Star-Spangled Superman

By IRC Round Robin

Rated PG

Submitted September 1998

Summary: Lois and Clark travel back in time to the Revolutionary War period to help H.G. Wells discover who or what has altered the course of American history and with it all of time.

An IRC Round Robin by Misha <mhall@sound.net>; carrielu <carrielu@mailexcite.com>; ChrisM <mulders@mindspring.com>; CrystalW <JCWimmer@aol.com>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Mackteach <Mackteach@aol.com>; Zoomway <zoomway@aol.com>

***

<Misha>

"I was walking from my flat in St. James Court to lunch and talk at the Reform Club. Upon the wall at the corner of Marlborough House as it was then, I saw a large bill; it was an unusual place for an advertisement and I stopped to read it. It was a Royal Proclamation." — H.G. Wells, _An Experiment in Autobiography_ (1934)

***

London 1916

A set of church bells started to toll a quarter to the hour, soon joined by a chorus of other, more distant bells. A small man, suited and bespectacled, stopped at the corner of Marlborough House to check his watch. Apparently satisfied by the accuracy of his timepiece, he glanced up and around, and his attention was caught by a large piece of parchment attached to the wall.

He slowly replaced the watch in his pocket, his eyes scanning the Royal Proclamation much faster than his hand was moving. He missed the pocket at first, and glanced down to make sure his watch returned to its appointed place.

The world rippled.

The bricks of the buildings around him dulled and darkened with soot. The sky overhead thickened and dulled to a dusty, sickly tan. Passersby disappeared, replaced by the new inhabitants of London, men and women in tattered clothes who scurried from one shadow to another, glancing up at the sky with trepidation.

When he returned his attention to the proclamation, his eyes widened in horror. The nail holding it up slipped from the crumbling masonry. He knelt slowly, picking it up gingerly. He glanced around frantically at the subtly changed cityscape, and the church bells rang again. They mournfully tolled the quarter 'til, and then rang again, clanking to a sudden stillness in mid-ring.

He took out his watch and instead of glancing at the frontispiece, opened the back of the watch. A small light glowed a sullen red, and H.G. Wells made an abrupt about face and hurried homewards. Behind him, the forgotten proclamation drifted slowly to the begrimed stones.

***

Metropolis 1996

"Good work, kids." Perry tapped the headline of the morning edition. "That was a great expose of Colonel Cash and the kryptonite gas conspiracy." He was leaning over the edge of the divider by Lois' desk, talking to his star reporters.

"Yeah!" Jimmy piped up as he walked by, some now-forgotten errand in his hand. "It was totally cool how you found those documents from the Pentagon, CK."

Clark looked down at his fiancee. That night in the military data center had been difficult in more ways than one.

"Oh, it wasn't that hard, Jimmy." Lois tilted her head upwards, exchanging a glance with Clark. "Cash forgot to cover his tracks past the original break-in at STAR Labs."

"Only you would say that sneaking past half the army was a piece of cake, Lois." Clark bent and kissed her forehead.

He felt something brush his shoulder briefly. He pulled back, looking into Lois' half-closed eyes. Then he glanced up at Perry, who was clearing his throat with that I-know-what-you've-been-through-but-you're-not-on-your-honeymoon-yet look in his eyes.

The sudden rapid pop of gunfire punctuated the short silence. It was close, very close. Perry and Jimmy froze, a hunted look appearing on both their faces.

"Okay, this is it, people! Scatter!" Perry bellowed, fitting actions to words by sprinting towards his office.

Lois stood uncertainly. Perry, running?

Jimmy dropped to the ground behind Lois' desk, yanked open the bottom drawer and pulled out an Uzi. At Clark's incredulous, open-mouthed stare, he snapped, "Well, don't just stand there! Run! I'll cover you!"

He grabbed them both by the arms and shoved them towards the stairs. Lois stumbled backwards, into someone's arms, and struggled for balance. Clark was at her side an instant later.

"There are gunmen in the stairs and the elevator. I don't know what's going on."

The man who had caught Lois cleared his throat. "I'm afraid I have an idea, Mr. Kent."

"Mr. Wells!" Lois found her balance and turned fully towards him. "What now?! If this has anything to do with our wedding…"

Wells caught Clark's arm before he could make a move toward either set of gunmen. "We don't have time for you to fly off and save the day, Superman." Wells' voice was hoarse, and harsh with urgency.

Clark stopped short. Wells looked tired, and his normally neat apparel was rumpled and stained.

"My time machine is in the darkroom. I'll explain in a moment." He started to pull at them. "Your time has already changed. We need to go back to the initial disruption. Hurry!"

They followed Wells into the darkroom, where, barely fitting in the small closet, the time machine sat, humming happily. Wells all but bodily pushed them into the seats, flipped a single switch and sat with a relieved sigh.

"What is this all about?" Clark asked, unnerved. He could no longer hear anything outside the room. The intermittent pop of gunfire, the hushed, urgent whispers of Daily Planet staff and the invading gunmen were all gone. Not even a single heartbeat was audible, besides Lois' familiar rhythm, and the sound of Wells' agitated heart.

Wells closed his eyes briefly, breathing deeply. When he looked up at them again, he seemed calmer. He leaned forward and pulled two small pins from the fabric at their shoulders.

