By Sarah Luddy <meerkat_comments AT aslandia DOT net>
Submitted: October 2001
Summary: Lois, a new reporter at the Daily Planet, has gotten wind of a secret government agency called Bureau 39. When she goes undercover at the agency, where else does she get assigned to but Smallville, Kansas, where a strange meteor shower happened twenty-five years ago… An Alternate Beginnings Story.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters (that's why it's fanfic). A few lines and scenes are borrowed from the pilot and "The Green, Green Glow of Home."
"Perry!" Lois exclaimed, bursting into the office of Perry White, editor for "The Daily Planet."
"Lois, hush, can't you see that I'm on the phone?" Perry said, waving his hand for her to take a seat. Grumbling, Lois obeyed.
While Perry continued his phone call, Lois impatiently looked around the room, tapping her fingers and swinging her foot. When Perry finally finished his call and hung up the phone, she jumped to her feet with a squeal.
"Perry, have I got a headliner for you! It reads "Kerth Award" all over! You're gonna love it!"
Perry frowned at her. "Stop telling me how I'll feel about it, and tell me what your newest dangerous, hare- brained investigation is gonna be, and how much it's gonna cost me."
"Oh, not a cent, Perry! I just got a lead from Bobby Bigmouth about vigilante government agencies who are performing secret, and shall we say, very illegal operations without the permission of the government, and they're doing it on our tax dollars."
Perry raised an eyebrow skeptically. "And this is front-page news?"
"Of course, Perry. Listen, these guys, they think that UFOs are real and that Elvis is alive in the body of a moose and terrorizing eastern New Troy. But despite their delusions, they have guns and weapons. They're fanatics, with the pull of the United States government behind them. Whether or not they know what they're doing, they can cause an awful lot of damage. It's all hush-hush because they have contacts in high places, so no other reporter is gonna get this story. Please, Perry, let me get in there and get this story for you. You know I'm the only one who can do it!"
Perry smiled to himself. Hell yes, he knew that Lois was the only one who could get this story for him. She'd only been working at the Daily Planet for a little over a year now, but she was already the youngest reporter ever to win the prestigious Kerth Award for investigative journalism, and she'd done it in her very first year at the Daily Planet. She was a top-notch reporter, and she had amazing potential. But she was also prone to put herself in incredibly risky situations, and while she'd been lucky at getting out of them so far, he didn't want to lose the woman who was already becoming his favorite reporter in the newsroom.
"What exactly did you have in mind, honey?" he asked, holding his breath.
"Oh, not much. Just going-undercover-as-an-agent-of- Bureau-39, the worst of the offenders. That's all." She tried to get the whole sentence out in a single breath, hoping he wouldn't pay too close attention to what she'd proposed.
Drat. No such luck.
"Lois, honey, you can't do that. First of all, how would you ever get a job at Bureau 39? You're too well- known; they'd know what you were up to. Second of all, you just pointed out how dangerous these organizations are. The moment they caught you, you'd be history. And why do you really need to be on the inside to get the story, anyway?"
"Because nobody knows enough about them. All the information is sketchy and wouldn't hold up in court. Nobody's willing to testify; these groups have power like you wouldn't believe. I just need to get inside for a little bit, that's all. Bobby may be able to help me. Find out how the group works, who its leader is, and who funds them. Then I get out of there and print the story. Their influence is nothing to the power of the press." She looked at Perry out of the corner of her eye as she said the last, wondering if her appeal to his pride as the editor of the most prestigious paper in Metropolis would help her case.
Perry sighed, resigned. "I don't suppose anything I say is going to keep you from going, is it?"
Lois grinned at Perry and headed for the door. "Nope. Thanks, Perry. I'll keep you posted." She hurried out the door before he could change his mind, yelling "Copyboy!" as she passed through the newsroom.
Perry dropped back into his chair, his head in his hands. "Lois, honey, I hope you know what you're doing. Judas Priest, I swear that girl is the sole reason for my high blood pressure these days."
Clark Kent whistled softly as he walked out of Smallville General Store, carrying a bag of groceries for his mother. It had been a good day, and he was eager to get home to the apple pie his mother was planning to make that night.
An odd sound caught his ears, and he jerked his head up. A red pickup truck's tires squealed as it spun around the corner and headed down the street. With his super- vision, Clark could see the occupant, Brett Riggs, and recognized that he was drunk, as usual. He scanned the street, but there were too many people out for Clark to consider stopping the drunk driver before he caused any damage.
To his horror, he noticed another car turning onto the road from the opposite direction. He immediately recognized the old blue clunker as belonging to Richard Irig, the son of the Kents' neighbor. And in the car were Janet Irig and Richard and Janet's small daughter, Melissa.
Clark panicked, looking from one car to the other. If only he didn't have to hide his powers, he could easily prevent the impending accident. But then he would destroy his chances for a normal life and be unable to stay in Smallville.
Frozen to the spot in indecision, Clark watched, horrified, as Janet swerved her car frantically, but was unable to escape the drunk driver. Before they even hit, Clark was running onto the scene.
With a crunch of metal and shattering of glass, the two cars slammed into each other. Almost instantly, Clark was at the Irig's car. He pulled the door of the car off entirely, and dragged an unconscious Janet Irig from the vehicle.
With a burst of flames, the engine caught fire, and Clark risked using his super-breath to quickly put it out. Running around the car at just short of super-speed, he yanked the passenger door off its hinges and pulled Melissa from the car. By that time, other rescuers were helping a dazed Brett Riggs from his car.
Within minutes, the emergency services had roared onto the scene and were loading Janet Irig, who was still unconscious, onto a stretcher. Melissa was crying and holding onto her mother's hand, but Clark pulled her away to let the paramedics do their job. Thankfully, Janet's head injury didn't seem at all serious, and the paramedics seemed confident that she would awake in a few hours.
Clark looked up as a new car sped into the emergency scene, and Richard Irig leapt from the car with a shout.
"Oh, God, Janet! 'Lissa!"
Clark hurried to the side of his long-time friend. "They're going to be okay, Rich," Clark assured him. "They think she'll wake up in a few hours with nothing worse than a headache."
Rich touched his young wife tenderly, then nodded, stepping aside to allow the paramedics to lift the stretcher into the ambulance.
"Daddy!" Melissa cried, jerking free from policewoman who had been holding her and throwing herself into her father's arms. "Clark saved us!"
"I know, honey. It's a miracle."
Melissa smiled up at Clark shyly, then turned back to her father. "He ripped the doors off their hinges, and he blew out the fire, too."
Richard glanced up at Clark, startled.
Clark thought quickly. Should he attribute it to the superhuman strength that rescue-workers were sometimes reputed to develop in emergencies? Or should he deny it, claiming that Melissa was confused?
Richard held out his hand tentatively to Clark, and Clark shook it.
"Whatever you did, Clark, thank you. I don't know what I would have done if I lost Janet or Melissa."
Another close call. Clark closed his eyes and breathed easier as Richard climbed into the ambulance after Janet. He was taking too many risks. But how could he not help someone in trouble?
Jason Trask, head of Bureau 39, paced back and forth at the front of the room, making Lois nervous. She wished he'd sit down.
"This country has to protect itself against alien invasion. In these times, invasion is a constant threat and requires eternal vigilance. By joining Bureau 39, you've committed to a great task, to protect your country and your species. You should feel a great sense of pride in this work."
"Oh, I do, sir," Lois assured him, careful to sound like any eager new member of Bureau 39.
Trask grinned at her, resting his hands on the table.
"Well then, Lori, welcome to our team. Now, since you're new, you're going to have to prove yourself a little before you get sent on the biggest cases, like Roswell. But I have a good little one for you."
Grabbing a folder from a pile behind him, he dropped it onto the table in front of her with a thud.
"Smallville, Kansas, 1966. A meteor struck in a farming community, leaving traces of radiation and remnants from a rock that has never before been seen in our solar system. The rock was from a planet, not just space rock. That implies that a planet exploded. But why only this one bit of rock if the planet was close enough for exploding pieces to end up here? Now, I think this rock was either sent here for a purpose, or it came along accidentally with something else. A spaceship, perhaps, or a probe of some sort."
Lois's reporting instincts kicked in, and she had to force herself not to blurt out a dozen questions at once. "Surely if you know that much, then somebody else has investigated the chances of something else coming with it? And why now, why not investigate in 1966?"
Trask grimaced. "It was investigated, but it wasn't given a great deal of attention, partly because we've been understaffed, and because this isn't an actual alien sighting. It isn't high on our priority list, which is why you are getting it. It's a good task for the newest member of Bureau 39. We sent some men down there last week to ask some preliminary questions, but they didn't find much. A woman might have a better chance.
"I want you to get down there, ask some questions, find out if anyone knows anything, if the rock has had any effect on nearby farming, if there's any left that was missed by our original investigation, and maybe if you can find out what purpose there was to sending it."
"Who else is going with me?" Lois asked.
"Just you, for now. Come up with some results, and we'll see about getting you partnered on something bigger next time."
Lois thought frantically. She couldn't get assigned to something by herself. She'd found the head of Bureau 39, Jason Trask, but she hadn't learned anything else about the organization yet. And she wasn't going to get any answers in some hick town in Kansas, of all places. Investigating the landing of a rock? But she couldn't refuse this job, and maybe if she researched everything quickly, she'd be assigned to something bigger soon.
"Oh, and Lori, take one of the metal detectors from supplies, and if you find the landing site, see if you can find any traces of metal. Some of the original meteorite, or whatever came with it, might read on the detector."
