By Amy Lauters <email@example.com>
Submitted February 2000
Summary: Are Lois's dreams being controlled by someone else? What's even more perplexing, could the one who is controlling her dreams be a dead man?
This is my first fanfic. Feedback appreciated. Standard disclaimers apply.
Lois twitched in her sleep, the rumpled sheets twisting around her shaking body.
"You see, Lois, how I always win," Lex whispered in her ear, twisting her around to face him in the depths of her dream. "I always win."
She mumbled unintelligibly.
"Do you feel that, Lois?" he asked, the snide, evil grin he wore so well in place. "That's the loss. That's the sensation I promised you, darling. That day you and that do-gooder Kent killed me."
"But we didn't!" she tried to scream. "It was your fault. It was all your fault."
"Was it?" Lex leaned forward, pressing cold lips to her neck. "I think not."
"Stop it! Stop it!"
"Stop it!" Lois screamed and sat straight up in bed. Silvery light flowed from the full moon outside, highlighting the empty place beside her where her husband usually lay. She shivered, uncontrollably, as a sudden "whoosh" and thud signaled Clark's return.
"Lois? Lois, are you all right?" he asked anxiously, crossing the room in the suit to put his arms around her.
"It was Lex," she whispered, "in my dream, telling me we killed him."
He rolled her back down to the bed, cuddled protectively against his chest. "You know that's not true, honey," he murmured. "He killed himself. Both times. Once by jumping off LexCorp, and once by building the weapon that brought down the tunnel. It wasn't our fault."
"Wasn't it?" she asked. "If it hadn't been for me, he wouldn't have been in either place."
Clark frowned. "Lois, you can't possibly believe it was your fault that he was obsessed with you! You didn't make him jump off that building; you didn't make him try to destroy us. Those were his actions, not yours."
Lois sat back up, anger starting to bubble beneath the surface. "Why can't you believe it's my fault? It is! A man is dead because of me. More than once! The blood on my hands. it's real!"
Clark sat up, too. "Only if you choose to see it that way. What brought this on, anyway? It's not just the dream, is it?"
Lois got off the bed. "I'm going for a drink of water."
"I can get that for you," Clark said.
"No, I'm perfectly capable of getting my own water, thank you," she sniffed as she left the room.
"Lois — "
"Just leave me alone, Clark!" she yelled.
"But, I — "
"Fine!" he shouted back, finally giving in. "I'll be back later."
"Suit yourself," she mumbled.
He launched himself out of their bedroom window to resume his patrol.
"Why are you torturing me like this?" she whispered. "Why?"
Lex smiled through the smoke of his cigar. "Torture, my dear? I believe it's poetic justice. You made my life a hell. Now I'll make yours hell, too."
"You won't get away with this," she said resolutely.
His smile became a grin. "I already have."
The shriek of the alarm clock next to the bed woke her from the nightmare.
"This has got to stop," she mumbled.
"If you mean these nightmares about Lex, I agree," Clark said from the doorway, where he stood with a heaped breakfast tray. "They're taking a toll on both of us."
"What have you got there?" Lois asked, getting out of bed and heading toward the bathroom.
"Croissants, orange juice, scrambled eggs, fruit. I thought you could use a little TLC," he said as he brought the tray in and set it on the bedside table.
"Tha wa swee o ou," Lois called out through a mouthful of toothpaste.
"Ah, Lois? Translation?"
She spit. "That was sweet of you, especially after I practically bit your head off last night."
Clark shrugged. "I'm used to it."
Lois stopped short. "Am I really that bad?" she asked.
"Sometimes," he said honestly. "But only when you're really upset about something, or angry about something, or engrossed in a story, or -"
"I get your point, Kent," Lois said, crossing to the bed and reaching for a croissant. "Do I have any good points?"
"Oh, one or two," he said teasingly.
She licked her lips, getting all the crumbs from the buttery pastry. "Maybe I could demonstrate some of my good points."
"By all means," Clark said, reaching for her.
She giggled, and the eggs got very, very cold.
"Seriously, Lois, I think you should talk to someone about your dreams; they just aren't healthy," Clark insisted as the pair walked into the newsroom at the Daily Planet.
"Clark, I'm fine. Really," she replied. "And we've got work to do."
Suddenly, Clark's head tilted up, the familiar expression on his face.
Resigned, Lois asked, "What is it?"
"Sounds like a bank alarm," he said. "I'd better check it out."
"See you later," she called back as Clark headed out.
"Hey, Lois, where's CK going?" Jimmy bounced up to ask.
"Oh, he had a meeting with a source," Lois lied glibly. "He might be gone for awhile. What have you got for me?"
"Well, I got that dream research you wanted," Jimmy said. "Are you sure you don't want to let CK in on this one, Lois? He could probably give you some help."
"No, Jimmy; he'll just worry," Lois grabbed the files from him. "Thanks for this."
"You're welcome. Let me know if you need anything else," he said, jogging toward Perry's office.
Lois settled at her desk and began to read.
She was still reading 20 minutes later when Clark came up behind her and asked, "What are you reading?"
Startled, she slid the papers into her top desk drawer. "Oh, nothing, just some background for a story I'm thinking about."
"What story?" Clark asked.
"Just something I was thinking about. What about the bank alarm? What happened?" Lois asked, changing the subject.
"Couple of guys looking for some fast cash. The police have them now," he answered. "And don't think I didn't notice you changed the subject, either."
"Look, Clark, I can work on a story without you, you know. We're not joined at the hip," she started.