"I used these to pull you a microsecond out of sync with the present timeline. They have a very small charge, however, and I needed to get you into the time machine's temporal field before you became part of the altered time."

"Altered time? What's happened? Why is Jimmy pulling guns out of my desk?" Lois half rose from her seat.

"My dear Miss Lane, please. Calm yourself." Wells pulled out his watch and flipped open the back. "Someone has gone back to the late eighteenth century and changed time." He tapped the glowing red light.

"If someone changed time already, then why were you in such a hurry to get us here?" Clark gestured at the time machine.

"Well, the nature of the anomaly was such that it did not alter the timeline uniformly. I was able to travel to an unaffected segment, and place you in a flux facilitator field before that segment also changed." He drew a deep breath. "And I was almost too late."

He paused. "Once we return to the time of the disturbance, we should be out of the scope of further temporal distortions. I hope."

Lois looked at Clark. Clark looked at Lois. They looked at Wells. "So, *when* are we going?" Lois finally asked.

"The Colonial… ah, that is, your Revolutionary War."

***

<carrielu>

At that moment the time machine was engulfed in a bright white light, blasting them back into the past. It materialized behind a small building.

"So let me get this straight. Someone went into the past and did … what? Killed someone?" Lois asked as she rose from Clark's lap.

"I don't know, my dear." Wells looked at his watch and put it back into his pocket. "Come along. We have a lot of work to do."

After hiding the machine, Lois, Clark, and Wells walked out into the street that ran past the building. A little boy ran out in front of them, turning around for a moment to stare, then continued on his way. Other people in the street were also staring.

"We need to find appropriate clothing first," Clark said.

They stepped into a shop, where they were greeted by the shopkeeper.

"How may I help you?" he said with a puzzled look on his face.

"Ah… we need some clothes," Clark said with a grin.

<ChrisM>

The shopkeeper stared open-mouthed at his odd-looking customers and hastily excused himself, exiting into a back room. With his superhearing Clark easily picked up the low-voiced conversation that the storeowner was having with an apprentice.

"Just do as I say, boy. Hurry and get the constable here. These people may be spies. I'll try to keep them occupied until you can return."

Clark returned his attention to Lois and Wells. "I think we might want to get out of here. Now."

Wells and Lois could tell by his tone of voice that this was not the time for lengthy discussions. Without saying a word they turned towards the door just as the shopkeeper came back.

"I'm sorry to keep you folks waiting. Now, what was it you wanted?"

"Huh…" Clark began hesitantly.

Lois rolled her eyes. She loved him, she really did, but when it came to excuses, Clark was definitely in a class by himself.

"We're so sorry to have bothered you," she interjected. "We've just remembered that we left our money at home. Don't worry, though," she added, as she moved purposefully towards the door, "we'll be back."

"Ah, yes. Quite so," Wells added helpfully.

The shopkeeper's eyes narrowed. "You sound as if you're fresh from England, sir."

"No, no. That is — "

"We have to go now," Lois interrupted unceremoniously, as she pushed Wells towards the door. "Bye!"

All three heard the shopkeeper calling after them, but they hurried away without a backward glance. Quickly they found their way back to the alley where the time machine was hidden. Apparently, things were going to be a bit more complicated than they'd first thought.

"It would appear," Wells said once they'd caught their breath, "that we need to have a plan."

<CrystalW>

Lois nodded slightly, allowing her gaze to rest on her soon-to-be husband. "You know, there are other ways to get clothes besides buying them…" Her voice trailed off as Clark began to glare at her.

"Lois, you know better." He shook his head as he crossed his arms across his chest in a decidedly "Superman" fashion. Lois returned the glare as she took his maroon striped tie in hand. "You cannot go around in this time period without some different clothing," she told him firmly. "And neither can I."

Clark took a moment to take in his wife's short skirt and low cut blouse, and decided that this was one more time when the rules would have to be bent. He conceded defeat, and addressed both of his traveling companions.

"Okay, first the clothes, then we find out what's going on around here that shouldn't be."

Wells nodded energetically before adding, "That sounds like the beginning of a plan."

***

Lois struggled to get her feet into a pair of shoes that were at least a size too small. She had been relieved that Clark hadn't argued any further about a search for clothes, and he had returned from his mission in record time.

She was now wearing a dress with a snug bodice, and buckled shoes that could only be defined as tight. Still, the dull colored outfit was far easier to move around in than her flashier business suit, and while the skirt was bothersome, it would not cause the townsfolk to stop and stare.

Just as Lois lost her battle with her footwear, she also lost her balance. She felt herself begin to topple, and cursed her decision not to sit on the ground to try forcing on the tight shoes. Just as she was about to hit the ground, she felt firm hands grasp her waist and pull her into his body.

Looking over her right shoulder, she gazed into huge brown eyes and felt herself begin to fall again. The one he had just saved her from could not begin to compare. His lips moved closer to hers, and she allowed her eyes to flutter shut.

Wells cleared his throat loudly, causing the couple to jump apart.

<Eraygun>

"I'm sorry to interrupt you two but I'm afraid in this particular situation time is clearly of the essence."

Lois and Clark sighed in unison and nodded in agreement. Lois spoke first.

"You said you traced the time anomaly to this period. Do you have any idea what took place?" How history was changed?"

