By Margaret Brignell (email@example.com)
Summary: Lois Lane is not happy. Not only does her boss ignore her hunches about sabotage in the space program — he says he can't afford to give her a raise. But somehow he finds it in the budget to hire some new guy, a hack from Nowheresville. Things aren't looking up at home, either, with her sister always harping on Lois' lack of a love life. This is a story that relates the events of the pilot episode … completely from Lois' perspective.
Author's Note: In my most recent fanfic [The One] I had the pleasure of trying to incorporate my story into the real plot of the pilot episode of "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." While I was doing this, I realized that most of the story was told from Clark's perspective. I wondered what this same story would be like from Lois Lane's point of view.
I'm not sure if having seen the pilot episode would help you in reading this fanfic — or not. ;) I've watched two versions of the pilot and read an early version of the script in order to write this. Whenever the timeline or story differed, I chose the alternative that made the most sense to me. As a result this story about the meeting of Lois and Clark/Superman doesn't quite follow any of the aired versions<g>. I hope you enjoy the result. :)
I acknowledge that I'm just borrowing the famous characters created by DC Comics, Warner Brothers Studios, December 3rd Productions and ABC Television. On the other hand, the change in point of view and additional story are mine — all mine. <g>
It should be noted that in the world of Lois and Clark, the British spelling is used as the standard (this little known fact I learned on a recent trip to Metropolis<g>).
I'd like to thank Debby S., Peace and Lynda L. for critiquing and proofing. I also appreciate Debby's help in providing me with access to a copy of the script. I'd like to thank countless others from the LOISCLA list whose general discussion helped me decide on Lois' attitude toward car ownership as well as her relationship with Clark/Superman. ;)
Words with * around them are emphasized.
Lois Lane had finished her follow-up on the car-theft ring and had just delivered the final account of her story to the copy desk. At Jimmy's yell, she sprinted to her desk and grabbed the phone.
It was her source at EPRAD. Her suspicions were confirmed. The crazy guy from this morning had a solid background in the space industry. There was a *real* story here. She *knew* it!
As soon as she had hung up the phone, she marched toward Perry's office, with her sales pitch for the story building in her head. She automatically dodged other staff in her way … until Jimmy stood firmly in front of her.
"You can't go in! Perry's interviewing some new guy. He just about chewed off my head when I delivered his golf cart keys … and you *know* how much he wants that golf cart."
"I'll take that risk." Lois wasn't too concerned. Perry had told her only this morning that he didn't have any money in his budget to give her a raise, so he wasn't going to be able to hire this new guy. He was just wasting the applicant's time. "I'm expecting a call from my source at S.T.A.R. Labs. Let me know when it comes through."
"Sure Lois, whatever you say." Jimmy ducked back behind the nearest piece of furniture.
Lois threw open Perry's door and, as she entered, started her sales pitch. "Chief, I think there's a story here and we should check this guy out." Taking Perry's quizzical look as a question about what on earth she was talking about, she continued, "You know, the crazy one this morning? He was an engineer at EPRAD for ten years. He's … "
Perry interrupted her monologue. "Can't you see I'm in the middle of something here?"
Oh, right, the new job applicant. Well, her story was *way* more important than some interview for a job that didn't exist. Perry seemed to be expecting a reaction so she muttered, "Oh," and stood her ground.
Perry *did* look a little more peeved than he usually did on being interrupted. The applicant had stood up as she entered and was courteously waiting for her to leave. He must have had an old-fashioned upbringing. Perry took her reluctance to leave as a cue that introductions were in order and said, "Lois Lane, Clark Kent."
Lois glanced at the applicant. He was tall, well-built and wore glasses … and was a bit too handsome for her taste. His dark hair was overdue for a trim and on the whole he looked really wet behind the ears … probably just out of college. There was no point in even worrying about him. He wasn't going to get a job here anyway. She mumbled, "Nice to meet you," and turned back to finish her conversation with Perry.
"Anyway, this guy worked on the Messenger, he … "
Perry interrupted her again, "Lois, what happened to that mood piece I gave you? The razing of that old theatre on Forty-second?"
Oh, god, not *that* boring assignment. There was no way in this lifetime Perry was going to get her to write some boring mood piece about a theatre. She would rather throw herself to the wolves. Perry was looking at her as if he expected an answer. Lois decided to try for humour — it had worked in the past. "I wasn't in the 'mood'."
The applicant cracked a smile at her comeback. Maybe he wasn't as wet behind the ears as he looked.
Before this idea could progress any further, Perry interrupted her thoughts with a scolding. "Now listen here, Lois, I … "
Just then Jimmy appeared at Perry's office window, knocked on it to get her attention and gave her the hand signal for a phone call. Great! Her contact had come through. She interrupted Perry's tirade saying, "Gotta run. Catch you later, Chief," and sprinted out of his office.
The contact gave her an address out on the west end of town. They were to meet in half an hour. She dashed for the elevator, snatching Jimmy from the jaws of the fax machine on her way past. Oh, for crying out loud, the elevator door was closing — she yelled, "Hold it!"
The guy who Perry had been interviewing — what was his name again? — held the door long enough for her and Jimmy to enter. He looked kind of discouraged, so Perry probably hadn't used much tact in rejecting him. She should tell him it wouldn't have made any difference if he was the best writer since the Pulitzer was created, Perry didn't have the money to hire right now. But, she decided not to explain. With those handsome features, disappointment was probably a rare experience. The setback would be good for him.
Oh, shoot! Had she remembered her tape recorder? She rooted around in her briefcase while the elevator headed for the ground floor. If she couldn't find her recorder, she would have to use shorthand again, and that wouldn't be a good idea. The last time she had used shorthand, she had to actually phone back the contact and ask the same questions again to fill in blanks of the story.
While she was looking for her recorder, she gave Jimmy a couple of orders. He made the appropriate responses, but she wished he would give her his usual comeback. She liked the regular exchange of wit they had developed over the last sixth months. Now it seemed like, ever since she had complimented him on his assistance in the car-jacking story, he had become a "yes-man." She would have to explain the nuances of being a help and being *too* helpful — once they got into the cab. She couldn't waste time getting to this interview, but she had to let him know … and soon … if he kept this up, she'd go nuts.
The elevator door opened and she dashed to the taxi stand at the entrance to the Planet, knowing that Jimmy would keep up … he always had before.
The interview with the contact hadn't added much to her knowledge base but *had* given her a couple of ideas on where to go next. She spent the rest of the day searching the back files, in paper and on microfilm, and contacting local sources to build up her case. She was pretty close to confirming Dr. Platt's assertion that the space program was being sabotaged. It was going to take a couple of days, but Lois knew she was definitely on to something.
By 7:00 p.m. she had done everything she could for today. Even her west coast source had gone home (due to some dumb excuse about a smog alert). She packed up the notes she had made on the Platt case, locked them in her file drawer and put some research material in her briefcase. Just as she turned out her desk lamp she saw Lucy's phone message. "We need FOOD! Bring some."
Lois sighed. Maybe take-out would be okay. She wasn't ready to do any cooking, or experience Lucy's cooking if it came to that. On the other hand, groceries *would* be cheaper.
She left the Planet building and marched to the subway station wondering what she should get from the supermarket. Then she remembered she had dry cleaning to pick up. She was a *reporter*, for crying out loud, not a pack mule! She ground her teeth as she entered the subway car. Maybe she should forget about that trip to Tahiti and just buy a car. It *would* be more practical. But then again, she had been dreaming about a trip to Tahiti ever since she had seen the Gauguin exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when she was eleven years old. Besides, a car had all those ongoing expenses, it would just be a burden. Lois sighed, she had been through this kind of argument with herself umpteen times before. No matter what she decided to do, she kept wishing for the alternative. She *really* needed to get some kind of control over her life.
An hour and a half later she was *finally* at her front door. She opened the many locks, juggling the groceries, dry cleaning, and files from work expertly — out of years of experience. Then she entered her apartment using her right foot to kick open the door, and her left hand to switch on the light.
Her sister Lucy should be here somewhere. If not, she was in *big* trouble, after getting Lois to make this side trip to the supermarket. Lois wondered when Lucy was going to finally find a place of her own. She had been staying with Lois for the past couple of months, since her last steady boyfriend had ditched her, leaving her without a roof over her head. Lucy was a great sister, but it was time for her to find her own place. Lois wanted her privacy back.
"Lucy! Are you home?"
There was no response. She walked into the tiny kitchen, putting the bags on the counter, and started unpacking. Muttering about ingratitude in siblings, she pushed the new groceries in amongst the existing, stale-dated ones and popped a frozen dinner into the microwave. As she turned from the microwave she saw her sister in a robe enter from the bathroom, towel-drying her hair.
"Hi, Sis." Lucy grinned amiably.
Lois gave her a thin smile and said, "What would you like to go with the frozen dinner? We have a wide variety of beverages: coffee, coffee or diet Pepsi."
"Very funny." Lucy finished drying her hair. "I'll have a Pepsi."
The microwave timer "pinged." Lois removed the first dinner, opened it and set it on the table indicating to Lucy she should start eating. Lucy finished rubbing her hair with the towel, dropped the damp towel on the back of the sofa, much to Lois' chagrin, and sat down to eat. Lois restrained herself from making a snide comment about messy sisters. Maybe she could ask her contacts about nice, cheap places for Lucy to live. She loved her sister, but Lois wanted her nice, neat, uncluttered apartment — the way it used to be.
After putting the second dinner into the microwave, Lois unpacked her briefcase and took off her suit jacket. She pulled two diet drink cans from the refrigerator and put them on the table, along with two straws. The microwave pinged again, and Lois took out her meal, placed it on the table and sat down to eat.
"I thought you were going out tonight," Lucy said between mouthfuls.
"I have to work tonight, I can't." Then seeing Lucy open her mouth to make one of her usual criticisms, which Lucy always seemed to think of as helpful advice, Lois said, "Don't start."
"What're you working on?"
Lois gave her the abbreviated version of the crazy guy from EPRAD Space Centre and continued moving the food from the frozen dinner tray to her mouth automatically. "I've got a ton of work to do tonight, so if you're planning on staying in, could you keep the noise down?"
Lucy assured Lois that there wouldn't be any Pearl Jam tonight because *she*, unlike Lois, was going out. She had met a guy at the 7-11 who was kind of cute.
Lois sighed. When was Lucy going to *learn*? However, before she had a chance to start a discussion on Lucy's dating habits, Lucy began asking Lois about one of her own dating problems.
"Did you find an escort to Lex Luthor's White Orchid Ball yet?"
Lois groaned inwardly. "No, I did not."
"Lois, it's tomorrow night!" Lucy ticked off likely alternatives on her long fingers. "What about Alan? I thought you liked him."
"I did. But after the second date he didn't call, so … "
"What about Mitchell?"
"Mitchell is a hypochondriac." Mitchell was reasonably good-looking, but his obsession with himself reminded Lois of her mother. She didn't need that kind of relationship with anyone else.
Lucy sighed with exasperation. "They can't all be bad, Lois." Then taking a deep breath, she got up on what Lois recognized as her perpetual soap box. "They can't all be boring or stupid. What are you waiting for?"
Lois carefully kept her temper in check. They had been through this umpteen times already. Trying not to sound angry, she said, "Fine. I'll ask Mitchell to take me."
Lucy narrowed her eyes and sighed. "I'm not just talking about the ball, Lois. You've got to get out more."
Lois pressed her lips together to keep from screaming at her sister, picked up her dirty utensils and took them to the sink. She went through this type of third degree every time she saw Dad, now Lucy was on her case too. Behind her, she heard Lucy take an intake of breath as if she were about to continue her critique of Lois' dating habits.
Lois rounded on her. "Will you stop? Jeez, you sound like Dad. I'm only twenty-six."
"Twenty-six today. Thirty-six tomorrow."
"Give it a rest, Luce."
Lois picked up the now empty TV dinner trays and put them into the kitchen trash. This diversion didn't stop Lucy from pestering Lois about her potential love life.
"And I know why that dentist, Alan, never called you back … Dragging him to that Women in Journalism seminar, 'Weak Men and the Wise Women Who Love Them.' You've got to stop scaring them off, Lois!"
Lois tried to ignore her as she stomped around the kitchen, tidying up.
" … do you have to be so smart all the time? So … intense?"
Lois was getting really exasperated — was it *her* fault that guys couldn't cope with a woman who had brains? "Look, I'm just being myself. If they're not man enough to handle it, then … I'll just wait for someone who is."
Lucy looked sympathetic but determined. "I just hate to see you sitting home."
Lois was miffed. It wasn't like she *never* went out … "I get out plenty. I have dates."
"You have *interviews*. It's not the same thing." Lois felt herself bristling. Lucy must have noticed because she changed her voice to a softer tone, "Lois, I just want you to meet a super guy."
Lois felt a little choked. Lucy *did* care. It wasn't that she couldn't *get* dates. She got asked … but … She wanted more than that. She wanted them to like *her* and, more important, to see who she really was … smart, independent … and a damn fine journalist.
Lucy went to her room to finish getting ready for her night out. A few minutes later, she left saying she would be in when she was in, and not to wait up.
Lois finished her diet soda and tried to work on her story. She just didn't seem to be able to focus on it. Lucy's assessment was only too true. She *did* scare off guys. Was there a man out there who could accept her as she was, brains and all? She doubted it. Most men wanted to be the one in the power position.