He leaned forward. "We were this morning," Clark whispered in her ear. "What's wrong, baby?"
It was the "baby" that did it. It always did something to her. She sighed, then opened the desk drawer and pulled out the file Jimmy had given her on dream research.
"Dream studies?" Clark asked in surprise. "I thought you said you weren't worried about your dreams."
"I lied." She got up suddenly, pacing in front of him. "These dreams are so real. I'm tempted to wonder if there's something behind them. I never had dreams like this before! Nightmares about Lex, yes, especially right after we tangled with him. But these, they're too real. And they started just a couple of weeks ago. Believe it or not, I can go for weeks without thinking about Lex. But now — "
"But now, you're haunted by visions of Lex who's trying to make you feel guilty for his death," Clark nodded. "You're right. It wouldn't be the first time somebody tried to hurt you by bringing up Lex. But tampering with your dreams? That's pretty far out, Lois, even for us."
"Don't you think I know how crazy this sounds?" Lois paced. "But there was Ariana Carlin, remember? With her subliminal messages. And who knows what's possible? That's why I decided to try and figure this out."
Quietly, Clark said, "That doesn't explain why you felt you had to hide this from me."
She looked him in the eye. "That's not a discussion for the Daily Planet office."
He looked right back. "Then let's take this back home."
"Perry's never going to let us go today, Clark. We've got too much to do."
Grimly, Clark looked at Perry's office. "He will if we explain this."
"Let it go, Clark. Let's just work on this today, and we'll talk about the personal stuff later."
We'll talk about the personal stuff later? Clark thought. There's more to this.
As she turned away from him, he quickly slipped his glasses down his nose and x-rayed her ankle. Nope, not a clone, he thought. But definitely not behaving like my wife. It had been some time since Lois had put these kinds of mental barriers between them. With all the things they'd been through to get to this point — clones, obsessed doctors, New Kryptonians — he'd thought those barriers well and truly gone. Ok, he thought, time for some of my own investigating.
Clark calmly walked over to his desk and tapped into his computer. "Dreams," he muttered. He accessed his search engine and went to work, keying in searches on dreams, mind control, psychological meanings of dreams, and anything else he could think of. Through the course of his search, he turned up one site, and a posting on the Metropolis U psychology department bulletin board. It was for a seminar on dream research, given by a professor Michael Soppeland. Clark checked his watch. The seminar would end in about half an hour.
"Clark, what are you doing?" Lois demanded.
He jumped up. "Since you won't talk about what's wrong, I thought I'd better check some things out. There's a seminar over in about a half an hour about dream research at Metropolis U. I'm going to go see if I can catch the professor."
Lois stared at him, dumbfounded. "Since when am I not capable of dealing with things myself?"
"Since you stopped being rational, partner," Clark said sarcastically.
"Well, if you're going, you're not going alone," she replied grimly. "I'm going with you."
Michael Soppeland held degrees in psychology, English and physics. He had an eye for young coeds and a reputation for good research. He started his closing speech to the seminar participants just as Lois and Clark slipped in the back of the room.
"Dreams are transitory, fleeting expressions of daily anxieties," he said. "Through these methods, we can capture our dreams, remake them, and shape them into expressions of what we want to occur. It's a power of positive thinking, made fresh through our sleep.
"When we learn to control our dreams, we have the power to remake our futures, remove our stress, and excel intellectually. As this research evolves, we hope to have the key to the door in our minds that will allow this."
Students in the room broke out in applause, as the day ended. The professor made his way through the crowd of students, shaking hands and greeting the more lovely young women with a shade more warmth than was professional. As he worked his way toward Lois, she muttered to Clark, "And this is our dream expert. Some guy who probably trades sex for grades."
"Lo-is," he admonished. "We're not here to judge, just to get information."
Grumbling, Lois extended her hand to the professor, who came to them at that moment. "Professor Soppeland?"
Baring his teeth in a lazy grin, he looked her up and down. "Who's asking?"
Clark stepped in. "My wife and I are interested in your research. I'm Clark Kent and this is Lois Lane."
"Ah, Lane and Kent. Call me Mike," he said. "It's not often I get news coverage of my work."
"Well, really, this isn't coverage," Lois hastily explained. "We just have some questions about dream research, and your name came up."
Mike sighed. "It's always doing that."
Clark suppressed a grin. "Is there someplace we could talk, Mike?"
"Sure," he said. "How about my office?"
"Lead the way," Lois gestured toward the door.
Mike thought about a comment, thought better of it, and led the way to his office, two floors and several doors down. "They stuck me in the basement," he explained as they walked over.
"I wonder why," Lois muttered dryly, so only Clark could hear. With effort, Clark kept a straight face as Mike continued to talk.
"I think it has something to do with my research," he added. "I need to sleep a lot. Hence the couch in my office."
He unlocked the door to the dank office. Lois and Clark followed him in. "So you want to know about dreams, huh? Have a seat," Mike nodded toward the long leather couch in a corner surrounded by bookshelves.
Clark sat down gingerly, and Lois followed. "Well, we have some questions about dreams. Specifically, how to control them."
Lois looked up, surprised at his statement. After all, he had already as much dismissed the idea that someone was controlling her nightmares.
Mike tipped his chair back. "Controlling dreams can be fairly easy, as little as imagining what you want to dream about before you go to sleep."
Lois leaned forward. "What about control from outside sources? Control that comes from without?"
Mike frowned. "From without?"
"You know, like somebody else trying to control your dreams," she persisted.