"The answer to your question, my dear, is a qualified maybe," Wells said sadly as he pulled his watch out of his pocket.

"I don't understand," Clark interjected.

"You see, my boy, my watch isn't just a watch. I've enhanced it with items from the future so that it monitors the space-time continuum for disruptions just like this one. Locked within it is the precise historical point when the disruption takes place, but…"

"Let me guess," Lois said. "You can't access it without special equipment."

"Precisely, my dear."

"Oh boy," Clark muttered.

"Don't worry, Miss Lane. Using parts from the time machine I can probably create a device that will allow us to access it. But that will take time and I'll need some sort of additional power source."

"But we don't even know how much time we have before the event takes place!?"

"Or where it happens," Clark interrupted. "It could be anywhere-Paris or St. Petersburg or … Pago Pago, for that matter."

"On the contrary, my boy, that's the one thing I am certain of. I was able to track the time currents from the disruption to Metropolis in May of 1775."

"But until you get that monitoring device of yours to give us the information, we're still in the dark," Clark replied.

"So, I guess we'll have to do this the old fashioned way," Lois said. "I thought I'd be arguing with the caterer right now. Instead I'm in a road company version of 1776. She sighed. "It's always something."

<Mackteach>

Clark stepped forward and pulled Lois into his embrace. Kissing the top of her head, he spoke softly. "Trust me, Lois. Not even a time anomaly is going to stop us from getting married."

Lois relaxed into his arms and hugged him back. "How can you be so sure?"

Clark pulled away from her slightly. Bringing his hands to either side of her face, he leaned his head toward her, intent on meeting her lips with his. "Don't you know, Lois? It's our destiny to be together."

Lois stared briefly into his brown eyes before closing hers in anticipation of his kiss. When his lips met hers, they were soft and gentle, bringing a hint of the passion and desire that Clark held in check. She sighed once more, opening her mouth in invitation.

She pulled away as an idea raced to the surface of her mind. "Clark?"

Clark slowly opened his eyes and bit his lower lip as he reined in his emotions. She saw him take a deep breath and slowly release it. She released her own held breath as well, knowing that if they were in Metropolis — *their* Metropolis — the kiss they had just shared would have flared into more.

All the more reason for them to return things to the way they should be.

Seeing that Clark and Wells were watching her expectantly, she cleared her throat. "My American history is a bit shaky, but what are the chances of there being a newspaper here in Metropolis?

Clark smiled, his eyes bright with respect and admiration. "As in the Daily Planet?"

Lois nodded, accepting his silent compliment with grace. "Or a reasonable facsimile of it."

Wells cleared his throat and offered his own ideas. "Maybe it's time, if you'll pardon the expression, to move ahead."

They smiled at their time-traveling companion. Lois took Clark's hand in hers and they followed Wells onto the streets of Metropolis.

They headed in the general direction of the center of the town, knowing that any businesses would be located there. The Metropolis of colonial times was different from the Metropolis that Lois and Clark knew; yet in many ways it was strangely familiar.

People still hurried about completing their errands and chores. Children still played in and among the townspeople, heedless of their parents' admonishments. Shopkeepers still dealt with their customers.

Lois and Clark looked about them in wonder, pointing out familiar buildings with long-forgotten signs. They chuckled at the sign above "The White Stag" tavern, knowing that in a future incarnation it would be their favorite espresso shop.

Wells continued to walk along with the couple, periodically inspecting his watch and mentally making notes of the sights and sounds that he encountered.

Finally, the three of them stopped in front of a building that faced onto a triangular intersection of roads. They stared at the sign, believing and not believing at the same time. Luck was on their side.

"'Our Planet'," Clark murmured. "So this is where it all started." He turned to Lois as he felt her hand squeeze his. As he reached for the latch to enter, he felt Lois' hesitation. "What is it?"

"Clark, we can't just walk in there." She turned to Wells. "Mr. Wells, correct me if I'm wrong, but we can't introduce ourselves as Lois Lane and Clark Kent, can we?"

Wells thought for a moment before answering.

<Misha>

"Ignoring the ramifications of an unmarried couple traveling together, you're quite correct, Miss Lane. Any mention of one of your names in a document could be passed off as pure coincidence, but if both of your names turned up together, it would be hard to explain." Wells glanced at his watch again. "And it might be a few days before I can reconfigure the anomaly detector."

Lois wrinkled her nose. "Great. I forgot that we're back in the Stone Age of women's rights. Fine." She turned to Clark, who recognized the Lane Steamroller Look. "Clark — we're married. You're…" she searched her brain for common colonial names. "… Jeremiah Clark. Mr. Wells, you're Clark's uncle. Is that good enough?"

Wells cleared his throat. "I'm sure that will do admirably, Miss … Mrs. Clark. But please, call me Uncle Bertie." A rare smile flashed across Wells' face.

Clark chuckled. "Well, since we're all family now, shall we proceed, Mrs. Clark?" He offered his arm to Lois, and reached for the door latch with the other.

The interior of Our Planet was completely unfamiliar, dark despite the sun outside. The large building had a clear space up front, with two writing desks, but there was little separation from the rear of the printing shop, where a bevy of apprentices milled around the large frames of the printing presses. The smell of dust and ink and scorched paper tickled their noses. Wells sneezed.

