episode this season and makes the assumption that "Jack" from the first season, wasn't just a figment of our imagination. That he and Clark continued to have, if strained due to his knowledge, a relationship that we don't see. Personally, I believe Jack would make an excellent addition to both the show and the comic. This is my first attempt at fan-fiction, so have a little mercy!)
Jack laid in bed. Thinking. He had done a lot of that the past year. A lot of introspective thought. It was tough. He was 17. He didn't need this kind of grief. What 17-year-old needs the knowledge to topple nations. This was ridiculous.
A year since that terrorist attack at the Planet. A year since he quit his job. A YEAR SINCE HE SLEPT WELL!
He still saw Clark, but their relationship was strained. How do you go to a movie with Superman? How do you get a burger with a man who could eat molten lava? God, hanging out with Clark's like going to chapel with the Pope. Even if that comes close to being an analogy.
He needed to talk to someone, but who? I mean you just can't walk into a shrink's office and say, "Hey, my friend's really Superman and I'm not sure what to do." It'd just be easier to tell them your straight jacket size
Mr. & Mrs. Kent. That's who he could talk to. He met the Kent's a few times. They seemed to take an instant liking to him. Maybe they'd understand, (well, why wouldn't they?). That was the answer.
Jack got out of bed and jumped in the shower to wash off the night sweat that had formed around him on this balmy summer night.
"Bet Clark never sweats." He muttered to himself as he reached for the soap.
Life's been better for Luthor. His hair still hasn't started to grown back, he's broke; not a penny to his name, and he's had to suffer the ignominy of taking showers with large groups. He's had to share a open toilet with a man named after a snake, Viper, live behind bars and resist the offerings of Viper to be his "Special Friend".
It was all Superman's fault. The heathen. He challenged Lex Luthor and won. That just wasn't done! But that was just the opening battle. He has yet to win the war.
Today was his parole day. They weren't able to make anything stick beyond "conspiracy to commit arson". After all, +he+ didn't plant the bomb. He only paid for it. He was getting out after less than three months.
Today, now +today+ was a good day for revenge.
And Luthor knew how to do it, too. A boy. A Child. But, yet, not a child. The boy knew something about Superman. Oh yes indeed he did. Luthor sensed it immediately after that doomed terrorist attack of the Planet. He knew something. But what?
Knowledge was power after all. And he was Lex Luthor. He would have that power. Money was easy. Just hook him up to the Internet and he'd suck a small country dry. But knowledge. There lay the true gold. And a boy has the potential of destroying this city. This blasted Metropolis which helped to bring him down.
The power. The power that will be Lex Luthor's. The boy with that power.
A boy named Jack.
Looking at the clock on the wall, and sighing. Where was Clark? Another yogurt run? More coffee? Maybe he forgot to have his neighbor's friend's. daughter's cat groomed by his cousin's, friend's sister. The stories were getting too wild. Somehow she believed Clark knew that. On some deep subconscious level.
There was something there; but what? She was overlooking something very obvious. She was being stupid. Clark would +never+ hide anything from her. Would he?
Of course he would. Don't be stupid. Everyone has their secrets. Even a nice. little, Kansas farm boy. Probably some deep rooted fear he'll be rejected if found out. But what? Maybe he smoked a cigarette behind the barn. Something really stupid probably. It's not like he was really S—, no.
Eyes opening wide with a brief flicker of realization. Lois stood. Ready to scream. Even with the Planet empty this late at night, Clark, where ever he was, would be sure to hear her. A deaf man could hear her!
But just as quickly as she stood, she sat down. No that couldn't be it. He would have told me. She shook her head in a frantic effort to dispel the thought. Nononononononono, not possible. Nope, can't be it. Then why was she having such trouble banishing the idea?
"Lois, is something wrong?" Clark looked at her with his deep brown eyes and whimsical smile that always seemed to melt her. His arms were heavy with files that contained everything there was to be had on Intergang.
"Clark, oh, no, uh… I mean yes, everything fine." Just looking at him she couldn't imagine the thought or her confusion. The thought of putting on tights each night and running around. Clark having saved her hundreds of times. No the thought was too absurd. "Did you get those files? Seems like you were gone to the file room quite awhile."
He looked at her both amused and worried. When he walked in she looked so pale with fright. He skin was whiter than Ivory, her normally lustrous hair seemed to take on a dull tone. Her eyes seemed more than a million miles away. Farther than even he could get to. "yes, Lois, I got them. The records were a bit scattered so it took me longer."