After a couple of hours of working on the files, Lois decided to take a bath and go to bed. Once she had taken her bath she would watch the tape of "The Ivory Tower" episodes she had missed this week.
With this plan in mind, Lois took her bath, then microwaved some popcorn and opened a box of Kleenex in readiness for the show. She always cried over this thing, silly, but the release felt so *good*. She grabbed the remote and crawled under the comforter, making sure the popcorn and Kleenex were close at hand.
On the TV she watched to drama unfold. Oh, the agony! Lois could feel the heroine's pain. To have someone to truly love so that no matter what else happened, you only lived for him … and he for you. She wiped the tears from her cheeks. What she wouldn't do to have *that*. A pang of despair caused a fresh onset of tears to roll down Lois' cheeks. Would *she* ever have a relationship with someone who was worth more than life itself? Lois put the popcorn on the nightstand, shut off the lights, snuggled down under her covers and, hugging her pillow to her face, let the tears flow freely. There was no- one to hear her.
Eventually, exhausted from crying, she fell asleep.
As always, after getting that release from crying over the storybook adventures of her favourite characters, the next morning Lois arrived at work raring to go. She contacted her sources and arranged for lunch with one of them. Perry called her into his office. The applicant from yesterday was back again.
Perry was reading an article this guy (what was his name again?) had done on the razing of the old theatre on Forty-second street. " … a different era, a time of promise and renewal … " and on and on. " … she was eighteen when she made her debut … "
Lois couldn't stand it. The guy had captured the real mood of the piece. Perry finally read the last sentence. "She came to say goodbye, as we all must, to the past, and to a life and a place that soon would exist only in a bittersweet memory."
Lois was glad she was leaning against the doorframe … otherwise, she would have been grasping it for support. This was good enough to *print*, for crying out loud.
Jimmy said in an awed tone of voice, "Smooth."
Perry was looking over at her, as if he was expecting her to also comment favourably. Well, when pigs flew! She responded, begrudgingly, "Yeah. If you like that sort of thing."
Perry stood and said, "You know, Kent, there's one attribute I value as much as experience, and that's initiative." He held out his hand to the new guy. "Clark Kent, welcome to the Daily Planet."
Lois' heart lurched. Perry was going to *hire* this guy? How could he *do* that to her? He had said he had no money for *her* raise, but he had money for hiring a whole new person! It wasn't fair! Just wait until she gave Perry a piece of her mind!
Just then a commotion erupted just outside the office. Lois heard a TV announcer say something about the space shuttle being on fire! They all hurried out into the pit to see what the rest of the staff were watching on the TV monitors. They stood in stunned silence as they watched the disaster unfold.
Lois felt numb as she stared at the screen. She had tried to tell them, once she had realized Platt wasn't as crazy as he sounded, really … but nobody would listen and now people were *dead* — because she hadn't been able to confirm the story fast enough. She covered her eyes to try and block out the horror.
Someone touched her shoulder in a comforting gesture. It was Perry. The television station had started to repeat their coverage of the tragedy. She couldn't stand it, but she wasn't going to cry — no way. Nevertheless, Lois had a sudden urge to visit the ladies room.
As Lois turned, prepared to fight her way through the crowd of people around the television sets so she could get to the restroom, she heard Perry yell his usual rant about it not being "happy hour at Buckingham Palace." In a rush, people made a beeline for their desks, leaving her path to the restroom wide open.
When she returned from the ladies room, after wiping any trace of tears from her face and carefully restoring her makeup, she joined the others back in front of the TV sets to watch the resumed live coverage on the event.
The newscaster was standing in front of the huge hanger that held the remains of the Messenger and was summarizing the tragedy. "The world mourns the loss of Captain Laderman and the transport vehicle Messenger, which exploded on its launch this morning."
Lois turned to Perry and said, "I knew there was something to Platt's story. I *knew* it."
Perry was back in editor mode. "Lois, just because one madman's prediction came true doesn't mean there's a conspiracy to sabotage the entire space program."
Lois was indignant. "But with more than a hundred colonists going up in the next launch, are you willing to take that chance?"
Lois could see that she had finally made an impression. Perry wouldn't take that kind of chance. He wouldn't kill a story with people's lives at stake. He would want the truth out and printed. *Now* maybe he would let her have the resources she needed to do this story justice.
She turned her attention back to the TV where Dr. Antoinette Baines was declaring, "There are no clues as to the cause of this disaster, and, so far, no link to the previous setbacks EPRAD has encountered during the past year." Then the newscaster was back on the screen, announcing that the whole Space Station Prometheus program was in jeopardy, and as a result the Congress of Nations would be calling a special meeting to debate whether or not to continue the internationally financed floating space laboratory.
Perry flipped off the sound and said, "Okay, people, back to work. We've got a lot to do so we can get out our version of this."
The staff started to disperse. Perry turned and walked toward his office. Lois was determined to get a commitment to her story from him and followed close behind. She was stopped at the door when Perry blocked her way. He asked her to wait until he had caught up on his voice-mail messages — declaring he would be ready to meet with her in five minutes.
Lois glowered at him. He was stalling. He *knew* she wasn't going to let him off the hook about hiring Kent, and he was darn well going to give her the task force she needed for this story.
"Okay, Chief. I'll grab a coffee and be back in five."
As she poured her coffee, Cat Grant slithered up to the coffee machine. But, before they could exchange their usual barbed conversation, Cat wolf-whistled.
"*Who's* the new tight end?"
Lois glanced up and saw Jimmy showing the new guy his desk. The desk right next to her own! Not only did she have to swallow the fact that this guy had been hired, now he was going to be sitting right next to her? She was ready to spit!
She turned back to Cat, who was unashamedly staring at the rear view of the new guy. Lois sneered. She figured Cat would have this guy in her boudoir within 24 hours. After working with Cat for the last two years, that wasn't a guess — it was almost a certainty. Cat seemed to take pride in bedding every new guy in the office. Men didn't seem to have any problem with that … even Jimmy had seemed interested when Lois had told him Cat was only looking to add another notch to her garter belt.
Bowing to the inevitable, Lois said, "Why don't you just throw your usual forward pass and find out?" She poured liquid honey into her coffee and, just as Kent approached the coffee area, moved as far away from the two of them as she could.
God, to be that desperate that you had to flaunt your sexuality to everything in pants. It was demeaning. Lois pitied the newest prey in Cat's hunting game — for about two seconds. He would doubtless enjoy it. Men!
As she walked back toward her desk, Lois overheard part of their conversation.
When Cat uttered her standard pick-up line, "Then my reputation precedes me," Lois couldn't help muttering, "Among other things." Lois had seen this byplay umpteen times before. Cat was definitely at the moving-in-for-the-kill stage of her game. So, it came as no surprise to hear Cat say loudly, "It's a date," as she left Kent at the coffee machine. He was smiling. The man had *no* taste!
Lois snatched up her file on Platt and marched to Perry's office.
In answer to her demand to know why he couldn't afford a raise for *her* but could hire some guy off the street, he claimed it was a matter of 'different budgets'. Besides, Kent had a good background. He had been an editor of the local newspaper in Smallville, Kansas and had worked all over the world … including Borneo, London and the Caribbean. He would be an asset to the Planet. Not to mention that Kent had shown initiative in writing that story that Lois herself had been reluctant to do. When Lois demanded to know why he had money to hire a *man*, but no money for a raise for *her*, Perry assured her it wasn't because she didn't deserve a raise. He just had to wait until the new fiscal year before he had any more funds for it. Lois wasn't satisfied, but made a mental note to hound him again the second the new budget came down.
She then proceeded to outline what she would need to do justice to the Platt story.
"I'll need a task force. I can't cover this story alone."
Perry was obviously not taking this as seriously as she knew he should, because he offered her Jimmy. Jimmy! What did Jimmy know about the space program? Cars … yes. The space program … not a hope.
"Chief, we're talking about the space program … "
And then Perry got his revenge for her daring to insist on the raise. "All right. Take Kent."
Lois was stunned. "Kent?!"
He *had* to be joking. She couldn't do a story with someone who had stolen her raise money! Not to mention that he obviously had no brains since he had fallen for Cat's ploy — hook, line and sinker.
"Kent? What about Myerson?"
Lois cringed. Perry was making it impossible for her to take anyone else.
"He's a good man."
Yeah, good at getting a job using *her* assignment. Okay, so she hadn't wanted the assignment, but that was beside the point. He had used his bucolic outlook on life to prepare a … a really good story. But there were only so many heart-warming stories in the big city. One mood piece did *not* a reporter make.
"Kent is a *hack* from *Smallville*. I couldn't *make* that name up."
"Kent or nobody."
Lois restrained herself. She was tempted to say 'Nobody' but thought twice about it.
"Okay. But don't ever tell me I'm not a team player." She stood up, grabbed her file and coffee cup, and stalked out of Perry's office, fuming. She would *get* Kent for this.
After slamming her things on her desk, just missing some important notes with the splashed coffee, she picked up her briefcase and purse and strode up to Kent, who, in his shirt sleeves, was looking through some back issues of the newspaper.
Slapping his shoulder to get his attention, a move she had learned from a football player she had once dated, she commanded, "Let's hit it." She turned on her heel and stalked toward the ramp leading up to the elevator. She expected he would eventually figure out he was supposed to follow … and if he didn't, so much the better.
But the guy must be quicker on the up-take than he appeared because in seconds he was right beside her, with his jacket on, striding up the ramp saying, "Mind if I ask where we're going?"
Reasonable question. "To interview Samuel Platt. He's convinced that the Messenger was sabotaged. I'll brief you on the way." Then realizing Kent might take this as an indication that all was forgiven and that they were equals, she decided to let him know exactly what the *real* relationship was. She stopped, turned, and faced him.
"And let's get something straight. I didn't work my buns off to become an investigative reporter for the Daily Planet just to baby-sit some *hack* from Nowheresville." He had a startled look on his face. Good, she had his attention. She turned and started walking toward the elevators again. Amazingly, he had no trouble keeping pace.
Maybe he *could* keep up with her. Maybe he still thought they were equals. She whirled around to face him again.
"And another thing. You're not working *with* me, you're working *for* me. *I* call the shots. *I* ask the questions. You are low man. I am top banana, and that's the way I like it. Comprende?"
"You like to be on top. Got it."
She grimaced. Men! Just who did he think she was? Cat Grant? "Don't push me, Kent. You are *way* out of your league."
She stomped into the elevator and tried to ignore Kent, who moved quickly to stand deferentially behind her. Good thing … she didn't have to look at him that way.
She was still fuming when they got into the taxi, but felt herself calming down as she related the background of the story so far. Kent seemed to be able to keep up with her analysis, no problem.
The taxi finally stopped in front of Platt's abode … a tenement that appeared to be falling apart at the seams. She wasn't surprised to see a condemned sign attached to the front of the building. The entrance was blocked by yellow tape, with "Danger" and "Do Not Pass" stamped in big, black letters.
She got out of the cab and, not waiting until Kent had scrambled out behind her, led the way into the building. She walked up the steps, ducking under the yellow tape. Kent followed her in. The hallway was dark, but she found the right door and knocked.
"Dr. Platt?" Lois was pleased to see that Kent had taken her demand, that she do the talking, seriously.
A rat scurried by. Lois hated rats. She knocked again.
"Dr. Platt? It's Lois Lane."
Thankfully, the door quickly opened to reveal Platt, wearing a jacket over a plaid robe and an old eye-shade, holding a tire iron. He lowered the tire iron as soon as he saw her. He looked a little suspiciously at Kent, but relented when she said he was with her.
They followed Platt into his messy apartment. It was filled with items collected from other people's garbage. Magazines and newspapers were stacked everywhere, appearing to serve as furniture.
Platt apologized for the mess and answered Lois' questions, while out of the corner of her eye she could see Kent wandering around looking at all the stuff piled in the living room.
Although Platt was more than willing to talk, she was having a hard time keeping him on topic.
"They said I was crazy, but wouldn't *you* be? After the drugs … they drugged me, you know, right after I submitted my report to Dr. Baines."
Trying again, to get him on topic, Lois asked, "Dr. Platt, how could the Messenger have been sabotaged? In order to bypass security … " then she realized the implications, " … unless the orders came from high up."
Platt nodded, "You see, under extreme temperature conditions, the particle isolators were in danger of shutting down. To prevent that, we installed heating devices. But when I broke into one of the off-limit labs, I discovered that the heating devices had been replaced by coolant systems."
"To freeze the ion particles?" Kent asked from where he stood in the corner looking at the stacks of Scientific Americans.
Lois couldn't decide if she was more surprised that Kent had asked a question, or that he understood what Platt was talking about.
"Of course! So that they'd fuse and the Messenger would blow up! It's *all* in my report!"
Lois dove in, "What report?"
"The report I gave to Dr. Baines."
"Do you have a copy of this report?"
"Of course. What kind of scientist would I be if I didn't keep reports?"
Then to Lois' dismay he proceeded to search in every nook and cranny for bits and pieces of the report. When he started looking inside sneakers for parts of the report, she asked him to get back to her when he had it pieced together and she would have someone pick it up.
Dr. Platt seemed to take this as a signal to explain why he had done what he had done. He picked up a picture of his wife and family and in a choked voice explained how the space station's micro gravity was the key to helping cure diseases … like the one his daughter had.
