By Kathy Brown, Bella and Trish
Original Air Date: March 1, 1998
Summary: Pregnant women are disappearing. A scientist wants to control Metropolis. And Lois hates Clark. When it rains, it pours. Episode 13 of S5.
By Kathy Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Bella <email@example.com> and Trish <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Lois Lane stood in her bedroom, examining her profile in the full length mirror. She smoothed her shirt over her expanding middle and shook her head in amusement.
She could hardly believe the bulge in her mid-section was a baby. Of course, she was going to get a lot bigger before she got smaller, but she was still amazed by the growth she had already experienced.
Fortunately for their decision to keep her pregnancy a secret at work until a few weeks ago, Lois hadn't really begun to show until this month. Even at four months along, when she and Clark had told Perry, Jimmy and the rest of the newsroom about the baby, Lois had been able to make do with her regular clothes.
Unwilling to move into maternity clothes until she absolutely had to, Lois tried some suggestions from her mother for making her business wardrobe last longer. 'Who would have thought *my* mother would have had some good advice?' Lois thought with a grin.
But indeed, Ellen had given her daughter some great ideas, including leaving the back button on Lois's skirt unfastened and using long jackets and sweaters to hide the gap, or layering long shirts over elastic waist stretch pants.
Lois had also been able to use a few items in her closet that had previously been too big for her. The weight she'd lost during her and Clark's engagement, namely during the traumatic Lex Luthor/Wanda Detroit/Maxwell Deter disaster, had forced her to pack up many of her favorite outfits as she dropped to a smaller size. But by her third and fourth month, those larger sizes were coming in very handy.
She could only hide her condition with strategic outfits for so long, however, and it turned out that she had made her announcement at work just in time.
As if waiting for Lois to go public with the pregnancy, her belly had really begun to grow as she entered her fifth month. Even Jimmy had noticed her quick growth, pointing to her stomach one Monday with a proud grin, and pronouncing that she'd had "a major pop-out!" over the weekend. Lois had flushed profusely at his declaration, but she couldn't deny that Clark had noticed the same thing and couldn't seem to stop grinning about it.
Not knowing what to expect in a pregnancy, Lois had always assumed the growth of her stomach would be pretty steady. No one had told her that she could suddenly "pop-out" over a few days. Fortunately, her doctor had chuckled comfortingly when Lois mentioned it during her last appointment, claiming that the same thing had happened to her in her first pregnancy. The woman had assured Lois that it was not only perfectly normal, but fairly common. 'Who would have thought?' Lois laughed.
Lois smiled at her reflection in the mirror. She'd been a little worried about gaining weight and how her body would look, so no one was more surprised than Lois at how much she was enjoying being pregnant and watching her body change.
Now that she was solidly in her second trimester, her energy level had picked up considerably, and she no longer felt queasy. What's more, she was feeling extremely desirable and sexy. She sometimes felt like she was a walking billboard when she was out with Clark — "This gorgeous man is the father of my baby!" — and noted the envious looks women shot Lois as she and her husband held hands and otherwise showed affection in public.
While their sex life had slowed somewhat in the early months, it had certainly picked up again now that Lois was feeling better. Clark made no secret about how sexy and beautiful he found her. With a smile, Lois stripped off the shirt and pants she'd been wearing and reached for a new outfit in her closet. Tonight was going to be special.
Superman landed on the sill of the large double windows in his living room and stepped inside.
"Lois, are you home?" he called as he spun into his Clark clothes. When he stopped spinning, he noticed the fire in the fireplace and took in the smell of coq au vin, one of his favorite dishes.
"I'm upstairs, Clark," he heard his wife call. "Will you check on dinner? I got it started but you know all about my lack of talent in that department."
"Oh, I don't know, honey. It all depends on what you're trying to heat up," he called back upstairs with a grin. "If I'm not mistaken, your 'cooking talents' work perfectly on me." As Lois's giggle reached his ears, Clark smiled and walked into the kitchen.
One look at the casserole dishes warming in the oven told him that Lois had outdone herself — no one could order gourmet take-out like his wife.
"This looks great, Lois," he called out. "Where did you get it?"
"From Merrick's," she responded. "That little place on 63rd? We went there a few months ago."
Clark nodded and shut the oven door. "Yeah, I remember. What's the occasion?"
Lois walked in, sliding her arms around her husband and embracing him from behind. She planted a kiss between Clark's shoulder blades.
"No occasion," she purred "I just wanted to do something nice for you. We've been working so hard this week that I missed you. I want tonight to be just for us."
Clark slid out of her embrace and turned around. He let out a little sigh of appreciation and delight as he saw her. "Oh, honey, you look beautiful."
Lois smiled and slowly turned around for him. She knew that he would like this dress. She had seen it in the store last week and just couldn't get it out of her mind. She had gone back for it yesterday while Clark was out on patrol, and couldn't wait to model it for him.
Made of burgundy satin, it was cut low enough in front to flatter her growing bustline, while the hem ended just above the knee to show off her shapely legs. Lois had never believed that maternity clothes could be flattering, but she was quickly becoming a believer as she kept finding items she couldn't resist adding to her wardrobe.
"So, you like?" she asked with a smile.
Clark nodded. "It's wonderful." He stepped closer to her and pulled her into his arms. "Why don't you start serving dinner while I whip us up some dessert."
Lois pulled back and grinned. "Gee, I kind of figured dessert would be us."
Clark licked his lips. "Even better. The house special?"
"Sure … if you're willing to help with the preparation of it."
"Ah … are there any particular techniques I need to use in making it?"
"Oh, definitely … and you have to be very thorough."
"Hm, that sounds complicated. Does it take a long time?" He started to kiss her ear, then passed his lips over her neck, feeling her pulse fluttering in response.
"Oh, yes. If you do it right, it can take hours."
Clark turned off the oven. "You know, in this special case, I think we better start on dessert and have the main course later."
Lois shrieked in pleasure and surprise when she found herself in the bedroom after a short blur. She fixed her husband with an exaggerated look of innocence. "Clark, what are you doing out of the kitchen? I thought you wanted to make dessert?"
"This is a very old recipe, Lois. I need lots of space." He laid her down on their bed and stretched out closely next to her.
"So, do you have the right equipment?" She looked down along Clark's body, then back up to his face again, just as pointedly.
"Lois … I am definitely up to the task."
Karen Martin strolled down the sidewalk after the stores closed for the evening, a hand to her back in an attempt to ease the ache that had been growing there. It had been a long day and nearly nine months of pregnancy were beginning to take their toll on her body. She used to be able to shop all day long, but now she found she needed to rest a lot more often.
'Less than three weeks and it'll be over, though,' she thought to herself. That idea brought a smile to her lips and she rubbed her stomach affectionately.
Karen spotted a park across the street and walked towards it. The park was quiet this time of the evening and there was an empty park bench in sight. Just what she was looking for.
A mysterious figure checked the streets to see if anyone was watching. Abductions were risky and he had to be sure to get the woman alone. He'd had his eye on her since he first saw her. A perfect candidate. Not too strong looking … definitely pregnant. Just what the boss wanted.
The weekend was winding down. Most people were either already home or in a hurry to get there, so it was also the perfect time to strike. The park looked deserted.
The man approached the woman with a false casualness so as not to make her nervous. He liked as little fuss as possible. As he neared her, he removed his gun from where it was concealed in his jacket.
The woman's eyes grew large with fear. He grabbed her arm and beckoned her to move. She did so, completely unable to take her eyes off of the gun.
He guided her to the nondescript van that was parked nearby and pushed her through the back door, locking it securely. He then went around to the front, got in the driver's side, and drove off. The boss would be very happy with him; this was the fourth woman this week.
In the back of the van, Karen Martin sobbed.
Roll Opening Credits
"So, Penny, tell me how things are between you and Jimmy?" Lois asked over lunch.
Lois, Penny and Alice White were having a friendly lunch at the Met Mall. Taking a break in the workday to go shopping was not something that Lois normally did, but ever since Alice had learned that Lois was pregnant, she'd been suggesting that they get together.
As the mother of two boys, both of whom were still single, Alice claimed she had always dreamed of taking a daughter shopping for maternity clothes. Lois was touched when Alice told her Lois was the closest thing to a daughter the older woman had, and thus had agreed to Alice's request. It had taken a few weeks to clear their schedules, but the two women had finally set aside a day for lunch and shopping.
Jimmy's girlfriend, Penny, had been in the newsroom as they were leaving, and they couldn't help but notice how disappointed she looked as Jimmy explained that he had too much work to do to go to lunch with her that day. So, feeling in good spirits and a generous mood, Lois and Alice invited her to join them.
The trio had visited Lois's favorite maternity store (the one that catered to professional woman, without a frilly outfit in sight) and quickly picked out a shirt that Lois would be able to wear to work. After thanking Alice profusely — and pointing out the dress that she had bought that weekend — Lois suggested one of the many cafes in the Met Mall for some lunch, girl talk, and people watching.
"Oh, we're doing really great, Lois," Penny responded enthusiastically. "Jimmy may not be THE Superman, but he's definitely one in his own special way."
Lois smiled at the young woman. Although Penny had struck her as more than a little flaky when they'd first met, Lois had to admit that she and Jimmy were perfect for each other. And Penny herself seemed to grow up quite a bit once she gave up her Superman fantasy. Lois tried not to dwell on the irony and familiarity of that observation.
