By IRC Round Robin
Submitted June 1999
Summary: Another story in the IRC Round Robin Group's "Unintentional Season." Angelique, Dr. Klein's new colleague at Star Labs, is beautiful, brainy, and apparently interested in him, much to the consternation of Dr. Ruth Friskin. But is her interest in Bernie real or just a front to uncover information about Superman?
An IRC Round Robin by Zoomway <firstname.lastname@example.org>; CKGroupie <Nwolke@t-online.de>; Demi <email@example.com>; Eraygun <Eraygun@aol.com>; Melisma <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Misha <email@example.com>; chrispat <firstname.lastname@example.org>; ChrisM <email@example.com>
"I *hate* these air bubbles," Lois complained as she carefully glued and smoothed the magazine cover into her scrapbook.
Clark glanced over and winced. "I *hate* that picture, honey. Couldn't you just …skip that one?"
Lois smiled, but didn't look up. "No. I keep *every* picture of Superman when he makes the news…even this one. That's why this is volume 5, issue 17 of my Superman scrapbooks," she said proudly. "Besides, you wouldn't get rid of that tabloid photo of me that was an *obvious* forgery … where I'm kissing *Batman*."
"Honey, I always felt self-conscious about all the Superman hero stuff, so I kept the tabloid stuff. At least it has a kind of twisted sense of humor about the whole thing. Besides,," Clark said, and pulled his 'guilty pleasure' scrap book from the shelf, " … I might not even have enough room in here for all the recent juicy Newstime scandals."
Lois rolled her eyes. "That would be a pity."
"Look," he smiled. "I have the very first tabloid mention of Superman in here." He beamed and turned the book towards Lois.
She looked at the National Whisper cover dated 1993. A picture of a pregnant woman inset inside a giant Valentine heart, and an artist's rendition of the Superman costume, topped by a green 'mutant alien' head, was captioned 'I'm Having the Alien's Baby.'
Lois laughed. "What a coincidence. So am I."
Clark smiled warmly and put his hand on Lois' tummy. "We'll try and keep *this* one out of the headlines."
Lois placed her hand over his. "Can we, Clark? I'm so afraid of that … that maybe someone will find out and then—"
"Lois," Clark whispered. "*No* one is going to find out about us, or our baby."
Morgan Edge stumbled on the threshold, his foot catching on a nonexistent snag in the rug. As soon as he had fumbled the door closed behind him, his demeanor changed perceptibly. He straightened, and slid smoothly towards the woman waiting in the empty hallway. His smile widened as he catalogued her obvious assets.
She inserted the tip of a slim, lacquered finger in her mouth, licked it daintily, and flicked to the next page of the weighty medical journal in her lap. She tracked his progress to her side, and when he was in range, shifted the journal, uncrossed her legs, and recrossed them again as he paused next to her.
"Mrs. Church is ready to see you, my dear." Edge offered his hand to assist her to her feet, prepared to bow and scrape and peer further down her exposed cleavage.
She handed the journal to him instead, and let him fumble with its sudden weight as she sauntered towards the door. "Of course she is, Morgie. She always deals with the bunglers first."
The door swished shut behind her.
Their voices were flat, all trace of bubbling effervescence completely absent.
"One word, Angel. Superman." Mindy blew a ring of smoke past her propped up feet and across the length of the conference table.
Angelique wrinkled her nose and waved away the smoke. "What about him?"
"STAR Labs has the most complete information on him. After Edge bungled the last…" Mindy waved her cigar in exasperation. "…campaign, I want more information."
"And?" Angelique perched on the edge of the table.
"Bernard Klein is his doctor. Find out what he knows."
Angelique's eyes narrowed. "For what purpose?"
Mindy smiled, took another puff of her cigar. "I'll let you know."
"Bernard?" The voice of Dr. Shaw intruded on Dr. Klein's concentration. "May I introduce Dr. Angelique Menders to you?"