"Well, there's been some research done in that area," Mike thought for a minute. "One of my students, as a matter of fact, is working on that kind of project."
Clark looked at some of the titles on the bookshelf near him. "I didn't realize this was such a big area of study," he commented, looking at the wealth of materials surrounding him.
"You'd be surprised," Mike said. "I guess as long as man has had dreams, he's tried to control them, interpret them. Native Americans believed dreams could hold omens of the future, and even the Bible makes reference to dream interpretation. Freud was the one who got modern psychologists and psychiatrists thinking about dream interpretation in a sexual way."
"But this issue of control," Lois hesitated. "Has anyone come up with a way to control the dreams of others?"
Mike's eyes narrowed. "You're awfully persistent about that point, Ms. Lane."
"Just interested," she said lightly.
"One of my students has been conducting research into the possibility that subliminal messages can be channeled through dreams," Mike said. "Alexis Turner. She's been working on a thesis that supposes we can suggest people dream about specific things through the media they consume before they sleep."
"Through the media they consume ." Clark echoed. "In other words, watch M*A*S*H, dream about Korea?"
"Something like that." Mike stood up and looked at his bookshelves for a minute. He grabbed a title from the shelf and handed it to Lois.
"Dream watchers?" she asked.
"It talks about this idea a bit. But you really should talk to Alexis," Mike said. "She's been working on the cutting edge in this field."
Lois and Clark looked at each other. "Thank you, Mike," Clark said.
"Well, that was interesting," Lois said as she and Clark walked back to the Jeep.
"Yeah, interesting," Clark replied absently.
She looked at him a little more closely. "You're still mad I didn't include you on the earlier research, aren't you?"
He shrugged. "Not mad, exactly. I just thought we were past that kind of stuff. Partners, you know? Married. In love. Stronger together than apart. And yet — "
"And yet I didn't tell you just how much I was spooked by these dreams, and how much I wanted to get to the bottom of them," she finished for him. "Look, Clark, sometimes I'm not sure how I should approach you when it comes to talking about Lex. Just mentioning his name, sometimes, trips that old reaction in you."
"What reaction?" he asked, a muscle starting to twitch in his jaw.
"That one," Lois stopped and ran a hand along his cheek. "The angry, jealous, I-want-to-hurt-a-dead-man-but-that's-ridiculous-because-Superman-wouldn't-do-that reaction."
Clark stopped, too. "Is it that obvious?" he asked. "I try so hard not to let that man bother me. He's dead, for pete's sake. He can't harm us anymore."
Lois looked him in the eye. "I think we both have some unresolved issues here."
"Maybe," he said. "Maybe we should talk this out further." The sound of brakes screeching in the distance caught his attention. Lois sighed, spying the familiar expression.
"Go," she said. "We'll talk about this later."
"Love you," Clark said, as he glanced around before spinning into the suit and taking off.
"Love you, too," Lois looked at the sky, knowing he could hear her answer.
Back at the Planet, Lois started looking through Mike's book.
"Judas Priest, Lois, this is a newsroom, not a library!" Perry roared, "Don't you have a piece on political corruption to do?"
She looked up as her editor approached her desk. "It's in the can, Perry; I sent it to you about 10 minutes ago."
"That's no excuse for reading." Perry glanced at the book. "Dream watchers?"
Lois sighed. "Actually, Perry, I think there might be a story in this. Apparently, we can control our dreams, and others can control our dreams, too."
"Come into my office," Perry said. "Let's talk about what prompted this."
Lois slowly got up. "I don't know if you'll think this interesting, Perry."
"Huh," Perry retorted. "Seems to me you'd better hope I think this is interesting."
They walked together to his office, where Lois shut the door. "I've been having some disturbing dreams that started a few weeks ago. They're all the same; Lex blaming me for his death."
"Now, honey, that whole episode made a deep impact on you," Perry said. "It wouldn't be surprising if some of that junk came back to haunt you."
"But just in the last few weeks? When I've never been happier?" Lois sat abruptly down. "Why now? And why are the dreams all the same?"
"I'm no psychiatrist, Lois, but maybe you feel like you don't deserve this happiness. Maybe you're torturing yourself in your dreams because you're not being tortured during the day," Perry reasoned.
Lois looked at him as if he had grown a third eye. "Are you nuts? I'm not that deranged."
A tap at the door interrupted their conversation. Clark cautiously looked around the edge of the door. "Is this a private conversation, or can I join in?"
"Clark, Perry thinks I'm having these dreams because I thrive on torturing myself!" Lois raged. "That's ridiculous. Who would want to torture themselves? That's not only masochistic, it's nuts, and — "
"Slow down, Lois," Clark interrupted the babble before it could get well and truly underway. "Perry's just trying to help. For what it's worth, Chief, Lois has good instincts about stuff like this, and she seems to think someone's trying to control her dreams."
Perry sat back. "Dream control?" He rubbed his chin. "Stranger things have happened to you, Lois."
"Darned right," she hissed.
"I still think, though, that you might check with a psychiatrist," Perry added. "Even if it's not just in your head, there might be some insight to offer." He turned to his computer. "You've got 24 hours on this story. Then I pull the plug and you go get some help."
Frustrated, Lois tried to object. "Perry -"
Perry looked up. "That's the final word, Lois."
Clark nudged his wife. "Come on, honey."
"But Clark — "
"Let's go," he said as he steered her out the door. "We've only got 24 hours, and I think we're on to something."