"I'm really happy for the two of you. Jimmy is happier than I've ever seen him. You must be a good influence on him," Lois teased.
Penny smiled. "Actually, Lois, Jimmy keeps saying how much he has learned from you and Clark. You have the most wonderful relationship. You seem so happy." She paused and her smile grew more dreamy. "Honestly, though, I think there could be a real future for Jimmy and me. Jimmy has made plans for us to spend the weekend in a cottage at the New Troy Lake in front of a roaring fire. I'm really looking forward to it!"
Alice laughed and joined in the conversation. "This is so nice. When I was your age, my girlfriends and I would talk about how our men didn't understand us. How wonderful to have three happy women at one table."
Lois turned to her, pleased. "So, things are going well for you and Perry?"
Alice nodded with a happy smile.
"That's wonderful," Lois responded sincerely. "It's so nice to hear of couples getting back together after a divorce. First my parents, now you and Perry. I'm really pulling for you."
"Well, we're not rushing anything," Alice responded. "I've been letting him wine and dine me, which I've been enjoying *too much* to give it up just yet." The three women all laughed. "But yes, we are getting along better than we have in years. I can't believe how much I look forward to spending time with him, even if it's just going to a movie and grabbing dinner afterwards."
The women continued chattering as they enjoyed their food.
Walter Smith was notorious for the long hours he worked in the pursuit of science.
He had scarcely left his laboratory to eat or sleep in the last few weeks, so absorbed was he in his experiment. He had been making sacrifices for years in the pursuit of his employer's goals, but finally, it seemed like all of his long hours were about to pay off.
It was brilliant, really. And so simple, once he realized what he was looking for. Not simple to most of the cretins he worked with, of course … but to a man of his obvious intelligence and ambition … yes. Simple … but very valuable to a great many people.
While the medical community would welcome his formula and his name would no doubt be submitted for all sorts of scientific awards, this was not the type of recognition Walter Smith was looking for. No, there were many people in the world that would pay very handsomely for his formula.
After years of dead-ends and failed experiments, he had finally perfected a formula that would trigger neuro-transmitters in the brain. What's more, the synthetic mix was relatively harmless and hard to trace in the body — and there were no nasty side effects from the drug, unlike some of his earlier attempts.
No, with this formula, the patients (or victims, depending on who was using the drug on whom) would be unaware of the changes in their brain chemistry, but their moods and actions would be altered considerably. In effect, whoever possessed this formula would be able to alter people's thoughts and actions.
Of course, it wasn't perfected yet, but it was only a matter of time. Smith had already determined how to reach half of the population. He was sure it wouldn't take long to figure out how to manipulate the other half.
Unfortunately, he still hadn't been able to direct the mood changes of the test subjects. The general reactions were as predicted — subjects having an opposite reaction to a stimuli than they normally would — but there was still work to be done on fine-tuning the response. But once these minor details were worked out, he and his boss could sell the formula and retire rich and prestigious men. Walter Smith would finally be rewarded for his loyalty and dedication!
'Just think of it!' Smith gloated to himself. 'Senators voting for projects they had earlier rejected, business owners who refuse to pay protection money could be easily persuaded to change their minds. The possibilities are endless!'
In all his musing, Smith lost his train of thought for a moment. As he poured into his beaker what he thought was a diluted solution of hydrochloric acid, the contents of the now volatile cocktail started to bubble.
As his laboratory at Trycos Enterprises exploded around him, Walter Smith quite literally never knew what hit him.
At the Met Mall, a teenage girl stopped to turn up the volume of her radio to listen more closely to the news report that had just come on the air. Lois, Penny and Alice, seated at a nearby table, turned their attention to the radio.
<< As we've just been reporting, there has been an explosion on Metropolis's northwest side. Our reports indicate that the site of the explosion was Trycos Enterprises, the largest pharmaceutical company in the state. We have yet to hear about casualties, but the fire is raging in one corner of the building. Fire fighters have been trying to prevent the blaze from spreading, but seem to be having great difficulty containing it. Reinforcements have been called in from several other locations.>>
"Wow," interjected Penny. "I think that's only a mile or two from here."
<< Ladies and gentlemen, this just in … Superman is now at the scene. He has helped to carry out some people injured by the explosion. Let's go live to Mark Rogers, on the scene. Mark?>>
<<Thanks, Ken. Yes, Superman has carried out several bodies from the fire and paramedics are working on them now. Superman's next task seems to be trying to control the blaze. This is a very hot fire, Ken, and it's giving the firefighters a lot of trouble. Wait a minute, Superman has left the scene. According to the fire chief, his super breath would have spread the fire before stopping it, so Superman has rocketed into the clouds with some type of plan. What that plan might be, I have no idea.>>
The news anchor at the station began to ask a question of his reporter, but was quickly interrupted as the second man began to speak excitedly.
<<Ladies and gentlemen, we've just learned what Superman's plan is. Apparently he's directed numerous storm clouds over the burning wing of Trycos. It's beginning to rain here, folks. And it's coming down in buckets. It seems to be working. The heavy rain is helping to put out the fire. Superman has done it again! >>
As the two men began discussing the situation further, the girl who had been listening to the radio smiled and went on her way.
Lois began to gather up her things. "Well, girls, I think that's my cue to get back to work."
The other ladies agreed and they all stood up after paying the check. As they walked through the mall to the exit, they excitedly discussed the fire and the Man of Steel.
"Well, that was typical Superman. I'm so glad that we have him," Alice stated happily.
"Yes, we are really lucky." Lois agreed, smiling.
"So, Lois," Penny pried with a grin. "Does Clark ever get jealous of you and Superman? You know, the flying and stuff."
Lois just smiled. "No. Clark used to be a little jealous, I think, a long time ago, before we were dating. But not anymore. The three of us are all friends, and there's no reason to stop being friends just because Clark and I are married. Clark knows how much I love him."
"It's great to hear how happy you are with each other, Lois. There was a time when Perry and I thought you two would never get together. Now here you are married and having a baby." Alice smiled proudly.
The ladies reached the exit and groaned as they realized it was still pouring outside.
"Typical. Pouring and not a taxi or umbrella in sight," Lois grumbled.
They hurried out into the rain, walking quickly and trying to hold their coats over the heads to avoid getting completely soaked.
Clark, Jimmy and Perry stood at Clark's desk, discussing Superman's latest appearance. Clark had covered the story for the Daily Planet and had just turned in his story to Perry.
Perry turned an eye to the window, where the heavy rain continued to beat down against it. "Well," he drawled, "this city has a lot to be thankful for in Superman … but I'm sure there are some people who won't appreciate this weather. Superman brought so many clouds with him that it will be raining in Metropolis all day!"
Just then the elevator opened and out stepped three familiar faces, all drenched to the skin and looking very unhappy.
"Uh oh," Clark said, cringing a bit when he realized he was partly responsible for this.
The three men hurried to meet the women on the landing.
"What in the name of Elvis happened to you?" Perry asked.
"There were no cabs so we had to come back in the downpour," Alice answered, her teeth chattering a little.
"Aw, darlin'," Perry drawled sympathetically, running his hands up and down her arms to warm her.
Clark spoke softly to Lois. "Are you OK?" He gave her an guilty smile. "Sorry 'bout the rain."
She sighed, exasperated with the weather, but not angry with him. "Yes, I'm fine. Don't worry; I know it was for a good cause." They shared a secret smile as Clark helped Lois out of her coat.
Jimmy reached his girlfriend just as she sneezed loudly. "Penny! You're completely drenched! Let me try to find you some towels, then we'll get youhome. I bet a hotbath and some hot cocoa will make you feel better." He and Pen ny looked deeply into each other's eyes and smiled.
Almost immediately, Jimmy noticed the five pairs of eyes resting on him and laughed self-consciously.
"Penny, you're right. He *is* learning." Lois smiled and nudged Penny playfully.
"Just wait a minute, Casanova," Perry interrupted quickly. "Aren't you forgetting you have a job to do?" Perry regarded Jimmy's downcast expression but continued nonetheless. "I suggest you get towels for these poor women, get a taxi for Alice and Penny, then get back to work. This is the Daily Planet, not a honeymoon vacation in the Poconos!"
Penny looked at Jimmy, a flicker of a smile on her face. "Later," she said with a suggestive wink.
Jimmy smiled broadly and rushed off to the locker room to find some towels.
Later that afternoon, Lois and Clark were staring intently at Lois's computer screen when Jimmy ran up.
"Hey, you guys! I got some information on that possible abduction story you are working on," Jimmy stated excitedly.
"Well, spill it," Lois said, looking up with a smile.
Jimmy caught his breath, then continued. "There are now three people missing, the last one taken sometime yesterday evening. All of them are women. All of them were in their late twenties or early thirties. All of them were downtown the last time they were seen. And get this … " Jimmy paused dramatically. "All of them were pregnant."
Lois leaned forward. "What?? That wasn't in the initial police briefing."
Jimmy nodded. "I know; they just released it. Maybe they were worried about causing a panic or something, but now they're worried they have a serial kidnapper on their hands … or worse."
Lois sat back, a little pale. Clark looked very concerned.