Dr. Klein raised his head and furrowed his brow. "Yes, yes…" he said absently, his eyes still on the notes on his desk. "Nice to meet you, Dr. Menders."
"Angelique," a smooth female voice answered. "Please call me Angelique."
This finally caught his attention. He looked up and his jaw dropped. A gorgeous young woman was standing next to Dr. Shaw. Shining blonde hair, rosy skin, and as far as he could tell in her plain, white overall, a curvaceous body like none he'd seen in a long time.
"I'm a great admirer of your work, Dr. Klein," she said. "I'm so excited that I'm going to be working here!"
"Yes, yes…" he mumbled, trying to focus on what she said. "I'm excited, too… ah, working? You're going to work here?"
"Angelique is our new expert on genetics," Dr. Shaw said reproachfully. "I mentioned it to you at least ten times yesterday!"
"Oh!" Dr. Klein smiled. "I must have missed that, Charlie. Well then, welcome to STAR Labs, Angelique."
"Thank you, doctor." Angelique sauntered forward and leaned in close. So close that he could smell her expensive perfume, even though he couldn't place it. Ruth didn't wear perfume like that..
"I have—" His voice cracked. "I—uh— I have some notes on procedure, STAR Labs procedure, I mean. Since you're new. I'll get them to your office this afternoon." He cleared his throat self-consciously.
"That would be lovely," she breathed, brushing against him. Picking up a test tube, she used his chest as leverage to right her position. "I have a feeling you've got a lot to teach me … Doctor."
Bernard nodded wordlessly, transfixed by her smile…her…
"If that's all, Klein, I'll show Angelique to her office. I believe she has a few phone calls to make, isn't that right?" Shaw regarded Angelique lasciviously.
"Yes. Doctor Klein, I'll look forward to your … tutorial." She tossed him a coy smile and then turned. Following Shaw from the lab, they left their very flustered, very frazzled colleague to himself.
Klein paced back and forth, wearing a thin, shiny line in the cool cement floor beneath his feet. Why did these things always have to happen to him, anyway? And why couldn't they at least get some of that cheap linoleum flooring in the lab facility like ATOM Labs across town had?
He scowled. Another day, another geneticist run off with some scout from ATOM Labs. He remembered now. Shaw had told him about it yesterday at least five or six times. If he'd really listened, he'd probably also have remembered that he was going to have to take care of the administration. He hated administration.
And as if that wasn't enough, now he'd have to spend hours training another body in the "ways of STAR Labs procedure." Granted it was a great body. Probably the most incredible body he'd ever seen … Klein smacked his head into the side of a metal specimen cabinet and gingerly rubbed his skull. What was he thinking? Ruth would kill him.
The thing was, no matter how good looking the young doctor Menders was, she was new. And that meant that everything he'd been working on for the past three weeks would have to be put on hold until he'd trained her completely.
Which reminded him … Lois Lane was due for another examination. At five months along, carrying Superman's baby, she was very lucky that things had been progressing as smoothly as they had so far.
Klein picked up a stray beaker and fondled it absently. If he were honest about it, Lois was doing a *lot* better than he'd expected. It wasn't as though he'd anticipated any catastrophic problems with the pregnancy, not at all, but there was something to be said about carrying an "alien child" — something that translated into a "what-if" factor — and "what-if" factors were enough to make any self respecting scientist … uncomfortable.
Maybe this Dr. Menders could shed a little insight into the possibilities at hand. He couldn't tell her, of course … nothing specific, and that would make it difficult to glean any sort of truly useful information from her, but all the same, anything he could gather which might facilitate his friends' pregnancy was helpful. He'd just have to be careful, that's all. Very, very careful.
Angelique leaned over the keyboard, slowly sifting her way through the scanty amount of data that STAR Labs had compiled on Superman in its general databases. Every bit of data, every gleaming byte spoke of a thousand more that had been left out or deleted or … hidden. She smiled coldly into the empty lab. The general databases held nothing. And Klein, for all his vacant tangents into Never-NeverLand, had guarded his private files very well.