Lois was moved. Hope … Dr. Platt and his family had been in search of hope … something everyone needed, including Lois Lane. She looked at Kent, who also seemed to be affected by Dr. Platt's predicament. She had to get to the bottom of this. She just had to.
She informed Kent of their next move, "I think we should pay Dr. Baines a visit."
It took a few minutes to find a public phone that actually worked. After that it was only a quick call to EPRAD and she was able to arrange an interview with Dr. Baines within the hour. She flagged down a passing cab and they were at the EPRAD centre with time to spare.
After receiving their security badges, they met Dr. Baines. She was blonde, and much younger in person than she looked on TV. She gave them a tour of the facility. As they followed her through the vast EPRAD complex, Lois noticed Kent seemed beguiled by Dr. Antoinette Baines.
Once they were back at Dr. Baines' workstation, the scientist explained, "Naturally, we're all still in a state of shock. I don't suppose I have to tell you what a catastrophe the explosion was. Captain Laderman … was one of our best. Three kids, his wife Anna … "
Lois was impatient, this was getting too far into the human interest aspect and too far from the *real* story. "Dr. Baines, what's being done to investigate the cause of the explosion?"
"Well, we won't know anything until we examine the burned wreckage. We're in the process of moving it to a hangar for inspection."
"Can we take a look at it?" Lois was eager to get a first-hand view. Too bad she hadn't brought Jimmy; he would have been able to take pictures.
"Sorry. No press allowed." Dr. Baines seemed adamant.
Then Kent asked, "No exceptions?"
Lois couldn't believe it when Dr. Baines gave Kent an almost provocative scan. Then when Dr. Baines said, "I'll see what I can do," Lois almost gasped out loud. What the heck was *that* supposed to mean? Some women had no shame.
Trying to get the conversation back on track, Lois said, "On the subject of Dr. Samuel Platt … "
Dr. Baines dragged her eyes away from Kent and said, "I have his file right here. A real waste of talent. Seems that the pressure of building the space station, along with his divorce, finally got to him. He started drinking and taking drugs. It went from bad to worse. We kept him on as long as we could. But, after he set fire to one of the laboratories, we had to let him go."
Could she trust this woman? Platt had said she knew about his discovery. Well, the only thing to do was verify.
"Dr. Platt said he submitted a report to you … something about coolant devices installed to … ?"
Dr. Baines responded quickly. "Coolants? No, I don't recall any report … I could check my records."
"Could you? And give us a call?" Lois pulled a business card from her purse and handed it to Dr. Baines. She wasn't sure if she trusted this woman, but it didn't hurt to keep all your options open.
As Dr. Baines took the card, she said, "No problem at all." She shifted her gaze to Kent and in a softer tone said, "Let me know if I can be of further assistance."
Lois stared at the woman. Was she serious or just trying to put the make on Kent?
Kent said, "Thank you."
Disgusted, Lois turned away and led the way out of the complex.
Kent commented, "She seemed … cooperative."
Lois groaned inwardly. Didn't this guy *get* it? "I don't trust her."
"Very attractive. *Young* for a woman in her position."
Men! She had been right, he was … "Typical."
Impatiently Lois explained, "That's a typical male response."
"Lois, trust me on this, I'm *not* your typical male."
"No? Just because she's *okay* looking … "
"She's *very* okay."
"You immediately assume she's telling the truth."
"And you assume she's not? Does everyone have 'an angle?' No honest people left in the world?"
Lois gave him her best give-me-a-break look that he apparently didn't see.
"That's pretty cynical, Lois."
"*Realistic*, Kent. At least I don't go through life disappointed."
Lois charged ahead and got into the taxi, with Kent right behind her. She found Jimmy at the fax machine. She informed him she was expecting a call from Dr. Platt regarding his report notes and asked Jimmy to get the notes ASAP when the call came in. She walked back to her desk and sorted through her personal notes on the case.
She had the lunch she'd arranged with her source earlier. It wasn't a terribly productive lunch, but she knew this guy could provide her with crucial information on the layout of the shuttle she might need later on, so she used the lunch as a way of keeping the channels of communication open for future information.
After she got back from the restaurant, Lois spent the rest of the afternoon calling as many of Platt's associates as she could find, but they didn't seem to want to talk. By this time, it was getting late and most of the staff had left for the day. The newsroom was nearly deserted. She brought her Platt file up to date and tidied her desk. It was getting time for her to leave if she expected to be ready for the ball tonight.
Unfortunately, she still had to get an escort for the ball. She decided to try Mitchell. He had no social life to speak of, and was usually available at the last minute. She had temporarily forgotten about his hypochondria. He wouldn't go *anywhere* if he thought he might be even remotely sick. She groaned inwardly, but said, "No, Mitchell, I'm not mad … if you've got the sniffles, you've got the sniffles."
Mitchell said his third cousin had experienced the same thing and sitting in a drafty taxi had led to complications. She agreed with his really bizarre logic, but when he offered to call her she told him, "No, don't call me. I'll call *you*," and slammed the phone down in disgust. Why did she even bother?
Men! But, she *had* to have an escort for tonight. She had to! She stared off into the newsroom.
Kent was sitting at his desk flipping through the phone book, probably trying to find Dr. Baines' home phone number. On the other hand, this might mean he didn't have plans for tonight. She was even desperate enough to ask Kent to be her escort. She *had* to go to Lex Luthor's ball tonight, and she couldn't go alone. That would be *too* humiliating.
She slowly approached his desk and sighed, "I don't suppose *you* own a tuxedo?"
Kent looked up, and said, "I can get one. Why?"
Okay, Lois, make this good. Trying to sound nonchalant, she said, "Oh. Well, the man I was going to Lex Luthor's ball with has the flu … "
She must have let her desperation show because Kent interrupted, "Yes?"
" … well, I was just wondering if you wanted to … " Was he *trying* to make this as difficult for her as possible? Did he think this was her standard pick-up line? She turned to walk back to her desk. Then realizing Kent was her only real chance of getting an escort at this short notice, turned back to face him. His expression was neutral.
"Do you want to take his place or not?"
"Thanks anyway, Lois, but I thought I'd get to bed early tonight."
He was turning her down! Because she didn't make goo- goo eyes at him like Cat and Baines? Not to mention that *she* — and he — would miss out on meeting Lex Luthor!
"Are you crazy? This is *the* social event of the season! Everyone who's anyone will be there — and *you* want to go to bed *early*?" She found that her voice was getting strident, and she took several deep breaths to calm down.
"So … is this a date?"
Lois was affronted. The guy was a Neanderthal! "Date? Oh, you mean like in *Kansas* where you meet my parents and then you try and give me a hickey in the vacant lot behind the Dairy Freeze? *No*, this is *not* a date. It's business. I'm going to land the first one-on-one Lex Luthor interview if it kills me."
Lois glared at him as he took his time responding. He was looking at her with a serene expression on his face. Just at the point when she thought she would explode he grudgingly agreed.
Lois felt relief. She had a presentable escort for the ball. "Good. I'll see you there — nine?"
Barely waiting for his acknowledgment, she walked back to her desk, picked up her things and went home. If he didn't show — she would kill him with her bare hands.
At home, she ate a quick dinner. Then she had Lucy help her into the phenomenal dress she had bought for this ball. The gown had cost an astronomical price — but the price would be worth it if the dress helped her get to talk to Lex Luthor.
Lucy spent a lot of the time trying to worm more information out of her about her escort to the ball. For some reason Lucy kept trying to make it into more than just a business arrangement. She wished Lucy would just stop being so infuriating. She didn't need a second mother … the one she had was more than sufficient.
Lois finally escaped Lucy's well-meaning inquisition, donned her semi-formal length evening coat, and caught a cab to LexCorp. The coat didn't completely cover the lower eighteen inches of her gown, so Lois spent most of the trip praying the rain wouldn't start until after she got inside. Silk and water just didn't mix all that well.
Kent was waiting under the awning. Good, she wouldn't have to go to the effort of strangling him for not showing up. She marched up to him, nodded her approval at his appearance and led the way into the building.
They had barely set foot in the lobby of Luthor's penthouse suite, when Cat, in the tightest sequined gown Lois had ever seen, slithered up to them and cooed, "Clark … how nice to see you."
Lois gave Cat her most withering look and hooked her hand through Kent's right arm. "Hello, Cat. Nice to see you, too." Lois spread her lips apart in the appearance of a smile. She was glad to have one up on Cat for a change. She wondered who Cat's escort was.
However, before Lois could ask, Cat's attention was caught by another incoming guest and she left Lois and Kent to greet the new arrival. Lois caught sight of Perry and Jimmy just inside the ballroom and shooed Kent in their direction. Now that Cat had seen her with her escort she wanted to ditch Kent. He had served his purpose. She headed for the cloakroom alone.
She put her coat and umbrella in the cloakroom, visited the ladies' room to freshen up, and then entered the ballroom. She could see Jimmy and Kent talking over on the far side of the room. She was still annoyed that Jimmy had got the same invitation she had. She had hoped that these invitations indicated a special offer to meet Lex Luthor, but obviously not if Jimmy and Cat had also been invited. She would just have to meet Lex Luthor as the opportunity presented itself.
Outside, the storm was getting worse. Every once in a while the chandeliers flickered and the ballroom was lit up by a flash of lightning. She glided around the room, trying to spot Lex Luthor. Then just as another bolt of lightning lit up the room, she saw him enter from the gallery above. She angled her way to the foot of the staircase Luthor was descending. Perfect.
Waiting for Luthor to finish glad-handing everyone on the staircase was torture. When he finally reached the bottom of the staircase and was within a few feet of her, she drew on all the courage she could muster, and called to him, "Lex Luthor … why haven't you returned my calls?"
She reveled in the smile he gave her as she walked toward him, extending her hand. "Lois Lane. Daily Planet."
She could hardly believe her success when he responded, "Well, I can assure you, I'll never make *that* mistake again."
Finally, she was in the presence of the greatest man in Metropolis … and maybe the world … and he was charmed by her. She smiled and didn't move away when the great man kissed her hand and moved closer.
The band started to play, and Lex Luthor asked her to dance. She was in Luthor's arms, gliding across the floor to the strains of a waltz! She could hardly believe it.
Nevertheless, she had to get the interview. That was the whole point of this attempt to meet him. "I hope you'll forgive me for being so bold, but … "
"But, boldness is a trait I find very attractive in a woman, Ms. Lane."
"Well, thank you." Was he flirting with her? No, of course not. "Anyway, I was wondering, Mr. Luthor … "
"Lex. I know you're hesitant to give interviews … "
"Well, you can understand, a man in my position. I wouldn't want to be misinterpreted, and I have had one or two bad experiences with the media."
"But not with me." Lois felt her heart racing. She was going to get the interview of her dreams. Lex Luthor was smiling at her.
"So why don't we make it dinner?" She felt Lex's cheek brush against hers. It was incredibly exciting. She had done it!
But, before she could say another word, a voice said, "Mind if I cut in?"
Kent! What lousy timing the guy had! Taking a deep breath to stop herself from chewing him out right then and there, she grudgingly introduced them.
"Lex, this is Clark Kent. He works at the Planet."
"A pleasure." Then turning toward her, he said, "Later, then?"
She nodded, as he handed her over to Kent and walked off. Lois had never been so mad — in a place where she couldn't yell at the culprit. She hissed through her teeth, "Clark, you idiot. It's taken me a *year* to get this close … "
Then, like any typical male, he took this as a double entendre and pulled her into his arms, saying, "*This* close?"
Furious, she pushed him back a few inches. "I would have thought square dancing was more your style."
"Actually, I learned from a Nigerian princess who studied ballroom dancing in England."
He must have travelled some to be able to say *that*. Lois' interest was captured. But, she would never let *him* know that he was impressing her. No way … not after cutting in on her time with Lex Luthor. So she said in the most monotone voice she could muster, "Really? How fascinating."
She was wasting time with this guy. If she couldn't dance with Luthor, she could at least see what kind of residence he had. She broke free of Kent's embrace and walked off the dance floor. Irritatingly, Kent followed and caught up with her.
"Where are you going?"
She didn't deign to answer. He had messed up her connection with Lex, let him figure it out for himself.
She tried a few doors, and found what was obviously Lex Luthor's private study. She entered, with Kent right behind her. How did he *do* that?
"Lois, what are you doing?"
What did he think she was doing? Taking the night off to enjoy herself? "Being a reporter. You should try it sometime."
She closed the doors to the hallway, so they wouldn't be interrupted in their search.
Kent seemed nervous, because he said, "We can't … "
She saw another door and went to explore. As she left she instructed, "Just look around!" Sheesh! Did she have to tell him *everything*?
She went through the door, but found it only led to a preparation room for the servants to use when bringing food to the study. When she returned to the study itself, Kent was talking to Lex Luthor. Lois inhaled sharply, of all the luck — she left, just as Luthor arrived.
Lex Luthor wasn't looking at all pleased to find the two of them in his private study. She decided to cover her nosiness by saying, "I hope you don't mind our looking around … you have a beautiful home, Lex."
Lex Luthor smiled and asked, "Have you seen the view from here?"
The three of them moved toward the terrace. Once out on the terrace, Lois gasped. The panorama of lights shining below was breathtaking.
As the rain poured past the open side of the balcony, Lex Luthor explained, "Tallest building in Metropolis. I must confess a certain pleasure in knowing that everyone in the city has to look *up* in order to see me."