Jimmy swallowed nervously as he looked at Lois's stomach and realized how close to home this information must be hitting. "Um, the latest victim's husband called a little while ago. He's really worried. He's convinced his wife was taken and didn't just leave on her own. Anyway, here's the number. He said he's already talked to the police, but would feel better if he knew you two were investigating, also. I told him you would call."
Clark took the slip of paper with the phone number. "Thanks, Jimmy. We'll do that." He looked determined.
"Good work, Jimmy," Lois called after the young man as he walked away.
Lois looked at her husband for a moment. "Well, partner," she said. "Looks like we have some work to do."
Lois and Clark ate their dinner that evening in companionable silence, each lost in their own thoughts. After helping to clean up the kitchen, Lois rubbed a hand through her hair.
"Well, I'm going to take a shower. I feel really gross after getting caught in that rain."
Clark smiled. "I really am sorry, honey. I certainly didn't mean to drench the city."
"Yeah, I know," Lois said with a dismissive wave of her hand.
"So, what did you buy today? I saw some bags from the Mall, but you never told me what was in them. Did Alice buy you something?"
"Oh, just a shirt."
Clark cocked his head. "So, you going to model it for me?" He rubbed a hand across one of her shoulders. "Or maybe you'd prefer a full body massage to relax you before bed?" he said with a playful, yet suggestive grin.
Lois barely cracked a smile. "It's no big deal," she shrugged. "Anyway, I'm going to take that shower." With that she turned and made her way upstairs.
When Clark came into the bedroom a half an hour later, Lois was already in bed, reading a paperback novel that had been sitting untouched on the night stand for weeks.
Clark changed into his sleep shorts.
"What are you doing?" Lois asked, frowning a bit.
"Getting ready for bed."
"Already? It's still early."
"Yeah, I thought I would grab a few magazines that I never seem to find the time to read and join you."
"But what about Superman?"
"The world can do without me for one night. I'll only go out if there is a disaster."
"Oh … OK."
Lois reopened her book, ignoring him as he climbed into bed next to her. After a few moments, however, she closed it and put it aside.
"I'm going to sleep, Clark. Good night." She turned out her light, then rolled to her side, her back to her husband
"Oh, OK, honey." Clark put his magazine on the side table and switched off his own light. He snuggled into Lois's back, spooning himself around her.
Lois lifted her head.
"Clark, there's absolutely no need for you to go to sleep now. You can keep reading; your light won't bother me."
"Oh … I know. I just thought, you know, that we should take advantage of a quiet night to spend some time together. Besides, I like holding you while you sleep." He lay a hand over her stomach. "Both of you," he said affectionately.
Lois sighed loudly and squirmed under his touch. "Please, Clark. I'm tired. Not tonight, okay?"
"OK, if you say so," Clark said, taken aback, but trying to hide his disappointment. He kissed her shoulder. "G'night, honey."
Clark rolled over and switched on his light. He listened to her rhythmic breathing for a moment, then pulled a magazine off his stack and started reading.
Carter Reese stood in an office on the top floor of Trycos, color reddening in his face as he stared out the window into the night sky. He began to shake in a fit of rage.
The police had been poking around all afternoon, asking probing questions as to what Walter Smith had been working on in the now demolished Lab 109.
Fortunately, Reese had had the forethought to plant false reprimand letters in Smith's file, just in case something like this were to happen. He had put on his most tortured face and told the authorities how Smith had been caught doing unauthorized experiments in the company lab, and how he had been disciplined and told to cease immediately. Reese could only hope that the police had bought his plea of ignorance and they would let it go at that. Nonetheless, the police and several environmental and research groups were all closely monitoring Trycos.
"Damn!" he hissed as he turned and slammed his fist into his desk. They were so close … they couldn't stop now.
It wasn't enough for Carter Reese to own and run the largest pharmaceutical company in Metropolis. He wanted more. Much more. No, he wouldn't allow the project to stall.
Reese picked up the phone and dialed a number that would scramble the phone lines and ensure that his calls could not be traced. Verifying that the line was secure, Reese called a second number. It rang three times before being answered.
"Is everything ready?" Reese asked.
"Yes. We have three test cases."
"Fine, let me know when you have the results."
Reese hung up the phone and smiled. Smith's death would be remembered as a minor hiccup. Things were going to continue as planned.
Clark was preparing breakfast when he heard Lois curse angrily upstairs, then burst into tears. In a flash, he was up the stairs and into the bedroom.
"Lois? My God, what happened?" he rushed to where she was sitting on the edge of the bed.
Lois looked up to him through tear-filled eyes, closing her bathrobe firmly around the waist.
"Clark, it doesn't fit anymore!"
"What? What doesn't fit anymore?" he asked quickly. "God, Lois, don't do that to me! You scared me to death!" He sat down next to her trying to calm her down.
"My biggest sweater. You know, the brown one? It doesn't fit anymore … and that's huge! It looks horrible on me!"
Clark rolled his eyes a little, relaxing as he realized what this was all about. "Well, it will fit again in the fall," he said reasonably. "If you really need a sweater this spring, you can wear one of mine." Clark put an arm around her shoulders and hugged her. "See, you should be happy; I'm giving you permission to steal my clothes," he said with a little grin, trying to lighten her dark mood.
"Clark! This isn't funny. I look fat. And I don't have anything to wear!"
"What are you talking about? You don't look fat, you look pregnant! Honey, all last month, you were telling me you wished you were showing more. Now you are and you look fantastic!" He indicated her closet. "And look at all the maternity clothes you've bought. You've got lots to wear."
Lois shook loose from Clark's embrace. She stood up, facing him in a fury. Obviously, instead of making her feel better, he had only succeeded in upsetting her more. "I hate the way I look! I'm fat and people will stare and think—"
"Think what??" he exclaimed in exasperation, then stopped himself. Patience — that's what was needed now — a lot of patience. This was the mood swing to end all mood swings, but it would pass. When Clark spoke again, his voice was calmer. "Sweetie, they will think you are pregnant and that you're beautiful."
"Oh, please, Clark; get real!" she responded, not letting herself be appeased. "I'm turning into a whale; a fat and ugly whale — not even a cute whale! And if you can't see that, maybe you really do need glasses." She glared at him for a moment. "Now, get out of here; I need to get dressed."
Clark's eyebrows shot up. "Since when do I have to leave when—" He threw his hands up and stood. "Fine, whatever. Get dressed."
"Thank you," she snapped in return.
Clark turned and headed for the door. Before leaving the room, he took a deep breath and offered a truce, as calmly as he could manage. "Breakfast is almost done. Come down when you're ready."
Lois and Clark walked down the sidewalk in uncomfortable silence towards the small cafe where they had agreed to meet Adam Martin, the last abduction victim's husband.
As they entered the cafe, a tall man with blonde hair stood up and walked towards them. He had a handsome face, though at the moment, it was tarnished by his somber mood.
They exchanged introductions quickly, ordered coffee from the waiter, then got down to business.
"Why was your wife in the city?" Clark asked Adam, getting the interview on track.
"She was doing some shopping, mostly baby stuff. Karen was a bit paranoid that we wouldn't be ready for the baby when it came, what with it being our first and all." He looked at Lois and then Clark. "I guess you know how that is." He smiled sadly. "We were looking forward to our new arrival so much. Now everything's a mess. Karen is due in three weeks; I'm going out of my mind with worry."
"Mr. Martin, don't you think it's possible that your wife just decided to spend some time alone? Maybe you had a fight recently?"
Adam shook his head emphatically. "No, absolutely not, Ms. Lane. Karen and I have a great marriage. Sure, we had our arguments, but we've been getting along great lately. We were very happy."
Lois changed tactics. "Do you know where Karen was going, what stores she wanted to visit? Does she use a credit card?" she asked. "Maybe we could trace her purchases."
"Karen was babbling about baby stores but I can't remember the names. I wasn't really paying much attention," he trailed off in a small voice. "How I wish now that I could go back and listen." He fought back his building emotions and continued. "She might have used a credit card, but she asked for some cash in the morning. I guess it depends how much she decided to spend."
"So, what you're telling me is that you have no idea where Karen was during the day and have no indication of where she could have disappeared from," Lois remarked sarcastically.
Clark shot Lois an angry look as the devastated Mr. Martin hung his head and shook it 'no'. Clark was amazed she was being so insensitive. When Lois simply looked away, ignoring Clark's silent message, Clark turned back towards Adam.
"Mr. Martin," Clark said gently. "We're very sorry for everything that's happened, and we will do everything we can to help. If the police haven't already done so, can you contact your credit card company for a list of recent purchases? If the card has been used, we might get some idea of where Karen is, or at least figure out what part of town she was shopping in."
The man looked up at Clark gratefully, and agreed. "I'll do whatever I can. I just want her back. I love her and our child very much."
After several more minutes of gathering information, the three stood up to leave.
As they started for the door, however, Lois spoke up again. "What did Karen look like? Do you have a picture we could take?"
Adam Martin reached into his coat pocket. "Yes, I brought one with me. This was taken before she was pregnant, but as you can see, she's slim, brown hair, brown eyes." Adam looked at Lois thoughtfully. "Actually, she looks quite a bit like you, Ms. Lane."
"No way, Lois, I absolutely forbid it." Perry's voice could be heard through the shut door, superhearing or no superhearing.