"That's OK Clark. At least we weren't talking about something intimate again." The sarcasm in her voice was undeniable, and stung him to the bone. He sat across from Lois and opened the first file to start reading.
"You know Lois, we don't have do this right now. I could take you home."
"Why, you forget to have your neighbor's friend's daughter's cat groomed by your cousin's, friend's sister?" She said with a half a smile and just a hint of venom.
"Yes indeed, a LONG night!" He sighed shook his head in frustration and looked at his file with false enthusiasm.
"So that's it. I'm not sure what to do. I'm really am not capable of handling this on my own. I just need someone to let the stress out on I guess" Jack stood in the phone booth speaking his inner-most thoughts into a plastic handle. How pathetic. Was this how low his life had sunk?
"Now son, I'm glad you thought to call us. And you trust us enough to feel +comfortable+ talking to us. Just goes to show you the influence our boy has had on you. I mean, now, a year and a half ago, you would have gone right out and sold this information to the highest bidder. Instead, you seem to want to keep this secret." Jonathan's deep baritone voice was both demanding of respect and soothing at the same time. Martha hadn't said much, but you could almost feel those gears turning. She may not be from the big city, but she was the type of woman you'd want in your corner in a time of trouble.
"Jonathan…the boy doesn't need platitudes, he needs +help+." She said with a mixture of frustration and concern, "Jack do you want us to have Clark fly you out here? It seems like you could use a few weeks of stress free relaxation."
"No, Clark and I don't discuss his tightly duties" he said, trying to lighten the mood a little, "we have kind of an unwritten rule that says we don't talk about it much. We discussed it, but not much."
But, to his surprise Jack found himself thinking about it. Mrs. Kent was the only one he knew that still made her pie crusts from scratch. Adding a little extra flavor to them that added just the right amount of zing. What made her such a great cook, he ventured. A few weeks of just helping out on the farm, no need to worry about what he'd eat; they'd have more food than the US Army. Stress free, relaxing, his mind wandered. He didn't notice the man dressed in black with his shiny pallet put a drug ridden mask to his mouth. All he remembered was darkness. Some small struggling, but not much else.
"Jack, what's wrong? Jack…JACK…" Martha screamed into the phone with such worry, only a mother, his or not, could convey it.
"Jonathan, what happened. The Caller ID says the phone still connected, but nothing's there."
"I don't know, Martha. Just the sound of a small struggle. I think we better call Clark. This is too big for us. What that boy knows…" Shaking his head, Jonathan left the sentence unfinished as he dialed Clark's number.
Clark was taking advantage of Lois being asleep across from him. Using his super-speed he was reading the files faster than anything human could keep up. It wasn't hard. But he wanted to get done and just relish in Lois' beauty. She seemed so quiet and peaceful there. Her head down on the desk as she slept. Her perfume wafting over his nose teasing him. The silky hair bouncing with each breath. Enough to stop any man in his tracks… even Superman.
The phone startled her awake and she sat up abruptly. "What? What is it? Ohmigod, I was out for over an hour. KENT!" Her anger just served to amuse him. He knew she'd be upset, but he also knew it'd only last a minute or two.
"Sorry Lois, you looked so peaceful, I didn't want to disturb you." Which was the truth. He reached for Lois' phone and pressed a few buttons to access his own line.
"Hello, Clark Kent speaking."
"Son, it's your father. We have some bad news. Someone's kidnapped Jack." And with that he brought Clark up to date on what had been happening.
As he hung up the phone, his face was crinkled with worry. Both for concern for Jack and what the knowledge of Clark-Being-Superman had done to Jack. But one crisis at a time.
"Clark, what's wrong?"
"Jack…Jack was kidnapped" He said, visibly upset.
"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go find him." Lois grabbed her purse and stood up and was moving towards the elevator before Clark could protest.
What was wrong? That wasn't like Lois. She want more information. Who, what, when, where, and more frighteningly, why. Did she +care+ about Jack? Despite all the grief she gave the kid, did she actually +like+ him?
He didn't have time to worry about it. He had to go help his friend.
Jack regained consciousness only to realize he has been strapped to a table. As his vision cleared he found he was in a dark room. The dust seemed to be thick and the room exuded a feeling of decay. Where was he?