Lois wished Kent in another county — Lex would make a fascinating interview.
Lex touched her elbow and said, "Let's get back to the party. I think my announcement will interest you."
Fortunately, Kent's polite upbringing kicked in as he stood deferentially aside for her to pass and said "After you," to Lex. As a result, Lois was able to be beside Lex Luthor as he led the way into the ballroom. Lois happily accompanied him. She was almost positive she had the interview in the bag.
Luthor departed to make the arrangements for his presentation and she only had Kent and Jimmy to converse with. She didn't bother.
Lex appeared in the centre of the room and proceeded to announce his plan for an alternative space station. Lois was happy to know that the project would go forward, no matter what. She clapped enthusiastically, making eye contact with Luthor at the end of his speech. Lex smiled back. She was *sure* to get the interview now.
Luthor left the room to meet with several highly placed officials about his proposed plans for an alternate space station. Lois suspected he wouldn't be back. Besides, it was getting late so she announced to Perry, Jimmy, and Kent that she would go home now. Kent insisted on seeing her home. He seemed to think that it was one of the mandatory duties of an escort, even if tonight was only a business arrangement.
Lois wondered if Kent was still under the delusion this was some kind of 'date' and hoped she wouldn't have to fight off his advances. She really wasn't in the mood. However, he didn't try any funny stuff and simply seemed to be doing what he had said he was going to do — make sure she got home okay. Well, it was different at least.
Despite the late night, she was up before dawn the next day to get out to EPRAD so she could try to get to see the wreckage of the Messenger.
Infuriatingly, she was caught trying to enter the hanger and brought before Dr. Baines, who told her in no uncertain terms that she wasn't welcome there. Maybe she should have brought Kent as a distraction, *then* she could have sneaked into the hanger. As it was, she had only caught a quick glimpse of the damaged Messenger before being yanked out of the hanger.
To add insult to injury, security at EPRAD confiscated her tape recorder. They might think they had hampered her, but she still had her stenographers pad. The loss of her recorder was going to barely slow her down … well, maybe a little, her shorthand wasn't the greatest … in any event, she could use the practice. She made a note to herself to talk to legal as soon as she got back to the Planet about what kind of recourse she had. They couldn't get away with interfering with the press, could they?
After another hour of trying to argue umpteen officials into allowing her to see the Messenger, without success, she gave up in disgust. She grabbed a cab back to the Planet and just as she was paying the cab heard Kent say "'Morning, Lois."
She finished paying the driver and turned to Kent, "Maybe for you. I've been at it for hours. I went back to EPRAD and followed the truck with the wreckage from the Messenger inside. They brought it to this hangar. I tried to get inside, but your friend Dr. Baines threw me out."
Suddenly, there was an explosion in the middle of the street. It sounded *really* close by.
Lois looked in the direction of the noise and saw a 'People Working' sign surrounding an area of excavation in the middle of the street. Smoke belched out from a manhole. A workman in the middle of the street was screaming, "There's a man down there! Call the fire department!"
She ran toward the site of the accident. Kent could fend for himself. She began choking on the smoke. Her eyes were watering from the fumes and smoke pouring out of the ground.
The workman was still yelling. "We need help!" Then as he spied the gathering crowd in the smoke, instructed, "keep those people back!"
She could see the workers were having trouble handling the crowd, and then the supervisor yelled, "Back off! One of my men is down there! Where are the fire trucks? Hurry up! He's dying down there!"
Lois could hear the sirens from approaching ambulances and fire trucks. As the smoke cleared, and her eyes stopped watering, Lois was astounded to see the worker lying on the street just in front of the manhole. Lois wrote some quick notes on the event into her stenographer's pad.
Kent appeared at her side. He seemed a little overcome by the smoke and the crowds. She was a little surprised that he hadn't gotten here sooner … he hadn't had any trouble keeping up with her yesterday. She noticed his anguished expression. Poor guy had probably never experienced an accident of this magnitude before.
The injured man was coughing and gasping something about "that man" rescuing him. Lois looked around to see who the injured man was pointing at. As she turned, she saw Kent's sport coat was torn and soiled. Sheesh, couldn't the guy even make it through a crowd in the city without hurting himself?.
Kent was looking apprehensive and commented that the worker was delirious. Lois mentally rolled her eyes, "Obviously." What did Kent expect? The guy had just been rescued from a near-death experience.
Lois turned to return to the Planet building, and as she passed Kent, his ragged appearance caught her attention, again. She decided to give him the benefit of some of her vast experience as a reporter.
"You're a mess. From now on, do what I do: bring a change of clothes to work."
He looked a little startled at the concept. Lois sighed. Was it necessary to explain *everything* to this guy? She pushed her way back through the crowd. Nothing more worth noting here. She would throw together a brief outline that would probably end up being cut. This kind of thing happened in Metropolis every day.
She separated from Kent on the way into the Planet building to get some Double Fudge Crunch bars. Her desk stock was getting kind of low.
She saw Jimmy in the lobby. He said he was on his way to get Platt's report. She grabbed the next elevator and as she exited it at the newsroom level, she came upon Kent and Cat having a tete-a-tete. This guy had to be completely dense. Didn't he realize he was just Cat's latest 'boy toy'? She walked past them on her way to the conference room, trying to pretend they didn't exist.
She sat in the conference room sorting through her notes on the conversations she had held yesterday. Kent finally came in. She couldn't resist a snide barb, "Cat- napping?"
Kent seemed oblivious to her bad humour and motioned toward her notes, "Anything?"
Well, it wasn't any of her business anyway. If he wanted to sleep with every female on staff, that was his affair. She shook her head in answer to his direct question.
"I must have called fifty ex-employees who worked at EPRAD when Platt did. None of them are talking. I don't know, maybe there's nothing to talk about."
Kent seemed to be conforming to his role of subordinate as he said, "So, what do we do now?"
Maybe she really *did* have to explain everything to him. After all, he was still new to the job. "First off, we piece together Platt's report, if that's possible. Then, we figure out how to prove that Dr. Baines got a copy of it. If there's any written evidence that Platt found coolant devices and Baines ignored it … " This was going to take all day and maybe all night. "I hope you haven't made any dinner plans."
Kent leaned on the partition with a wide-eyed, sincere look on his face. "I am all yours."
Lois felt disconcerted. Was Kent trying to make a move on her? No, of course not. He had had the opportunity to make the move on her last night, and hadn't taken it. This must be just another example of his innocent, farm boy simplicity. It took a little getting used to.
She and Kent spent the next few hours trying to establish a case for Platt's theory. They went over the evidence gathered so far and made a few more calls to Platt's former co-workers, without much success. Within an hour, Jimmy brought them Platt's 'report', such as it was, in bits and pieces and the two of them began trying to patch it together.
It was a long boring day, consisting of the kind of legwork she hated the most. The only bright spot was a phone message from LexCorp saying that Luthor would like to meet with her and would send a limousine for her the next night at 8:30 p.m. She called his office to confirm.
Several hours later, they were still trying to put Platt's report in some kind of sequence. Everyone else in the newsroom, except her and Kent, had gone home.
"This is impossible. Nothing matches, no dates … " Lois felt herself getting more and more frustrated — not to mention hungry. "Aaaaargh! We'll never get through this … and I'm *starving*. I wish I knew a good Chinese take-out."
Kent's head came up. "I know a place. I'll be right back." He got up to leave.
"Don't you want to know what I want?"
"I'll bring an assortment."
While he was gone, she continued trying to piece things together. It was frustrating and futile. Then, before she knew it, Kent was back, carrying several bamboo steam containers of Chinese food.
"That was quick."
"I took a short cut."
She wondered what variety of dishes were in the stacks of steaming containers. She went to take the lid off the top container and almost burnt her hand. "Mmm … still hot." She opened the lid, took out one of the steamed balls and popped it in her mouth. How had he kept the food hot? Then she chewed and swallowed, and forgot everything but the taste of the food.
"Mmm! Mmm! This is *out* of this world!"
In between mouthfuls, they continued working on re- creating Platt's report. It was hours before they were finished — with the food … not the report. Lois was exhausted. All she wanted to do was lie in a hot tub and soak away her aching bones. She kicked off her shoes and eased her legs up onto the desk. The change in blood flow certainly helped her feel less tired.
She took the fortune cookie that Kent handed to her and cracked it open. Oh, for crying out loud, "It's in Chinese."
Kent reached over and took the slip of paper from her fingers. He turned the paper vertically, and was starting to … "Oh, don't tell me you read …"
"'A good horse is like a member of the family.'"
My god, he *did* read Chinese. He had mentioned travelling for a few years after college, but she hadn't realized he was *this* well travelled. But, what kind of fortune cookie gave *that* as a fortune?"
"I hate that. *That* is not a fortune."
Kent laughed, sounding warm and deep … sexy. Was this aspect of him what Cat and Dr. Baines knew instantly when they saw him? How could they tell? Was it some kind of secret code only 'feminine' women knew? She had to admit, he *was* kind of appealing … a mix of innocence and sophistication. "You are a strange one, Clark Kent."
He blinked and looked at her wide-eyed. "Am I?"
"Yeah. But I think I've got you figured out." After all, how complicated could he be? He was from *Kansas*, for crying out loud.
It almost sounded like a challenge. "Uh huh."
"Didn't take you very long."
Lois was amused at his implication that he was a complex person. "Well it's my business, looking beyond the external."
This last statement seemed to make Kent uncomfortable. He adjusted his glasses. She looked into his eyes. Oh god, suddenly, her body was pulsing with desire. She couldn't let him *do* this to her. She wasn't someone he could just jump into bed with. Huh uh, no way. But the look in his eye indicated a definite attraction for *her*.
She shifted uneasily in her chair. He blinked and looked adorably bewildered. The sensual man was gone and the innocent farm boy was back. How did he *do* that? Was it possible that he *was* just a simple farm boy with a crush on a big city girl? That she had misread him? It seemed unlikely but, on the other hand, she hadn't seen that kind of dazed expression on a guy's face since Junior High. If he *was* falling for her, she had better nip it in the bud.
"Don't fall for me, farm boy. I haven't got the time for it."
He looked like a startled fawn. She should have been more diplomatic. Was he *that* naive? After Cat? She couldn't believe it. To hide her confusion, she picked up the scraps of paper that constituted Platt's report and threw them all into a box. It was time to leave.
"Come on. Maybe Platt can help us decipher this."
Kent shook off his startled look. She shoved the box at him, grabbed her purse and started toward the elevators. Kent followed her with the box.
Outside of the Planet the two of them grabbed a cab. Within minutes they were outside Platt's rundown tenement. She got out of the taxi and entered the building … Kent, carrying the box containing the report, was right behind her.
She was about to knock on the door when she noticed that it was partly open. This didn't look good. She glanced at Kent. He gently pulled her back. "Lois … Lois, let *me* look first."
Oh, right, what did he think she was … some kind of delicate female that had to have a big, brave man to protect her?
"Don't be silly." She didn't hesitate to step into the dark living room. She searched for a light switch. "Listen, Kent. I've seen it all, okay? War, crime, famine … "
Finally, she found the light switch, and tried to turn it on, but it wasn't working.
In the dim light from a street lamp shining in the window, she saw Platt sitting, with his back to them, in a chair.
As she took a step forward Kent stopped her, pulling her back again. "Wait … Wait. The water … "
She could see a puddle of water under Platt's chair. Kent put down the box and maneuvered her so that they walked around the puddle. Once around the water she had a clear view. Platt was sitting, bare feet in a pan of water, holding a live electrical cable looping down from the wall in his hands. He had made his own electric chair and was very much *dead*.
Lois heard herself gasp. She could feel the bile coming up her throat. The room swayed and someone caught hold of her. She turned her face into Clark's jacket to hide from the ghastly scene.
She stood for what seemed like forever in the cocoon of his embrace. The clean smell of Clark's shirt reminded her of the line-dried sheets her mother used when she was very little, when her parents had still seemed happy, and of the feeling of security she had had then. Memories of her early childhood whirled through her brain. Mostly what she remembered were the times when, as a little girl hugging her teddy bear to ward off the monsters under the bed, her daddy would come to tuck her in and calm her fears and hold her so she would feel safe. Somehow, in Clark's arms, she felt that security again.
She shook off her reverie, lifted her forehead from Clark's chest and tried to focus on the here and now. Reality shattered her childhood memories. She pulled away from Clark and turned to confirm Platt's death was real. Her brief respite from the horror was gone. She shuddered.
Clark gently turned both of them around so that he was standing in her line of sight, blocking her view of Dr. Platt's body. She had told him she had seen war, crime, death before … and she *had*! Nevertheless, he seemed to be under the impression she needed protection from this tragedy. She lifted her face to tell him she was just fine, thank you very much, she didn't need his protection. But when she tried to look him in the eye, all she saw was the reflection of herself in his glasses. She looked so *pale*! No wonder he seemed to think she needed his assistance! Why was this affecting her so? She closed her eyes to shut out the image of herself. Clark shifted his hold on her so that his arm fully supported her back, his hand at her waist.
She could hear the anxiety in his voice. He must think she was going to faint … or something. How ridiculous. She opened her eyes and was about to let him know that she was doing just fine — when the room seemed to fade away from her.
Oh, please, *please* don't let me faint. The fates wouldn't let that happen, would they? *That* would be too humiliating.
Clark tightened his hold on her waist and quietly said, "We'd better go into another room, the police won't want us to disturb anything here."