She could bypass the security, try every password he'd had taped to the underside of his desk drawer, snoop in every cabinet he had in his lab, but if she slipped, she had a small, cold cell waiting for her in Canada.
She just had to be careful. Very, very careful.
"Careful, Jimmy. You've got to handle that *carefully*. It's a delicate piece of machinery," Clark said as he leaned over Jimmy's shoulder and eyed a small mechanism in Jimmy's hands.
"That's right, son," Perry added.
"No problem, CK, chief. I've got it covered."
Lois rolled her eyes and gave them all a smirk. "Men. Show them the latest gizmo and they forget everything!"
"It's not just a gizmo, honey, it's a micro-tracking device. Jimmy got it from…" Clark blinked, hesitated a few seconds and then looked at Lois sheepishly. "Did I forget something?"
Lois nodded. "Only the fact that we have an appointment with Dr. Klein in twenty minutes. We need to interview him about his latest discovery, remember?"
Clark grinned and nodded. "Yes, honey, I remember…"
"That sounds cool Lois. What is it?" Jimmy interrupted.
Lois hesitated. "Oh … it's something really technical, Jimmy."
"Yeah, it would take to long to explain, Jim."
"Darn. I was kind of hoping you could use a photographer. I love STAR Labs."
"Maybe next time."
"Well, I hope *I* can still catch a ride with you?"
They all turned to look at the woman who had appeared behind them.
"What are you doing here at the Planet?"
"Bernard mentioned last night that he would be seeing you two today. When my appointment next door ended early I figured I could catch a ride with you and we could go to STAR Labs together. I love surprising him."
"We'd love to, Ruth, but our car is in the shop for body work."
"Oh, no. Was there a fender bender?"
"Bullet holes," Clark replied.
Lois smiled and shrugged. "Anyway, you're welcome to share a cab with us."
Dr Klein was amazed at how quickly Angelique appeared to be settling into the STAR Labs way of doing things. She had only been there for the morning, yet it seemed as if she had been with them forever.
"Would you like to go grab some lunch in the cafeteria with me?" he asked.
"Well, all right, Bernie. Um, is it okay if I call you Bernie?"
Dr. Klein nodded, though he knew that only Ruth called him that. Ruth? Ruth who? his befuddled brain wondered.
They broke off their current task and headed for the cafeteria.
The cab carrying Lois, Clark and Ruth Friskin pulled up at STAR Labs, and they all piled out. Ruth ran into the research facility ahead of the two reporters, eager to surprise her boyfriend.
"Where's Dr. Klein," she asked the guard behind the security desk.
"Uh … well, ma'am … uh…" he stammered.
She looked at him hard. "Where?"
"Uh, ma'am, he's in the cafeteria with Angelique," the guard said finally.
The guard seemed to be in a daze. "An angel…"
Ruth got a worried look on her face and hurried off to the cafeteria.
Lois grabbed Clark's arm and followed him down the stark white corridors. She noticed that most of the men seemed to be heading the same way, and the few women they encountered were … She intercepted a few looks of pity, some of shame, though most of the women seemed to be disgusted with something.
"Hmm?" Clark lowered his head a bit as she slowed down behind Ruth.
"Something's wrong. You don't think they switched the amoeba cultures with the Jell-O again, do you?"
Clark shook his head. "I don't think they'd make the same mistake twice, Lois, I…"
Ruth had stopped short in the cafeteria doorway ahead of them. A mousy brunette edged around her, balancing her tray in one hand, then scurried past Lois and Clark.
"Uh-oh." Lois spotted the blonde first, zeroed in on the low-cut dress under the partially unbuttoned lab coat, dismissed the errant thought about white emphasizing a tan, and pulled her husband closer to her.