Lori nodded and stood up, putting on her over-eager newbie act again. "Oh, yes, sir. I promise I won't let you down, sir." She gave an awkward salute, smiling to herself at his obvious disgust.
Now to round up some readings on meteorites, and back for a better assignment. This whole UFO mania was definitely not to Lois's taste.
Clark sat at the kitchen table, his head in his hands, while Martha Kent carried three plates of apple pie to the table.
"Thanks, Mom," came his muffled reply.
Martha exchanged a worried look with Jonathan, and Jonathan cleared his throat.
"We heard about what happened with the Irig's, Clark. But why are you so upset? You were able to help Janet and Melissa, and nobody was permanently injured."
"Are you upset because you didn't prevent the crash in the first place, honey?" Martha asked cautiously.
Clark finally lifted his head. "Mom, Dad, Melissa saw what I did."
Martha gasped and grabbed Jonathan's hand.
"Are you sure, son?" Jonathan asked.
"Yeah, Dad. She told her father that I ripped the doors off, and that I blew out the fire. And I think he believed her."
"Oh, Clark," Martha said with a sigh, "is he going to tell anyone?"
"I don't think so. He said something about not caring what I did, that he was just thankful that I'd managed to save them. And Richard's my friend. But that means one more person who knows something's not quite right about me. And Melissa! I mean, nobody will accept a six- year-old telling people that I can do magic. But what if people hear what she says and then later on notice that I seem to always be on the scene of an emergency, that I always do things that nobody else would have been able to do? And Melissa knows what she saw. Maybe nobody will listen to a six-year-old, but as she gets older, she'll be watching me."
"Clark, I think you're being paranoid," Jonathan said. "She'll have long since forgotten by then. And ripping off doors? Blowing out the fire? Those aren't exactly unbelievable. People have been known to tear off doors in extreme emergencies, and you could claim that the accident damaged the car anyway."
"I know, I know. It's just that each time I help somebody, I come a little bit closer to giving it all away. I traveled the world for two years, Dad, and I don't know if I could do that again. Never having a place to feel safe, to call home. Missing you two, and being unable to form any real friendships because of the fear that people will find out about me. That's not a life, Dad, that's existence."
"Well, you just need to find a way to disguise what you do," Martha said.
Clark nodded. "That's obvious, but how? I mean, it's not like I can just perform rescues at super-speed and hope nobody sees me. They'll still realize that something miraculous occurred. And sometimes I can't do things at super-speed, I'll hurt people."
"You'll find a way," Jonathan said with a smile. "You have all these special powers, and such a wonderful heart. You want to help so badly. You had to have been put here for a reason, and I'm sure it will all come out soon."
"Yeah, but how soon? I can't stand watching things like that accident happen today, when I could have prevented it! What if it had been fatal? Being there to pull Janet out of the car wouldn't have helped if she'd died in the impact."
Martha reached across the table to touch Clark's hand. "Clark, you can't be everywhere, you can't help everyone. You need to be able to have a life of your own, and that means protecting your secret. But son, a normal person wouldn't have been able to pull Janet out of the car at all or help Melissa. They wouldn't have been able to cool the fire. You did what you could, and that's enough. It has to be."
Clark traced a wood groove on the table thoughtfully, but he didn't lift his head until the phone rung loudly, jarring the family from their thoughts.
"I'll get it," Clark said, leaping from the table.
He picked up the phone and cradled it to his ear, trying to put his conversation with his parents to the back of his mind.
"Hey, Clark, it's David. Listen, did you find anything for that story on those men who were around last week, asking questions?"
"Not much. I've been trying to follow their trail, but I haven't gotten very far. By the time we got wind of it, most people seemed to have put it out of their minds, and they don't remember many details."
"Well, I've got a woman down at the office, practically hysterical, demanding to know where we're hiding the alien."
Clark's blood ran cold at the words. "The alien?" he asked, willing himself to be calm.
"Yes. Apparently the questions the men were asking her really scared her. They sound like they were one of those FBI groups, you know, the ones who investigate aliens? They were demanding to know what she knew about alien landings, particularly around here twenty-something years ago. She seems to have taken it seriously, and she thinks the town is harboring an alien somewhere."
"You don't actually believe that?"
"No, of course not. But since she's the only one who really understood what they were asking, we oughta include that in the story. And you're also the best at calming down sources, so we need you to get down here, quiet her down, and see if you can sort out fact from fiction in her account."
Clark sighed to himself. Never a night off when he needed one. "Okay, David, will do. I'll be right down."
He hung up the phone and turned to his parents, careful to keep his expression neutral. "I need to go down to the newsroom for a while. David has a woman there with some possible information about the story I'm working on. We can continue talking about this later, okay?"
He spun and grabbed his coat before waiting for an answer, rushing out into the cool night air. A woman who claimed to have been asked about aliens twenty-some years ago? Then those men asking questions, they were looking for him. The thought sent a cold chill down his spine as even the night wind couldn't do. Memories of his father's warnings as he was growing up rushed through his head. "They'll stick you in some laboratory and dissect you like a frog … you can never let anyone know you are different, not anyone." As he grew up, Clark had always wished there were someone he could talk to about his differences. Not his parents. He was always afraid to hurt or frighten his parents by his bewildered thoughts and confusion. And now, somebody was looking for him. He couldn't risk telling his parents; they'd be too upset. And he didn't want to be forced to leave Smallville again. But how close were those men to the truth anyway? And they had left, after all. Maybe they'd given up, and this was all a false alarm. He sighed. And maybe the Cubs would win the pennant.
Lois stood on the sidewalk on Smallville's Main Street, feeling lost. If this were Metropolis, she'd know exactly where to go and what to do. She'd only been working at the Planet for a little over a year, but already she had contacts in the best (and lowest) places and a good handle on who knew what in that great city. But Smallville? Hicktown was more like it. And the longer she stood on this street, the more she realized she was way, way, out of her league.
Her eyes lit on a young woman walking hand-in-hand with a skipping little girl. "Mommy! Can we go buy ice cream at Mr. Dan's?" the girl asked hopefully. The two passed before Lois heard the mother's reply, but she rolled her eyes.
Nobody in this town was about to rat on their neighbor for a buck, and she bet that the lady at the front desk of the hotel had already blabbed about the newcomer from the city to half-a-dozen people. How was she supposed to remain unnoticed in a small town? And where in the world was she going to start an investigation about some stupid meteorite that had landed over 20 years ago?
Lois's eyes lit up as she noticed the sign on a building a few blocks down the street. "Smallville Post," it read. The local newspaper! Provided the newspaper kept old newspapers on microfiche and would let her read them, it was probably her best bet for reports of the original meteor landing. She hurried across the street and into the newspaper office.
Half an hour later, Lois leaned back in her chair and rubbed her eyes while she thought through everything she'd found out about the meteor landing. The newspaper had considered it of very little importance, apparently. On May 17th, 1966, just after sunset, a meteor had crashed into Schuster's field. The meteor left a long track in the ground, and small glowing green bits of rock had been found along the track. The meteor itself appeared to have broken into pieces, because nothing larger was found than these rocks. The green rocks later disappeared, but the reporter who had written the piece had not made any speculations about where the rocks had gone.
A few days later, "suspicious men" had arrived to ask the local inhabitants what they had seen. Nobody was able to give them any information, and the men had not stayed long. That matched with what Trask had told her, that the incident had appeared unimportant and that Bureau 39 had been understaffed at the time.
The search Lois had run had also turned up a recent article, which she skimmed quickly, expecting it to be a false search result. However, when she saw what the article was talking about, she gasped.
Several suspicious men had been in the area last week, looking for more information about the meteorite landing. They had frightened an old woman by questioning her about the town hiding an alien and had then suddenly disappeared. The paper had done repeated searches into the background of these intruders but had been unable to turn up the agency that employed them or their goal. It was uncertain whether the men were truly searching for aliens or if that was a convenient excuse.
Lois sat back, seething with anger. How dare Trask send men here ahead of her who would be so indiscreet? Now everybody in the town would be on the lookout for "suspicious strangers," and getting people to open up to her subtle questions would be a waste of time. He'd just made her task ten times harder. Forgetting that she was supposed to be the shy, eager newbie to Bureau 39, she pulled her cell-phone from her bag and quickly punched in the number.
"Trask!" she hissed. "You sent men down here asking questions about aliens, and then you expect me to be able to do my job? The whole town is on the look-out now. I won't get anywhere!"
His voice was cold and made Lois's hot temper cool in a flash. "You most certainly will, Miss Lake. I sent you down there to clean up their mess. Don't call me again." With that, the phone went dead, and Lois put the phone down with a flush. How could she have acted so out-of-character for Lori? Now Trask was bound to wonder why his formerly submissive and eager apprentice had suddenly become a hot- headed woman.
To her surprise, Lois noticed that several copies of important issues of the Daily Planet were stored on microfiche as well. She scanned the issues and was initially pleased to notice that several were from the past year and included front-page articles by Lois Lane, Investigative Reporter. But her pleasure dulled quickly when she noticed that two included pictures of her.
She touched her blond hair nervously, flipping it back over her shoulders. She thought that the blond hair and thick eyeglasses were a good disguise, especially in a town where nobody knew her. And she'd even gone to the trouble of cutting her long hair to shoulder-length. But if articles of the Daily Planet occasionally made it here, especially with pictures, would anybody notice that her features were still the same?
Lois forced herself to calm down, noticing that her agitated movements had caught the eye of several of the Post's staffers. She closed her window on the computer and stood, flipping her bag over her shoulder. Where to next?