He sounded so calm and assured. The room came back into focus. She nodded her assent to his statement. She couldn't speak … or stop herself from trembling.
Clark moved the two of them out of the living room. She tried to take deep breaths … she was *not* going to faint. She stumbled as they entered one of the bedrooms piled with junk.
Maintaining his secure hold on her waist, Clark sounded solicitous as he said, "I think you should sit down while I call the police."
She wanted to say, "No!" She wanted to be the one in charge, but she was still feeling shaky. She wasn't sure she could remain standing if Clark wasn't holding her. She nodded and let him lead her to a pile of newspapers to use as a chair. She would be fine in a couple of minutes. It was just the shock of seeing Platt like that … that was all. What else could it be?
Clark went back into the living room and Lois could hear him talking to 911. She put her head in her hands. The reporter in her wondering why Platt had a phone, and how he could afford it.
A couple of minutes later, Clark was beside her offering her a glass of water. She took the glass and drank slowly. She needed to get back on top. She needed to be strong. She needed to be in charge. She handed him the empty glass. "Thank you, Clark." She was still feeling kind of trembly. But, she would be okay soon — she *had* to be.
She mentioned her puzzlement about the phone to Clark. Between them they decided Dr. Platt had probably wanted to maintain contact with Mrs. Platt and had presumably used whatever cash he had to keep the phone … giving up other "luxuries" like shoes, and maybe food, to do it.
Once they had decided on the answer to this question they both became silent. She remained seated on her pile of newspapers, and Clark sat on another pile while they waited for the police. He had been so strong when she needed him, but now he seemed a little dazed. He was just sitting there staring at the wall this room shared with the living room. Maybe it took him a little longer to react under this kind of stress.
"Clark, I … I mean … you were so helpful … I … just wanted to … to thank you." Sheesh, Lane, can't you even say a simple thank you without stumbling over every word?
Clark pushed his glasses back into his face, a habit she was starting to become accustomed to, and smiled slowly as he softly replied, "You're welcome, Lois. Any time."
She was glad she had thanked him. He was looking less dazed by the tragedy than he had a few minutes ago, and somehow he appeared stronger. In fact, she was feeling much stronger herself. The shock must be wearing off. She would be able to cope with the police now.
Just then the police arrived with a loud tattoo on the door of the apartment. Although it had seemed like forever before they came, it was really less than fifteen minutes.
Lois and Clark had to provide statements to the sergeant in the living room. Lois found that she was able to distance herself from the gruesome scene. The famous Lane detachment was back. She was glad. The police would never know the turmoil she had experienced when she first found the body.
While the forensic team was taking the evidence, Inspector Henderson summed up the case to Lois and Clark. He claimed the death was a suicide.
"Suicide? That's ridiculous." Lois was indignant. How stupid could Henderson be?
"He's tried it before." When Lois expressed her scepticism, Henderson continued, "There's no sign of forced entry, no sign of a struggle, nobody saw anybody come in or out."
"But we were on the verge of proving his theory that … well, that something he was working on was right. There's no way he … "
She stopped as the people from the morgue moved the body past her and out toward the door. One of the cops made a bad attempt at humour, "Man's gonna barbecue himself, he oughta use sauce," and laughed at his own joke.
To Lois' amazement, Clark stepped up to the cop and grabbed his lapel. In a low, controlled voice he said, "The man's name was Samuel Platt. He was brilliant, a scientist, and someone who cared about others. Under the circumstances, I don't believe that kind of humour is appropriate."
*She* knew that cops often used black humour to cope with this kind of tragedy. Clark obviously didn't — his understated rage was impressive, if somewhat scary. He had been so calm earlier, she wondered if this outrage was how the shock was affecting him.
The cop apologized and followed the body out of the room.
After Henderson went to speak to the forensic team, Lois walked over to Clark and asked, softly, "Are you okay?"
In a choked voice, Clark replied, "We should have known. We should have protected him."
"How?" He was *really* upset.
"I don't know, but … "
She wanted to reassure him. "Look, Clark. All we can do now is try and prove him right. Whoever did this sabotaged the Messenger and is probably planning the same thing for the colonist transport." She could see he was still upset and probably just as exhausted as she was — after all they had been up most of the night.
"We've got a lot of work to do." She looked at her watch. "It's only 5:30. Why don't we try and get a few hours' sleep. I'll come by for you at nine." She could see him visibly calming down.
Clark nodded. He gave her his hotel address and added, "See you at nine."
Lois went home and quietly entered the apartment, so as not to disturb Lucy sleeping on the sofa. Lois barely had time to strip off her clothes before falling into bed, exhausted. She managed to set the alarm for two and a half hours ahead, just before falling asleep.
Two and a half hours wasn't enough sleep, but she got up, showered and dressed in fresh clothes. It seemed like forever since the last time she had had a full eight hours of sleep. Clark had better be ready when she got there, or he would feel the wrath of Lane.
She took a cab to the hotel where Clark was staying. Shabby and rundown, it wasn't much of a place, but she guessed it was cheap.
She walked up to the third floor and knocked on his door. She had to knock a second time before he opened it. He was *naked* — well there was a towel and a pair of glasses, but *still*. She couldn't let him see how much the sight of his body — his bare chest and rippling stomach muscles — was affecting her … so she went into irate mode.
"I said nine! I thought you'd be naked … Mmm, ready." Oh, brilliant Lane, now he knows *exactly* what you're thinking.
He made no reaction to her blunder, just indicated she should enter as he said, "I was on the phone. I'll be out in jiff." He aimed his thumb in the direction of the bathroom.
Sure, any man who said *that* was going to take half an hour at the very least. She watched him walk into the bathroom and shut the door.
Lois fanned herself with her hand. This room was *hot* … she needed something to drink while she waited. She looked in the cabinets for a glass — but the cabinets were only filled with chips, animal crackers, peanut butter jars, sugary cold cereals, and Ding-Dongs.
She picked up a glass from the drainer beside the sink, inspected it for germs, and opened the fridge door. There wasn't anything worth drinking. The fridge held six cans of a high-fat shake, several two liter bottles of various kinds of soda, and several chocolate bars — all guaranteed to get you on the road to diabetes if you weren't already on it — and sundry other tooth-aching treats. She closed the fridge door and put down the glass. She wasn't thirsty anymore.
As she was moving to the only chair in the room, she heard the bathroom door open abruptly. Kent hadn't been gone long enough. Was he going to come out half dressed? She gasped in anticipation of this hazard, but when she whirled around she saw that he was fully dressed, his hair dried and combed. She must have been daydreaming, there didn't seem to have been enough time for him to get dressed and dry his hair — and she didn't remember hearing a hair dryer. She would really have to stay alert, it would be too humiliating if Kent knew she was only too aware of his body.
Swallowing hard, she said, "We'd better be going."
He followed her to the door. Despite the fact that she needed to get to the Planet as soon as possible, she couldn't get the contents of the fridge out of her mind. "So, explain something to me. You eat like an eight-year-old but you look like Mr. Hardbody. What's your secret … and can I have it?"
Kent gave her his standard 'farm boy' look. She sighed in frustration. Maybe it was his first time away from his mother's nutritional guidance … no, that couldn't be, he had travelled all over. Maybe he had a sweet tooth, and indulged it when he was under stress — now *that* she could relate to. With a body like that there was absolutely no possibility that this was part of his normal diet. She really didn't need his answer, she had him figured out. Pleased with her deductive reasoning, Lois charged down the stairs to the street and hailed a cab.
As they rode in the taxi on the way to the Planet, Lois outlined what she planned to do. She would be following up on the police side of the story and she wanted Kent to follow up with Mrs. Platt. He was much better at that "touchy-feely" stuff than she was. He nodded and went off to his desk to complete the assignment.
At her desk, Lois punched the direct line to the police station on her phone, pulled off her shoes and leaned back in her chair, her feet on the desk. After getting only a couple of hours sleep, she needed the rest. When the Inspector came on the line, she left her phone on the loudspeaker so she could relax and take notes as the conversation progressed.
Lois tried to persuade Henderson into believing that Platt's death was *not* suicide, without any perceptible success. Henderson was adamant.
After she hung up the phone, Lois sat back in her chair and stared into space, trying to figure out what her next move should be. Across the way her assistant in this story was sitting at his desk, involved in a phone conversation. The expression on his face was pure concern. He must be talking to Dr. Platt's former wife. She wished she had his talent for kindness to people in an emotional crisis. She shook her head. Now where had *that* come from? She had always been proud of her ability to stay aloof. She turned back to her computer and continued working on the draft of her story.
A short while later, Clark came to her and said Mrs. Platt had arrived with her daughter in a wheelchair. Lois hit save and joined in the discussion. It came as news to her that Mrs. Platt had *not* left her husband, that he had insisted that they needed to be apart to protect her and their daughter from whoever was sabotaging the space program. Mrs. Platt declared that she and Dr. Platt had always worked to do the best thing possible for Amy.
Just then Amy rolled up to her mother to ask when they were leaving. The little girl didn't seem to know why she and her mother were at the Planet talking to these two reporters. Her mother gently turned Amy's chair around and, pushing her in the direction of the ramp, asked her to wait by the elevator until she was finished. Mrs. Platt explained to Lois and Clark that she hadn't told Amy about her father's death yet. She wasn't believing the police's suicide theory and wanted his name cleared so she could tell Amy the whole truth.
Lois attempted to say some comforting words, but even to her own ear they sounded flat and insincere. Clark reiterated that they would try their best to uncover the truth. Somehow, his words *did* sound sincere. As Mrs. Platt joined her daughter at the elevator, Lois looked at Clark and saw, in his eyes, his commitment to finding the truth. She was glad that the two of them were working on this together. It wasn't so bad working *with* someone after all.
After Mrs. Platt and Amy had left, Lois divvied up the work and they spent the next hour or so trying to track down the facts. Just before lunch, the news conference about the continuation of the launch came onto the TVs around the newsroom. She stopped to listen to the outcome.
Fortunately, the colonist launch, scheduled for next week, would proceed as planned. Lois breathed a sigh of relief. If the launch had been cancelled, her story would have stayed in that perpetual black hole of news stories that had missed their time.
Once the news conference was over, Lois tidied her notes and headed for the delicatessen around the corner for a bite to eat. She had intended to invite Clark too, but he seemed to have disappeared. Her sense of disappointment seemed out of proportion to the event. If she didn't watch out he would become another Claude in her life. As she walked toward the elevator she noticed another empty desk. Cat wasn't around either, so chances were that Cat was playing with her new 'boy toy'. Lois shrugged mentally, Kent could take care of himself.
When she got back from lunch, she was greeted by an excited Jimmy who had just returned from S.T.A.R. Labs with what they had found out from Dr. Platt's report.
Kent was back from his 'lunch', so she had the three of them gather in a conference room to go through the results. While she was flipping through the file, Jimmy was going on and on about the hologram that S.T.A.R. Labs had created. When she gave him her 'annoyed' look, he finally stopped babbling about the hologram and cut to the chase. Platt's theory was right on. There was deliberate sabotage. The transport explosion was no accident.
Lois was ecstatic, they had been right all along. She felt at one with the whole world. Clark's wide grin suggested he was just as happy as she was. Jimmy yelled "Congrats," as Lois pushed him out of the conference room.
She whirled around to face Clark. "He was right! Platt was right!" She hugged Clark.
"Now we can write the story … "
Obviously, hugging him had given him the wrong signal, better straighten him out, "*I* write the story."
"With my help."
Okay, so maybe he wasn't so bad after all. "With your help. And, if we can convince people there was sabotage and who was behind it … "
"We can stop them."
Suddenly, she was aware she still had her arms around Clark, and he had his around her. She pulled back quickly. She was seeing *that* sensuous look in his eyes again, and she was definitely feeling the same desire she had felt last night, right after the Chinese food. Her heartbeat revved up.
"Why don't we have dinner?"
Was he asking her out? Lucy was always telling her to take the chance. But, she couldn't, could she? Did she dare take that risk … after Claude? "I don't know, I … "
"We should celebrate." She felt him move a tad closer, in anticipation of a positive response … or was he trying to pressure her? She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Okay. Dinner." She laughed, one dinner couldn't hurt, could it? Huh-oh, tonight was Luthor's interview. So they would have to do it some other night. "Wait a second. What am I saying? I have plans tonight."
In fact she would have to hurry if she was going to be ready on time. She turned to leave the conference room. Clark was right behind her, as usual.
"Luthor?" Clark looked a little hurt.
She hurried out of the conference room, heading toward her desk to get her things. "Yeah." She felt a little embarrassed that she hadn't remembered the interview appointment earlier. If she had said "no" right away, she wouldn't have hurt Clark's feelings. She opened her mouth to ask if she could take a rain check for tomorrow night, when Clark interrupted.
"Tell me something … how far are you willing to go to get this interview?"
She couldn't believe her ears! She inhaled angrily. *This* from Cat's latest 'boy toy'! She whirled and faced him. 'Furious' barely covered her feelings at this moment. She snatched her bag up from her desk.
"What is *that* supposed to mean?" He could forget the rain check now! Unless, he backtracked real fast.
Kent plunged further into the fray by saying, "I don't think I have to spell it out for you."
Lois felt her blood pressure hit an all time high. *He* was judging *her*. *He* thought she would do *that* to get a story! Someone who would sleep with *Cat* had the nerve to judge *her* wanting! She hardened her expression and spat out, "Not that it's any of your concern, but, as I told you before, this is *business*!"