"God bless you, sir!" One of the men by the presses turned and approached them. "How may I help you gentlemen?"

Clark stepped forward, offering his hand. "I'm Jeremiah Clark, this is my wife, ah … Abigail … and my uncle, Herbert. Are you the editor here?"

The man beamed. "Editor, owner, and master of all I survey! Well, at least in here." He shook Clark's hand heartily. "I'm Joshua Merriwether."

"We're new to Metropolis." At least of this era, Clark noted to himself.

Joshua's gaze narrowed a trifle, his expression freezing into its friendly mien. "Oh? Where are you from?" His question was overly casual.

<zoomway>

"Pennsylvania!" Lois blurted just as Clark said, "New York."

Wells faked a smile. "They're newlyweds."

Joshua laughed loudly. His whole body shook. "I can understand that. I forgot my own name on my honeymoon," he said with a wistful sigh. "So, how may I serve you?"

Clark cleared his throat. "Actually, sir, I was hoping for a job … a position. I have some printing experience."

Merriwether considered for a moment. "I could only take you on as apprentice, young man, but prove yourself a hard worker, and you may advance to the position you held in New York," he grinned. "Or was it Pennsylvania?"

Clark offered his hand. "Thank you, sir. I'm a hard worker," he said, memories of interviewing for Perry White flashing through his mind.

"Excellent," Merriwether said, shaking his hand. "I will see you on the morrow then. You can stay on my word of credit at the New Troy Inn." He laughed. "We're one of the smaller settlements, though we're petitioning for our own legislature. That's impossible, I fear."

Wells smiled. "We're a family that doesn't believe in 'impossible'."

***

Clark finally managed to remove Lois' shoes. She fell back on the bed with a groan.

"Can't I just wear my own shoes tomorrow? I mean this dress is so long I could be wearing Nike All-Pros and no one would ever guess."

Clark sat next to her on the thin, rather lumpy mattress. He took her foot in his hand and began to massage it.

Lois closed her eyes. "Oh, Jeremiah, you have *great* hands."

Clark smiled mischievously. "Abby, my dear, if the redcoats ever caught a glimpse of your long, beautiful legs, they'd join the other side, and we could avoid a war entirely."

Lois moved her foot farther up Clark's thigh.

Clark licked his lips. "I … I was thinking I ought to x-ray the Planet press area … I … oh, Lois — " he moaned.

"Yes?" she asked innocently.

"We're here for a … noble cause."

<ChrisM>

"Oh … is that what we're here for?" Lois murmured rather breathlessly.

Clark nodded, but halfheartedly. It seemed like every time they were getting to the good part, something would —

There was a knock on the door.

Lois sighed. "Guess one of us should answer that."

"Guess so," Clark agreed, but he leaned forward for one more kiss before walking towards the door.

He wasn't surprised to see their elderly traveling companion waiting on the other side.

"Well, if it isn't Mr. Wells, Lois," Clark started to say, but stopped his mild sarcasm when he took note of the other man's expression.

"Clark … Jeremiah, I should say, I was just walking through the town, and … that is, I happened to overhear …"

By this time Lois had gotten off the bed and joined Clark in the doorway. "What's the matter, Mr. Wells, you're trembling."

Wells made a brave attempt to calm himself. "I was out walking and heard a town crier … someone attempted to assassinate Colonel Washington earlier today."

*** Clark's first day on the staff of Our Planet was a hectic one. Reports of the attempted assassination were coming in from various sources and riders had been sent out to try and discover the truth behind all the rumors. Mr. Merriwether was impressed by Jeremiah's quickness in setting type — they were able to get out two extra sheets that day because of it.

Lois and Wells had not been idle, either. They had discovered that the newspapers of that day contained two or sometimes three columns of "Local" news. This often included the comings and goings of the inhabitants, as well as mention of any visitors to the town. They scoured back issues hoping to get a feel for what was normal, so that they would know "not normal" when they saw it.

At some point, something was going to happen. They just didn't know what.

Also, Wells spent part of the day trying to get his device into working order.

By the end of the day they were all tired but pleased with their progress. Jeremiah was now perfectly placed with his new boss, Abigail had familiarized herself with old Metropolis, and Wells had made a start on his repairs.

They met in Lois and Clark's room to plan their strategy.

<Eraygun>

"I know we've made a good start today, but I'm still feeling a little uneasy," Lois said, after they'd been planning for an hour or so.

"Why, honey?"

"Not knowing what's going to happen or when … it's like playing chess blindfolded."

"And with a foe such as Tempus, that is a dangerous position to be in," Wells quickly added.

"You're sure it's Tempus?"

"Almost positive, my boy. Every individual leaves a different electromagnetic signature when they travel through time."

"Like a fingerprint," Clark suggested.

"Exactly. I've been able to glean enough information from my device to know that it's Tempus who's the cause."

"But what would Tempus have to gain by this?"

"The one thing he always wants. Power."

***

The next morning Lois and Wells again accompanied Clark to the offices of Our Planet.

As they turned the corner they spied Joshua Merriwether standing in the doorway conversing with a tall dark-haired man. He was more richly dressed than the editor, and had a distinguished air.

Their eyes widened in amazement as they recognized him.

"It's him, it's Tempus!" Lois shouted, as Clark dashed ahead trying to move at something close to normal human speed.