She glanced at the notebook she'd been taking notes in, and remembered that the original landing site for the meteor had been somewhere called Schuster's field. If she could sneak in and out of her hotel room with the metal detector, maybe she could slip down to the field and look for traces of the strange rock Trask was talking about.
Clark flung his pencil to the ground with disgust, staring at the story he'd just written. He hadn't spent more than twenty minutes on it, and it showed. Where was all the writing ability his parents had lauded in him as a child? Where was the zing?
He knew his answer. Although he liked human-interest pieces, by the fifth story about the upcoming Corn Festival, he was bored. Oh, he always enjoyed going to the Corn Festival. But the Post had been using news on it as filler for the past two weeks, and he was thoroughly sick of it. Did anyone besides Mrs. Jennings really care to hear about the trouble she'd had getting her booth assembled correctly?
If he was honest with himself, Clark had to admit that it wasn't just this week that the news was slow. News in a small town was always rather slow. There simply weren't a lot of dramatic accidents, corrupt politicians, or scientific discoveries to write about. He loved living in Smallville, but he missed the pace of Paris, or any of the big cities he'd spent time in during his two years abroad. But he'd always been too worried about letting his secret out to relax and allow himself to make friends. Here, at least he had his parents and old school friends like Richard who wouldn't tell anyone about suspicions they might have formed. But it couldn't last forever. Just let Maisie, who had always joked that with Clark, "what ya see is what ya get," find out his secret. The entire town would know in a matter of hours, and from there, the world. He sighed.
Give me the big city any day, he thought. The most exciting event of the past week had been the "suspicious men" lurking about, asking questions about aliens, and the newspaper had already milked that for all it was worth.
"Hey, Kent!" someone called, and Clark looked up to see Brandon, the ads expert, quickly approaching.
"Kent, did you see the broad in the microfiche room?" Brandon asked with a grin.
Clark sighed at Brandon's word choice, but didn't comment. He knew from experience that it did no good. "No, who?"
Brandon nodded towards the back of the room, and Clark saw the form of a pretty young woman through the door of the back room. As he watched, she flushed and put down the cell-phone she was holding and shoved the phone into her purse. She scanned through some things on the computer. She sat back and flipped her hair nervously. Something about her hair caught Clark's eye. It didn't look natural to him, even though her eyebrows and eyelashes were blonde as well. Was she just another girl who thought she had to be blonde to be pretty, or was she trying to hide something?
"What's she looking for?" Clark asked Brandon curiously.
Brandon shrugged. "Dunno. Mostly stuff that happened sometime in the 60s, that meteor landing, I think. Not sure. I was too busy looking at, um, other things than her screen." Brandon said the last with a predatory grin, and Clark groaned mentally.
The meteor landing? Now, that was the second time in a week that somebody had been looking for more information about that, and last time it had been those men. Who was this woman, and what was she looking for? He didn't want to think that he already knew the answer.
Clark grinned to himself. As long as nobody got too close to his secret, this was big. Really big. Maybe this was the story that would make him forget how bored he was at a small-town newspaper.
Lois shifted the golf bag on her shoulder to a more comfortable position as she climbed over the wooden fence. How out-of-place she looked carrying a golf bag about, she wasn't sure, but she figured it was better than carrying a metal detector out in the open. And fortunately, the detector Trask had allocated to her looked exactly like a Big Bertha, so she could pretend to be practicing her drives out in an abandoned field.
Lois wasn't sure if anybody was within eyesight, so as she made her way to the area where the meteor was reported to have landed, she reached into her bag and set a tee into the ground, then dropped a golf ball onto the tee. She pulled her metal detector out of the bag, flipped it on, and swung it slowly across the ground. Nothing.
Lois sighed. "Award-winning investigative journalist, and what am I doing? Using a metal detector that looks like a stupid golf club to search a field for evidence of a meteor landing twenty-five years ago. And why do we want to find out about the meteor? Well, obviously, an alien must have come along with it. And all aliens must die, because Trask says so. The man is demented. Mustn't say so to his face, of course, because then I'd probably be classified as an alien lover and exiled. I cannot believe the government funds these idiots."
Just as Lois was about to throw the metal detector away in disgust, it began to beep. She sighed and pulled her second piece of equipment from the golf bag, a large metal shovel. Tossing the detector to the side and throwing caution away entirely, she began to dig.
Two hours later, Lois was about to give up and assume the metal detector was faulty when she heard a loud clang. She stared with astonishment into the two-foot deep hole she had dug. Where the shovel had hit metal, a gray sliver showed through the dirt. It was sleek and shiny, and most definitely not a meteor.
With renewed vigor, Lois began to dig around the silver "meteorite" to see what she'd found.
By the time Lois collapsed in exhaustion, she'd unearthed something she'd never expected to find.
"A spaceship!" she gasped.
Well, of course it couldn't really be, she assured herself. But if anything had ever looked like a spaceship, this did. It reminded her of a smaller version of the spaceship in a movie she'd seen a few years ago, called "Flight of the Navigator." Gray and shiny, it was like a small bubble of gray metal except for the designs on the side. She found herself tracing the symbol at the front of the ship, a stylistic "S" shape. Somehow the symbol sent shivers through her spine, and she wasn't quite sure why.
She fiddled with the panels on the side, assuming that the ship must open somehow. And suddenly, it did, lifting open to reveal a cozy interior, just the right size for a baby.
A baby? Why had she thought that? But now that she'd realized it, the interior really did seem designed for a human infant. Soft blankets cushioned a little pod, and she could almost picture a tiny, adorable, dark-hair infant lying there cooing at her.
Dark-haired? Lois shook her head, wondering where these strange thoughts were coming from. She leaned forward to take a closer look and gasped.
Just in front of the blanketed pod, there was a tiny globe, glowing faintly. She reached out to touch the globe, then picked it up with two hands. The globe began to glow, and she almost dropped it. Only her eager curiosity kept her from releasing the glowing ball. She felt as if the globe wanted to do … something, but she wasn't sure what. After a moment, the glowing faded, and she was left holding what now looked like just a strangely colored ball in her hands. She sighed and wrapped the globe in the blanket, stuffing it into a pouch on her golf bag.
Now, what to do with the spaceship? She made a half- hearted attempt to haul it out of the hole, assuming it would be too heavy for her. To her surprise, it felt light and lifted easily. She pulled it to the ground, then grabbed her shovel and filled in the hole she'd made as best she could.
Standing back, Lois looked at the disturbed earth. There hadn't been enough dirt to fill in the space the ship had formerly occupied, and anybody would be able to tell that she'd dug something up. Did it matter?
Of course it did. The townspeople were already suspicious enough after Trask's men. With a slight groan, Lois set to work.
It took far longer than she would have thought to drag dirt from another spot on the field, especially without a tarp to drag it on, and by the time she had the hole full to her satisfaction and concealed with a layer of sod, the sun had set. She grabbed her metal prize and dragged it off the field. She wasn't sure where she'd store it until she saw the empty barn at the edge of the field. Not a prime spot for concealment, but the only one available at the moment. There was no way she could take it into town, and she didn't want to bury it again, since she planned to examine it further when she got the chance.
Once the ship was thoroughly hidden, under piles of hay and tarps in the barn, Lois felt safe enough to head back to town. She ignored the strange looks the hotel's owner gave her as she trudged up to her bedroom and a hot shower.
The hot shower felt good and did wonders for the knots in her shoulders from digging for hours. By the time she turned the heat off, she felt better enough to start thinking about what the spaceship meant.
She wasn't sure how she knew, but she was positive that the ship had contained a baby. But why? Who had sent it? Had it come from another planet, or was it a renegade ship from a U.S. or Russian experiment? It had landed in the 60s, after all. But would somebody put a baby into space and leave it there to die? She didn't want to think about it, but she knew that experiments had often been performed with animals who were then left to die once their purpose was over. It could have been the same for a baby. She didn't want to think that her country would do such a thing in the name of science, but it was possible. And, in Lois's opinion, far more likely than some aliens sending their baby to Earth alone. So the question was what group sent a baby into space experimentally in the 60s and didn't bother to check if the child survived?
A quick call on Lois's cell-phone got her in touch with her most reliable source in Metropolis, Bobby Bigmouth.
"Hey, Lois, long time no see. Gonna Fed-Ex me some Peking Duck while you're out there?"
"Listen, Bobby, thanks a lot for getting me this job. I don't know how you managed it, and I'm not sure I want to, but I couldn't have gotten it without you."
There was a long silence on the other side of the phone; then Lois heard Bobby cough. "Lois, is that you?"
"Of course, Bobby."
"Sorry, it's just that I don't think I've ever heard you thank me for anything before. At least, not and mean it." Lois could hear a trace of a grin in his voice. "Anyway, it was no problem. A word mentioned into an ear or two, that's all. Your disguise working okay?"
Lois curled a lock of golden hair around her finger, then dropped it instantly as she recognized the gesture as one typical of Lois Lane. She didn't want to show any mannerisms to link her disguise to her true self, even if nobody in Hicksville was likely to notice. "Yeah, Bobby. Even for Trask. Lori Lake, intrepid Bureau 39 investigator, has everybody thoroughly convinced."
Bobby cleared his throat. "Listen, kid, just take care out there, will you? Everything I hear points to Trask as a dangerous type of guy, one you do not want to get on the wrong side of. And if you don't make it back to Metropolis in one piece, I may need to survive on three meals an hour!"