He took the chance of lifting his head and looking down at himself. His shirt had been removed and electronic pads had been pasted all over his chest. Why? He looked around the room and noticed the man in black standing to his right. The man had his back turned, but it was easy to tell he was of middle age. The man in black was bald and about 5' 11" maybe six feet. But that was all Jack was able to tell as the man's outfit was deceptively large. As if it had been obtained in a hurry. The man was playing with instruments next to him when he picked up a small syringe with the biggest damn needle Jack had ever seen. Jack had to resist the urge to scream.
Suddenly an electric current went though the pads sending a stinging pain into Jack's upper chest.
"Now shall we talk about what you know?" The man in black spoke as he turned around with the needle and a syringe filled with golden liquid.
Neither the sight of the needle or the electricity scarred him as much as the man wielding the controls. Jack let loose a scream that he had been fighting since his arrival. But he was sure the room was sound proofed. He was all alone.
Alone with Lex Luthor.
"Clark we've been looking for hours. What're we going to do?" Lois' panic seemed out of place, but refreshing.
"I don't know, Lois. Let's stop by my apartment and get some coffee. I get the feeling we won't be getting any sleep tonight."
"You're right. We don't do anyone any good if we're tripping over each other."
As they headed for the Lois' Jeep they noticed something in the front seat. Naked from the waist up, blistered with bruises and filled with needle holes was a unconscious Jack.
As soon as Clark realized who was in the front seat he broke into a run, resisting every effort to get to the car at super-speed.
Lois whipped out her cellular phone and called and ambulance as she approached Clark.
"What?" She said in response to Clark's questioning gaze.
"So I got it because I was sick of you running off to make calls. Can we talk about this later, please?"
Clark turned his attention back to a battered Jack. He felt for a pulse and found one. But only a person with super touch could feel. He surprised himself by starting CPR. He wanted to fly Jack to the nearest hospital, but he wasn't sure if he'd do more damage to Jack.
An ambulance screamed around the corner with two police cars in pursuit. Surprising how fast they responded when investigative reporters called them.
As the paramedics loaded Jack's limp body into the ambulance, Jack managed to regain enough strength to grab Clark's shirt sleeve.
"Didn't tell him… kept it… secret…" Jack managed to say through obvious pain.
"You mean this is all because of me?"
"Don't blame you… yourself. Luthor did this." With that, Jack lost his grasp on consciousness and was lost. His head fell back on the pillow like lead.
"Mr. Kent, we've gotta get this kid to the hospital, STAT. He's in too critical of condition for us to handle. His chest is covered with second degree burns. This is too much for us."
Clark let go of his young friend's hand and allowed the paramedics to do their job. In a rage and fury that surprised himself. He had known he liked Jack, but only as a casual friend. His anger seemed better placed to someone he was close to, Jimmy, Perry, his parents…Lois.
"I've got to find Luthor. Make him pay!"
With surprise he turned to Lois and gave her an abrupt salutation before darting off into the crowd of traffic that had built with the dam of emergency vehicles. In mid run ripping open his shirt, not quite caring if anyone saw. But fortunately, in his rashness, Clark failed to notice everyone looking elsewhere. The God's must be smiling on him.
Later that night as Lois sat watching an early Three Stooges rerun and fuming over Clark's rude manner towards her this evening, she sat thinking.
What was it Jack said, "Didn't tell, kept it a secret" or something like that. But what was it he didn't tell?
Lois picked up the phone and dialed the number for Metropolis General Hospital and asked to be connected to Jack's doctor.
Dr. Kauffman speaking, how may I help you?"
"Yes, Dr. Kauffman, this is Lois Lane from the Daily Planet. I was wondering how a friend of mine was doing? His name is Jack. I'm sorry I don't know the last name."
"Oh Miss Lane. Yes, I know who you're talking about. Who else gets visited by Superman then has Lois Lane call?"
Lois instantly liked this doctor. He had a jovial tone that immediately made one want to like him. There weren't many like that. But why would Superman visit Jack? That was the confusing part. She knew Clark had a friendship with the man, but would he call Superman in on something like this?
"Well, Miss Lane, Jack's been taken out of critical condition and placed on the serious but stable list. He has second degree burns on his chest and has repeatedly been stuck with needles containing what I can only guess was truth serum that he managed to fight off. Now, how he did that, I don't know.,"
"Well, he has a few friends that have taught him how to be remarkable stubborn" She said with a grin as if it could be passed over the phone.