Perry watched them go. If something was there, they'd find it that fast, he thought. Of that he had no doubt. If not, well, Lois would get the help she needed. Either way, his best reporters would be in better shape for coming stories. Sighing, he turned back to his computer, resuming the editing for page one.
Lois fumed as Clark forcibly escorted her out to the Jeep. "What does he mean by pulling one of the best investigative — no, make that the best investigative reporter in town off a story? And suggesting she's crazy? I can't believe him, sometimes."
"He didn't actually pull you off the story, honey," Clark said soothingly. "He actually gave you some time to explore it, even though there might not be a story here. And he doesn't think you're crazy, he just thinks there might be other rational reasons for your dreams than dream control. You can't blame him for being rational."
"Yes, I can!" Lois yelled, then clapped a hand over her mouth. "Oh, God, what am I saying? Of course he can be rational. Of course, it's rational to think about what might be causing these dreams aside from dream control. But Clark, the alternative, what if I am going crazy?"
He pulled her close. "You're not going crazy."
"Are you sure?" Her dark eyes beseeched him. "I've just never been happier in my life than since I've been with you. I don't want to screw that up. I don't want Lex to have a hold on me!"
"He won't, and he doesn't," Clark whispered in her hair as he pulled her to his shoulder. "It's because I know how much you want to be with me that I know you're not crazy. And with Lex, well, who knows how many research pots he stuck a spoon in? He might have dabbled with dream control." He pulled back to look her in the eye. "But Lex is dead, Lois. So if someone is using his research to control your dreams, it can't be him."
"Then who?" she asked.
"That's what we have to find out. And I think we'll start with Alexis Turner."
Alexis Turner looked more like a supermodel than a psychology graduate student. At 5 feet, 10 inches tall, she looked most of her male colleagues in the eye. Her lithe figure showed an athletic grace, and her long, blonde hair was pulled back away from her face to show big blue eyes over a Nordic nose. She looked up from a book when Lois and Clark walked into the office she shared with six other graduate students.
"Lois and Clark, I presume," she said as she stood, fluidly offering her hand to first Lois, then Clark.
"That's us," Lois said. "Alexis Turner?"
"That's me," she said with a smile. "What can I do for you?"
"Professor Soppeland said you might be able to help us," Clark started. "He said you were working on a project that might lead to a technique for controlling the dreams of others."
Alexis pulled up chairs from the empty desks surrounding her and motioned them to sit. "I am working on such a project."
"What can you tell us about it?" Lois asked.
Alexis shrugged. "What do you want to know about it?"
Impasse. Clark cleared his throat. "What is the substance of your theory?" he asked.
"Well, I think that messages we get through the media can control our dreams," she answered. "It's really an extension of an old idea. What we think about before we sleep, we dream about."
"Professor Soppeland mentioned something about that," Lois said. "What have you found so far?"
"I'm having volunteers watch specific television programs before sleeping, observed by me. When they wake up, they write down their dreams just as they remember them. Some seem to have no connection to the television programs they watched; some do," Alexis explained. "My goal is to find what triggers those who do dream about the shows, their characters, or even their content."
"Where did you get this idea?" Clark wanted to know.
"From my father," Alexis said. "He was a researcher at Lex Labs, looking into dream theories."
"Was?" Lois asked.
"He died five years ago."
Lois paused. "Do you mind telling us how?"
Alexis glanced at her calendar. "It's a long story, and I really don't have the time right now to go into it. Suffice it to say, he's dead. And I'm carrying on with his research, without the resources of Lex Labs, obviously."
"One more question, Alexis," Clark said. "Do you think it would be possible to control another person's dreams without their knowledge of it?"
"That's what my father was working on," she said. "That's what killed him. But there are no records of his research that I can find, and believe me, I tried."
"In what way did his research contribute to his death, Alexis?" Lois asked.
Alexis smiled. "He died in his sleep." She stood. "I've got class in five minutes. Sorry I can't show you out."
"One more -" Lois tried to interject.
"Goodbye, Ms. Lane."
Clark's cell phone rang as they walked out the door. "Clark Kent."
"CK, it's Jimmy. Man, when you guys get into something, you really get into it, don't you?"
Clark hung on to his patience. "You've got something for us, then?"
"Yeah, there was a project at Lex Labs several years ago that looked into dream control as a way to control behavior in adolescents. It was thought that dreams could induce good behavior in a juvenile delinquent," Jimmy said. "I found the abstract in an old defense system database."
"Defense system?" Clark asked.
"Yeah, it was a joint project with the U.S. government. The research stopped about five years ago, though," Jimmy said. "The feds pulled the plug when they found out about Lex and his bent to the criminal."
Clark raised a brow at Lois. "They might have pulled the plug on more than that, Jimmy," he said. "Thanks."
"Well, what'd he say?" Lois asked impatiently.
"Get this: Lex Labs researchers were working with the feds on a project to control behavior of teens through dream control," Clark said. "The project ended with Lex's first suicide attempt five years ago, when the feds found out about his criminal dealings."
"Then that means — "
Clark grimly interrupted. "Someone killed Alexis' father."
"And might be controlling my dreams."
"Maybe we're going about this from the wrong direction," Lois pondered later that day, as the pair worked their way back to the university, looking for Alexis.
"What do you mean?" Clark asked.
"Well, based on what we know so far, Alexis's father was working on controlling adolescent behavior through dream control, and she's building on that work by using media messages to accomplish the same kinds of things," she said slowly. "Let's make the logical leap, here — the senior Dr. Turner must have been using media messages, too."