"This is unfair," Lois said angrily. "If I weren't pregnant, you would be pushing me out the door, not trying to hold me back," she accused. "Just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean you can coddle me! I'm not going to sit back and let good stories pass me by, Perry!"
"Lois, I said no," Perry insisted. "It's too dangerous. I want you *reporting* news for the next few months, not in the midst of the action."
Perry looked across his office at a defiant Lois Lane and could feel his blood pressure rising. Lois had her hands on her hips and a hard set to her jaw. Even the protrusion of her stomach didn't stop her from looking strong and absolutely determined to get her way. But he knew how dangerous Lois's suggestion was, and he remained adamant that she would not win this argument.
Unfortunately, tearing a story away from Lois Lane could be like wrestling a bone away from a pitbull. It was time to call in the big guns.
"Clark, get in here!!" Perry shouted.
Clark pulled Lois into the conference room and locked the door. "What is the matter with you??" he demanded.
"Oh, like you're one to talk," Lois retorted. "You said that you'd back me up if Perry tried to pull me off of stories, and now you're taking his side, you back-stabber!"
"Lois, that was if Perry tried to put you on dog shows or city council meetings. This is different. This is completely insane! How can you even suggest using yourself as bait?"
"This is a perfectly logical plan to catch a kidnapper."
"Logical? Logical?? Lois, you haven't even thought about back up or what you would do if you did get taken. This is not the sort of plan you normally come up with. It's like you aren't thinking straight!"
Lois narrowed her eyes and tried to shove past him to get to the door. "Get out of my way; this conversation is over!" she shouted.
Clark grabbed her arm firmly. "You are not leaving here until we settle this. Lois, you promised you wouldn't put yourself in danger. And there is no way I'm letting you go out there and risk either your life or the life of this baby."
"This is *my* body, Clark. Women have rights in this country."
"And that is our child, Lois. And I'll be damned if I'll let you put it in danger."
They stood glaring at each other, neither backing down. Clark couldn't remember the last time he'd been so angry with her, but amazingly, he knew Lois was angrier. What he couldn't figure out was why she was acting like this. It was as if she was deliberately provoking him.
"Can I have my arm back, Mr. Brute Strength?" Lois finally asked sarcastically, jerking in his tight grip. "Or are you trying to bruise me?"
Clark released her. "I'm sorry," he said, trying to regain his composure. "Did I hurt you?"
Still angry, she just turned her back on him. Clark tried again, more gently this time. "Lois, what's going on with you? With us? It's like you've been a different person today."
"I don't know what you're talking about," she sniffed.
"It's like—" Clark fumbled for the right words. "Like you hate everything all of a sudden. Like you hate *me*. Why are you so angry? Did something happen? Did I do something to upset you?"
Lois turned on him, a scowl on her face. When she spoke, her voice was full of venom. "What you've done is undermine my story. I won't forget that, Clark Kent!"
Clark stared at her for a long moment. She hadn't spoken to him like this since they'd first met — and even then she hadn't sounded so hateful.
Clark held the door closed as Lois tried to storm past him again. "I don't know what's going on here," he said quietly. "But you are *not* going undercover for this story. And that's final."
With that, he removed his hand from the door and allowed her to leave.
Several moments later, when Clark exited the room himself, he could feel the eyes of the newsroom on him. Everyone's eyes except for Lois's, that is. She wouldn't even look at him.
Jimmy walked up to the coffee machine and poured himself a cup.
"Hey, CK. You look like I feel."
"Hi, Jimmy." Clark looked across the newsroom to the conference room, where Lois had set up her laptop and her notes behind a locked door to work alone. "Man, am I having a bad day. Lois has freaked out on me."
"Tell me about it. You know, Penny and I were supposed to go to New Troy Lake for the weekend. Then this morning, she calls me and tells me that she doesn't want to go. Clark, we planned this three weeks ago!"
"So both Lois and Penny … what's this? An epidemic?"
The men walked glumly from the coffee area and sat down at Clark's desk.
"You know what? This reminds me of the whole pheromone thing four years ago. Only in reverse. Maybe we should ask Alice if they smelled some perfume at the mall," Jimmy joked darkly.
Clark looked up, thoughtful. "You know, come to think of it, Lois first started acting a little odd last night, after the mall. I didn't think too much of it at the time; I just figured she was tired and wanted to be alone. But now I wonder if maybe there's a connection."
"Yeah, the same thing with Penny. I went to see her after work, like we planned, but she just told me to go home. Wouldn't even let me in the door. And after I was so nice to her when she got wet and everything," Jimmy stated dejectedly.
Suddenly, the two men looked up and stared at each other. "Chief!!" they shouted in unison.
"Judas Priest! What's wrong?" Perry stepped out of his office and approached them.
"Perry, how's Alice?" Clark asked.
Perry looked suspicious. "Why do you ask?"
Jimmy jumped in. "Lois and Penny have both been acting really moody lately, and it seemed to start last night after they got back from the mall. We were thinking if something was wrong with Alice, too, then maybe there was some connection.
"Well, now that you mention it, Alice did cancel our date last night. We were talking about going to a movie but suddenly she changed her mind. Said she had to stay home and … wash her hair! Leaves me home listening to Elvis songs," Perry huffed.
"YEAH! Then it's Alice, too. Great!"
Clark and Perry frowned at Jimmy.
"Um, I mean … that's really sad … terrible … "
Perry turned his attention back to Clark. "So, you think something happened to make them act this way? Sure it's not just a coincidence? I mean, I was married for a long time, son. People get in their moods and sometimes you just need to steer clear and let it blow over."
"Perry, you saw Lois today. Something is not right here. I've never seen her like this. She's been in a terrible mood all day, and it just seems to be getting worse."
Perry looked over towards the conference room. "Well, you're right there. Lois … is not being Lois, is she?"
"No, and I've got to figure out why."
"So, what do we do now, CK?"
"Well, Jimmy, first we need to find out if it's just the three of them, or if other people have been affected, too."
Clark looked around the newsroom for another female colleague. He stood up quickly and walked across the room.
"Sheila? May I ask you a rather personal question?" Clark broached the woman hesitantly.
"Sure, Clark, what's up? You're looking pretty unhappy; you still upset about that little scene with Lois?"
"Ah … well, kind of. If I may ask … is everything OK between you and Henry? Have you guys been fighting more than usual or anything?"
The woman gave him an odd look. "No … why do you ask?"
"No canceled plans, no particularly bad moods?"
Sheila shook her head. "No, nothing like that. We've been getting along fine. Actually, we're going to visit Henry's parents this week. And boy, do I need the long weekend. I've been swamped here. I haven't taken a lunch hour in two weeks. Well, except for yesterday. I had to go to the Met Mall to buy an anniversary present for his parents. Luckily, I caught a cab back before that rain started. I would have been drenched otherwise."
Seeing Clark's contemplative look, she continued. "I'm sorry, why did you want to know?"
"Oh, it's just … " Clark waved his hand. "Never mind. Thanks, you've been a big help."
Sheila looked puzzled as Clark walked away, then shrugged and got back to work.
"OK, so it's Penny, Lois, and Alice … but not Sheila," Jimmy stated after Clark had filled him in. "What do they have in common and what separates them from Sheila? That's the $64,000 question."
The two men spread their notes out over Clark's desk.
"Maybe it's the rain," Clark offered. "All four went to the Met Mall, but nothing happened to Sheila. She made it back before the rain."
"Yeah, but it rains all the time. Why would getting caught in the rain make them act this way? What was special about this rain?"
"Well … Superman put out the fire at the research wing of Trycos using the rain. He brought in some heavy clouds, then it rained the rest of the day." Clark sat up a little straighter, his mind grabbing hold of something.
"Do you think it has something to do with the fire?" Jimmy asked.
"I don't know. But I'm suddenly very interested in what they were doing research on over there. Maybe the explosion released some kind of drug into the atmosphere and the rain brought it down to the ground.
"An anti-love drug?" Jimmy looked doubtful.
Clark just shrugged. "I don't know, Jimmy. But I do know I want to find out everything we can about Trycos Enterprises. Want to pay a visit over there with me?"
"Sure! But I don't think we'll have much luck. Three other Planet reporters were over there this morning with no luck. Couldn't even get past the front door. Trycos is sticking to their statement and isn't granting interviews." Jimmy picked up a piece of paper and read aloud. "'Trycos Enterprise maintains that there was no danger to the citizens of Metropolis at any point in time, during or after the fire.'"
"I don't buy that," Clark said, his mind racing. "Jimmy, do you think you could hack into Trycos's computer system? I want to know what caused that explosion and exactly what, if anything, might have been released into the atmosphere."
Jimmy shrugged. "Sure, CK; I can try. I'll let you know the minute I find anything."
The newsroom was emptying out when Jimmy returned to Clark's desk. "Hey, CK?"
Clark looked up. "Any luck?"
Jimmy looked glum as he slumped into Clark's guest chair. "No, I can't get in. Every time I try, they automatically send a defense program, so I end up in the directory listings of Fairbanks, Alaska. No matter what I try, the program is always a step ahead of me. Man, whoever built up computer security at Trycos must be a genius."