"Well, I'll know more as soon as I get his blood tests back, but I'd hazard a guess that if he pulls through the night, he'll be OK."
"Thank You doctor. Keep me informed, would you?"
"Oh, one more thing Miss Lane, whomever left this young man, left him for dead. If Mr. Kent hadn't performed CPR when he did and waited only a few more minutes… well, I really don't think we'd be having this conversation."
"Thank you again, doctor. Have a good night." Lois reached for her purse and the television remote. She was bound and determined to find Clark tonight. But something caught her eye. A news bulletin had broken into Larry, Moe and Curly's adventure. A familiar red shield dwarfed the screen as she fumbled for the volume on the remote.
"—peat, Superman seems to have gone on a one man rampage on crime tonight. You seem to be safe if you're not committing a crime. Police state that the underworld is running scared after the Man of Steel broke up 3 drug cartels, stopped 25 attempted rapes, muggings, and carjackings. Inspector Henderson at police headquarters is reported as having said, `good for him. We haven't had a lick of crime all night!' We'll bring you further updates as they become clear. WAIT, we have a camera crew that seems to have cornered the Man of Steel… No he flew away. Our reporter on the scene reports that the supposedly invulnerable man seemed…upset…about something. We'll stay informed, so you can stay informed. This is Steven Schwartz at WLEX, we now return you to your normally scheduled programming."
Superman, on a rampage? What will these people do for ratings? Who knows? But something is bothering Superman. She's going to find out…as soon as she finds Clark. It's 5:00 am, he better be home!
Lois approached the front steps to Clark's apartment with uneasy trepidation. The lights seemed to be on, but was he awake?
She climbed the steps one at a time and rested her finger on the bell. She wanted to go around the side and look to see if he was home…or alone. But that would be snooping, wouldn't it? Like that ever stopped her before. She was about to press the bell, when the door flew open. There stood Clark looking the most haggard she had ever seen him, hair mussed, close rumpled, and pale. She had never seen Clark so pale before. Like he had just woken from a bad nightmare. A BAD nightmare.
"Lois, are you going to ring the bell or just stand here all night?" A bad nightmare. That's what it had to have been. Clark usually isn't so brisk with her.
"Night? You mean morning. Sorry… uh… Did I bother you or anything?"
No, Lois, you never bother me." He managed a half a grin despite his obvious exhaustion..
"Umm, Clark are you okay? You look really frazzled, like you woke up from a nightmare…or something." That shocked her, She was jealous. All she could do was see some buxom blonde in the other room just waiting for Clark to come back. Stop that, Lois. Clark's not like that. Is he?
"Oh, I was just following Superman around tonight."
Oh good! "Well, at least that's the reporter I know! Were you just typing up the story?"
"Lois, a friend of mine's just been severely beaten because someone wanted to know my… connection… to Superman. Because of me! I went with Superman to get the person who did this to him. He visited Jack in the hospital and Jack only knew it was a dark room, that smelled old and decayed. Jack said he thought for sure it was Luthor, but under counter-examination by the defense, he'd probably be shown it wasn't. The poor kid was barley able to get that out."
"Lex Luthor?! I thought he was in jail still?"
"That's what I thought, too. But he was released on parole today. I'll find him and do whatever it takes to take him down. I can promise you that."
"Both of us…partner." She laid the back of her hand on his cheek and brushed an unruly lock of hair back onto his head. She looked into his deep brown eyes and wished, just for a moment, that the world would stop revolving and they could spend eternity like this.
"No Lois. I don't want to get involved with anyone right this minute. I want to be at the hospital when Jack wakes up. Tell Perry I might be late, OK?"
"No, I think +we'll+ just have to call Jimmy and have him tell Perry +we'll+ be late."
Flashing a smile that only could be measured in megawatts, Lois took Clark by the arm and led him into the warm morning sunrise.
"NOTHING!" Luthor sat in his opulent suite at one of the underground bunkers that was still his to command. "The boy knew nothing, and I failed to kill him! I must be losing my touch. Stubborn brat's as hard a pest to be rid of as the infernal alien! At least the public library had Internet access. That small Arabian country will never miss that half a billion I took from them.
"I have money again, but Superman, wherever you are, I want you to know, I will have it. It will be mine.