"I think I follow you. If he was using media to control the behavior of children through their dreams — "
"Then those messages might be around somewhere," Lois finished.
"But Alexis said most of her father's research was destroyed," Clark offered.
"Maybe not," Lois argued. "Maybe he found what Alexis was looking for. Maybe he found the trigger."
"The trigger that allows messages not only to suggest dreams, but to control them?"
"Exactly," Lois said. They stopped in front of the social science building. "But if he died in his sleep, a side effect of his research — "
"Then someone else must have known the trigger," Clark finished, glancing over his glasses into the building. "Alexis is in class."
"Great," Lois sighed. "What about Mike?"
Clark looked more deeply into the building, to the dank corner Mike called his office. "Not there."
Lois collapsed on a bench near the rose bushes out front. "Let's wait. I want to work some of this out."
Clark sat beside her. "OK, smarty, where are you going with this?"
"If someone is controlling my dreams, then someone already has the trigger — either Alexis, who doesn't have to tell us this and probably won't, or the person who killed Dr. Turner," Lois reasoned. "Maybe the most logical thing to do is look back over the last few weeks and catalogue the kinds of media I've been exposing myself to."
"Beautiful and brilliant," Clark said, kissing the top of her head.
"Yeah, and also we've been really busy and unlikely to know what I've been watching that's out of the norm," she said glumly.
Clark glanced back into the building. "Alexis is picking up her books. It looks like class is over."
Lois stood up, grabbed Clark's hand, and hauled him up. "Let's go talk to our resident dream control expert."
The pair worked their way against the sudden tide of students changing classes and into the building, where they caught up to Alexis just as she was leaving her classroom.
She looked less than pleased to see them again. "Didn't I answer all your questions already?" she asked.
"We just have a few more," Lois said. "Can we find someplace private?"
"Look, I'm really busy today, OK? Maybe tomorrow." Alexis started to pull away. The thought of the 24 hour deadline passed through Lois's mind and she flashed a look at Clark.
Clark cleared his throat. "We just need a few minutes. We have an idea about your project you might be interested in."
Alexis narrowed her eyes. "What kind of idea?"
"How much did you know about your father's research, Alexis?" Lois asked. "Five years ago, were you here in Metropolis?"
"No," Alexis said. "I was working on my undergraduate degree at Stanford."
"Why did you come back here?" Clark asked.
"For the chance to work with Dr. Soppeland," she replied. "I needed his expertise to help me complete my father's work. And where else would I finish a PhD in this field?"
Mental note, Clark thought. Check out schools that have dream studies experts in psychology programs.
"One more question, Alexis," Lois said. "How did your father die?"
Ashen, Alexis turned back toward Lois, rigid. "What is it about you reporters? Don't you know when to stop? Why can't you leave the past alone?" she raged. "He was my father. He's dead. I loved him. He's gone. And I don't want to talk about this anymore!"
Her piercing words flew into the dead silence of a crowded hallway full of students. "Have a little respect for the dead and for their loved ones! And get your information someplace else, Ms. Lane." Alexis stalked off toward the direction of her cramped office, leaving a stunned Lois to look at her equally subdued husband with an expression of disbelief. The students in the hallway began to stir and mumble about rights to privacy as they dashed to their classes, and Clark quickly stepped over to put his arms around his wife.
"Are you all right?" he asked softly.
She stared at him. "What did I do, Clark?"
He sighed. "Only what you've been trained to do. Asked a question, expected an answer."
"What do we do now?" Lois asked.
Grimly, he stared in the direction Alexis went. "Get our information someplace else."
The first logical step — check out Alexis' background — they assigned to Jimmy, who was more interested after he pulled up her drivers' license picture. "Cool, she's hot! She dating anybody?"
Assuring him she didn't know, Lois turned to her assigned task: Trying to remember everything she had watched, read, listened to or accessed over the last few weeks, ever since Lex started permeating her dreams with his message of loss and vengeance. Even with the help of her daily appointment calendar — a diary of her life she'd be lost without — this promised to take some serious time.
Clark, meanwhile, took off for Star Labs, and the one person with scientific expertise he and Lois trusted completely. Dr. Klein, as usual, seemed to be deep into an experiment of his own when Clark showed up in his office.
Clark cleared his throat. "Dr Klein?"
Dr. Klein looked up, peering over the top of his microscope. "Clark! What can I do for you?"
"I'm not disturbing you, am I?" Clark asked.
Dr. Klein moved out from behind his tall lab desk and gestured to the dusty chair opposite his own office chair. "Not really. I'm working on a blood project for a friend. It can wait. What's this you and Lois are working on this time?"
Briefly, Clark filled him in on Lois' dreams, Dr. Turner's death, Alexis' refusal to give information about her father's work, and their idea that someone else had the trigger that allowed mere media to become the tool of dream control. Dr. Klein rubbed his chin for a minute, then ventured, "I knew Dr. Turner; the scientific community here in Metropolis can be a close-knit group. I was saddened when I heard he'd died, but I never dreamed it might have been part of his own experimental work."
"Dr. Klein, what do you think of our theory? That some kind of trigger exists that can allow someone to control the dreams of others?"
"It wouldn't be impossible," Dr. Klein said slowly. "Turner's work was closely followed, not just by his employers, but by a number of us. The basis for it was the idea that exposing adolescents to positive messages just before they slept would induce good dreams, and good dreams, a stronger sense of self-worth. A stronger sense of self-worth, then, might help these troubled youth make better choices, and therefore, modify their behavior." He frowned. "I didn't know he was looking for an actual way to control the dreams themselves."