Clark's eyes, however, followed Ruth as she slowly approached the gaggle of men surrounding Dr. Klein and his blonde limpet as they tossed around technical terms involving strand-replication and cell-division.
"Hello, Bernard. Charlie. Dr. Choi. Dr. Weber. Harrison. " Ruth continued to name names around the table. The blonde flushed as Ruth's greeting was met with enthusiasm and smiles all around her. Finally, the greetings finished, Ruth turned to her, eyebrow raised. "And you are?"
"*Doctor* Menders." Angelique stood, taking a deep breath. Many of her admirers breathed with her in appreciation.
Ruth took her hand and shook it. "Welcome to STAR Labs, Menders."
Angelique's eyes narrowed imperceptibly. "And you are?"
"Doing quite well. And yourself?"
"Ah. Fine. Who…?"
Ruth moved past Angelique's elbow, pulling slightly on her hand as she passed. "Bernard. I see you haven't touched your food. I have a surprise for you."
Angelique tumbled into a happy intern's lap, and Ruth moved to block the sight of the lovely doctor. Klein rose, and was maneuvered out of the room before Angelique could detach the intern's tentacles.
Lois and Clark remained in the doorway. "Wow." Lois muttered. "Does she give lessons?"
"First of all, Ruth," Klein said, perspiration dotting the follically-challenged landscape at the top of his head.
"Dr.Mangelique … uh … Angina…"
"Angelique Menders," Lois offered coolly.
"Yes, thank you … um—"
"Lois, Lois Lane."
"Bernard." Ruth smiled and took Klein's arm. "It's all right. You're exhibiting classic sexual fixation."
Klein swallowed. "Ruth, I wasn't *fixated* … she's a colleague, and—"
"Men," Ruth continued, "fixate on packaging. Women, cars, stereos, computers. It's why the divorce rate and repair bills are so high. They don't get beyond the packaging."
Lois and Clark exchanged glances. Lois, feeling somewhat sorry for Klein, decided to intercede on his behalf as the foursome entered the lab office.
"But women fixate, too, Dr. Friskin," she offered.
"Oh," Ruth smiled, "indeed they do, Lois. Though women might overlook aesthetics in favor of internal components and ease of operation, they can be fooled by mislabeled packaging. Lex Luthor, for example."
"Ouch," Clark whispered.
Friskin removed her glasses and looked at Lois thoughtfully. "Then there are like-minded fixations. Superman being a common one. A patient I'm helping currently seems to have a sexual fantasy about Superman."
Lois sighed as Clark blushed. She folded her arms. "But if Superman is a common fixation, then doesn't that mean women are just as likely as men to obsess on … packaging?"
"Well," Friskin nodded, tapping her glasses against her palm. "In this case the patient is a young man, and so perhaps the male packaging theory still applies."
"Could we *please* just get on with the … interview," Clark interrupted, his face suddenly as red as Lois' dress.
Dr. Klein looked puzzled. "Interview?" he asked.
Lois glared at him. "Yes. The appointment we had."
"Oh! Yes, the, um … interview." He turned to Ruth. "Um, I seem to have forgotten something else today. Would you mind waiting while we do that interview? It won't take long."
Ruth sighed and rolled her eyes. "No, Bernie. I don't mind. I can look up Dr. Menders and get to know her better while you're busy." She chuckled as he blanched. "Don't worry. I trust you." She gave him a peck on the cheek and left the office.
An hour later, Lois and Clark disembarked from a cab in front of the Daily Planet.
Lois hugged Clark's arm and sighed happily as they strolled through the lobby. "That was amazing. We actually got to see our baby with that ultrasound thing. Of course you could probably see it better than that fuzzy blob I saw."
"Lois. I promised you I wouldn't peek, and I won't."
Lois smiled. "I know that, boy scout, but aren't you tempted sometimes?"
Clark put his arm around her as they entered the elevator. "Of course I am, but I *did* promise."
A minute later the elevator doors opened on the usual chaos of the newsroom.