Lois chuckled, then suddenly remembered what she'd wanted to ask Bobby about. "Listen, Bobby, I know this isn't your usual type of information, but you're the only person I have contact with. Can you find out if the U.S., Russia, or any other country, had a space program going in the 60s and sent a baby into outer space? A baby that wasn't seen again?"
Another long pause. "Are you sure, Lois? Isn't that kind of farfetched? I've never heard of anything like that."
"Seriously, Bobby, I found something that indicates it might have happened. Said baby didn't die and land in Kansas in 1966. I want to know what country sent him out there in the first place and for what purpose."
"All right, Lois. You're right. This isn't my normal type of thing, but I'll let you know what I find out. Meanwhile, hang in there, kid."
"Of course, Bobby," Lois said and hung up with a smile. Bobby had never failed to get her information yet. She truly hoped that he'd come up with something. Somebody had to have sent that baby out there because an alien couldn't possibly have landed in Smallville. Not possible.
Next thing to do, Lois thought to herself, is to find out where the baby ended up. Alien, Russian, whatever, he must have been found. There were no bones in that spaceship. Lois closed her eyes at the thought of finding the remains of a baby buried in that grave. "But if it didn't die … then where is it now?" she wondered aloud.
Clark grinned at his mother as he and his parents walked down the long row of games and booths set up for Smallville's Annual Corn Festival.
"Oh, Clark, look!" his mother exclaimed, pointing. "There's the Corn Princess! Isn't she lovely?"
Clark frowned as he looked up and noticed who his mother had not mentioned. The Corn Princess was certainly pretty, a little girl of about ten who wore a frilly dress and carried a bouquet of corn stalks. But the woman the little princess stood next to was far more striking. Tall and blonde, with wavy hair that trailed down her back, Lana Lang made a beautiful Corn Queen. She stood with her chin held high with pride, and when she noticed Clark staring at her, she raised her chin even higher. Clark sighed and turned away, and his mother wisely said nothing.
"How about we grab something to eat?" Jonathan suggested, and Martha and Clark quickly agreed. But just then, a young woman hurried to Clark's side.
"Hey, Clark, how's the best reporter in town doing?"
Clark smiled down at his friend. "Pretty good, though a bit bored, Rach."
Rachel Harris grinned at Clark and punched his arm. "Then how about a dance? I may have finally gotten to be sheriff, but I can still two-step and tush-push better than anyone in this town." She gave a dark look at the podium where Lana was graciously accepting her crown. "Despite what some people might claim."
Without giving Rachel a chance to say anything else, Clark swung her onto the dance floor. Rachel squealed as he spun her into position.
"So, I hear you're investigating those men who were around last week," Rachel started, raising her eyebrows.
Startled, Clark missed a step, then caught up. "News travels fast in this town. Why we need a newspaper …"
"Oh, you know we only need a newspaper so we can employ you, Clark. Otherwise you'd be writing fiction, and we're all scared what you'd write about us."
Clark laughed. "Now I feel useful. Maybe I should go write in Kansas City."
Rachel's brow creased. "Is that what you're thinking about doing?"
"Honestly?" Clark asked. Rachel nodded. "Yeah, I've been thinking about it. Maybe not Kansas City, but some big city. Maybe even Metropolis."
"The Daily Planet?" Rachel asked. All of Clark's friends from high school remembered how badly he'd wanted to work for the world-famous newspaper as a teen.
"Yeah, maybe. Dunno if they'd hire me, but I could try."
Rachel was thoughtful. "If those men are really up to something, that could be the article that would get you that job. You gotta come in with something impressive."
Clark nodded, wondering where this was going.
"Have you seen the blonde? She's staying at the Smallville Inn. She's been wandering around, hardly talking to anyone, but poking her nose in odd places."
"Yeah," Clark said. "She was at the Post one day, looking up old issues of the paper around the time of that meteor shower."
"Well, she was at Schuster's field earlier today. I have no idea what she was doing, but it didn't look good. Carrying a golf bag. And rumor said she even did some digging."
Clark's mind went reeling, and he lost track of the dance steps again. Rachel grabbed his hand to steady him, and he forced himself to calm down. "Really?"
"Clark, are you okay? You're usually a much better dancer than this. You aren't in over your head with this story, are you?"
"N-no, Rach, I'm fine. I guess I'm just a little surprised that she would be so reckless. Do you think she's with those men who were here before?"
Rachel shrugged. "Couldn't tell you. She isn't acting like they are, asking nosy questions and getting in the way, flaunting her authority. But that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I think somebody should find out what group they're working for and whether this is really authorized."
"That's what I'm working on," Clark said. "So far I haven't found anything. I'll check out Schuster's field as soon as I can."
"I'd go soon, if you're gonna. I think Ralph is heading out there this evening, after the dance, and you know he'll destroy any evidence that's there."
"Thanks for the warning. If you don't mind, I'll head out now." With that, Clark quickly left the dance floor and headed towards the park exit.
Rachel sighed. "Now I think I remember why the police and the press don't mix." She shrugged and grabbed a stocky teenager to replace her erstwhile dance partner.
Clark dropped onto a chair at the kitchen table. "And by the time I got there, the woman was gone, and all that was left was a place where the ground was dug up. I tried x-raying the spot, but all I could see is that she had dug a really deep hole and filled it up. Did it have something to do with where I came from?"
His parents gave each other a look and sat down simultaneously.
"Clark," Jonathan started. "We told you the story of where we found you, and when."
"In a spaceship," he interrupted. "Or something like that. In Schuster's field."
Jonathan nodded. "Well, I didn't have anywhere to hide the ship, so I brought it back here and put it in the barn. A few days later some men were poking around and asking questions, so I thought it best to bury the ship."
Clark's head shot up. "You mean she found the ship?" he gasped.
"I think so," Jonathan said, closing his eyes.
Martha touched Jonathan's shoulder. "There wasn't anything else you could do," she assured him. "It was the best place to hide it for twenty-five years."
"Until some nosy woman found it," he said bitterly.
"Well, it looks like she would have found it no matter where it was hidden," Martha pointed out. "Don't beat yourself over the head about it."
Clark stood up abruptly and walked to the window. "It's out there," he muttered. "Everything about me. What if something about the ship tells her who I am or where I'm hiding? And even if it doesn't, maybe there's something about the ship that would tell me where I came from or why I have all these powers. And now I'll probably never see it."
"Oh, Clark," Martha said, coming up behind him. "We'll get it back. But no matter where you came from, we don't care. You could be a Russian experiment or an alien. But you're still you. Still Clark Kent, reporter for the Smallville Post, and a wonderful and caring son. Never forget that."
"Oh, Mom, you know I won't. I love you guys." Clark turned to hug his parents. "I just wish I knew a little bit more about myself and what I'm supposed to do with these special powers I was given."
While Lois waited for Bobby Bigmouth to contact her with what he'd found out about the space programs, she tried to decide what to do next. It was obvious to her that something had come to Earth in that spaceship. Whether or not that something had come from Earth itself, or somewhere else, was debatable.
And although Lois couldn't pinpoint the knowledge, she was absolutely certain that the something from the spaceship was a baby. So the question was, where was the baby now?
Since the body of the baby wasn't in the spaceship, somebody must have found the baby back in 1966. Trask and his men obviously hadn't, or they wouldn't have sent her to find out this information. So who was likely to have found the child?
The answer was obvious. Somebody in Smallville must have found the child. And since there had been no media outcry, and again, since Trask knew nothing, then they must have kept their discovery a secret and raised the child as their own.
So the next task would be to find out what happened to the child. Would a woman claim to have given birth to the baby at home? Lois supposed it would depend on the age of the woman and the baby, and whether neighbors would know she hadn't been pregnant. Could they claim the child was a foundling? Maybe, but risky. What if somebody noticed that the time they reported finding the child coincided with the meteor shower? Or what if social services tried to take the child away from them? Though it was definitely a possibility to check.
More likely, though, a couple had decided to raise the child and pretended to have it through legitimate means, like the death of a near relative in childbirth. In a small town in the '60s, whether or not the couple had papers proving that the child belonged to them might not be important.
So when was the first time the child would show up on official records? The answer came to Lois immediately. When it started school.
The next job, then, was to look at the records for children who had started school at the right time and match them to births. Any child who had started school but wasn't born in the town could then theoretically be the right child, and she'd have a narrower list of suspects.
Of course, given all this, the "child" she was looking for should now be about twenty-five years old, or a little older. He or she might have left the small town a long time ago. Lois was pretty sure she remembered that small towns had low retention rates. But it would be a start.
Lois paused in her hotel room only long enough to grab her purse; then she was off to the town hall to look at school and birth records for Smallville residents.
By the time Lois's cell-phone rang, drawing annoyed stares from some of the other researchers in the town hall's records department, Lois was pretty sure she'd found what she was looking for.
"Hello?" she answered, a little more sharply than she intended.
"Whoa there, girl. It's only me," the welcome voice of Bobby Bigmouth replied.
"Oh, sorry, Bobby. Worried you were Trask, ready to bug me for more information."
"Whatever. Listen, Lois, you owe me big for this one. That Peking Duck for sure."
"All right, all right, Bobby. Whatcha got?"
She could hear Bobby chuckle softly. "Well, girl, I can tell you most definitely that neither the U.S. nor Russia, nor any other country, ever sent a baby into space in the '60s. And this isn't based on a lack of evidence to the contrary; this is absolute. That doesn't mean that they didn't do plenty of other things that were a little- how shall we say?-unethical in their desperation to beat each other to outer space. But no babies. If you found a space baby, Lois, it ain't an earthling."
Lois took a deep breath. "What about a private agency or a government group acting without the knowledge of the government itself? Anything like that?"