"Do you think that's possible?" Clark asked.
Dr. Klein leaned back in his chair. "Maybe. If he had proof that his methods worked, he might have found a biochemical trigger. If he was monitoring brain wave patterns as they slept, comparing them, it's a long shot, Clark. If we could find his research, we might be able to discern what he'd found."
It was Clark's turn to frown. "But Alexis implied her father's research was gone. That's why she's redoing it."
"Are you sure, Clark? If she's at the point of duplicating her father's research, she must be building off of something," Dr. Klein said. "She obviously knew enough about it to pick up where he left off."
"The problem there, Dr. Klein, is that Alexis refuses to talk to us about this," Clark said. "She was more than specific about that."
Dr. Klein shrugged. "So find his assistant."
Clark went on alert. "Assistant?"
"Yeah, new up and comer. I think he's got a university position, now," Dr. Klein said. "He couldn't keep working at Lex Labs, with his boss dead, and Star Labs wasn't interested in his work at the time. I hear he's doing good work."
"Do you remember his name?" Clark asked, almost sure he knew the answer.
"I knew it!" Lois cried out jubilantly. "I knew that smarmy prof had something to do with this."
"Beautiful and brilliant, I've said before, and I'll say it again," Clark rubbed a hand along her shoulder, and bent to kiss her. She leaned into his kiss, bringing her arms around his neck and pressing up against him, stretching like a cat.
Breaking the kiss, Lois gave him a glorious smile. "But I love hearing it."
"Guys, I hate to break this up — but you really want this," Jimmy bounced up. "Alexis did do her undergraduate work at Stanford, and she is the daughter of Dr. Frank Turner, but check this out: She was kicked out of Stanford, under this huge scandal." He handed Lois a photocopy of a student newspaper article. "Sex for grades."
"And all roads lead to Mike Soppeland," Lois crowed. "When do we nail him?"
"Actually, Lois, the article doesn't say Soppeland; it says Martenson," Clark pointed out.
Lois dismissed that with a wave of her hand. "So he changed it. So what. It's gotta be him."
"Lois, we can't make that assumption. Particularly since Soppeland was supposed to be Dr. Turner's assistant here in Metropolis five years ago, not trading sex for grades in California," Clark reasoned.
"Come, on, Clark," Lois cajoled. "You know it's got to have some kind of connection. That creep was dripping 'I sell grades for sex' when we saw him this morning."
"Well, yeah, but I want to know why he didn't mention his own connection to dream control when we talked to him," Clark said thoughtfully.
"You aren't going to find out today guys; it's after 8. P.M. As in the evening," Jimmy said. "There's no way he'll be on campus at this time of the night."
"So pick up the phone book, Jimmy," Lois retorted. "Where does he live? What's his number? Call him! So we can talk to him tonight. We've only got 14 hours left of Perry's 24, and I don't want to go to bed now that we know someone's controlling my dreams."
"Reality check, honey. We've established dream control is possible. We have not yet established someone's controlling your dreams," Clark said.
"I refuse to accept the alternative," Lois said emphatically. "I have to."
"OK, Lois, Soppeland lives over on Hyperion. Weird, how close he lives to you guys," Jimmy said. "Want me to call him to set up an interview?"
"No, Jimmy," Clark looked at the address. "I think we'll just drop in."
"Now you're talking, sweetheart!" Lois jumped up and started for the elevator.
"Beautiful and brilliant," Clark let out a low whistle of appreciation.
"Come on, farmboy," she called back, laughing.
Alexis listened in horror to the voice mail message left for her by Mortenson. She had long since stopped thinking of him as anything other than a bad influence, and the message she heard from him did nothing to alter her opinion.
"Hey, Lexie, baby," his gutteral voice crooned. "I'm going to be in Metropolis Friday. Want to get together?"
Alexis shuddered. Whatever had she seen in that man? Nothing, she decided. And he'd caused her nothing but grief.
She fingered the business card left for her by Lois Lane. Maybe, she thought, maybe I can get some answers if I call her.
Anything was better than the Mortenson alternative.
They took the Jeep back home, stopping to check for messages before going to Mike's townhouse, just two blocks south of the Lane-Kent residence. They were almost home when Clark remembered to ask Lois about her media "diary."
"Well, I didn't find anything too unusual," Lois said as she turned down their street. "I spent a lot of time online the last few weeks, researching story ideas before I went to bed. Superman's been busy a lot at night, and it seemed a good idea. But that's not unusual, Clark; I've done that frequently for a long time."
"What about the sites you've visited?" Clark asked. "Any new ones?"
Lois thought hard for a minute, as she pulled up the curb by their mailbox so Clark could grab the mail before she turned into the driveway. "Well, I always start with the usual — you know, yahoo, CNN. I did do a search a couple of weeks ago for information about frequent flyer mile. I heard a rumor." Clark looked at her skeptically. "Well, OK, I heard you could cash them in for Godiva chocolate."
"Well worth searching for, honey," Clark said kindly.
She gave him a look. "Well anyway, it didn't turn up much, but I used a new search engine to find some of the information. Turnkey dot com," Lois set the brake and reached into the back seat for her laptop case and notebook. "I don't remember using it again, but I hardly ever pay attention to which search engine comes up when I click 'search' on the navbar. I just use whatever comes up, to start off with."
"Worth investigating, anyway," Clark said, picking up his cellphone and dialing the office. Jimmy answered on the second ring.