Grabbing the man by the collar he hoisted him into the air.

"Unhand me, you cretin…"

"Jeremiah, my boy, what are you doing?"

"This man is a criminal," Lois blurted out.

"You're insane…" the man said in a slightly choked voice.

"Jeremiah, Abigail, you must be mistaken! This is Giles Templar. Among other things, he's the local magistrate."

<Misha>

Clark stared into the man's eyes. They were cold and disdainful, but completely unfamiliar. He lowered the man gently to the ground. Giles Templar dusted off his clothes, a sneer hovering on his expression.

"Are these your new employees, Joshua? I didn't know Our Planet was struggling."

"Remarkable!" Wells straightened as Giles turned his sneer on him. "The resemblance is uncanny."

"I'm sorry sir," Clark apologized. "It's just that you look very much like the man who is responsible for our presence here."

"Responsible!" Lois could contain herself no longer. "He drove us from our home!" She warmed up to the subject. "The man's a Loyalist, a traitor to his native soil! He's a villain of the…"

"Abigail!" Clark cut through her diatribe. She had been starting to quote yesterday's editorial, as well as insulting the wrong man. "It's not him."

She quieted, but Clark could tell it wasn't over yet. He turned again to Giles. "I do apologize, but you do look a lot like him."

"I hardly think that an apology is sufficient, Mr…"

"Giles." Joshua's tone was firm. "He apologized. Calling him out will solve nothing." He smiled. "Besides, you have Colonel Washington visiting you tomorrow, and George Read calling next week. You won't have time for a duel until all the delegates for the Congress are gone, and that might not be until the end of summer."

"You're right, as always, Joshua." Giles sighed and shot Clark a sidelong glance with a curl of his lip. "I'll call on you again, perhaps with Colonel Washington. He's expressed an interest in meeting you." He laid another pointed glance on Clark, adjusted his gloves and walked off.

Merriwether and Wells took a deep breath together.

"That was close, Jeremiah. Templar is a dangerous man to insult. He's very touchy about his position, and confusing him with a Loyalist is not much better than calling him a criminal."

Joshua preceded them into the shop, leaving the trio to watch the retreating back of Giles Templar.

From a nearby alley, a man smoothed his fake mustache as he held back a cackle of delight.

***

<zoomway>

Giles Templar took long strides up the street. He would remember Mr. Clark, and his harpy of a mate. How dare a suggestion of Loyalist affiliation be cast upon him! He should have shot him like a cur dog, but demanding satisfaction was the gentlemanly thing to do.

As he turned toward Kerth Avenue, a man of about his height stepped from the shadows.

"Good morning, Squire Templar."

Templar squared his shoulders. "You have me at a disadvantage, sir. Have we met?"

"No," the shadow said, and laughed. "You're a few hundred years before my time." The dark figure produced a pistol. "But let's get acquainted."

"If you intend to rob me, I should warn you you've picked the wrong man."

"Why," the shadow said as it advanced upon him. "Because you're a big frog in this backwater hole of liberty? And here I just want to be your pal." The figure pointed the pistol momentarily at a door and then leveled it again on Templar. "Open it."

"And should I refuse to comply?"

The shadow laughed again. "Then I'll do a lead ball penetration test and see if a quarter inch of lead can pass through one overstuffed magistrate and into a door lock."

"Very well. I've never had good truck with cowards," Templar said, trying to keep as much dignity as possible. He opened the door.

The shadow bowed ever so slightly. "Age before beauty."

Templar sighed and preceded his antagonist through the door into what appeared to be a musty storage room.

"Have a seat, Squire," the shadow said, closing and locking the door. He trimmed a small lamp, and was at last clearly visible to Templar.

"Who are you?"

Tempus frowned. "That's so cliche, so let me save you the trouble of the next question, which undoubtedly would be 'And what do you want?'"

Templar's anger was rising at a rate faster than his fear should permit. "You're a tonic to yourself, sir."

Tempus smiled, a bit admiringly. "That was a good one, but it will cost you a few petals on your courtesy flower. You see, Giles -" Tempus said, taking on a familiar tone, " — may I call you Giles?"

"You may not, sir," Templar said, his tone darkening.

"It's like this, Giles. I want to be a playmate to Washington, just like you. Trouble is, Georgie doesn't know me, so I thought I'd just *be* you and take a shortcut to undying friendship." So saying, Tempus removed the large, phony mustache.

Templar gasped. The madman could have been his twin.

<ChrisM>

"You … you'll never get away with this," Templar asserted, with more certainty than he felt.

His tormentor reached forward and pressed the fake mustache onto Templar's chin with studied grace. "You must be acquainted with my old friend, Herb. He always utters cliches like that."

Tempus stood back and admired his handiwork. "Yes, I like this look for you." Then his voice changed, becoming more menacing, "And … sometimes he's been right. But not this time." Suddenly he laughed, a disconcerting change, which disturbed Giles Templar almost more than anything else he'd done. "You see, my good fool, there aren't any blue tights in sight."

"What … ?"

"Yes, I've finally figured out what I've been doing wrong. If I can't rid the world of that caped chronic do-gooder, I can make a world that won't accept him."

"You're mad! The world will always strive for goodness."