"You know, Clark, I've been thinking…" Lois said as they exited the elevator.
"Uh-oh, I know that look."
Clark grinned. "I'm sorry, honey, force of habit. What have you been thinking about?"
"That's better," Lois replied as she playfully patted him on the chest. "I think I should run a check on that Dr. Menders."
"Honey, you can't be serious."
"Clark, there's something fishy about her. I can tell."
"Lo-is, just because all the men at STAR Labs were attracted to her is no reason to think she might be an axe murderer."
"Well, you're no one to judge considering your weakness in this particular area."
"That's right, mister, you've got a weakness for blondes. Do the names Lana Lang, Toni Taylor, Linda King, Mayson Drake ring any bells?"
Clark chuckled and shook his head. "Actually, I don't think Lana fits on that list."
"She wasn't a blonde when I knew her in Smallville … she was a redhead."
Lois smirked. "Even money says Toni Taylor isn't a natural blonde, either. I *know* Linda isn't."
"Honey, they all could have been bald as far as I'm concerned. Besides Kryptonite, my only weakness is you. And I've got the scars to prove it," Clark teased.
"Just the same I'd rather we avoid the good Dr. Menders, thank you very much. At least until we have a chance to find out the truth about her."
Clark eyed Lois carefully. "Lois, are you jealous?" he asked as a small smile crept over his face.
"Er, why no … not at all. I'm just trying to save you some embarrassment. You saw how foolish Dr. Klein and all those other men looked at the lab."
Clark gave Lois a knowing smile.
"Of course, if she did try and sink her claws into you, you wouldn't be the first man to make a fool of himself over a woman."
"*I* wouldn't make a fool—"
"I mean, if you dropped all men in the Atlantic who made fools of themselves over women—"
"I know, I know," Clark laughed. "They'd form an organic highway to Paris."
"You know what I just realized?"
"I have a feeling you're going to tell me."
"That every single time in our history together, when I've simply *noticed* that some woman was coming on to you, you've said 'you're jealous' or 'are you jealous', but if it was *me* who had some guy breathless, you'd—"
"Go crazy," he whispered.
She smiled her crooked smile. "Yeah. You'd go crazy."
Clark put his hands on her shoulders and playfully moved them back and forth, "Say it."
"I sort of love that." She laughed and hugged him.
Angelique frowned into the phone. "I only met him today."
"You said you were a fast worker."
"I am. Tomorrow at the latest."
"Remember, I only pay for results."
Angelique smiled, baring her teeth in a feral grin. "I only deliver results." She let the phone slide into the cradle and turned back to the computer. "So what results are you hiding, Dr. Klein?"
"Dr. Angelique Menders. Top of her class at Metropolis University, top of her class at Metropolis Medical School, Ph.D. in genetics from?"
"Who in their right mind gets a degree from Gotham?"
"Well, she sure didn't."
Jimmy slipped another file on her desk. Lois flipped it open and sniffed. She even looked good in a mug shot.
"Angel Lacky. Wanted in three states for prostitution, but that's old stuff. AKA Angelique Menteur. Wanted in Canada for medical malpractice and some stuff about industrial theft. That's the NIA file. Don't ask how I got it."
Lois smiled up. "Thanks, Jimmy."
Clark set down Lois' coffee cup in front of her. "Don't ask about what?"
"Our lovely blonde doctor isn't really a doctor."
"Nope." Jimmy shook his head. "She's a doctor all right. She's got the degree as Menteur at least. And she's really into genetics. She got involved in some frog-breeding thing in Canada. I don't understand it."
Clark looked at Lois. "Would Klein?"
Lois nodded slowly. "Probably. But should we ask him?"
"Please," Lois frowned. "Not frogs."
"Honey," Clark said. "We promised not to use the "F" word again."
"Oh yeah," Jimmy brightened. "The frogs that Dr. Mamba used for the clones of the President, and Lois and—" Jimmy interrupted himself as he noticed a dual icy stare from Lois and Clark. "And I just remembered some place out I have to be," Jimmy said, backing away. "Hold the elevator!"