"Zilch. I swear to you, Lois, no Earth kid ever got sent to outer space. Do I get to know what this is all about?"
Lois gathered her former courage together. "When you see my exclusive on the front page of the Daily Planet, you do."
"Well, as long as that copy of the Daily Planet comes wrapped around my Peking Duck."
Lois laughed. "Of course, Bobby. And thanks for your help."
"No problem. See you back in Metropolis. Don't forget-"
"Your duck. I get the point, already. When I get back there and not a second before."
Lois hung up the phone and stared at the screen. Her search results were listed alphabetically, but she'd highlighted one name that she already knew was the right one, Clark Jerome Kent. Twenty-five years old, birthdate listed as February 28th, 1966, which would make him almost 4 months old on the night of the meteor. And his parents lived right next-door to Schuster's field, where the meteor had landed.
Clark Kent, reporter for the Smallville Post.
Lois gasped at this new information. A reporter? What if he'd noticed she was on to him? She'd done some research in the Post's newsroom, and she hadn't always been as discreet as she could have. And she didn't think she was being vain to realize that a reporter from the Smallville Post might have heard of the famous Lois Lane, investigative reporter for the Daily Planet in Metropolis. What if he caught on to her?
"Lois, girl, calm down," she whispered to herself. "Clark Kent, alien, isn't the story. The story is Trask and Bureau 39. I just gotta get through this and find out what Trask wants with this Kent person and what he intends to do with the information I give him. Then I can get out of here."
But it wasn't that simple. Lois knew she should just call Trask and tell him what she'd found out, then see what happened when he arrived. But she knew from her sources how dangerous Trask was. What if Kent wasn't really an alien? Trask would destroy his life. And somehow, Lois hated the thought of Trask's UFO theories being vindicated. He was a loony, and she didn't want him proved sane.
Lois sighed. What to do? She could tell Kent that he'd been found out. He'd probably run, and she'd lose both the story on the alien and the story on Trask. She could continue to find out everything she could about Kent and write up the story on the alien living as a human. But nobody would believe her, and Perry would never print it. She could hide everything from Trask and continue to try to get the dirt on his agency. But that would be hard without bait, and for bait she either needed to feed Trask info or use Kent himself.
What if she told Kent the truth and tried to convince him to be bait for Trask on the condition that Lois never told anyone who Kent really was? Now, that had promise. After all, Lois had the greatest blackmail material of all time. She winced. Resorting to blackmail? But it wouldn't be the first time.
The only thing was Lois Lane didn't need anybody, and she didn't work with partners. That left no room for the alien. Lois sighed. Ethics getting in the way of a story was a new concept for Lois, and she wasn't exactly sure what to do next.
"Get a grip, Lois," she warned herself. "Stop thinking, and just do. That's what got you that Kerth and all your best stories. Now get going."
Maybe Clark Kent wasn't the story, but wouldn't it be a surprise for Perry if Lois came back to the Planet with the story about government vigilantes and proof that an alien existed? Okay, she'd need really solid proof in order to convince the public and not hold the paper up for ridicule. Despite the evidence she found, Lois herself was having difficulty believing that it could be true. But what if it was?
Thinking over the other equipment Trask had sent with her, Lois suddenly remembered the bugs that she'd packed, as well as the strong pair of binoculars.
"Well, if I haven't decided what to do with the alien yet, my next course is to take Aliens 101: Observe the Alien in his Natural Habitat." Of course, who would have known that the first alien ever to land on the earth would grow up in Smallville, Kansas, land of corn and wheat?
Jonathan and Martha sat at the table long after Clark had left for the office. They didn't talk, but after all their years of marriage, they didn't need to. Both were thinking about the unusual son they had raised and wondering how he would find a way to use his powers without giving up any chance at a real life.
Both were startled by a knock on the door, and Jonathan hurried to answer it.
Wayne Irig stood in the doorway, looking nervously into the house. He seemed to be satisfied with what he saw because he finally focused on the worried face of Jonathan Kent.
"Jonathan, I need your help with something. Can you come outside?"
"Sure, Wayne, just a second," Jonathan said. He exchanged a puzzled glance with Martha as he grabbed his coat and headed outside, pulling the heavy wooden door shut behind him.
"What seems to be the problem?"
"Well, you remember that big storm we had a couple of weeks ago?"
"Well, it tore one of those big trees on the edge of my property right down."
Jonathan gave him a confused look. "Did you want my help to chop it up?"
"No, it's not that," Wayne said, looking around nervously again. "See, when the tree came up, it left a huge hole in the ground. And while I was digging the tree the rest of the way out, I found something in that hole. It looked like a sack of some kind of strange rock."
Jonathan felt as if his heart had stopped beating for a frightening moment then started again twice as fast. "And?"
"Well, they didn't look like any kind of rock I'd ever seen before. Kind of green and glowing, you know? So I sent a little one to the lab to be tested."
Jonathan wished his friend would hurry up with the story instead of stopping for approval every few words. "Go on?"
"Anyway, it was just a few days after that that those feds showed up the first time. And some of them were looking around my property and asking me about the rocks. You know the questions they were asking other people … I think it's connected somehow. And Schuster's field, where they were doing a lot of snooping, it borders mine right where that tree is. In fact, the land the tree is on is part of what I bought from Schuster way back in '72."
Jonathan rubbed his forehead for a long moment. "What did you do with the rest of the rocks?"
"Well, I had just kept them in a box in my shed, but when the feds showed up, I buried them again, back behind the barn."
There was silence for a long few minutes while Jonathan tried to decide how much to tell his friend. He knew he could trust Wayne, but how much should he burden him with?
"Wayne, I buried those rocks back there in Schuster's field. I can't tell you why, but I had a reason for trying to hide them. I didn't realize that it was part of the field that you bought or I would have dug them up a long time ago."
Wayne scratched an arm and stared at the ground. "And that's all you're going to tell me?"
"I could tell you more. But I don't think you want me to."
Wayne nodded. "All right. Do you want the rocks?"
Wayne walked to his pickup truck, opened the door, and pulled a sack from the back seat. Jonathan gasped.
"I thought you'd buried those!" he exclaimed.
Wayne grinned. "Well, you have your secrets, but I thought they had something to do with you and maybe that boy of yours. I won't ask any questions, but here you go. Hide them well. There's still a girl around asking questions."
"Is there?" Jonathan asked with surprise. "I hadn't heard that."
"She's more subtle than the men, but yeah, she seems involved in the same investigation. Your boy is keeping an eye on her. I think he has some big story in mind."
Jonathan laughed. "You know Clark. He always has some big story in mind. Smallville won't be big enough to hold him for much longer."
Wayne handed Jonathan the sack of rocks. "Well, I suppose you'll know best what to do with these."
Jonathan nodded. "Thanks, Wayne."
"Don't mention it," his old friend said as he walked back to his truck. "Just watch your back. I don't trust that girl, even if she is a blonde."
Jonathan walked slowly back into the house and sank down onto one of the kitchen chairs.
"What was that all about, honey?" Martha asked.
"Well, Wayne found those rocks. You know, the ones that were around Clark's spaceship when we found him, the ones I buried. I figured it was better to keep them here than to rebury them and risk those agents coming across them."
"Probably. Do you have any idea what they are?"
"No, but they must have something to do with Clark, since they were with the ship. And now that the ship is gone, they may be his only link to home. Maybe we can give them to Clark when he gets back and let him decide what to do with them."
"That sounds fair. After all, we know that Clark wasn't born to us, and he'll never be able to find the people who gave birth to him. At least this gives him something to hold onto."
Lois leaned her chair back against the wall of the tree house and stared at the table thoughtfully. She'd just received the confirmation she needed to prove that Clark Kent was the alien. His own parents had talked about the ship he'd come in and declared that he wasn't born to them. Oh, it wasn't enough to prove it to the public, not yet, but between the results of Bobby Bigmouth's research, her own discoveries, and now the words of the Kents, she was convinced that it was true. She should call Trask now and let him know what she'd found. He'd send some men or come himself, and she'd be able to get more information on her story.
But somehow, she couldn't bear to expose this man to Trask. Trask didn't know that there was an actual alien involved, and she didn't know what he'd do if he knew. She knew he was a fanatic, and fanatics are rarely humane. And with all his alien invasion theories, he'd probably assume that the one little baby who was sent to Earth in a spaceship had come to kill them all or lead an invasion to do so. He'd kill Clark Kent or torture him into revealing the invasion plan. Was it worth submitting somebody to that treatment for a story?
Lois sighed. She'd always thought she'd do anything for a Pulitzer or even for a Kerth. But maybe she hadn't been an investigative reporter long enough to have the right attitude because she knew she could not give Trask the information she'd found.
"Lois, you're getting soft," she told herself.
She reached into the bag she'd carried with her and took out the globe she'd found in the spaceship. Was this the key to Clark Kent's past? She examined it for a long moment, then placed it carefully on the table in front of her. Its glow dulled the moment she released it from her hands, and for a second she felt a pang of longing. She blinked.
Suddenly Lois's receiving equipment clicked on, and she leaned forward to listen to the voices in the room she had bugged in the Kents' farmhouse.
"Hey, Mom," she heard a young man's voice say softly.
"Clark, is everything okay?" she heard a woman's voice ask.
Silence, then the man's voice again. "Not really. There's a huge fire in Washington, D.C. It's at Union Square, and there are an awful lot of people around."
"Oh, honey." Another pause. "And you want to help?"