Clark sighed and sat back to think. He looked through the window to Lois, still in the conference room. His jaw set with determination. "Well, then we'll have to do this the old-fashioned way. Break in."
Jimmy raised an eyebrow. "Wow, Lois must be rubbing off on you. That's the sort of thing I'd expect her to say." The young man couldn't suppress a little grin.
Clark smiled back, a little more darkly. "Well, if Lois isn't going to be herself, I guess I have to take over for her." He sighed and shook himself out of his brooding mood. "Jimmy, you think you can get information on Trycos's security system? I'm going to need as much information as you can get me. Floor plans, everything. I need to get my hands on an inside computer terminal. Let's hope that they don't pay nearly as much attention to outside security as they do to computer security."
Jimmy looked at Clark for a moment, then spoke quietly. "You're going to need someone with computer experience to go with you."
Their eyes met.
"Are you offering?" Clark responded.
"Just try and stop me."
"OK, then. I'll let you get to work, and I'll do a little reconnaissance work of my own. We'll meet back here at midnight and go from there. Dress appropriately and be ready for a little hacking."
Jimmy stood to leave, but turned back to Clark after a glance towards their editor's office.
"Um, Clark?" he asked quietly. "Are we going to let Perry know what's going on?"
Clark shook his head. "No, the less he knows, the better. We don't want to implicate him in anything."
Jimmy just smiled and nodded. "See you at midnight."
At 6:30 pm, Lois exited the conference room and silently packed up her desk.
Clark watched her carefully, searching for any signs that she was feeling better, but found none. He waited until she put on her coat before he addressed her.
"You're going home?" he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.
"Yes, I am." She sounded tired more than angry, but there was still little sign of the Lois that loved him.
"I'll meet you there later; I have some more work to do."
She just shrugged and walked up the ramp. "Whatever."
Clark sighed heavily as Lois entered the elevator and left the newsroom. He waited a few moments before grabbing some items from his desk drawers, shutting off his computer, and heading for the staircase.
From the roof of the Daily Planet Building, Clark launched himself into the air, a red and blue blur. After watching from the sky to ensure that Lois got home OK (and didn't take any detours to investigate the kidnapping story), he turned and headed towards another part of the city.
Under the cover of darkness, no one noticed Superman hovering high above Trycos Enterprises, a note pad and pencil in his hand, and a stopwatch around his neck.
By the time Clark returned home that evening, Lois was at the dining room table, eating some ice cream and reading a magazine. Or at least, it looked like she had tried to eat some ice cream. Instead, there was a bowl of chocolate mush pushed to the center of the table, ignored and melted.
Clark shook his head as he passed through the room towards the kitchen. He decided something must really be wrong if Lois was now harboring a distaste for chocolate ice cream. He made himself a sandwich and returned to the dining room, where he pulled up the chair across from his wife.
As soon as he sat down, however, Lois closed her magazine and began to leave the room.
"Lois, wait," Clark said. "We need to talk."
"I have nothing to say to you, Clark," she responded.
"Lois, do you realize how strangely you are acting? Have you noticed it? Or do things just seem the same to you?"
Lois hesitated, then turned to face him, her arms crossed in front of her chest. Her body language told him she was closed off, but at least she was still in the room.
For a moment, Clark thought he saw a flicker of the old Lois cross her face, but as soon as it was there, it was gone, leaving her to rub her temples wearily.
"I don't know what you're talking about, Clark."
Clark took a deep breath. He needed to reach her, somehow.
"Lois, I think you may have been exposed to some sort of chemical — some sort of drug. I'm guessing it was released into the atmosphere during the explosion at Trycos and got incorporated into the rain somehow. I think anyone who got caught in that rain got exposed to the drug."
When she just stared at him, incredulous, Clark continued.
"Don't you see, honey?" Clark stopped when he saw her visibly cringe at his endearment and paused for a moment, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach. When he spoke again, his voice was more carefully measured. "Your bad mood started last night. And Penny and Alice have been acting the same way. Whatever this drug is, it seems to affect you in some … *weird* way that makes you turn on your husbands and boyfriends."
Clark watched Lois carefully, to see if his words were sinking in. She was no longer looking at him, but was instead staring at the ground. It was hard to tell if she was ignoring him … or thinking hard.
He tried direct questions instead.
"Lois, did Penny mention anything to you about her and Jimmy going away for the weekend?"
"Yes … " she answered slowly. "She said they were going and she was looking forward to it."
Clark perked up. "Yet this morning, she told Jimmy she didn't want to go. She wouldn't even let him inside her apartment last night. And Alice canceled her date with Perry, too."
Lois looked concerned, like she was searching her mind for something, but couldn't quite find it.
"Lois, don't you see? You're not being yourself today. Things that you used to like … to *love* … " Clark's voice cracked a bit, but he forced it into line, "now upset you. Lois, what are you feeling? You have to tell me what's going on inside of you so we can stop this thing." Even Clark's best efforts to control himself couldn't keep the edge of desperation from his voice.
Lois just shook her head, as if she was fighting something distasteful, getting upset once more. "I don't know, Clark; I just don't know. It's like … I feel like things aren't right, but every time I try to talk to you, or even … *look* at you … my mind just—" She rubbed her temples again, sounding almost distraught.
Clark stood up and approached her. It killed him to see her like this, knowing that she was in emotional pain, but not knowing how to help. "Honey, it's not your fault … I know you love me, and I love you, too — so very much," he said tenderly. Unable to stop himself, he pulled her into his arms. "I love you, Lois. And together we can beat this thing. I just know we can! You just need to hold on a little longer, honey, to fight this … whatever it is."
Lois had gone almost still in his arms, trembling at his touch. But as he continued to talk, she couldn't take it anymore. She bolted away, almost in a panic. "Stop! I can't!" she yelled. "I'm sorry, Clark … but I can't be here anymore." With that, she burst into angry tears and ran up the stairs.
Clark stood alone in their dining room, his arms still tingling from where he had held her. Her rejection hurt terribly, but it only strengthened his resolve to do whatever it took to help her. She was hurting, too; that much was clear now. And whatever was doing this to her, she needed his help to fight it.
Clark and Jimmy stood in front of the fence that separated them from Trycos.
They had come on foot. Because of the explosion, there were extra security guards patrolling around the perimeter of the grounds. Parking a vehicle was not only risky, it would undoubtedly draw unwanted attention. Walking seemed their best option.
"We're really going to do this, aren't we?" Jimmy asked, a bundle of excitement and nerves.
"If you want to go back, Jimmy, I'll understand." Clark did need the young man's computer expertise, but he would risk going it alone if it meant forcing his friend to do something he didn't want to do.
"No, I'm in. This just seems … " Jimmy trailed off, looking at the vast complex before them. " … bigger, somehow."
Clark looked at the young man next to him. He could hear Jimmy's heart pounding as the adrenaline rushed into his system. Clark put a hand on Jimmy's shoulder. "I have to do this, Jimmy. I can't just sit by and let this … *thing* … take my wife from me. She's hurting, Jim. I can see it in her eyes. And I can't let that happen without doing everything in my power to help her."
Jimmy squared his jaw. "Then what are we waiting for? Let's do it."
The two climbed the fence and dropped to the other side. Clark looked at his watch. 1:27 am. "We have five minutes to get into the building before the guard patrols this way again."
Jimmy nodded, and the two men sprinted across the lawn to a little side entrance. They reached it unnoticed by anyone.
"Once I've bridged the contacts, you have one minute to get this door open. Will you be able to manage, CK?"
"Yes. Start. We've got one minute and 48 seconds left."
Jimmy concentrated on the little box beside the door, opened it and fumbled with a few wires.
"Ready. One minute, five seconds left. Your turn."
Just as Clark had watched fascinated when Jimmy tricked the alarm, Jimmy observed Clark expertly opening the lock and prying the doors open. They entered the building next to the elevators, across the stairwell door. Far ahead, they could see the reception desk and hear two guards talking.
"Remember," Jimmy whispered. "We have 20 minutes before the system checks itself and finds I tricked it. We have to be out again by then. By the way, where'd you learn to pick a lock like that?"
Clark grinned. "There are a lot of advantages to being married to Lois Lane."
They sneaked to the stairwell and slipped into it.
Just as Jimmy was about to open the door, Clark held up his hand. With an ear to the door, he indicated for Jimmy to remain silent. Sure enough, soon Jimmy could hear the sound of approaching footsteps. When they had passed, Clark whispered instructions.
"There are two cameras. When the one to the left is furthest away from us … move. We won't have long to get down the hall."
On Clark's signal, they ducked out of the door and darted along the corridor.
At the corner, Clark stopped them once again. Looking through the wall to check the camera's position, Clark timed their approach. When the camera swung towards them, they were already under it, out of view.
They continued on in this fashion, Clark's study of the camera's movements from this evening allowing them to remain undetected. As they were just about to turn the final corner, however, Clark spotted a guard bending over a drinking fountain, right next to the computer room they were targeting.
Clark's eyes darted back at the security camera in their corridor. It was on its way back. They were trapped.
Jimmy froze, looking up and following the camera as if his life depended on it. Clark looked around the corner once more. That blasted guard was still thirsty, but luckily he had his back to them.