Lois grinned. "You'd almost think Jimmy was afraid of us."
Clark put his forehead against Lois'. "Well, we outnumber him three to one."
Lois patted his cheek. "Maybe the three of us better check into this."
Clark straightened. "There's one of two reasons for this Dr. Menteur, AKA Lacky AKA Menders—"
"AKA bimbo," Lois added.
Clark smiled, but continued. "Either she wants a safe place to continue her Frankenstein work, or—"
"Or she's after something STAR Labs has — and that means someone with strong backing got her that job to reroute incriminating background checks."
"Exactly," Clark nodded. "So, what would STAR Labs have that ATOM or any of the others wouldn't?"
Lois paled. "Kryptonite?"
Clark thought a moment. "True, honey, but getting the Kryptonite wouldn't require a geneticist with a rap sheet."
Lois' perplexed expression changed instantly to one of recognition. "Superman."
"Superman?" Clark asked, instinctively lowering his voice when his alter ego was discussed.
"STAR Labs has the most data on Superman of any scientific facility anywhere, Clark," she whispered. "The Press brothers hacked into that classified data—and no," Lois raised a hand, "you don't have to remind me I was too slow believing you about the Press brothers."
Clark laughed weakly. "Still doesn't explain the geneticist part."
Lois shrugged. "Maybe she hoped to be put in charge of Superman's next physical."
"No comment," Clark said and kissed Lois' hand.
"Oh, Clark," Lois said, the light finally dawning. "Your … sample.
Her lovely face frowning with concentration, Angelique bent over the keyboard once again. Muttering a few choice phrases about certain middle-aged, balding scientists who weren't as dumb as they looked, she kept one ear open as she tried yet again to tap into Klein's secret files.
She'd gotten past the first level of his security measures without too much trouble. "LabRats" and "Ruth" were no-brainers as passwords, but then she'd hit a wall.
Still, she consoled herself grimly, if he's got this much security on these files, they must have some incredible stuff in them.
Blast it! She could hear someone coming! Quickly, she closed down everything, and tried to look busy at one of the lab tables.
"Ah, my dear Dr. Menders … how are you settling in?"
Great! she thought. Just what I need! "I'm fine Dr. Weber, thank you."
"Good, good." The portly, fifty-ish chemist stood beaming at her, with an irritatingly stupid grin on his round face.
She needed to get rid of him. Klein would be getting out of that meeting in another half-hour … she had work to do.
"Was there something you wanted, Dr. Weber?"
"No, oh no … well, I just … Bernard isn't here, is he?" He looked around the obviously Klein-deprived laboratory, as if expecting his colleague to suddenly appear out from behind a test tube or something.
"No," Angelique replied, as she returned with studied purpose to the experiment in front of her. "He's at a meeting."
"Ah, yes … so he is. Well, then … I, uh, I have tickets to the opera for this evening. I would be honored to escort someone as lovely, er, intelligent as you…"
Ten long minutes later she finally got rid of him, and was about to return to the computer when she heard more voices coming down the hall. Doesn't anyone do any work around here? she silently griped in exasperation.
Instead of another STAR labs employee with ideas above his station, however, she was surprised to see Lois Lane and Clark Kent walk in. They seemed rather nonplussed to see her there, also.
For several seconds the three of them stared at one another. Angelique was surprised to see a glint of anger grow in Lois' eyes. What could that mean? Clark was the first to break the silence.
"We were looking for Dr. Klein."
"He's at a meeting." Angelique thought maybe she should have just taped that … it would have saved her repeating it for everyone who came through here. This place was worse than Metropolis Central Station.
Lois' look became decidedly determined. She perched up on a lab stool, with the air of one who would not be moved. "We'll wait," she announced.
Angelique raised one perfect eyebrow. "Suit yourself," she replied coolly.