Tempus ceased his grandstanding long enough to peer closely at his prisoner. "You know, there *is* a slight family resemblance. Wouldn't it be ironic if you were related to Herb? But then," he added with blase insolence, "that would mean *I* was related to him, too, and that would be too much irony … even for me."

By now Templar was more angry than afraid. "You will release me at once, sir!" He started to rise.

Tempus casually pointed the gun at his head. "No, I don't think I will. At least not just yet."

***

Back at Our Planet, Clark had ushered Lois and Wells into a back room. They were still discussing the uncanny resemblance of their recurrent enemy Tempus with the upstanding Squire Templar. Somehow, they had a feeling that the resemblance was not a coincidence.

<Eraygun>

"I'm positive that Giles Templar is the key to all this," Wells announced, but before he could speculate further, the storeroom door opened and Joshua Merriwether entered.

"Oh good, Jeremiah. I thought I might find you here and I hoped that Abigail and your uncle would still be with you."

"Mr. Merriwether, I'd like to apologize again …" Clark began.

"There's no need to apologize, Jeremiah. I was young and hot headed myself once. But you have to understand, if you're going to stay in the newspaper business, that passion has to be directed, has to be controlled, or it makes mistakes. And that can be dangerous, particularly in times like these. But," Merriwether said with an affable smile, "I didn't come here to lecture you."

"No?"

"No, actually there is someone I'd like you to meet."

"Who?" Lois asked.

A portly bespectacled man entered the storeroom doorway.

"Benjamin Franklin!" Clark said in amazement.

<Mackteach>

Clark looked to Lois and saw the same stunned look on her face that was on his. He'd known that they would probably run into historical figures, but to actually meet one of them…

"Ben, this young man is my new printer, Jeremiah Clark."

"A splendid profession," Franklin said with a grin.

Clark started to extend his hand, then thought it better to bow. "A pleasure to meet you, sir."

Benjamin Franklin inclined his head slightly with a smile. "It seems that my reputation has preceded me, Joshua."

Merriwether chuckled and slapped Franklin's back. "Now, Ben. If your reputation *had* preceded you…"

Franklin's next words cut off the rest of Merriwether's statement. "And who is this lovely creature?" Franklin turned toward Lois, a smile on his face and a definite twinkle in his eye.

He took Lois' hand in his and held it gently. Bending down, he kissed the back of her hand, lingering just a moment.

Lois suppressed the giggle that she felt rising and remembered to curtsy. "My name is Abigail, Mr. Franklin."

"Abigail. A lovely name for a lovely woman." Franklin winked and this time, Lois' giggle escaped her lips. Keeping her hand within his, Franklin turned to Wells. "You must be her father. May I have your permission to court her?"

Before Wells could open his mouth in reply, Clark spoke up. "She's spoken for, sir." The tone in his voice caught Franklin's attention. He turned and looked at the young man whose eyes scowled so fiercely at him.

Clark explained in a low and husky voice. "She's my fia … er, wife."

Lois had heard that tone before, but usually only when they were alone and in the midst of driving each other crazy with desire. Apparently, there were other times and other situations where that particular voice was effective.

The effect of Clark's words was immediate. Benjamin Franklin quickly released Lois' hand and took a step back. His voice, initially light and flirtatious with her, became formal and respectful.

He bowed to her, a courtly gesture that Lois was sure would be much appreciated in France when he went there as a newly formed nation's emissary.

"My apologies to you, dear lady." He straightened and looked Clark directly in the eye. "And to you also, sir. My weakness has always been beautiful women. I meant no offense."

Clark's scowl disappeared and a sheepish grin came over his handsome features. "My apologies as well, Mr. Franklin. Abigail and I have only recently been married." He turned and looked into Lois' eyes. "She has become my sole reason for existence."

Their gazes locked and the three other gentleman shuffled uncomfortably. The love and passion between the two young people were almost tangible. Lois continued to look at Clark, her eyes growing moist, her smile brightening her entire face. "As you have become mine, Jeremiah," she softly whispered.

Wells looked to the young couple and coughed lightly. The sound was enough to break the growing silence in the storeroom. Tearing his gaze from her face, Clark turned once more to Merriwether and Franklin. He released a long breath. "Again, sirs. My apologies."

Franklin stepped up to Clark and put a friendly hand on his shoulder. "No apologies necessary, my boy. Joshua and I were once newlyweds, eh, Josh?"

Joshua turned to Clark. "About Templar…"

<Misha>

Clark could feel Lois switching mental gears beside him. Her heartbeat sped up slightly, and she leaned forward just a tad.

"Colonel Washington just arrived in town, and I believe Templar wishes to call with him tomorrow. In the interests of peace and goodwill, would you mind showing Mr. Franklin a few of the sights in Metropolis?"

Franklin chuckled. "Now, I know Templar's a hothead, but do you think he'd challenge Mr. Clark here?"

Joshua sighed. "He's got it in his head that Jeremiah has insulted him. Just keep away from the Planet for the day, please?" He looked from Franklin to Clark, and grasped Clark's shoulder. "He's a damn good shot, and I'd hate to lose my best apprentice."

"Yes, sir."

"Come on, Jeremiah, let's start our tour with my lodgings, so that you can find me in the morning."

Franklin clapped Clark on the other shoulder, and led/pushed him out the door. Clark exchanged one last glance with Lois before she and Wells were left alone in the storeroom.