The man's voice now sounded frustrated, and Lois could hear sounds as if things were being thrown about. "Mom, people are dying there! I could help! There's so much I could do …"
"But if you do, you know you'll have lunatics going after you, trying to kill you. And you'll never have a life of your own."
Clark sighed. "Exactly. And not only that, but you and Dad and everybody I know and work with could become targets. Anyone who wants to get after me would just have to go after the people I love the most."
Lois snorted. "Is this guy for real? Just what does he think he could do that emergency services couldn't?"
The woman's voice again. "Clark, you do what you can already. And one day, soon, I promise you, we'll find a way that you can help people without revealing yourself."
Another long pause.
"Oh, Clark, your dad wanted to speak to you about some rocks Wayne Irig found. He's outside right now, but maybe when he comes in you can talk to him."
"I guess. Right now I think I'd like to be alone for a little bit."
Lois sighed and sat up in her chair as the sounds of people left the room. She'd only had time to bug the main room, unfortunately, so she wouldn't be able to hear Clark Kent's mutterings in his bedroom, and she'd missed the conversation between Kent's father and the neighbor because they had gone outdoors.
Lois realized with surprise that she'd stopped thinking of Clark Kent as the alien. Somehow working with Trask, it was easy to start thinking of him as a creature. But listening to him speak to his mother and hearing the love for her and his father in his voice and his pain when he spoke of people he wanted to help but couldn't, she found herself thinking that this Clark Kent, no matter what planet he was from, was far more human than Trask himself.
The receiving device suddenly flicked to life again as someone walked into the room, and Lois smiled as she heard the arrival of Jonathan Kent, followed immediately by a greeting from Martha Kent. And was that …? Yes, Clark Kent was coming down the staircase.
Lois jumped to her feet and grabbed her binoculars and the earpiece for her receiver. She clambered down the treehouse ladder, smiling up at the sign on the treehouse labeling it as the "Fortress of Solitude."
Fortunately, Lois didn't have to go far to find the ideal spot for spying. It had long since grown dark, and a patch of tall grass a few hundred feet from the front window of the house made an ideal hiding place. She dropped to her stomach and plugged the receiver into her ear, holding up the binoculars at the same moment to peer into the window.
Clark Kent paced back and forth across the living room while his parents sat, holding hands, on the couch.
"Do you really think they're that close, son?" Jonathan Kent was saying.
"Yeah, Dad. This girl is from the same organization that sent those men last week and probably the same ones who were around right after you found me. It's gotta be some government agency, and I don't trust which one. We know that the government had projects going to find UFOs and aliens and protect against space invaders not all that many years ago. It's foolish to assume that nobody thinks that way anymore."
"But Clark, they can't hurt you, can they? And you can always escape."
"I don't know whether that's true, Mom, that they can't hurt me. And even so, they can hurt me by hurting you, or other people I care about. Or even just by making it impossible for me to lead a normal life. And you know that's all I've ever wanted."
Now that seemed strange. Why did he think that Bureau 39 couldn't hurt him? Again, it seemed like there was something about him she hadn't discovered yet, though she had no idea what it was. And yet all he wanted was a normal life?
Lois shook her head. "It's highly overrated, a normal life. Trust me on that one."
With a start, Clark's head shot up, and he turned to face the window. Lois gave a gasp and ducked lower in the grasses, even though she knew that he couldn't possibly see her.
It was pitch-black outside, and he was standing in a lighted room. Not only that, but she was fairly well- camouflaged and lying behind a patch of tall grass. Lois's mind raced as she tried to assure herself that he couldn't possibly have seen her, but her heart was pounding so loudly she was sure the Boston Pops were able to use it as a metronome.
She heard an odd sound on the bug, a kind of a whoosh, and suddenly Clark appeared to have disappeared from the living room. She lifted her head slightly to see where he'd gone when she was startled by a sound behind her.
"And just what do you think you're doing?"
Lois swallowed and forced her voice to remain steady. "Gee, I thought they only said lines that lame in movies."
With a swift move, Lois leaped from her position to deliver a perfect roundhouse kick at Clark Kent's chin. But to her surprise, the kick that should have knocked him out failed, as he caught her leg easily and held it.
"I don't think you're the one who should be using self-defense. What are you doing spying on my family and me, in the middle of the night, on our private property?"
Lois struggled to pull her leg away, but this Clark Kent person was strong. She gasped as he gave her leg a jerk that sent her tumbling to land ungracefully on her back. He walked forward to stand over her.
"Do you have an explanation?"
Mutely, Lois shook her head.
"Then I think you'd better come with me," he said.
Lois rolled to the side before he could react, and made a move as if to run. But in a move that shouldn't have been possible, he grabbed her around the waist.
"Stop it. I'll only catch you again if you run. Now come on."
Lois Lane was not about to be told what to do by some farmboy, alien or no. But her struggles were to no avail, and he managed to drag her into the farmhouse where his very astounded parents stood gaping.
"I caught her outside, spying on us. She probably has a bug, too, don't you?" He addressed this last to her, examining her ears closely. It only took a moment to spot the earpiece, and he grabbed it quickly, holding it up as if it were evidence in a courtroom.
"She doesn't appear to talk, though," he said provokingly.
Lois stared up at him, unsure of exactly how to play this. Should she try to remain silent, giving nothing away, and run when she got the chance? But only a little while ago she'd been trying to decide what to do next, anyway. Hadn't she considered working with Kent, maybe making him a deal? This was her chance, if he'd ever trust her after her spying routine.
Clark sighed. "Okay, will you at least tell us your name?"
Another tough choice. Lori Lake, or Lois Lane? Either one could get her into boatloads of trouble. As Lori Lake, she'd have to tell him she was working with Trask, and was there any way he'd work with or trust someone who was trying to turn him over to an alien invasion alarmist? But if she told him she was Lois Lane, it would be hard to convince him that the story she was working on was on Bureau 39, not Clark Kent, Alien Extraordinaire. And in her position, would she believe someone who swore that they wouldn't write about her biggest secret? Not in this lifetime. So which was it to be?
Or could there be a third idea? What was that name of that woman, the promising government investigator she'd run into a year or two ago? Maybe she could use her as an identity, so Kent wouldn't think she would use his alien identity for a story. But what was her name? Lois thought frantically, staring at Clark Kent blankly.
Clark sighed. "Fine, suit yourself. Mom, I'm going to make us some tea. I could use some."
"Mayson Drake." Lois's voice was barely above a whisper. But Clark heard her, and turned. "What did you say?" he asked, his own voice uncertain.
"Mayson Drake. I'm a special investigator for the government. I'm undercover as Lori Lake, new investigator for Bureau 39, doing a story on vigilante government groups. Bureau 39 thinks that we're under the constant threat of aliens and UFOs, and I'm trying to show their fanaticism and disregard for the laws of our country so I can get their funding cut off."
Clark stared at her uncertainly, and Lois pressed her advantage.
"I know you're Clark Kent, and I know you're also really an alien from outer space. I found the ship you came to Earth in, and I heard about the rocks your father has. I know the Kents found you as a baby and raised you."
And now for the big risk. "Look, your big secret isn't important to me. In all honesty, I couldn't care whether you're from Earth or Mars. Or even Venus," she said, risking a grin. "But I need you in order to get Trask and complete my investigation."
Clark's mind was whirling. Special investigator for the government? Which branch? She hadn't said. Could she be telling the truth, or was this all just to get him to let down his guard? He knew that she was working with those men, and it made sense for them to be a government group, one of those insane divisions of the FBI that tried to track down aliens or something. So that much was true. But could she really be undercover? How did he know he could trust her?
"Help you how?" he asked. His mind barely noted that his parents were standing by silently, watching the exchange.
"Help me bring down Trask. I need to find out what he knows, and what he actually intends to do once he finds an alien."
Clark shrugged. "That doesn't sound like much. Can't you get that information on your own?"
"No," Lois said vehemently. "I need him to act, to actually try something. If all I can tell my superiors is that Bureau 39 exists and is funded by the U.S. Government and that they like to look for aliens, they're just gonna toss it into a folder, mention it in a briefing or two, and forget about it. The only thing that might bother them is the tax dollars wasted on it, and the government doesn't care much about spending too many tax dollars."
Clark was confused. "What exactly is Trask doing, other than spending tax dollars you want to be spent elsewhere?"
"Clark, he's a fanatic. I think that, given a real alien, he'd try to kill it." Clark winced at that, and Lois quickly amended her word choice. "Him. Or her. Anyway, I can't accuse Trask of doing anything since he was just following orders and hasn't really done anything wrong yet. He'll get away scot-free. And I swear to you, Clark, if that happens, he still won't give up. He's close, and he'll find you. And then he will try to attack you, and you'll have to spend the rest of your life in hiding. Help me expose Trask, and you'll be rid of him forever, and I'll get a successful investigation that will make my career."
"But even if we get Trask, your report to your superiors would expose me."
Lois shook her head. "I can make it clear Trask was delusional and thought that a meteor shower and a newly- adopted baby meant that the child was an alien, or something like that."
The answer seemed clear. It wasn't as if he had a choice. Whether or not he helped her, this woman already had all the information to damn him. The best thing to do seemed to be to play along and hope that by the time they finished the investigation on Trask, she would have gotten to know him well enough that she wouldn't destroy his life by exposing him.
Clark looked towards his parents, who had not yet volunteered a word. "Mom? Dad?"
Martha and Jonathan looked at each other, then at Clark. Finally Jonathan spoke.
"I think she's right. This Trask-person, whoever he is, doesn't sound like he'll ever leave you alone. We thought it had ended when those men went away, back when we first found you. But he put it off for twenty-five years, then started it up again. He's not just going to give it up."