For a split second, Clark debated jumping the guard and sending him into dreamland. Although he had no desire to leave any evidence they'd been there, time was running out. Girding himself for the unavoidable, Clark prepared to tackle the man only to find him suddenly straightening, turning away as he leisurely strolled around the corner.
In a flash, Clark and Jimmy were around the corner and at the office door. A few seconds longer and hell would have broken loose.
"Whoa! That was way too close!" Jimmy released a loud breath, as he steadied himself against the wall, his eyes closed.
"You can say that again," Clark whispered back. "No, on the other hand … maybe you'd better not. At least not until we're in."
Clark punched in the code Superman had observed a guard using earlier that evening. The lock opened with a low sound. With a sigh of relief, Clark gripped Jimmy by the collar and pulled him into the office, closing the door silently behind them.
"How much time left?"
Jimmy checked his watch. "14 minutes."
"With six minutes to get back, that gives you eight minutes to access the computer and download the files."
"No pressure," Jimmy muttered as he switched on the computer.
"Password … password." Jimmy looked around. "Most people use passwords from their immediate surroundings … hobbies, pets, spouses. Clark, help me."
Clark shined his flashlight around the room. It rested on a large painting of a violin and then on a little miniature violin on a glass pedestal.
"Hmm, V-I-O-L-I-N … " Jimmy typed. "Access denied. What else?"
"Bow … Stradivarius … Four Seasons … Paganini … Kenne … " Clark thought aloud, helping Jimmy to spell the more unfamiliar words.
"Stop. It's Paganini … Okay, I'm in … yes … there … I've found the right menu. Shoot! The files are password protected again."
"Break it, Jimmy. Six minutes."
Jimmy didn't even hear Clark's words, so attuned was he to his task. It took him a minute and a half to crack the next password.
"I'm in. You were right, CK. That inner security system is laughable. What now?"
"Copy everything you find about Lab 109 or Walter Smith. We don't have time to sort it out."
Disk after disk were put into the drive, swiftly copying the information.
"Jimmy … hurry up! We're already one minute over the limit!" Clark urged.
"I know … OK, that was the last one. Thank God this is a high speed computer." Jimmy shut it down.
After checking for the cameras and approaching footsteps, they slipped out of the office and sneaked back towards the stairwell, retracing their steps to bypass the cameras once more.
They reached the stairwell and ran down, as fast as they could.
"One minute left, Clark!"
They looked out of the little window of the door. There was no guard in sight. Within seconds, they were back outside.
Jimmy leaned back against the wall, catching his breath. "Wow! We really did it, Clark! We made it!" he whispered excitedly.
But Clark was focused on something else … the panting of an approaching dog.
"Jimmy, get a move on. We've got company … a dog."
They heard loud barking behind them, then the sound of human footsteps. "FREEZE!" the guard yelled.
Clark and Jimmy reached the fence and started climbing. Floodlights illuminated the ground, and a spotlight was quickly approaching the fence.
As they reached the top of the fence, Clark's superhearing picked up the sound of a gun being cocked. With a burst of superspeed, Clark pulled Jimmy to the ground on the other side, just as a warning shot whistled above their heads.
In the distance, they heard cars careening towards them. Police sirens howled through the night. The pair picked themselves up and ran.
Suddenly, a car screeched to a halt directly in front of them, cutting them from their escape route. Clark was about to pick up Jimmy and fly away, secret identity be damned, when the door sprang open.
Clark looked inside. "PERRY?"
"Get in, damn it!" Clark shoved Jimmy into the open door and dove in himself.
Clark righted himself. "Chief?? What—"
"Not now, Kent!" Perry floored the gas and the car raced down the deserted street. Police sirens wailed in the distance, back at the scene of the crime.
As it became obvious the car hadn't been spotted, the trio relaxed. Jimmy and Clark stared in stunned silence as their editor cocked an eyebrow at them.
"Well, boys … I think you have some explaining to do."
The sun had barely risen when Clark paged Dr. Klein with the urgent message to meet him at STAR Labs immediately.
When the good doctor unlocked his lab, Clark was already there, waiting.
Klein rolled his eyes. "Don't superheroes ever sleep?"
"Dr. Klein, I need your help. Several women in Metropolis have begun acting strangely this week, Lois among them. The main symptom seems to be that they reject everything they used to love, especially their romantic partners. It's my theory that the fire at Trycos released some type of substance — a drug, a chemical, whatever — into the air and contaminated the raindrops that fell that afternoon. Lois and two other women were soaked in the rain. All three began showing symptoms that evening."
Klein lifted his eyebrows. "Rejecting their romantic partners?" he repeated, amused.
One look at the grim look on Clark's face, however, made him squelch his chuckle.
"What do you want me to do?"
Clark handed him several computer disks. "These are computer files downloaded from Trycos last night. They contain information on the work being done in the lab that was destroyed."
Klein took the disks. "Do I want to know where you got these?" he asked with a sigh.
"I doubt it," Clark stated. Even with his glasses and business suit on, the Superman frown on Clark's face convinced Dr. Klein not to argue any further.
"Geez, things must be pretty bad for you to go to such lengths."
"Dr. Klein, I don't just need the confirmation that I'm right. I need a cure for what's happened. I'm worried for Lois … and I'm worried for the baby. So far, everything seems fine with the pregnancy, but exposure to some type of unknown substance … well, you can see why I'm upset."
"Yes, yes," Klein nodded, lost in thought. Then he looked up. "Do you think you could get me a blood sample from Lois or one of the other women? It would help me to see what we're dealing with."
Clark frowned. "Lois isn't exactly open to my suggestions these days … but I'll see what I can do."
Lois sat at her desk in the newsroom, trying to collect her thoughts and her notes on the kidnapping story. She'd conducted phone interviews with other family members of the alleged victims, dug up every piece of paperwork the police were allowing out of the precinct — as well as several that weren't — and called every hospital in the city asking about recent Jane Doe's. She had enough information for a decent news story … but she wasn't any closer to solving the mystery of these women's disappearances.
Just then, her phone rang.
"Lois Lane," she spoke into the receiver.
"Uh, hello … my name is Joy; I work in the admissions department of Metropolis General Hospital? We spoke yesterday on the phone?"
Lois remembered. "Yes?"
"Well, I have some information I thought might help you after all."
"Go on, I'm listening," Lois replied.
"Late last night, a woman was admitted; she's pretty delirious and isn't making a lot of sense about what happened to her. But she's pregnant and I remembered yesterday you were asking if we had admitted anyone under odd conditions."
"Yes, I was. Thanks! I'll be down there as soon as I can."
The young woman gave Lois the room information, then hung up.
Lois entered the newsroom elevator when the doors opened, then tried to exit just as quickly. Clark blocked her path.
"Lois, wait. I need your help."
Metropolis General was a large hospital, but Lois was familiar enough with the layout that she easily found the room she was looking for. She was arriving a little later than she'd intended, but she told herself that spending a bit of time helping Clark was the only way to get him off of her back.
Damn him. How dare he try to prevent her from investigating a story?
She knew that he'd been watching her all day yesterday, and wouldn't allow her to leave the Daily Planet building without following. Doing him his favor gave her the perfect excuse to leave unescorted — free to do what she needed to do.
Lois pushed open the door to the private room to find a woman about her own age. The woman's eyes were red and her face was pale. She was hooked up to all sorts of monitors and IV's. Lois took in the devices attached to the woman's enlarged stomach, and watched as two sets of monitors recorded two strong heartbeats — one for the woman, one for her unborn child. The woman turned her eyes to Lois mournfully, but didn't speak.
Lois sat down in a chair next to the bed. "Hi," she said softly. "My name is Lois Lane and I'm from the Daily Planet. I want to help you. Could you tell me your story?"
The woman closed her eyes, exhausted. "Two men … warehouse … testing," she mumbled.
Lois frowned. The woman was obviously not in a position to give her a lot of details — a fact the police must have also ascertained since they had no one outside the room guarding her. Lois wondered about that. 'Could they have doubted her credence or was she only now just beginning to make sense?' For a minute, Lois stared at the woman's face. She looked familiar …
"Karen? Are you Karen Martin?" Lois asked.
"Uhh," the woman sighed, nodding slightly.
Lois leaned forward. "Were there other woman with you? Two others? Both pregnant?"
The woman just nodded, struggling to open her eyes.
"Where were you held? Did you see?"
"Hobbs … Try … try … "
Lois nodded. "Yes, please, try to tell me."
The woman shook her head, agitated. "Try … cos."
Lois's eyes opened wide. "Trycos?" she repeated, looking for confirmation.
"Trycos … " the woman mumbled. Her eyes closed once more.
Just then, a nurse entered the room.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?"
Lois stood up. "I was visiting my friend … she's been missing for days. Has her husband been alerted?"
The nurse fumbled for a response to Lois's quick words. "Uh, yes, they just called him. He's on his way. But you shouldn't be in here. This woman needs her rest."
Lois had already edged out the door. "OK, I'll come back later. Thank you."
And with that, she was gone.
Jimmy sat at his desk, his chin on his hand, his eyelids almost closed. He wasn't used to being up all night, especially while having an adventure such as he and Clark had had.
Jimmy jerked awake as the phone jangled loudly beside him.
"Daily Planet," he yelped into the receiver. He cleared his throat. "Can I help you?"
"Jimmy, it's Lois."