"Thought you guys were going over to Soppeland's place," Jimmy said.
"We are, Jimmy," Clark replied. "But could you check something out for us?"
"At your beck and call. Even if it is closing on 8:30. Who needs sleep, anyway?" he answered cheerfully.
"That's the spirit, Jimmy," Clark laughed. "Could you check out a new search engine called Turnkey? Find out who owns it, who runs it, that kind of stuff."
"You got it. Want it faxed, emailed or phoned in?"
"Just call us when you get it; we'll figure out the details then," Clark said.
Clark got out of the car. "He'll check out Turnkey."
"Great, that's one more thing off the list," Lois said as she walked to the front door, keys in hand.
As they walked in the house, Lois noticed the light flashing on the machine. At the touch of the play button, they heard the voice of Alexis Turner, obviously shaky.
"Ms. Lane, Mr. Kent, this is Alexis Turner. I wanted to apologize for my outburst earlier. I really think I can help you if you tell me why you're interested. Please call me back at 555-9837."
Lois looked at Clark. "That's an about-face. I wonder what happened."
"So what do you want to do next?" Clark asked. "Drop in on Mike Soppeland, or call back Alexis?"
"How about we do both?" Lois suggested. "I'll call Alexis back, and you drop in on Mike Soppeland. I wasn't really looking forward to more of his — " She hesitated, then in a voice dripping with sarcasm, said "- charm, being wasted on me."
"Suits me," Clark said. "Meet back here in an hour?"
"Fine," Lois grabbed the phone to call Alexis. "Bring back some sandwiches or something, will you? We haven't eaten much today, and I'm starving."
"Got it." With a whoosh, Clark left, as Lois dialed Alexis. She picked up on the first ring. "Alexis? This is Lois Lane."
"Oh, Ms. Lane, I'm so sorry about my outburst this afternoon. It really wasn't called for," Alexis said.
Lois reassured her quickly. "Hey, I've heard it before. Comes with being a reporter. Sometimes I have to ask questions I know might hurt people, but that doesn't mean I take pleasure in it."
"I know," Alexis hesitated. "Can we meet? I've got some things to tell you, and I don't want to do it over the phone."
"Where?" Lois asked.
"How about Centennial Park?" Alexis suggested. "It's practically deserted at this time of the night, and we can grab a bench."
"By the fountain?"
"Fine. See you soon."
Lois heard a click, then hung up the phone herself before scribbling a quick note to Clark, just in case. She rushed out the door, headed for Centennial Park.
Lois never went to Centennial Park without a brief sigh of contentment and a little twitch of remembrance for the times she and Clark had spent together there. She made her way quickly to the fountain, where she waited just a few minutes before Alexis came out of the darkness, into the floodlights near the water. Alexis gestured to the bench in front of the fountain, and Lois sat down next to her.
"So," Lois started. "What do you want to know?"
Alexis looked around nervously before starting off with, "Are you interested in dream control because you have a personal experience with it?"
Lois raised an eyebrow. "What might make you say that?"
"Very few people are interested in my research unless they've had some reason to get interested," Alexis said. "We're kind of the loons on campus in a way, thinking about controlling dreams."
Lois thought for a moment, then decided. "Yes, I've had recent personal experience where I thought my dreams might be controlled by someone else. My editor thinks I'm nuts, but I can't explain them any other way."
Alexis visibly relaxed. "It's easier to talk to someone who might understand."
"Alexis, I understand why you're doing your research, but I've got a lot of questions for you," Lois said. "You should know, we checked out your background."
Alexis looked resigned. "Then you know about Stanford."
"We know about the scandal that got you kicked out of school," Lois continued. "Does that have anything to do with why you want to talk to me? Is Professor Soppeland involved?"
Surprised, Alexis stood up. "Mike? He had nothing to do with Stanford. It was Dr. Mortenson. He was a software engineer. I don't even know why I got involved with him; I've never had trouble with grades. Somehow, I felt compelled to work with him, sleep with him. Somehow, when our relationship made news, it came out as a sex-for-grades scandal. My father was devastated." She paced in front of the bench, unable to keep still. "He died soon after."
"Software engineer," Lois echoed. "Does Dr. Mortenson have anything to do with Turnkey?"
"Turnkey is his search engine. I was beta testing it for him," Alexis explained. "What does that have to do with anything?"
"It might be the key to this whole story, no pun intended," Lois hastened to say. "Alexis, when did your physical relationship with Dr. Mortenson start? Before or after you started using Turnkey?"
Alexis stopped pacing, thinking hard. "It was after, I think. No, I know it, because I started the beta testing after I answered his ad in the paper, and we got involved after that."
"And you felt 'compelled' to sleep with him?" Lois asked. "I wonder."
"Wonder what?" Alexis asked eagerly.
"I wonder if Turnkey is the mechanism for subliminal media messages used to control dreams?"
Alexis abruptly sat back down. "My father thought people could be controlled through subliminal media messages before they slept. But he needed a trigger, something within the person that responded to the messages. I always thought it would be something biochemical."
"Maybe it is," Lois said. "Turnkey might just be the medium for the messages, not the trigger itself. What have you found in your own research?"
"Well, Mike has steered me in some great directions. One idea was we could use natural chemicals that come within food products. We've tried all sorts of things, but the kind that's work the most often — without guarantees of success, mind you — has been caffeine," Alexis said. "What's hard about that is caffeine naturally prohibits sleep. We've had a hard time hitting on the right combination of caffeine and other substances to both induce sleep and control dreams, and subsequently, behavior."