Martha looked at Lois for a long time. Finally she nodded. "I trust her, Clark."
Clark turned to Lois, watched her face for a moment, then held out his hand. Lois shook it and smiled at him.
"Partners," she said.
"Partners," he whispered.
Now why did that sound so wonderful? Lois wondered. Surely it couldn't be because she wanted a partner. She always worked alone. This was just necessary because she wanted to use Clark Kent as bait; that was all.
Martha exchanged looks with Jonathan as the four sat discussing Trask's plans. Jonathan nodded, and Martha stood up.
"Mayson, honey, why don't I show you to Clark's room? He can sleep on the couch tonight."
"Oh, I don't want to inconvenience anyone. I do have a hotel room that I can sleep in."
Martha steered Lois towards the bedroom. "I think you should stay here tonight, Mayson, given everything that's been going on lately."
"Well, at least I could take the couch myself. I don't want to kick Clark out of his own room."
Martha smiled. She liked this girl already. "He'd never let you sleep on the couch while he took the bedroom. He's too much the gentleman for that. Besides, I think Clark would like to talk to his father alone for a few minutes."
"Oh! Okay," Lois said, blushing.
Lois's mind was running quickly. Speak to him alone about what? About her and whether she could be trusted? Maybe. But she also remembered the rocks that Jonathan had gotten from the neighbor, the ones he'd planned to give to Clark. Maybe they thought she didn't know about them and wanted to show them to Clark first. Fair enough, as long as Clark told her about them later. This partnership was going to be equal, or it wasn't going to work. Lois had already decided to show Clark the spaceship and the globe tomorrow. Would he keep his side of the bargain and tell her about the rocks? Only time would tell.
Lois smiled to herself as she flopped down onto her bed. She felt a little bad about lying to Clark in front of his parents, but she'd had to. He'd never agree to work with someone he knew would want to expose him. And working with him was the perfect opportunity. She had the feeling that there was something strange about him. His conversations with his mother about helping people-it seemed to her that for some reason he thought he was more able to help than the average good Samaritan. But why? There had to be a reason. And she'd find it. And once she did, she'd have a Pulitzer-winning story.
She'd have to be very careful about obtaining proof, of course. While people might believe that the mayor was cheating on her husband, or that the owner of half of South Side Metropolis was corrupt, with very little proof, an alien was very different. She was certain that people would never believe in the existence of the alien without rock-hard proof. And at the moment, she had none.
Yeah, sure. He came in a spaceship. No government agencies had sent babies to space by that time. His mom talks about him coming from somewhere far away. He has a good Samaritan complex. He's definitely an alien.
"So what did you want to show me, Dad?" Clark asked curiously as they entered the dimly-lit barn.
"Well, Wayne Irig had a tree pulled out of the ground in that big storm we had, and it revealed something I buried a long time ago."
Clark frowned. "How long ago?" he asked, a glimmer of an idea beginning to appear in his mind.
"Twenty-five years ago in 1966. Clark, when we found you in that spaceship, we had some evidence to hide. You, of course. The spaceship itself. And a large number of these strange glowing rocks that were all along the meteor's path. I knew they were different from what you'd usually find around a meteor, and I didn't want people looking too deeply into this. So I gathered them all. I was very careful, used a metal detector to make sure I found everything. And I wrapped them into a burlap sack and buried them on Schuster's field, far away from where the meteor actually struck."
"Why not on our land? Why not destroy them and the ship?" Clark asked, puzzled.
"Well, for one, we didn't want you to lose every link to your homeland. One day, maybe the spaceship would be a clue to where you came from. We couldn't bear to destroy it. The same with the rocks. And we didn't want to bury them on our property in case somebody found them. The link to you would be too strong."
The reasoning sounded a little off to Clark. What link would a bunch of rocks give him to his home planet? But he shrugged.
Jonathan pulled a metal box off a shelf near the workbench. Taking a deep breath, he opened the box, staring down at the green glow.
"What do you think, son?" he asked.
He turned to see that Clark was holding his hands to his face and almost doubling over. Clark coughed and Jonathan gasped.
"Son, what's wrong?" he cried.
Clark shook his head and moaned aloud in pain, collapsing to the floor.
"Clark! Clark! Is it the rock? Tell me, Clark! Oh, my boy, my poor boy." He lifted his voice. "Martha!" he yelled desperately, then held Clark's inert body close to his own. "My son," he moaned.
Martha and Lois entered the barn at a full run. "Jonathan! What happened?" Martha exclaimed. She rushed to Clark and knelt beside him, feeling his forehead.
"I don't know. I brought him in here to show him these strange rocks, and he just seemed to collapse."
Lois walked over to the workbench where the lead box filled with the strange glowing rocks still stood open. She stared down at it for a moment, then quickly closed the lid and locked the box.
Almost immediately, Clark regained consciousness with a groan. "What — What happened?" he gasped, his voice hardly more than a whisper.
"These rocks must somehow be dangerous to you," Lois told him. "We'd better keep this box locked up. And, Mr. Kent, I honestly think that we should consider destroying them. We've seen what they do to Clark, and if Trask thinks Clark is a threat and uses them against him …"
Martha inhaled sharply. "Let's get Clark into the house and away from those rocks. Then we'll decide what to do with it."
Lois nodded and put the box of rocks back on the shelf, then hurried to Clark's side.
With the rock out of the way, Clark's color was coming back, and he slowly sat up. "I think I can walk," he said, "if you'll give me a hand, Dad."
Jonathan nodded and bent down, slinging Clark's arm around his shoulders, taking some of Clark's weight on himself. With the help, Clark managed to drag himself into the house and drop onto a chair at the kitchen table. Martha brought him a glass of buttermilk, and he smiled weakly. "Thanks, Mom."
Lois sat down across from Clark. "You look awful," she told him honestly.
He gave her a wry smile that turned into a grimace. "Thanks."
"What I don't understand," Jonathan said, "is how a rock that probably came from Clark's home planet can hurt him."
"All we know is, it's poison," Martha said sternly.
Lois smiled apologetically as she got up to use the bathroom. The Kents waited until she was gone; then Martha quickly touched Clark's forehead.
"You feel warm. How do you feel?"
"Fine, I guess. A little weak. But, well," he said, lowering his voice, "my powers are completely gone."
Jonathan blinked. "Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. No vision, hearing, cooling breath, or flying. I tried them all as quietly as I could while we were walking back to the house. I'm trying to x-ray through the table now, but it's not working."
"Do you think it's permanent?" Martha asked, her eyes widening.
"I don't know. It's never happened to me before!"
Jonathan put a hand on Clark's shoulder. "Well, you were the one who always wanted to be normal. Now you are."
Martha shook her head warningly. "This isn't right. Normal for Clark is being super! You can't go all your life with these special powers and just have them taken away!"
"Well, we don't know why he had the powers to begin with. Maybe exposure to one type of rock gave him the powers; then this rock took them away. Maybe it was all a fluke."
All three jumped slightly at the sound of the bathroom door closing as Lois returned, and Clark gave a furtive look at his parents. "She can't know any of this!" he whispered.
Jonathan turned towards Lois. "You were the one who said he was from another planet, as if you knew. Do you? Could this Trask person be wrong about that?"
"I know, but Trask may not. We found the spaceship Clark came in, and those rocks-"
"But that doesn't prove anything," Jonathan insisted. "If an Earth government had sent him into space, he still could have landed in a spaceship. And those rocks could even maybe be what knocked him out of the sky. Maybe he got hit by a meteorite while in space, and that's why the rock hurts him."
Lois was shaking her head before Jonathan was halfway through. "Mr. Kent, I'm an investigator. I have sources in almost every business, and I've been in contact with one while I've been here. I had him check on the possibility of a government sending a baby into space, legally or otherwise, in the right time period. It was never done. No experiments, nothing. Clark most definitely was not born on this planet."
There was silence around the table as the Kents considered this news. Then Clark spoke up. "When we met, you said that you found the spaceship. I saw the hole in the ground where you dug it up. Did you hide it somewhere else?"
"Yes, in an abandoned barn on Schuster's field."
"Can you take me to see it?"
Lois nodded, then shook her head. "Not tonight, you're too weak. Tomorrow. I think it would be easier to see in daylight, anyway."
"So we start our investigation tomorrow?"
Lois nodded. "Maybe we can go to the corny festival thing and ask people some questions there. They might give you better answers than they've given me, since they know you. And we can go see the spaceship then."
"Meanwhile," Martha said firmly, "I think Clark needs to get some rest. Maybe then he'll get his pow-"
"His, um, strength back."
Lois wondered momentarily what Martha had been going to say before Clark interrupted, but she figured it wasn't important. After all, as her partner, he wouldn't dare hide anything important from her, would he?
Lois stretched out on Clark's bed, writing in her notebook. She was very glad she'd brought an extra notebook because that gave her an entire book to use on her notes about Clark Kent, without running the risk of his seeing it.
"Notes on Clark Kent, Kansas Alien:
"Clark Kent was not born to Martha and Jonathan Kent. They found him in a spaceship in Schuster's field, in Smallville, Kansas, on February 28, 1966.
"There is no record of any country ever using children as experiments in space, so, chances are, Clark came from somewhere not on earth. Which makes him an alien.
"There was some sort of strange glowing rock found around the spaceship. Jonathan Kent gathered all he could find of this rock. Logically, this rock comes from Clark's home planet. However, it appears to be some sort of poison that hurts him. Now how can a rock from Clark's home planet hurt him?"