Lois growled her frustration. "He'll be babysitting Franklin, and Tempus can just waltz in and do… whatever!"

"Lo — Abigail!" Wells hurried after her as she strode out of the storeroom. "Where are you going?"

"To find Templar. He's the key to this whole thing!"

"Oh dear," Wells muttered under his breath as they headed off to find the magistrate's house.

***

It had only taken a few inquiries to locate the house, and Lois eyed the pretentious elegance of the dwelling with a rather skeptical eye before she knocked. The silent servant admitted them to the sitting room without protest, and disappeared with a similar lack of fanfare.

Lois took one glance at the surroundings, and proceeded to pace from one end of the sitting room to the other.

Wells sat in one of the chairs, mopping his brow. He'd had much more energy when he'd first started traveling through time, seventeen years ago. And sometimes, just watching Lois wore him out. He closed his eyes.

"Napping, Herb?"

Lois spun around. Wells opened his eyes and began to sit up.

A man resembling Giles Templar stood in the doorway, holding a pair of cocked pistols. His eyes held a familiar mocking gleam that Lois recognized instantly.

"Tempus," she spat.

<zoomway>

"Well, house guests already," Tempus smiled. "Spunky Gal Reporter and Herbie the Wonderless."

Wells stood. "What have you done with the magistrate Templar?"

"That's good, Herb, but it will never replace 'who put the bomp in the bomp shoo bomp'."

"You plan to kill Washington," Lois said flatly.

"I can always count on you to cut to the chase, Lois," he said, and handed a handkerchief to Wells. "Be so kind as to gag Miss Lane, because I know if she's here, so is her hus… boyfriend with the good hearing."

"What's the point this time, Tempus?" Wells said, tying on the handkerchief. "Liberty isn't just one man. If you kill Colonel Washington, the dream of freedom won't die with him."

Tempus consulted the grandfather clock. "Herb, if you could just put your patriotic mumbo-jumbo into a 200-word-or-less essay and slip it into a Hallmark card, I'll read it later — but for now, I have someone else to meet with, so kindly follow me to the pantry where I can stash you with the other vegetables."

<Eraygun>

As they left the parlor and made their way to the rear of the house Tempus leaned forward and stage whispered conspiratorially, "Since I'm going to dispose of you anyway, I'll let you in on a little secret, Herb. You're right, killing one man won't change all of history. But who says that my little sojourns into the past will end here?"

Wells grimaced in disgust. "No doubt you intend to slaughter men and women of good will throughout history."

"Very good, Herb. You're brighter than you look."

"But that's monstrous…" Wells began.

"True, but it's also *fun*."

***

<zoomway>

"Mr. Franklin, is it true you harnessed lightning, or is that just a fable?" Clark asked as he led the older man through streets as unfamiliar to him as they were to Franklin.

"No fable. Fact, young man."

Clark managed a polite grin. "If you say so, sir. I've always been taught to respect my elders."

Clark hated goading Franklin, but Wells needed power. If there was one thing Clark had learned during the Back to the Future marathon with Lois, other than how great she kissed during commercials, it was that lightning was the one power source available in any era.

Franklin looked thoughtful for a moment. "Young man, saying you believe me without really believing me is somewhat akin to calling me a stallion when I've said I'm a gelding. I appreciate the comparison, but would much prefer it to be genuine."

Clark managed to appear properly chastened. He felt restless, distracted, but couldn't pin down the feeling exactly. "Maybe if you told me how you did it, I could better believe you."

<Misha>

Franklin appeared pleasantly surprised. "Not many will ask me how. They either believe or disbelieve at their whim. I actually haven't done much with electricity since my recent sojourn to London, but if you take a glass jar and…"

Just then, Clark's hearing tuned in. "… well, if you'll just untie me, Templar, we might have a chance of getting out of here."

Clark glanced around, looking for a deserted alley.

"… the acid will…"

"Excuse me, Mr. Franklin, but… I, ah… forgot something at the Planet. I'll be right back!" He dashed towards the alley.

"Jeremiah! What if Templar is…" Franklin trailed off. "Foolish boy."

***

Tempus sat in the opulent sitting room, twirling the pistols. The ivory handles smacked into his palms with a satisfying thunk.

Thunk. Right.

Thunk. Left.

Thunk. Right.

Thunk. Tempus slid to the ground, unconscious.

Behind him, Lois placed the wooden footstool back on the floor and dusted off her hands with satisfaction.

As the ornately carved legs touched the carpet, the front door crashed open.

"Lois?" Clark was at her side in the next instant. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine." She smiled up at him. "I guess I got to clobber the villain first this time."

<Mackteach>

Clark smiled at Lois, concern still evident in his gaze. He reached out and cupped the side of her face, needing the physical contact between them to confirm that she was all right. He let out a shaky breath.

"You are the most impulsive, headstrong — "

Lois silenced him with a kiss. "But you love me, don't you?" she murmured against his lips.

Clark's voice turned low and husky. "Yeah, I do." His arms went around her and he deepened the kiss for a moment. As he heard Lois' breathless sigh, he broke off the kiss and looked at her. "So what happened to Plan A?"

Lois smiled sheepishly. "It was taking too long." She shrugged her shoulders. "So I went to Plan C."