Lois was breathing hard. The *nerve* of him. She stopped part-way up the stairs to the elevator lobby to catch her breath.
Kent was looking up at her, his body language broadcasting anger at *her*. "What's your problem, anyway? You've had a chip on your shoulder since the day I met you."
She couldn't believe her ears. He was *still* criticizing her. She had said it was *business*, that should have been the end of it.
"That's ridiculous." If she didn't get out of here soon, she would have no time to get ready for the interview. She turned and headed for the elevator again.
Kent came after her. "Or was it the day Perry put me on this case with you?" She turned and glared at him. Was he *never* going to shut up? No, he continued talking, "That's it. You resented the fact that … "
"Perry foisted an inexperienced … "
"What?" How *dare* he criticize *her*! How *dare* he!
"You're a snob, Lois."
The *nerve*! Just because she had higher standards than he did, that didn't make her a *snob*.
"Well, coming from Mr. Green Jeans … " Oh for crying out loud, *that* hadn't come out exactly the way she had intended. She turned and started up the stairs again.
She should give it to him both barrels! She should tell it like it really was. Unlike *him*, *she* had *standards*. She whirled around to face him again.
"I live by three rules: I never get involved in my stories, I never let anyone else get there first, and I never *sleep* with anyone I work with!" — unlike *you* Kent.
She decided saying this last point out loud would only get her deeper into the morass of his arguments. She had to get out of here, *now*. So she repeated her main point — "*This* is business."
She finally made it into the protection of the elevator, leaving Kent at the bottom of the stairs staring after her.
She grabbed a cab to get home as quickly as possible. Once home, she bathed and changed, all the while forced to listen to Lucy's 'Wisdom for Dateless Girls'. How Lucy could possibly think she had the expertise to give advice on dates was completely beyond Lois' comprehension. As Lucy fixed Lois' hair, she continued her diatribe on how Lois should conduct herself on her date. Not one of the "rules" that Lucy cited did Lucy herself actually follow to the best of Lois' knowledge — especially the ones about always being on time and wearing something sexy … but not too sexy. Lois' assertions that this was an *interview* did nothing to ward off Lucy's well-meaning advice.
Lois was so frustrated. This was *not* a *date*. Why couldn't anyone understand that? Lucy even had her wearing the black, sequined evening gown Lois had worn to the last Kerth Award ceremony. Lucy insisted it was the only appropriate wear for a meeting with Lex Luthor, no matter what it was supposed to be — date or interview.
Lois didn't have time to argue. As it was she was just barely ready in time for Luthor's limousine to pick her up. She had been looking forward to this interview for a long time and now, between Kent and her sister, her mood was all wrong for it. She should be more upbeat and focused. She needed an attitude adjustment — and fast.
Lex's Indian servant led her to the terrace off Luthor's dining room. There a table for two was set with candles, wine glasses and exotic flowers. Lois felt a misgiving. Maybe her sister and Kent might not have been so far out of line in thinking this was a date after all. Well, it was only a date when *she* said it was a date. She had asked for an interview, and an *interview* was what she was going to get.
Lex Luthor rose from a chaise lounge at one side of the terrace and came to greet her. He held her extended hand in both of his and commented on how nice it was to have her here in his home again. He escorted her to the table and seated her to his left.
It was a beautiful starry night, and a soft night breeze blew, making the candles dance and sway. Was Luthor expecting a romantic evening? If so, he was going to be disappointed. She was here for *business*.
Just to make her intentions clear, she pulled her notepad and pen out of her evening bag and laid them beside her plate. She wanted to be prepared.
A servant brought the soup course and she was forced to delay the start of her questions while she negotiated the soup from its bowl to her mouth without spilling it. However, as soon as the soup plates were removed, she started her questions, noting any small response she got in her notebook.
By the time Luthor had finished the main course, she had very little to show for her determination. Oh, he *appeared* to answer her questions, but the content left a great deal to be desired. As her resolve to get the answers to her questions grew, her appetite dwindled. She barely touched the food on her plate.
When she rephrased her question on his background for the third time, hoping he would finally open up and give her an exclusive, Luthor suggested he have his office send her his biography.
Carefully, she explained why this wasn't good enough. "Because I don't want the standard line. I want to know the real Lex Luthor. What makes you tick, what you strive for. What you want … "
Amazingly, his response was, "Pleasure. The pursuit of pleasure." She must have projected her astonishment, because he continued, "Does that surprise you?"
"I would have guessed you'd say 'power.'"
"Power is a means, not an end."
"But achieving power must give you pleasure."
Obviously impressed with her acumen, Luthor nodded and said, "Very good."
She smiled, and mentally scored a point for herself on her personal scoreboard. "You took over your first big company when you were twenty-one. There were rumours that the buy-out was coerced." She saw Luthor stiffen at this more insightful question, "Is it true the Board of Directors were paid substantial … "
Luthor reached across the table and took her hand. "Was the food not to your liking?"
Startled at the sudden change of subject, Lois stuttered, "Sure. It was delicious." Then realizing she had barely touched the food, continued, "It's just that when I work … "
"All work and no play … is that your credo, Lois Lane?"
He wanted to change the rules right out from under her. She felt her tension zoom to new heights. "I don't think we should … "
"Can't we just enjoy the evening? Enjoy each other? Let down your hair. Loosen the tie … "
Disconcerted, Lois looked down for a second, and then pointed out the obvious. "I'm not wearing a tie."
Luthor turned over her hand, and unclenched her fingers. "You're so tense, here. Why don't you just let the defences down?"
Damn! He *had* assumed she was here for a date. She removed her hand from his grasp. "I think you've gotten the wrong idea about this dinner, Lex."
"I hope you don't think we're here merely because you are a beautiful young woman. That wouldn't speak well for either of us." He was smooth, Lois had to admit. "You wanted an interview. A scoop. I understand that. Quid pro quo, let me tell you what *I* want." He leaned closer to her. "My talent in life is not making money or juggling companies. It's character assessment. And, I sense things about you. Possibilities. Potentials. You have the intelligence, the spirit and the vision to transcend the mundane."
Lois inhaled trying to remain calm. He *understood*! Finally, someone who knew what she was all about. She didn't know what to say. All her life she had been looking for a man who could relate to her as she was. And, apparently, here he was, one of the richest, most handsome men in the world — That was scary.
Then he boosted the stakes by saying, "And, so there are no misunderstandings, you *are* beautiful."
Lois felt herself blushing. Anyone would think she was some kind of country bumpkin. She pushed her feelings away as far as possible. She would have to think about this before she knew how she should react.
She chose her words carefully. She didn't want to offend the man, but she had to leave before this got any more complicated, and she lost being in control. "Lex, I have a story to write tonight. I should get going."
"No thanks, I never have dessert." Liar, she thought, but she couldn't think of a better excuse to get out of here *now*. He might suggest she *be* the dessert.
"Really? You don't know what you're missing."
Had he read her mind? She stared at him, speechless. Then realizing she had just been indulging in an overactive imagination, she refocused and collected her belongings.
Lex called for his limousine to be at the main entrance in five minutes. They travelled down to street level in silence.
The ride in the limousine consisted of sporadic comments about the weather and other neutral topics. When they got to her apartment building, Lex insisted on escorting her to her door. This was the second man this week who had wanted to make sure she got home okay. Usually men she went out with for business reasons weren't so considerate. After she got out of the limousine in front of her apartment building, Lex straightened her coat around her shoulders and insisted on escorting her upstairs.
At her door, she turned to Lex and said, "Thank you for a wonderful evening." Noticing that Lex seemed sceptical of her gratitude she continued, ruefully, "I think you learned a lot more about me tonight than I learned about you."
"I think we've both only scratched the surface."
Lois wasn't sure if he had some kind of hidden meaning here. She decided to rely on her business approach and extended her hand. "Good night."
Luthor took her hand, pulled her toward him, and kissed her lightly on the lips. Wow, she really hadn't expected *that*.
She slowly broke from him, and after watching him retreat down the hall and into the elevator, turned and walked into her apartment, slamming the door behind her.
Lucy came out of the bedroom in her nightgown. "Well? How'd it go?"
Lois was angry at herself. "I blew it. Not only didn't I get the interview, but the guy charmed the pants off me."
Lois rolled her eyes, would Lucy *never* get her own life? "Luce!"
"Why not? Do you have any idea how lucky you are? The world's most eligible bachelor takes you to dinner. Give yourself a break! It's okay to have fun once in a while instead of constantly worrying about your career."
Lois sighed, Lucy would never understand.
"Did he ask you out again?"
"No! I guess so. Sort of." Lois hoped that Lucy would just drop it.
"Sort of? I hope you said 'yes.'" Lucy pointed toward the window, "Mr. Right may be right out there."
Lucy *actually* thought Lois Lane could have a relationship with a powerful man like Lex Luthor? She had to be kidding. "Come back to Earth, Lucy. This is reality we're talking about."
Lois walked up to the window, pulled the curtain to one side and looked out. The limousine was no longer there. Lois looked up at the stars … remembering when she was little how she would wish upon a star and sometimes it seemed like her wishes would come true. Tonight she didn't have a wish so much as a hope — that she would actually find a man who was capable of loving her as she was. Was Lex Luthor that man? She didn't know. She shook herself mentally, this staring at the stars wishing and hoping was a childish thing … she wasn't a child any more. Wistfully, she drew the curtains for the night.
She sighed. No one understood. Everyone seemed to be out to bed her with someone or other. She just wanted to be Lois Lane, ace reporter. Was that so much to ask? She sighed again. Sometimes being an adult really sucked. Lois headed toward her bedroom and solitude.
Late the next afternoon, she, Kent, and Jimmy faced Perry as he reviewed their story on Pratt. He was less than enthusiastic. Actually, truth to be told he was darn right insulting … not to mention sarcastic.
He continued his harangue, "And all of this information you got from interviewing Samuel Platt, a man who was banned from the scientific community, underwent psychiatric treatment, and committed suicide — although he was 'probably murdered.'" Lois could almost feel the heat of his glare. "Does that about sum it up?"
Oh God, he was *really* mad. She had to defend them, after all she *was* the senior reporter of the trio. "Chief … "
He didn't let her finish, he must be *really*, *really* mad. Lois felt humiliated as Perry reiterated his credo, "Hard facts. Hard facts. That's the name of the game. Now go out there and get me some."
She could see that the guys were ashamed that they had failed to convince Perry of the truth of their cause. They exited his office dejectedly. She knew the answer, "What we *need* is physical evidence."
Kent tried to be helpful. "I'll call Dr. Baines' office and ask for permission to set up an independent examination." He was *so* naive.
"Clark! Baines isn't going to let you do that! She could be involved! Besides, we don't have time to play by the rules. The Colonist Transport goes up in three days!"
He walked away and said, "I'm making the call. Maybe someone else at EPRAD will authorize it." The man was so stubborn!
"You do that." She had *other* plans.
Jimmy was tailing her. "Where are you going?"
Jimmy sounded determined. "I'm coming, too!"
As a result of Jimmy's determination to be included in whatever was coming up, the two of them headed out to EPRAD together.
Lois knew an infinite variety of ways to break into secure areas. The well-lit hanger with the Messenger in it was barely even locked up. This made her suspicious. Holding her finger to her lips she crept forward and crouched behind some boxes, with Jimmy following right behind her. Peering over the top of one of the boxes, she took a good look at the shell of the space vehicle the scientists in white overalls were working on. It wasn't the Messenger! This shuttle didn't have the hole in one side she had seen on the original shell. Nudging Jimmy, she shook her head and indicated they should leave. They crept quietly out of the hanger.
"Why didn't you want to stay, Lois?" Jimmy looked puzzled.
"Keep your voice down — that wasn't the Messenger," Lois whispered. And then continued, when Jimmy gave her a puzzled look, "I watched them load the Messenger wreckage onto the truck. The whole left side of the shell was bashed in — *that* one isn't … They're working on a phony shell."
"Oh … now what do we do?"
Lois looked around and sighted another hanger over on the other side of the compound. This one was in darkness.
"I think we should look at that building over there." She nodded in the direction of the shadowy hanger.
The two of them crept quietly over to the building and up to the nearest door. She tried the handle. Unfortunately it was locked.
Jimmy picked the lock. She would have never guessed he was capable of doing that. Not only could he hot wire cars, he could pick locks too!
"You're amazing. Where did you learn to … "
"Reform school." Jimmy opened the door as he said this.
She stared at him, astonished.
"It was a bum rap."
As the two of them snuck into the darkened hanger, Lois was still trying to figure out a way to ask Jimmy what he had done to get himself into reform school. She pushed aside this tangential thought as they started to explore. They saw another shuttle. This one had a big hole in the side, like the Messenger she had seen earlier. Two versions of the Messenger made a kind of warped sense. The *real* Messenger was hidden here. Obviously, someone didn't want the scientists seeing the particle analysers so they dummied up another shell for the investigators to examine.
Lois and Jimmy crept around the equipment, heading further and further into the hanger, trying to get as close to the Messenger wreck as possible.
"Lois, what do you expect to find here? Do you even know what particle analysers look like?"
She shrugged, and just told Jimmy to take pictures of everything in sight.
"Baines … I never trusted her. The way she looked at Clark … *very* unprofessional."