Jimmy sat straight up in his chair. "Lois? Where are you?"
"I'm following a lead. Jimmy, I need you to find out if Trycos Enterprises has any warehouses or other storage facilities, especially near Hobbs Bay."
"That's easy, Lois. Clark had me dig up a whole bunch of stuff on Trycos just yesterday. I have all my notes right here … Yeah, here it is. They have one warehouse on the northwest side, near the main offices, then another one on E. Third. 1311 E. Third Street. That's in the Hobbs Bay area."
"Lois, wait! Where are you? What's going on?" But it was too late. She had already hung up on him.
Clark poured himself another cup of coffee and tried not to pace as he waited for the phone to ring. When it finally did, he practically spilled his drink in an effort to answer it.
"Clark Kent," he barked.
"Clark, this is Dr. Klein. I've got some information for you."
Clark swallowed. "Go ahead."
"Well, Lois came in here and gave me a blood sample. Boy, I can see you really have your hands full. You should have heard what she called me when I —"
"Dr. Klein! Please!"
"Oh, right … sorry. Well, I couldn't find anything unusual in Lois's blood but then I remembered what you said about the water. I called up a meteorologist friend of mine and was lucky enough to obtain a water sample from the rainfall during the Trycos fire. That's when I found it."
"Found what? You know what's causing this?" Clark asked impatiently.
"I found a chemical compound in the water which cross-matched with the files you gave me from Trycos. The computer file says that they were working on a formula to affect synaptic function. Basically, the chemicals are meant to override certain functions of the brain and instead stimulate other functions, thus making people react differently to a stimuli than they normally would. Unfortunately, they hadn't perfected it yet. According to these files, the formula only seemed to work on women. They were trying to modify it to work on men, but it seems they hadn't gotten that far yet.
"So how long before we can find something to counteract its effects?" Clark asked.
"Well," Klein mused. "I'm not sure exactly, but I'm working on some possibilities. In any case, according to the researcher's notes, the effects seem to wear off in five to ten days, even without an antidote."
"Ten days! Dr. Klein, Lois was only exposed three days ago … and as unpredictable as she's been, I don't think we can wait. She seems to be withdrawing more and more."
"Ah, interesting you should mention that … didn't you say that Lois seemed to have a more severe reaction to the drug than the other two women you know?"
"Well, I guess so … at least, it seems that way from what I've been told by the other men involved."
"That makes sense, then. The reason this formula only works on women is because it interacts with estrogen. The more estrogen a person has, the more susceptible they are to this drug. And with Lois's pregnancy … "
"Her estrogen levels are way up," Clark finished, stunned. "Wow."
"You got it."
"OK, Dr. Klein, I guess you have your work cut out for you. You'll let me know the *second* you find anything, right?"
"Sure thing, Clark. I'll do my best. Bye."
Lois opened the door to the warehouse and entered the building slowly. It looked abandoned, but something didn't seem right. Her instincts were screaming at her that she was in the right place.
Looking around in the dark, she began to feel a sense of apprehension, but pushed it aside. She climbed the stairs and found herself looking at a sturdy door with a shiny, new lock.
Lois searched in her bag for something to pick the lock with, and in her haste, she dropped a pen. It slipped off the stairwell and hit the ground with a resounding thump. Her heart went into her stomach.
Footsteps echoed in the warehouse, making it hard to gauge where they were coming from.
Lois crept down the stairs slowly, trying not to draw attention to herself, but at the same time unwilling to make herself a sitting duck if anyone came looking for what made that sound. She turned the corner and bumped straight into a large man carrying a length of black piping.
He looked at her contemptuously and grabbed her arm. "Looks like we've got ourselves another test case," he sneered.
Dr. Klein had barely hung up the phone that afternoon when Clark entered the laboratory, adjusting his tie as he approached.
"How did you do this so quickly??" Clark asked excitedly.
"That's easy," Klein smiled. "It's because … "
Klein ripped open his lab coat, buttons popping everywhere, and revealed a white shirt with two sigma's entwined together on it.
"I'm Super Scientist!!"
Klein grinned broadly. Clark's eyebrows shot up over the top of his glasses.
"No, to be honest, I had a team of the best chemical analysts, plus specialists on hormones, neuro-chemicals and brain function at my disposal. STAR Labs' head administrator authorized all the funding we needed. Money was no object."
"You're kidding! Why?"
"Let's just say his pretty young wife got caught in the rainstorm caused by Superman and now they're experiencing some … well, difficulties."
Clark shook his head, chuckling a bit despite himself. "So, is this the antidote?" he asked, pointing to a large vial.
"Yes. Now we just need to figure out how to distribute it to the people that got caught in the rain this week. Any ideas?"
Clark thought for a minute. "How can we reach a lot of people quickly?" he mused. "We don't even know who was affected. Who knows how many people were caught out in the—" Suddenly, he looked up. "The rain. Dr. Klein, what would happen if people who were not exposed to the first drug ingested this antidote?"
Klein shrugged. "Nothing. That's the amazing thing about both of these formulas. They actually are quite harmless. They seem to affect brain chemistry but nothing else in the body; they are barely evident in the blood stream. And it wears off without any side effects. Amazing, really. The man who came up with this was a genius. Too bad he blew himself up; used properly, this drug could be a real boon to the medical field." Klein shook himself out of his musing. "Oh, but to answer your question, there is no danger in exposing non-affected people to the antidote."
"Great." Clark smiled and turned towards the door, placing the vial in his inside coat pocket. "Hope you brought an umbrella to work, Dr. Klein. We're gonna have another storm!"
"Clark, wait; one more question?"
Clark felt almost giddy as he turned back. He'd been so worried this week … but now he had some hope. "Yes, Super Scientist?" he asked with mock seriousness.
Klein looked helplessly at the buttons scattered around his lab floor. "How do you manage to change so quickly and not lose all your buttons?"
Clark grinned and put a finger up to his lips. "That's a super secret." And with that, he was gone.
Klein dropped to his knees with a sigh and began to look for his buttons, muttering under his breath about uncooperative super heroes with super secrets.
Lois grimaced as the thug who had grabbed her tied her arms to the back of a chair. "You're not going to get away with this," she spat out.
The two scientists in front of her just smiled, and waved the guard back to his guard duties. "Now, now, ma'am. Don't you think that's just a little cliched?"
As they turned their backs on her and went back to their experiment, Lois looked around the room. In a dim corner, she could see two women on cots, lying on their sides, eyes closed.
Lois gasped. "What did you do to them??" she demanded.
One of the researchers looked up and rolled his eyes. "They're just sedated. Geez, you think we're monsters?" He muttered to himself. "Killing pregnant woman … sheesh."
Lois shook her head. She felt like she was in a bad dream. "Then what are you doing with them? Why did you kidnap them and bring them here? They have families who are worried about them!"
The second man sighed. "Because we needed test cases, of course. And pregnant women have more estrogen, so they react more strongly to the drug. We can get data faster. And our boss wants fast results. Besides, we've been able to prove that the drug is harmless to unborn children. The FDA never lets you test on pregnant women!"
Lois's mind raced as she tried to remember everything that Clark had told her about Trycos and the explosion. "Was this what Walter Smith was working on when he died?" she asked.
The men stopped what they were doing. "How do you know about that?"
"It won't be long before everyone knows about that. One of your previous victims is probably talking to the police right now."
The men scoffed. "What previous victim? You're all right here."
It was Lois's turn to roll her eyes. Why did she think these two men were from the "bargain basement" of mercenary scientists? "The one who escaped last night?" she responded, talking to them like they were five year olds.
The men looked at each other, then raced to another closed door. "Where's Karen??" they demanded of each other.
"I thought you said you put her in the back to sleep?"
"No, I thought *you* said she was in the back!!"
Lois watched as they raced for a phone.
Clark excitedly burst into the newsroom of the Daily Planet. He called loudly out to Jimmy as he passed his desk, telling the young man to join him in Perry's office.
Clark quickly explained everything that Dr. Klein had told him. Perry and Jimmy were relieved, and excitedly began discussing plans for how to inform the public what was going on. There was just enough time to put a story on the front page of the evening edition. And although Perry hated to lose a scoop, he agreed that, in this case, alerting the local television and radio stations would be in the city's best interest.
Satisfied that the story was in good hands, Clark was back out the door, off to "find" Superman.
Superman rocketed high above Metropolis, swirling and twisting in order to move the storm clouds over the city. Opening the vial, he used his superbreath to distribute the antidote and start the rain.
Clark returned to the Daily Planet to find that Perry and Jimmy had spread the word most effectively. Every television news report was leading off with the story, and live footage showed people pulling other people out into the rain.
Clark caught Jimmy's arm as the younger man was heading for the elevator.
"Jimmy, where are you going?"
"Home, CK! Penny just called. She saw the news and stood in the rain. She wants me back!"
Clark laughed and slapped his friend on the back. "That's great, Jimmy. Have a great night. Say, which conference room is Lois hiding in today? I was planning to take her outside and let the rain do its magic."
Jimmy's brow furrowed. "Gosh, Clark, I haven't seen her. I don't think she ever came back after she called this morning."
Clark smile faded. "She what? Where is she?"