Could it be that simple? Lois wondered to herself. "Alexis, did you know that Mike was your father's research assistant?"
Her blue eyes widened. "No." Alexis grunted in disgust. "No wonder he knew what directions to point me in. He probably knows half of this already!"
"So, Turnkey sends subliminal messages when you use it. Caffeine, in small amounts, just before bedtime, might trigger a dream that's based on those subliminal messages. If the dreams are forceful enough, they could change behavior," Lois summed up.
"Well, well, Ms. Lane, I do believe you're right," Mike Soppeland stepped out from the shadows, gun in hand. "Alexis, I'm disappointed in you. Sharing your research like that."
"It was you, wasn't it?" Alexis asked. "You who killed my father?"
"No, Alexis, your father died of a massive heart attack in his sleep. Probably caused by your actions," Mike smirked. "I hope that doc was worth it."
"I don't understand," Alexis cried out.
"And you won't. You may never know how this all worked, and I'm not going to tell you. That would be too cliché," Mike dismissed the idea. "Ms. Lane almost had it worked out, but she can't be allowed to continue. Too bad, too, because I was enjoying your dreams, Lois. I loved watching your marriage crack, just a little, under the strain of those dreams. Too bad I have to kill you; eventually, I would have had you in my bed."
"Not likely," Lois said angrily, realizing if Mike was here, Clark must be nearby.
"I obviously underestimated your investigative skills and your hold over that husband of yours," Mike continued. "I really thought he'd have you evaluated, maybe bring you to me for dream therapy. Ah, well. The best-laid plans and all that."
"Clark trusts me, and he believes in me," Lois said, praying that Clark was listening in, high above. "That's a kind of relationship you'll never have."
Mike scratched his chin with his left hand, the other rock steady as it held the gun on them. "Don't know that I want to. Too hard to be good all the time."
Just a few more minutes, Clark. Let me see what else I can get out of him, Lois implored silently. "Too hard to be good? Is that why you hooked up with Mortenson? So you'd have an easier way of sending messages to your subjects?"
"Well, actually, I didn't realize it would work so well until Alexis got into so much trouble," Mike conceded. "Morty was using some of my ideas to try to get Alexis into bed with him. It worked, and the result distracted Frankie-boy so much it was easy to plant messages in his own equipment. I shudder to think what kind of dreams caused his heart attack."
"You monster!" Alexis screamed. "You killed my father, took his research, set up the scandal that nearly cost my career and pretended to be my friend the whole time!" She started running towards him, arms outstretched, heedless of the gun.
"Alexis, wait!" Lois called.
"You little whore," Mike snarled as he pulled the trigger.
A hand came out of nowhere, stopping the bullet before it would have hit Alexis in the stomach. "Trouble, Ms. Lane?" Superman asked.
"Stop him, Superman! He's the one behind all this!"
With a whoosh, Mike lost his gun and found himself wrapped securely in a red cape, tied in a perky bow in front. Lois took out her cellphone to call the police, and Alexis collapsed in a heap on the ground, sobbing. Superman turned to Lois. "Clark is on his way, Ms. Lane. He thought he'd send me ahead; we've been following Soppeland for some time."
"Thank you, Superman," she smiled at him.
With a nod, he flew off. Moments later, Clark ran into the clearing. "Is everyone all right?"
"We're fine, Clark; Alexis is a little shaken up. The police are on their way," Lois told him.
"Jimmy called just as I was getting to Soppeland's house," Clark said. "He'd found a picture of Mortenson and Soppeland together in the same Stanford newsletter. Apparently, they go way back," Clark said. "He also found a list of investors in Turnkey; it went public recently. Soppeland and Mortenson were at the top of the list. When I saw Soppeland's car pulling out, I called Superman and followed him here."
"Did you hear everything?" Lois asked.
Clark nodded. "Everything," he confirmed. "He must have seen you in the neighborhood and decided he had to have you. The only thing I don't get is what might have caused your dreams. You don't regularly make a habit of drinking coffee before bed, do you?"
Lois sighed. "No, but I do indulge in a double-crunch fudge bar as a bedtime snack. Chocolate has caffeine in it. The company sent me a case a couple of weeks ago, said I was one if its best customers." She sniffed. "It was a little embarrassing, so I didn't tell you, but who am I to turn down chocolate?"
Clark snorted. "Who, indeed? Five bucks says when we check with the company in the morning, we'll find they never sent the chocolate. I'll bet this guy — " he waved in Soppeland's direction "-did."
"Probably," Lois answered. The clearing started to fill with police officers, and one female cop came to tend Alexis. "Let's explain this and get back to the Planet."
"Jiminy crickets, Lois," Perry exclaimed as he read their copy in his office, just a few hours later. "I give you 24 hours, and you pull it off in 16. Dream control!"
"Well, chief, as we said, stranger things have happened to Lois," Clark said.
"That's the truth," Lois added, stretching and not even bothering to conceal a yawn.
"You two head home, catch some sleep," Perry said. "See you around noon."
With a grateful smile, Lois stood. "Come on, Clark."
They walked into the elevator, letting it take them to the ground, where Clark spun into Superman and took them home. He lay his nearly sleeping wife on their bed, stripping her gently and pulling the covers up. "G'night, Clark," she said, as she drifted into a deep, dreamless, sleep.
A man stroked a cat in a dark, dusty room, the only light a glow from a fire in the corner.
"Next time," he growled. "Next time."