She turned to face Clark hoping for a more receptive audience, but was met by a look like a north wind blowing across the frozen tundra back home.
Deciding that further attempts at hacking would be useless, Angelique picked up a mass of papers from the lab counter and head out the door, nearly colliding with Dr. Klein as he returned from his meeting.
"Angelique?! Was there something you wanted…?"
"Oh, nothing at all, Bernard. I was just using your lab to review these papers … The light is … so much better here."
Klein grinned foolishly. "Well, feel free to drop in anytime. My lab is your lab. Actually it's not really my lab, I don't own the building, but…"
"Dr. Klein, could we talk to you?" Lois interrupted.
"Oh Lois, Clark. I didn't notice you were here," Klein replied as he entered the lab. "What can I do for you?"
"We need to discuss something with you in *private*," Clark said as he shot Angelique a pointed look.
Klein closed the door and Clark scanned the hallway until Angelique had disappeared around the corner.
"Well, what seems to be the problem? Lois, are you feeling sick?"
"No, it's nothing like that. It's your new colleague. Dr. Menders."
"What about her?"
"She's a fake, a phony."
"We checked her out and her credentials are fake."
Dr. Klein slowly sat down.
"That's not all, doctor," Clark added.
"Good lord, what else?"
"We think she may be after the genetic information you have on me."
"Good heavens, your sample!"
"Clark." Lois had a horrible premonition. "Are you keeping an eye on Angelique?"
Clark realized that he'd forgotten to keep the suspect scientist within super-sight.
"Just a sec … Hey, where'd she go? You two try to figure out how to keep her from the data. I'll go see if I can find her."
Lois reached up and loosened his tie. "Be careful, honey."
After Angelique left the lab, she'd realized that the reporters must be suspicious of her. As calmly as she could, she quickly walked to the nearest phone.
"Yes, please send a car. Yes, I'll be waiting. Please have him hurry."
She headed out the door as casually as possible. Within seconds a car pulled up, and she got in.
Superman flew high above Metropolis, scanning everywhere with x-ray vision as well as telephoto-vision, but Angelique was nowhere to be found. Wondering if he should be panicking, he began redoing his scan. He registered the fact that his x-ray vision couldn't penetrate a long white limousine speeding down the interstate.
And suddenly he realized why - the car was lead-lined.
Most limo drivers never experience the humiliation of being pulled over by a police officer. This one was no exception. Being pulled over by a flying man in blue tights is another thing entirely. Though his control of the vehicle never wavered, the driver's eyes almost glued themselves to Superman as he floated next to the car while it pulled to a complete stop.
Superman waved at the gaping driver, and opened the passenger door himself. "Well, Doctor Me—"
"Ooh! Superman!" Mindy Church slunk out of the limo. "How exciting!"
"Is there something you wanted, Superman?"
Superman looked into the empty interior of the car and frowned distractedly. "Ah, no…"
"Because if there's anything you need…" she purred and slid closer to him. He floated backward microscopically. "Anything at all?"
"No, no, thank you, Mrs. Church." Superman was airborne once more, the limo rocking in his wake.
Back in the privacy of her lead-lined, soundproofed limousine, Mindy scowled at the sky. "This better be worth the trouble, Angel."
In the safety of a STAR Labs broom closet, Angelique traded her wig for a .45 and unbuttoned her lab coat once more. "Okay, Bernie. Time to cough up the data."
Lois and Dr. Klein turned at the ratcheting click of a gun being cocked.
Lois rolled her eyes. "Oh, please. This is not some low-budget, high-action, distract-the-bad-guys-with-your-chest movie."
Angelique laughed and motioned them both into chairs. "On the contrary. I intend to distract the good guys." Her smile grew broader. "Especially Superman."
Lois growled. "Like he'd look twice at you."
Angelique smirked, tossing a roll of duct tape in the air. "Oh, it doesn't matter. I'll just bear his child. If he doesn't want to be a part of it, all the better. Men aren't much good for anything but the first ninety seconds."