Suddenly she realized there wasn't anyone with her. "Jimmy? Jimmy?"
She explored the area and came across Jimmy lying on the floor. As she bent over Jimmy, she felt a presence behind her and whirled to get a jump on whoever was there. It was a man crouched ready to pounce. Using the martial arts training she had spent evenings and weekends honing over the last five years, she decked the guy. He tried to get up, but Lois didn't let him. She keep her heel on his throat. Then someone else was behind her. Lois turned her head only to see Dr. Baines, pointing a gun, stopping her dead in her tracks.
"Very impressive, Lois. These days a woman *has* to know self defence."
Lois groaned inwardly. How was she going to get out of *this*?
In no time at all Baines had her tied to a post. The guy Lois thought she had rendered helpless had recovered sufficiently to drag the unconscious Jimmy to the post. They were about to tie him up too. She had to *do* something!
"You'll never get away with this. At the Planet, everyone knows where I am."
All of a sudden the door behind her went flying into the darkness of the hanger and Kent — Kent? — burst in.
Lois was stunned. What had made him kick the door in? Why hadn't he just waited until Baines and company had left? A voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Good evening, Mr. Kent … I guess you don't know your own strength." Dr. Baines smiled maliciously.
He stood there, in the face of Baines and her henchman with guns — and actually said, "Let her go! Put down those guns." He looked completely unafraid and confident that they would do what he demanded. Kent must be insane!
"Or you'll … what?" Dr. Baines signalled her henchman to grab Mr. Kent and tie him up.
Lois rolled her eyes. That *idiot*. What did he think he was doing? Had he called the police? She seriously doubted it.
In a matter of minutes Kent was tied up behind her. She could just spit!
Jimmy was still lying on the floor unconscious and Lois was worried about him. She couldn't do anything, but if Kent had had any kind of brains, the police would have *been* here by now. She had already established that this critical line of defence hadn't been implemented.
"I told Perry I needed a task force. A *task* *force*. What do I get? *Amateurs*!"
She heard Kent shift uncomfortably in his chains.
"I still can't *believe* you came barrelling in here like some five hundred pound gorilla. If you *really* thought we were in trouble, why didn't you bring the police?"
"Look, I … "
"Don't tell me. I already know. You're like every other man in Metropolis. You've got this testosterone surplus that says, 'I can do it myself.'" Lois was starting to feel the futility of it all. "Baines has got to kill us now. I don't know why she hasn't done it already."
"Lois, I've somehow managed to … "
" … mess everything up? No kidding." Lois was so mad that if she got the opportunity she would strangle him with her bare hands. But, that wouldn't help them get out of here now.
"Now hold on a second. I wasn't the one who snuck in here … "
Now he was blaming *her*! "What are you saying? That this is *my* fault? At least I had the guts to … " She stopped and sighed as she realized that maybe this *was* her fault. After all if she had only stayed away from the hanger, none of this would have happened. "What am I saying? This probably *is* my fault. Oh, God!"
Memories of all the other times she had been in this kind of situation crowded her mind. Why didn't she ever *learn*? What was it about her that compelled her to confront danger? Now she and Jimmy … and Clark were all going to die. It was all her fault! She wished she could explain to Jimmy and Clark. They had a right to know why they were about to die. But Jimmy was unconscious and she couldn't see Clark to determine how upset he was. She began talking to Clark, trying to explain to him … and to herself … why they were in this predicament.
"I know that I sometimes do things … you know, like jump into the pool without checking the water level." Then, remembering his previous comments, she added, "Maybe I do have a chip on my shoulder, maybe Lucy's right about me, too, but … this is the only way I know how to do it. To get the job done. To get the respect that I want. That I *deserve*."
Lois was surprised as she felt the tears streaming down her cheeks. Why was she always messing up? Why couldn't she get it right the first time? "You remember when I told you my three rules? Well, I've broken every one of them. I somehow *always* get involved in my stories … "
" … you slept with someone at work?" Clark had caught on to her deception.
She nodded guiltily, which was silly since he couldn't actually see her.
"It wasn't Jimmy, was it?"
Whatever made him think *that*? "Don't be ridiculous. It was a long time ago. When I first started at the Daily Planet. Claude — he was French — he had this accent … " She pictured Claude in her mind. He had been so handsome, and exotic … and sexy. He had been able to get past her inner warning systems like no one before or since. "I guess I must have been in love. Or thought I was. I was working on a story. One night, I told him about it and when I woke up the next morning he was gone. So was my story. He won an *award* for it. Didn't even thank me for my … input."
Lois glowered through her tears at the memory.
She felt Clark shift, the chains that bound him jingling against each other. "I guess, when you're in love with someone … it doesn't matter how smart you are or how many rules you've set for yourself. You're still vulnerable." His voice sounded resigned … as if he had known the kind of love that compelled you to do the irrational.
He *understood*! She wanted to reassure him that he … she … they weren't all that different from anyone else. "We're only human … "
Then she remembered where they were. "Oh, what difference does it make now, anyway? We're just going to die."
"Lois? You know what you said, about respect? Well, I just want you to know that everyone at the Planet, *everyone*, thinks you're just about the best reporter they've ever met. Perry told me that the day I interviewed."
Really? Lois felt all choked up at the thought. "He did?"
"Yeah." Clark sounded reassuring. Then he continued in a more hesitant tone of voice … as if he were afraid of how she would react … he said, "And not that it really means anything, coming from a 'hack from Nowheresville', but I think you're pretty terrific, too."
Lois was really moved by his admission. Even though she had called him names, he still told her what she needed to hear. He must be one of the kindest men she had ever met … and now, because of her, he was going to die. "Oh Clark, I'm sorry. About everything. I know it's too late for apologies, but I never meant … "
Just then Dr. Baines came into view from behind the Messenger.
She walked up to them and in a disdainful tone of voice said, "Well, I hope you'll forgive the accommodations … but then again I never was much of a hostess." As she walked behind some equipment and fiddled with it, she continued, "Sorry you won't be around to enjoy the-rest of the evening, but accidents do happen."
This didn't sound good. "Accidents?"
Dr. Baines seemed to take great glee in telling them her plan. She finished whatever it was she was doing and came back from behind the equipment. "Yes. You see, while dissecting the orbital maneuvering systems, the monomethyl hydrozene leaked and mixed with the nitrogen tetroxide … Unfortunately, the blast killed three nosy reporters who didn't bother to read the signs."
Lois squeezed her eyes shut. They *were* going to die.
She opened her eyes and glared at Baines. "Answer one question. Why?"
"It's very simple, Lois. Profit. Outer space is no different from any new frontier. It will belong to those who get there first and seize the high ground."
Lois heard Clark's chains clank together and the sound of him inhaling sharply. Dr. Baines went out of her line of sight again. Lois turned her head in time to see Baines kissing Clark goodbye.
Then after the woman had disappeared from view, Clark appeared from behind her. His hands were free. "Clark! How did you … " Maybe Baines had relented and set him free?
"Missing link. Come on!" That must have been what the intake of breath had been about. Good thing Baines hadn't noticed. He untied her and helped her to her feet. Then he ran to Jimmy and lifted him over his shoulder and grasped her by the waist. Then, before Lois could really take in what was happening, they were racing toward the exit. Behind them was an explosion which blew them all several hundred feet from the hanger, into a puddle of mud.
When she dared open her eyes and look back at the hanger, it was a blazing inferno. "What happened?"
Clark looked dazed, his glasses askew, "I dunno … I guess the force of the explosion must have carried us here."
Then Lois noticed, high overhead, an escaping helicopter. "Look!"
Before she could say what she was seeing, the helicopter exploded into a fireball. Lois gulped and squeezed her eyes shut. She opened her eyes to see Clark pickup Jimmy, untie his hands, and lay him on a dry area of the ground. Then Clark helped her to her feet. Standing up was more difficult than she could ever have imagined. They both kept slipping and had trouble getting a good foothold in the mud. As soon as she was able to assure Clark that she could stay upright, he returned his attention to Jimmy.
The police arrived almost instantaneously, it seemed, and drove them to the police station. Lois used their time in the waiting room to call in the story and then waited beside Clark for the police to get around to taking their statements. Jimmy had been taken in an ambulance to the hospital to make sure he was going to be okay. She wished she could have gone with him. It didn't matter that she would have been just sitting and waiting at the hospital as well, but it would have somehow seemed more productive.
After being interviewed yet again by the police for several hours, it was almost dawn when Lois finally went home to her apartment. She had received a call from Jimmy, just before she had left the police station, saying he was fine and was being released from the hospital. Clark was still being interviewed when she left for home.
She felt totally drained as she unlocked the various locks on her apartment door. Maybe she should try for a quieter kind of life.
The next day the newsroom held another celebration. This time it was for her, Jimmy and Clark. They had made the front page headline with their story of Baines and her fiery death.
Jimmy was soaking up the celebrity. He wasn't used to it. Lois laughed at his boasting … but she avoided telling anyone he had been unconscious throughout most of the adventure. Let him have his fifteen minutes of fame. He deserved it.
While she was overhearing, for the third time, Jimmy's explanation of why he hadn't been scared, Perry came up to her. "I just spoke to ground control over at EPRAD. They went back over the colonist launch vehicle with a fine tooth comb — discovered the same coolant problem in the protective bands and fixed it. The launch is all set for tomorrow morning."
All right! And, when she gave him her story from the colonist vehicle, her triumph would be complete. Then Perry said, "But … it's a no go for you, Lois. No reporters allowed."
He *had* to be kidding! "Imagine the Daily Planet getting an *exclusive* personal account of being on the colonist transport?"
"No can do, Lois." Perry shrugged apologetically.
There would be a way — she just had to think of it. "All right. Another time, maybe."
Perry had turned away and was saying to Clark, "You'll be pleased to know that Platt's widow and daughter are back on board."
"Thank you, sir. I appreciate that."
Clark … she had to straighten things out with him. As soon as Perry walked away she took Clark by the arm and moved him out of the immediate hearing range of every gossip at the Planet.
"Clark. I just … well, wanted to thank you for your help in getting us out of there." She hoped she sounded sweet and sincere … because she *was* grateful.
"I'm glad it all worked out."
Good, she had succeeded in getting her appreciation across. Now to get down to brass tacks … "and, one other thing … " She had his attention. Good. "If you ever breathe one word of what I told you in there, I'll deny it and I …"
"You can trust me, Lois."
That had been Claude's favourite line. She grimaced and put the paper hat over her eyes to hide her feelings from Kent. "Right. I've heard *that* one before." Why did men always think she was some kind of gullible fool?
She turned and walked away, to sit at her desk and plan her next move for the shuttle launch story.
The hardest part had been getting the boarding ticket and an authentic outfit for a colonist. But with her contacts, this had taken her less than three hours to produce. Then she had spent the rest of yesterday making sure her plan was foolproof.
Her source at EPRAD had faxed her the technical plans for the shuttle and the launch preparation area. She had spent the rest of the day studying the plans for potential hiding places, both before and after she entered the shuttle. The key point was to make sure she got to the hiding place out of the range of the cameras feeding the launch images to mission control and the colonist's takeoff compartment. She had decided her best alternative on the shuttle was a small auxiliary electrical room near the front entrance of the capsule, just before the final check-off security point.
This morning she came out to the space station early — as if she were coming to cover the launch from the press viewing area. However, instead of heading for the Press VIP Lounge, she hid in a women's restroom that was off the beaten track, but still close enough to the shuttle launch site for easy access. There she donned the specially designed colonist outfit and pulled her hair back into a tight bun. She was pleased with the effect in the restroom mirror. She looked nothing like Lois Lane, ace reporter. She stayed hidden until it was time for colonist boarding procedure to commence. Then, hiding her clothes and things in one of the stalls, she simply walked down to the main corridor and joined the line of people boarding the colonist transport.
She handed over the ticket she had managed to con from her source and entered the shuttle port. As soon as she crossed the threshold on to the gantry Lois knew she had made it. Only *really* bad luck would prevent her from being part of the launch. As they entered the module, most of the colonists were being herded to the right. Just before the crucial checkoff point, Lois ducked into the small room she had identified on the shuttle's plans, and closed the door.
On one side of the small room was a fold down flight attendant chair with safety straps for take-off. She strapped herself in. Then, just as the last announcement for disembarking was being made, she noticed a blinking light on the other side of the room that she couldn't remember being attached to anything in the plans she had studied. She got out of her strapping and walked over to the pulsating light to see what it was all about. There was a patch of some kind of adhesive with a digital countdown timer attached to it.
"Oh my God." Baines must have had an alternate plan. "It's a bomb." Full realization of what she had just said hit her. She screamed, "It's a bomb!"
She flung the small room's door open, then realized no- one would be able to hear her. The noise of the rocket boosters warming up drowned out everything.
She tried to detach the bomb, but she didn't have the strength. She rushed to the exterior entrance door, but it was *locked*. *Now* what?
She saw a cabinet filled with wires that she knew, from her study of the plans, would stop the countdown if a fault was detected in them. She looked around for the tool box. After locating the tool box, she found a pair of electrical pliers. She could use them to create a signal to ground control. She started slashing at the wires. For an eternity, nothing happened, and then the engines shut down. But the digital countdown continued. Everyone on board was *trapped* and the bomb was still going to go off!
Suddenly, the exterior door was wrenched open. There was a fantastic man — tall, wearing blue tights and a red cape, with a large stylized 'S' on his chest … his hair slicked close to his scalp — standing in the doorway. He strode into the room and moved directly to the bomb.