"I don't know. She called me this morning asking about warehouses down on Hobbs Bay." Jimmy's eyes widened. "I forgot all about it until just now. I was half asleep this morning when she called. She wanted to know if Trycos had any warehouses in Hobbs Bay. I just assumed she was working with you on what we found out last night. I gave her an address and she hung up. I'm really sorry, Clark."
"Jimmy, give me that address."
As the two men hurried to Jimmy's desk, Clark remembered the kidnappings that Lois was writing about. If there was a connection between them and Trycos … His stomach clenched at the thought that Lois might be their next victim.
"Here you go, Clark. This one, right here."
"Jimmy, call Inspector Henderson. Tell him what we've found out and give him this address. Tell him to meet me there. I'm going to find Superman."
By the time Jimmy had picked up the phone, Clark was already out the door.
Lois jumped as the door to the lab flew open. In walked a very agitated man, clad in an expensive business suit. Lois's eyes widened. Charles Reese, president and owner of Trycos Enterprises. She'd met him several times at various functions; he was one of the richest men in the city. And now it looked like he was also one of the most dangerous.
The man looked wild-eyed around the room, taking in the sight.
"You idiots!!" he yelled at his two underlings. "What were you thinking, letting that woman escape??"
The two men just cowered under his angry gaze. "We're sorry, Mr. Reese. I guess we got so caught up in the research that we forgot to watch the subjects. We're not really used to testing on unwilling patients."
"Why aren't those women tied up?" Reese barked, noticing the two still-sedated women sleeping on cots.
The first scientist blinked. "We've been keeping them sedated. Why tie them up when they are sleeping?"
"Because they could wake up and ESCAPE!" the older man roared. "Never mind; I'll deal with you two later," he continued menacingly. "We're pulling out. The police are going to be all over this place soon. We are too close to give up now. Gather everything up and get into the car. We can't leave any evidence behind."
The men scurried to pack up their notes and test tubes. "What are we going to do with the women, boss?" one asked. "Just leave them here for the police?"
Reese just looked at the young scientist like he had grown a second head. "No, you moron. When I say we don't leave any evidence … " He pulled a gun from his belt. "I mean, we don't leave any evidence."
For the first time, he rested his gaze on Lois, who had been sitting quietly in the corner, trying to free herself from her restraints. "Well, what do we have here … Lois Lane! So you're the woman they found snooping around the warehouse. Well, then, you can be the first to die. So sorry, my dear."
He leveled the gun at her from across the room.
Lois flinched and closed her eyes, waiting for the end.
She thought of calling for Superman, but the idea seemed extremely distasteful for some reason. Could it be the drug that Clark had told her about? Could it really be altering her reactions? She'd been in these sorts of dire straights before and knew that she was supposed to feel afraid. Yet, this time, she simply felt … well … almost calm.
'Maybe I should fight my natural inclinations and call out for the big boy scout anyway,' she mused.
Lois didn't have to ponder long. With her eyes closed, she heard the cock of the hammer and the sound of the shot. She heard a resounding crash, a lot of yelling, and then … nothing.
'Well, that wasn't so bad', she thought, almost annoyed. 'Geez, I didn't feel a thing. All those times I've worried about getting shot and that was *it*?!'
Lois opened her eyes to find a very concerned Superman standing over her, a bullet in his hand. The four men in the room were on the floor, unconscious.
Superman reached behind Lois's chair and tore the bonds off of her wrists. "Are you OK?" he gasped.
Lois pursed her lips. "Took you long enough," she snapped.
He rolled his eyes and gave a humorless laugh, then turned to the police officers that had just swarmed into the room.
"Officers, these four men are to be taken into custody. These women are unhurt; they appear to be sedated. Have the paramedics look them over, then take them to Metropolis General. I've already advised the doctors there on how to administer the antidote."
Superman looked at Lois, who was now standing with her hands on her hips, looking at him defiantly.
"Come on, Lois; time to go flying."
As he scooped her up in his arms, Lois struggled. "Hey, put me down!"
Without waiting to hear the rest of her diatribe, Clark flew them out of the warehouse and up into the clouds.
"You jerk!" Lois screamed at him, fighting him. "I'm getting all wet. Let me go!!"
Clark held on tight. Memories of Wanda Detroit and Lex Luthor flashed into his mind, making his heart ache, but his resolve strengthen. He wouldn't give up like he had back then. It had been the biggest mistake of his life to let her go with Lex Luthor that night, and he would never forgive himself if he repeated it. Floating upright in the clouds, he released Lois's legs and pulled her upper body into a hug. "No, honey, not this time … I'm never letting you go again," he said emotionally.
Lois's struggling grew less insistent as the rain poured down around them. Rivulets of rainwater ran down their faces and into their mouths.
It seemed an eternity before Lois went limp in his arms, and Clark cradled her to him, wrapping his cape around her for warmth. "Lois, my Lois," he murmured against her hair, holding her to him.
"Clark?" she mumbled.
He pulled his head back to look into her eyes fearfully. Had it worked? Had the antidote taken effect?
Lois wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly. "Oh, God, Clark … what happened to me?"
"It's OK, honey … it's OK," he gasped. "Everything is going to be all right."
Clark Kent kissed his wife for the first time in days, expressing all of the joy he felt at having her back safe and sound.
She kissed him back just as passionately.
Yawning, but happy, Jimmy strolled into the newsroom the next morning.
"Olsen! Nice of you to join us this morning!" Perry's booming voice catapulted him out of the pleasantness of his daydreams and into the reality of a workday morning at the Daily Planet.
"Sorry, Chief. I overslept."
A smile spread over the young man's face causing Perry to arch an eyebrow.
Nervously, Jimmy continued, hurrying to deliver an explanation. "You see, Penny came over yesterday evening … and, well, the formula worked and we stayed up kind of up late … talking … " Jimmy blushed furiously. "It won't happen again, I swear."
"It's all right, son," Perry drawled, amused. "Did you see last night's headline?"
"No, I haven't had time … "
Perry gave Jimmy a copy of the paper.
"'Singing In The Rain' … hey, you used my suggestion for a headline." Then Jimmy did a double take. "By Perry White … and James Olsen?? Chief?!"
"You deserve it, Jimmy. You did a great job this week on this story. It was your information that helped bring down Trycos Enterprises and Carter Reese. Clark told me he couldn't have done it without you. I'm real proud of you, son."
"Oh, man! Oh, man, I can't believe it! And on the front page! I have to tell Penny!"
Perry grabbed Jimmy by the collar as the younger man turned back towards the elevator.
"Later, Loverboy. Right now you've got work to do."
Jimmy looked sheepish. "Gotcha, Chief." He looked around the newsroom. "Where are Lois and Clark? I know they made it back here last night to write this morning's story. I bet Clark is glad Superman took Lois flying through the rain clouds."
"My guess is they are … oversleeping," Perry said, eyes twinkling.
"Oh … OH!" Jimmy grinned back.
Lois awoke slowly and stretched her tired muscles. She felt a gentle prodding from inside her expanding middle and lovingly put her hand on her stomach to caress it. To her surprise, there was already a hand there.
With a smile, she placed her hand over her husband's and together, they laughed softly as the baby jerked slightly, then did it again.
"I think it has the hiccups," Lois murmured with a smile. "Don't babies do that?"
"I wouldn't know," Clark murmured back. They rolled to their sides, facing each other. "Good morning," he said, giving her a tender kiss.
"Good morning to you, too," she whispered.
Clark rolled over on to his back, with Lois snuggled up beside him, resting her head on his shoulder.
"What a week," Clark said, shaking his head.
Lois tightened her arms around him. "I'm so sorry, Clark, for all the things I said and did to you. It was the weirdest feeling. I can remember everything I was thinking and feeling, but at the same time, it's like it wasn't even me. It's like I was watching myself in a dream and I couldn't control what I was feeling."
"It's not your fault, honey. I know that." After a moment, Clark broke into a little grin. "At least now I know the things you like the most. You rejected three things — me, Perry … and ice cream!"
They laughed together, enjoying the joke.
"Oh, by the way, I called the hospital this morning," Clark added. "Karen and Adam Martin are the proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. She was born last night. Karen went into labor after the effects of the drug wore off. Both mother and baby are doing just fine."
Against Clark's side, they felt the gentle tap of their own baby's kick. Lois put her hand down to rub her belly. "I'm so happy for them. And for us … I don't know what I would do if something happened to our baby. Though I didn't exactly feel that way this week. I pretty much ignored it! It would move and I wouldn't even care," she said glumly. Suddenly, Lois sat up, anxious. "Clark? Do you think this means I don't love the baby?"
Clark gently pulled her back down. "No! Not at all," he reassured her. "The drug just didn't affect that part of your brain, that's all. Maybe the baby is stored in a different part or something. After all, you didn't reject being a reporter, and I know how much you love that."
"Well, I do love the baby … and I love you," Lois stated emphatically.
"Honey, I never doubted that."
Lois raised her head to look into his eyes. She caressed his cheek tenderly. "I know. You never gave up on me."
"And I never will," he whispered as he lowered his mouth to hers.
The kiss lingered.
FADE TO BLACK
Characters in this episode are copyrighted by DC Comics, December 3rd Production and Warner Brothers. No infringement is intended in any part by the author or the Season 5 group, however, the ideas expressed within this episode are copyrighted (c) 1998 to the authors.