Clark cocked his eyebrow. "Completely bypassing Plan B?"

Lois' smile turned soft as her hand reached up to caress his furrowed brow. "And what exactly *was* Plan B?"

Clark was silent, trying to focus his thoughts. Lois' touch was too distracting. He looked again into her eyes. "I forget."

He pulled her once again into his arms, his head resting against hers, his eyes closed in thankful appreciation that no harm had come to his little tornado.

A moan of pain drew their attention to the figure at their feet. Clark went into super mode and quickly had Tempus bound and gagged. A step behind him drew his attention and he whirled, his senses on the alert.

Wells and Giles Templar stepped into the room. Templar glared at Clark for a moment before dropping his eyes to his doppelganger trussed at Clark's and Lois' feet. His eyes raised once more to the face of the man he knew as Jeremiah Clark. This time the haughtiness and condescending look were gone, replaced by respect and appreciation.

He held his hand out toward Clark. "My thanks, sir. I… may have judged you hastily."

Clark smiled and accepted Templar's hand. "As you are the magistrate, I give this man over to your capable hands."

The two men stared at each other, each taking the measure of the other's worth. Templar's gaze wavered first. He turned and looked at Lois.

"My apologies and thanks to you as well, Mistress Abigail. Your husband has proved to be of sound character."

Lois nodded at Templar and turned her gaze to Clark. "Yes. Jeremiah is unique among men."

A knock on the open doorway drew their attention.

"Excuse the interruption, but I have an appointment with Giles Templar. Giles? Is everything all right?"

Lois moved to stand closer to Clark. Nudging him in the ribs, she whispered. "Clark! That's…"

"General Washington. Yes, I know."

"Actually, my boy…" Clark turned to Wells as the elderly gentleman stepped forward. "It's *Colonel* Washington. His appointment to head the Continental Army hasn't happened yet."

Clark nodded his understanding. He turned his attention back to George Washington and Giles Templar.

Templar greeted Washington. "Colonel. A pleasure." He gestured about the room, his hand indicating Clark, Lois, and Wells. "We had a bit of a ruckus, but with the aid of these three people, I've been able to foil a plot against your life, sir."

Lois' sharp intake of breath indicated that she wasn't at all happy with Giles' version of what had happened. She was about to speak when she felt Clark's arm come about her waist and pull her up against his hard body. She molded herself to him, enjoying the feel of how they fit together, even when they were standing side by side. She sighed softly and pitched her voice so only Clark could hear.

"Soon," she whispered, her voice low and shaky.

Clark let Lois' whispered word wash over him. He looked down at her and nodded, his gaze telling her that "soon" wasn't soon enough for him. Nor for her.

She turned to Wells. "Mr. Wells?"

Wells was studying his watch intently. Lois reached out and gently touched his shoulder. He looked up. "Hmm? Yes, what is it, m'dear?"

"Is everything all right?"

Wells looked back down at his watch, made a slight adjustment and smiled. "Yes, I believe so."

Wells, Lois, and Clark watched as two men who had been summoned by Templar led Tempus out of the house. Giles and Washington followed them and the prisoner.

They walked down the stairs and met Benjamin Franklin just entering the front gate. The three colonials greeted each other and headed off down the street in the general direction of "The White Stag" Tavern.

<Eraygun>

Wells pocketed his watch. "It's time."

Clark and Lois looked at each other and smiled.

"But wait!" Lois interrupted. "What about Tempus? We can't just leave him here. He's bound to escape again."

"Perhaps, my dear," Wells replied. "But he won't get far."

"Why not?" Clark asked.

Wells smiled and pulled a small rectangular box out of his pocket "While you and Miss Lane were so handily dealing with our friend, I was able to find and confiscate his time travel device.

Clark grinned. "Tempus won't be able to leave this time without it."

Wells nodded. "Precisely my boy. And after I've taken the two of you home, I'll return with the proper authorities and collect him."

***

<Misha>

Metropolis 1996

"Good work kids." Perry tapped the headline of the morning edition. "That was a great expose of Colonel Cash and the Kryptonite gas conspiracy." He was leaning over the edge of the divider by Lois' desk, talking to his star reporters.

"Yeah!" Jimmy piped up as he walked by, some now-forgotten errand in his hand. "It was totally cool how you found those documents from the Pentagon, CK."

Clark looked down at his fianc»e. That night in the military data center had been difficult in more ways than one.

"Oh, it wasn't that hard, Jimmy." Lois tilted her head upwards, exchanging a glance with Clark. "Cash forgot to cover his tracks past the original break-in at STAR Labs."

"Only you would say that sneaking past half the army was a piece of cake, Lois." Clark bent and kissed her forehead.

Perry cleared his throat, and Lois and Clark looked up at him. He had that I-know-what-you've-been-through-so-I-might-just-give-you-a-break look in his eyes.

"Go on home, you two. I won't get anything more out of you today." He turned and nearly ran into Jimmy, who ducked and continued on his errand before Perry could do more than glare at him.

Lois twirled around in her chair. Clark had the oddest look on his face. "Hear something?"

Clark shook his head. "Nope. Not a thing." He offered her a hand up from her chair, and she rose gracefully, her lips meeting his.

Behind them, Wells looked at his watch and replaced it in his pocket with a satisfied smile. He stepped back into the darkroom.

THE END