Lois gasped. This *idiot* in fancy dress was going to set it off! "Hey! Get away from that!"
The stranger ignored her and pulled the bomb from the wall.
"What kind of lunatic are you? That is a bomb!" Then to her astonishment, the man put the bomb in his mouth and *swallowed* it.
She gasped. Now they were doomed for sure.
Then the guy *burped*!
"Excuse me." He smiled apologetically.
Lois couldn't believe it. This was *crazy*. People couldn't swallow bombs — and survive. She stared at him and asked the obvious question — "What the hell *are* you?"
The stranger just smiled and turned to exit into the hallway. Lois felt disoriented. This wasn't real. She *had* to be dreaming.
Hurrying after him they met several colonists, amongst them Mrs. Platt and her daughter, Amy. The stranger faced the group.
Lois realized everyone was under the impression the stranger had caused the delay. She explained, "There was a bomb." Then, hardly able to believe it herself, she explained. "He … he … he *ate* it!"
Amy Platt rolled forward, unafraid, and stopped in front of the smiling stranger and said, "Hi. I like your costume."
Lois couldn't have agreed more.
"Thank you. My mother made it for me."
Lois stared in awe. This … this *being* had a mother?
"What's your name?"
"Amy. Amy Platt." Then to Lois' relief Amy asked a pertinent question. "Who're you?"
All ears, Lois was dissatisfied when the stranger said, "I'm … a friend." She had hoped for a name … or something more definite.
"Can you really fly?" asked Amy, who must have seen on the monitors in the colonists' takeoff compartment how the stranger had entered the shuttle.
"Yes, I can."
Lois felt like she had landed in some kind of fantasy zone. He swallowed bombs and could fly too? Oh, my god! Lois was having difficulty breathing.
"Can you teach me?" Amy asked.
This wonderful man knelt beside Amy's wheelchair and said, "Not to fly, but once this lab is operational, walk … that's very possible."
Then this remarkable tableau was interrupted by the public address speaker. A female voice announced, "Attention, colonists. The mission has been scrubbed. Prepare to disembark."
There was a general sound of disappointment.
A man who Lois assumed was the head colonist said, "That's it then. It's over."
Lois couldn't understand this. "Why?"
Mrs. Platt answered. "Once the thrusters have been fired, they have to be replaced."
The head colonist continued the explanation, "We'll lose our launch window … We just have to forget about Space Station Prometheus."
The stranger spoke again. "No! You don't." Then in an apparent effort to make them understand what he was trying to say, continued, "There's nothing wrong with this transport vehicle *or* the station. You only need to get there."
Lois was puzzled. She realized her cut wires had only affected the engines countdown sequence, but that didn't mean the shuttle could fly. Because he could do marvellous things, did he expect everyone could? "How are they supposed to do that?"
The stranger smiled calmly, "Easy. I'll give them a boost."
Lois was overwhelmed. He could do *that* too? She watched as he exited out of the shuttle's exterior door. Then, she realized she was missing her opportunity.
She hurried after the stranger. She *had* to get this interview. She just *had* to. He was standing on the gantry, apparently ready to jump the six stories down to ground level, when she caught up with him.
"Excuse me … Er … " She stopped while she tried to figure out what she was going to call him. The stranger turned to face her. He seemed apprehensive. She couldn't understand why. She had been as polite and calm as she was ever known to be. Maybe that was it … he didn't know who she was.
"Lois Lane, Daily Planet." She put out her hand to shake his, but he kept his arms folded over his magnificent chest.
"Can we talk? … when you get back?" Lois was praying he would agree.
The stranger nodded, and said "Yes … when I get back." Then he jumped off the gantry and glided down to the ground, his cape fluttering behind him.
Lois was stunned. He really *could* fly. She hurried across the gantry and into the launch prep area. She ran through that building, down two flights of steps and across a pedestrian bridge to the administrative building, then down a corridor and hung a sharp left into the VIP viewing lounge. Elbowing her way through the crowd so she could be close to the window, she watched as the stranger picked up the rocket and guided it straight up. She stood there until the rocket, and the tiny figure guiding it, were out of sight.
People all around her murmured their astonishment at this amazing feat. Who was this man? Why was he here? Was this part of a space invasion? How could he fly? There was lots of conjecture but no one knew the answers.
As the crowd in the observation gallery began to disperse, she hurried back to the ladies room she'd used as a hideout earlier. Hauling her bag out of its hiding place, she changed into the outfit she had worn on her way to the launch area. She restyled her hair into a softer look, spritzed cologne to make sure she smelled fresh, and got out her makeup kit and renewed her face. She didn't want this wonderful being to think she couldn't look nice. Then she frantically searched through her purse for her breath spray and used it. *Now*, she was ready to meet him again.
Once she had finished making herself as presentable as possible, she went back to the viewing room to wait for the flying man. The remainder of the crowd who had been there to watch the launch slowly gave up waiting for something new to happen, and gradually departed … eventually leaving Lois alone in her vigil.
How was she going to write this story? What was the angle? Who was he? Where did he come from? Would he keep his word and come back to talk to her?
She saw the tiny figure grow larger than life as he returned. She would have to ask him about the colonist disembarkation at the space station. If she could get to him first. There were dozens of reporters gathered at the base of the launch pad, ready to nab him as soon as he landed.
He hovered in mid-air near the launch site of the shuttle, floating just a few hundred feet from Lois' vantage point, and surveyed the crowd on the ground. Suddenly, he was gone.
She gasped … NO! They had scared him off!
Almost immediately, she heard a whooshing noise behind her. She whirled around in time to see the man in red and blue land feet first in the open doorway. Sensing that her mouth had fallen open, she quickly closed it.
Questions ran around and around in her head. How had he got here? Was he really willing to talk to her? Could she get his acceptance for an interview after her faux pas earlier? This man could do *miracles* and she had called him a lunatic. Was she *ever* going to be able to live that down?
He seemed to be amused by her silence. She didn't care, she just wanted to look at him … just to be near him. She stared at his tightly clad physique, his slicked-back hair and his warm brown eyes. She found herself drawn to him and walked, as if in a trance, until she was standing in front of him … her mouth open again.
"You wanted to speak to me?" The man smiled encouragingly.
Lois felt flustered. She couldn't seem to coordinate her mouth to speak. She nodded.
She *knew* him. It was like she had known him all her life. She felt awe in his presence … yet, equanimity. It was like there was this *connection* between the two of them … like he was the missing piece in the puzzle of her life. Tentatively she placed her hands on his folded arms.
"I … I … " She couldn't for the life of her remember what she was going to say next.
Suddenly the stranger swivelled his head to one side. "The crowd at the launch site is heading this way. I think we should leave. Where would you like to go?"
"The Daily Planet." Lois found she was whispering. This whole thing was like some fantastic dream. This news story was going to be a sensation and she, *Lois Lane*, was right in the middle of it.
He walked out of the nearest door, the flowing red cape with its yellow, stylized 'S' rising and falling as he walked. She followed right behind him. At the end of the corridor was a tall, open window. He took her hand and was about to step up on the sill.
Did he understand that she wasn't like him? "I … I can't fly!"
"That's okay. I'll do the flying … for both of us."
He picked her up in his arms and stepped up on the window sill. She flung her arms around his shoulders.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm … fine." At least she was for someone who had just met a living miracle.
"And you're not afraid of heights?"
Lois shook her head. She wasn't quite sure at the moment why that was an important consideration, but she didn't care. He floated upwards … out of the window. He was flying! *She* was flying. She couldn't believe it. She slid her hands up over his broad shoulders and put her arms around his neck. It seemed like the natural thing to do, to feel more secure — to feel close to *him* … then she buried her face in his neck.
"Are you sure you're not afraid of heights?"
She lifted her head and gazed into his soft brown eyes. "I'm sure."
She couldn't have cared less about the height. All she wanted was to be with *him*. *Where* that would be, was irrelevant.
She broke free of a lifetime of restraint and control as they flew higher and higher. She had never felt quite like this before … Except … that Christmas morning when she had still believed in Santa and had stood in front of the Christmas tree in profound awe of the blinking lights and piles of colourfully wrapped presents with their hidden promise of delights to come. The magic of that morning was embodied in this amazing man. She felt child-like, but not childish.
No … definitely *not* childish.
She rested her forehead against his neck, again. Her body was throbbing with desire, she prayed that he couldn't read minds. What she was thinking now was definitely *not* for public consumption. Blushing at the very idea that he might know *exactly* what she was thinking, she peered up at him through her lashes.
He looked down at her and smiled the most wonderful smile Lois had ever seen. She let her eyes follow the contours of his face until they met his. He was watching her! She saw only admiration in his eyes. He appreciated *her* … she was sure of it. As she gazed into his eyes, she knew this was one of the cardinal moments of her life.
Instinctively she knew she could trust him. He would never lie to her or try to control her. After seeing him in action on the shuttle, and talking to Amy Platt, she knew he was the kind of man who stood for something. She had never thought she would meet the perfect man, but here he was … and he was holding *her*. She was speechless. This had never happened to her before.
She was suddenly shy. She broke her gaze from his face to look at the passing world. They were flying over the skyline of Metropolis, and only blocks from the Daily Planet building. She had hardly been aware of any of the intervening scenery. She had only been aware of being near this wonderful man.
Unexpectedly, instead of dropping her off at street level, he floated to the high window overlooking the newsroom. He turned the handle, opened the windows and, in a swooping motion, flew through the window and over the newsroom, depositing her near her desk … breathless.
He set her down, lifting her as if she had no weight at all. Then with his hands on her waist he gently lowered her to a standing position. She clung to him, her hands on his shoulders, hoping he would stay for a while. She found her voice, finally.
"I think, considering the fact that I saw you first, you owe me an exclusive."
The man smiled tenderly. "Is that the rule?"
She blushed. "Well, um, no. But … I'd appreciate it. Very much." She gave him her best smile. Maybe he would do it *now*.
To her dismay, the man just smiled, slipped out from under her hands and floated up over the newsroom. He started to fly out the high window. Lois felt desolate. She had been so overwhelmed in his presence that she hadn't asked *any* questions, and now he was *leaving*. Racing to the balcony, Lois called out … "Wait a minute. How do I find you?"
He looked over his shoulder, and answered, "I'll be around."
Lois watched a rocket of red, blue, and yellow flash through the window, and disappear into the sky. Lois stared after him, eyes wide. Here was the "super guy" that Lucy had said she hoped Lois would find.
Cat came up behind Lois and asked, "Did you find out what the 'S' stands for?"
Lois could almost hear the connections, between Lucy's wish and her reality, click in her mind as she gasped, "Super … Superman." She found herself hyperventilating at the memory of the stranger's capabilities.
Lois slowly turned away from the window and made her way back to her desk. She barely heard Perry's usual diatribe about having a newspaper to run. She was in seventh heaven. She had found the man of her dreams, the fulfilment of her fantasies, the embodiment of everything she had hoped for in a man. She was happier than she had been since she couldn't remember when.
She wrote and submitted her story on Superman with her usual flair. But, for the rest of the morning she found herself daydreaming at her keyboard. When would she see him again? Who was he really? Where had he come from? What could she do to make sure that Lucy moved out soon, so she would have her apartment back to herself … just in case *he* came to visit.
Just after the morning edition came out — with the gigantic headline over *her* story — Perry called her into his office. He gave her another assignment … gang trouble again — a shootout near Sixth and Clinton. She was to take Kent with her.
She hadn't seen Kent since her return, but what did it matter. If Kent wasn't available, she would have the byline all to herself. She hummed to herself as she returned to her desk to pick up her briefcase and purse.
Just then Kent came out of the elevator, dressed in a trench coat with a folded morning edition in his pocket. What the heck was he doing getting in at this hour?
"Clark, where've you been?"
Oh, right. Probably off playing 'boy toy' with Cat. She didn't care what he did, she had had a memorable morning with that wonderful being.
"Well, not that it's anywhere near as exciting as the stories you covered on the Smallville Press, but Superman was here in the newsroom and I've just about nailed down the exclusive." She wondered if Kent had read her story. Or would she have to explain the man in blue to him too?
He sounded nonchalant. He obviously didn't get a sense of the *significance* of this — What Superman was like. She *was* going to have to explain it to him. Sometimes he could be so *dense*.
"You should see him, Clark, up close. He's the most magnificent figure of a man I have ever … " Lois felt herself drifting off into her now favourite daydream.
Kent's expression was amused. "Sounds like he made quite an impression on you."
Lois had a hunch he was piqued by her enthusiasm. "He did … " She felt smug that she had another story up on Kent. Or, maybe it was something else. "Why? Are you jealous?"
"Of Superman? Should I be?"
"Puh-leese!" The man had no clue.
She took him by the arm and led him toward the elevators.
"Where are we going?"
"Terrorist shoot-out on Sixth."
Just as they reached the elevators, she realized that Kent might be assuming he was there because she *wanted* him to be. "And Kent?" As soon as she knew she had his attention, she continued, "*I'll* ask the questions."
They entered the elevator, Kent deferentially behind her, as it should be.
She couldn't believe that she had actually, for a brief moment of insecurity during the Platt story, found Kent attractive. Now that she had met *Superman*, she *knew* what she wanted. She could hardly wait until the next time she met the guy in blue tights.
THE END … sort of <g>