Klein choked on that and Angelique silenced his protests with the tape. "Oh, they're not all idiots. Are they, Bernie?" She patted him on the head. "You're just smart enough to keep me guessing about how to get into your files on Superman." She produced a small, refrigerated canister. "But not smart enough to hide the 'samples.'"
As soon as Klein was immobilized in his chair, Angelique propelled Lois towards the door. "Come on, chica, my plane's waiting."
Lois shrugged away the physical contact. "I hope you realize that my hostage rider policy will skyrocket again."
"Cute, Lane. Fearless in the face of death. No wonder you were always Superman's favorite. Must have broken his alien heart … assuming he has one, when you married … what's-his-name."
"That's *Mr.* What's-his-name to you," Lois corrected as they entered the cargo elevator. Lois, though wanting badly to sweep-kick Angelique's shapely legs out from under her, found that her 'baby bulge' precluded such action. "What exactly do you want with Superman's … sample, anyway?" Lois asked. "Dateless Saturday night?"
"There's all sorts of options, Lois," Angelique said, and motioned to the elevator doors as they parted. "Cloning, reproduction, selling the idea of a "super army" to the highest bidder."
Lois sniffed. "Lex already tried to clone Superman. He failed. It was one of Lex's most predictable qualities. Failure followed by a sudden urge to do himself in."
"I found the flaw in the formula used by Lex's geneticist. It won't fail this time."
Lois turned around. "I'm not talking about a genetic failure, Angelique," Lois said, her voice softening slightly. "The clone of Superman failed because Lex couldn't reprogram Superman's heart and soul. Superman can't be anyone's lackey or part of any super army. He's just not *built* that way … genetically speaking."
There was a familiar whoosh and thudding sound. Lois brushed her hair back and smiled. "Only one man can mess my hair up like that," she said, and looked up at Superman. "Jim Dandy to the rescue," she sighed.
Angelique, deciding to bolt, found her ankle suddenly snagged by Lois' outstretched leg. She fell to the floor, the canister she carried slipping from her hand and breaking open.
"No," she mewled, stretched a hand out, only to have a handcuff secured around it.
"Thank you, officer," Clark said in his best 'Superman' intonation.
"No problem, Superman," the police officer said as he helped Angelique to her feet. "Thanks for the tip. We've got warrants on her stretching all the way to Canada."
Klein came huffing and puffing up the hallway. "Oh, thank goodness," he said as he saw Angelique being taken away. "I was so worried about the…" Klein cut himself off and noted the broken canister. "Well, that's useless."
Clark put his arm around Lois' shoulders. "I don't think we need that anymore anyway, Dr. Klein. It seems I had a sample that worked."
Klein smiled and patted Clark's arm. "Actually, I meant even had Angelique been successful in getting away with that sample, it wouldn't have worked. Not for reproduction anyway."
Lois frowned. "But if it worked for me…"
"It could *only* work for you, Lois. It's what I call the 'K variable'."
Clark raised a brow. "The what?"
Klein smiled. "The 'K variable' is my term for something that is part of you both. That bond, or whatever it is you share," he said, and then sighed, seeing their confused expressions. "This conception needed more than biology. It needed something that no scientist could ever trace down with test tubes, microscopes or anything else. It's just … you."
Clark pulled Lois closer and laid his head atop hers. "It's us."
"Always," Lois said and reached a hand out to Klein. "Thank you."
Klein blushed. "You're welcome. Now if you could just speak to Ruth for me…"
Clark lifted Lois in his arms. "We'll do that," he said as he levitated them from the floor. "Right after we share some more 'K variable'."
Dr. Klein grinned, then glanced down at the broken canister again. "One thing, though. I won't be able to continue my research and mapping studies without more genetic material."
Clark smiled into the eyes of the woman in his arms. "Don't worry, Doc. There's more where that came from."