Pausing for a minute with the end of the pen in her mouth, Lois thought over the rocks. They'd been in a lead box, and when the box was closed, Clark didn't feel anything through it. So lead must block the harmful effects of the rocks. That was something to remember. She jotted it down. Would other metals do the same? Did Jonathan know that lead had the potential? Was that why the rocks were in a lead box to begin with? No, Jonathan had seemed as surprised as the rest of them at Clark's reaction. And obviously, Clark had never been exposed to the rocks before.
"A small globe that glows when touched was found in the spaceship. Maybe this globe will be a clue to who Clark is?
"Clark appears to think that he has a special way to help people who are in trouble. Now how could this be? If he's an alien, it might make sense for him to have things he can do that humans can't."
Lois paused for a moment, remembering how he'd appeared to see her through the darkness, so far away, when she'd been spying on him. Could he see in the dark?
"Maybe Clark can see in the dark. It's also possible he can hear really well. I would have sworn he'd heard me when he looked up. But that could have been coincidence.
"Trask is after Clark, and I don't think it's just to experiment on him. Trask strikes me as a dangerous fanatic, and that makes me think he has worse plans in mind for Clark. But what else would he try to do to him? Surely he wouldn't kill the Earth's first alien, would he?"
A soft knock on the door jolted Lois into awareness of where she was, and she looked up guiltily.
"Mayson?" Clark said, pushing the door open. "We're about to head down to the Corn Festival. Are you ready?"
"Yeah, just a sec," Lois said, closing her notebook quickly. Clark nodded and left the room.
Now, where to hide the notebook? She scanned the room, her eyes lighting on a row of old, cloth-bound books on a shelf. "Perfect!" she murmured, slipping the notebook behind the books. It made them stick out just a little, but she was sure nobody would ever notice.
Jumping to her feet, Lois hurried downstairs to where the Kents were waiting, ready to go to the Corn Festival.
Lois sighed to herself. "A corn festival. I couldn't make that up!"
As the Kents approached the entrance of the park, Clark was immediately confiscated by Rachel Harris.
"Clark, dance with me! I've worn down my past two partners already."
Clark flashed Lois a puzzled look at Rachel's possessive behavior, but Lois waved him on.
"Go ahead, Clark, I'll take a tour of the festival with your parents."
Clark shrugged and followed Rachel, who dragged him onto the dance floor and pulled him into the dance.
They danced in silence for a minute, concentrating on the steps, until Clark finally broke the silence.
"Okay, Rach, what gives?" he asked.
Rachel glanced at him quickly, a half-smile crossing her face. "That obvious, am I?"
He shrugged. "Nobody would ever describe you as shy, but dragging a fellow away from his family and onto the dance floor is a bit … out of character."
Rachel cocked her head. "You got something going with that blonde? You came with her."
Oops. That was one consideration he'd forgotten. "Her name's Mayson. It's a long story, but we're sort of working together to track down those Feds who were here last week."
Rachel nodded slowly. "Do you trust her?"
"Only about as far as I can throw her," Clark replied automatically. Then, realizing that he could probably loft her into space if he desired, he rephrased. "No, not really. But it's easier to keep an eye on her from close up."
"I'll bet!" Rachel said, laughing. At Clark's bemused look, she elaborated. "She's not exactly hard on the eye, is she?"
Rachel was silent for a moment as the dance ended. "Clark — you just said you don't trust her."
"So?" he asked defensively, wondering where this was going. He was relieved when a new dance started so he didn't have to look at Rachel.
"So — don't fall for her."
"I'm not falling for her!" Clark exclaimed.
"Clark, you just trust too easily. You believe in the good in everybody, which is good, but it's gonna lead you to get hurt. Look at what happened with Lana, after all."
"You don't need to bring that up!" Clark said, more harshly than he'd intended. "I can take care of myself!"
Rachel raised her eyebrows. "If you say so. Anyway, the reason I really wanted to talk to you — those guys, the Feds, they have something to do with you, don't they?"
Clark lost his footing and had to double-step to catch up. "Something to do with me?" he asked carefully.
"Clark, don't try your innocent routine with me." She softened. "Look, I'm not gonna ask you what they're looking for. I just thought you might appreciate knowing that some guy who sounds like he's with them was at Schuster's field last night."
Clark stiffened. "A guy? Not Mayson?"
Rachel gave him a puzzled look. "She was there earlier, I hear. Dug something up. But no, this guy was wandering around the field in the middle of the night. We got there too late to catch him, though."
"Thanks, Rach. Listen, I gotta go. Let me know if you hear anything else."
"Anything for you, Clark."
Clark held Rachel's hand for a moment, then squeezed it. "I appreciate it, Rachel."
Rachel watched him go, then kicked the ground in fury. "Damn! The best ones are always gay, taken, … or in love with the wrong woman."
Clark jogged up to where Lois stood with his parents, sampling a corn dog.
"Mayson!" he called. He frowned when she didn't look up.
"Mayson?" he said again, touching her shoulder. She jumped and looked at him in surprised.
"Finished dancing with the lady sheriff already?" she asked.
"Mayson, Rachel said that one of those men was back, and he'd been poking around Schuster's field."
Lois immediately sobered. "Trask! The ship! Let's go!"
The two jogged off towards Jonathan's truck, leaving the astounded older Kents behind.
Lois flung open the barn door and peered into the gloom.
"That's where I hid it," she said, pointing to a pile of old farm equipment in the corner.
He didn't say anything, but he was impressed. Hiding the ship in a pile of metal made it harder for Trask's endless supply of metal detectors to find it. Nonetheless, a quick x-ray scan while Lois dug into the equipment revealed nothing.
"He found it," they both said at once.
Lois looked up at Clark, ashamed.
"Clark, I lost your ship, your link to where you came from. I'm so sorry. I should have left it where it was buried."
"Don't worry about it. He would have found it in the field if it'd been there."
"Well, then, I'm sorry I led him here."
"Really, Mayson, it's okay. We'll find it again."
Lois saw the pain in his eyes and touched his arm lightly.
"Yeah, we will find it again. I promise you." Lois stared at the place where the ship used to be, thinking quickly. Should she tell him about the globe? It was her last bargaining chip, but then she hadn't exactly come through on the ship. And what if seeing the globe somehow jogged Clark's memories about where he came from? Curiosity finally overrode caution.
"Clark, the ship may be gone, but I have something else that might be just as good."
"What's that?" he asked, and she could hear the skepticism in his voice. She winced.
"It's something I found in the ship. Something small. I kept it with me when I left the ship here, and I left it in your treehouse when I was, uh, spying on you. It should still be there."
"Then let's go find that before Trask does, shall we?"
Clark followed Lois up the rope ladder and into the tree house, where he found her already seated at the small wooden table, staring at a globe in the center of the table.
Clark sat opposite Lois, gazing at the globe. It showed the continents and oceans of Earth, which seemed strange. He reached out a finger to touch the globe, and the moment he did, the continents swirled and the globe began to glow. The continents reformed, but this time they were an orange color, and their shape was unfamiliar. This was clearly no longer a globe of Earth.
"Krypton," Clark whispered.
"Krypton. That's where I'm from, what planet this is. I don't know how I know, I just do."
"Touch it again, maybe it'll tell you something else," Lois suggested eagerly.
This time, Clark picked up the globe with both hands and almost dropped it when it glowed again and a hologram appeared.
"Kal-el, my son, I am your father Jor-el. The fact that you are seeing this means that you have survived your trip to Earth and have grown into adulthood."
Hardly pausing between messages, Lois and Clark listened and watched to each message in silence and shock as a brave couple from a doomed planet thousands of light- years away formulated a plan to save their beloved son from their fate. When the ship escaped the planet Krypton just before the entire planet exploded, Lois had tears in her eyes.
"Oh, Clark," she whispered after it was over. "That was amazing. Can you imagine what it would take to be able to save your son, sending him off into the deep unknown and knowing that you would die with your planet and never see your son again?"
Clark was still staring at the globe, transfixed. "They didn't abandon me," he said in a soft voice. "They saved me. They knew they didn't have a chance, but they saved me. Oh, Mayson, do you know what this means to me?"
Lois smiled at him. "I can imagine, I think. To know that you were wanted after all. That you had two sets of parents who loved you. You're really lucky, you know." She caught herself before she could say anything about her own parents. This wasn't the time. And why was she so eager to confide in Clark Kent, anyway? Somehow he just seemed to invite confidences.
"Mayson, do you mind if I take a little bit of time alone before we go back to the Corn Festival? I just need some time to think."
Lois thought of her notebook and decided that some time to herself wasn't a bad idea either. "No, I don't mind at all, Clark." Besides, she thought silently, I have lots of new notes to jot down.
Lois sighed as she sat down at the Kents' kitchen table. Dealing with three identities at once was a bit much. Clark had seemed a little suspicious when she had failed to respond to the name Mayson at the festival. Once she'd realized her mistake, she had tried to act preoccupied, so that it made sense she hadn't heard him, but she wasn't sure if he was convinced.
What had possessed her to give the name of a real person? "Hi, I'm Laura Dane. I'm Lisa Lanham." I could have come up with a thousand different aliases, but I have to give one that belongs to a real person just to confuse the heck out of myself."
But Lois knew why she'd chosen the name. Clark Kent was a reporter, probably the best reporter at the Smallville Post (not that that was saying much). If he checked up on her and she'd given a fictional name, he'd find out. She hadn't had time to create a false identity like she had for Lori Lake. But Mayson Drake was a real person. She was even Lois's age and height, and of course had blond hair just like Lois's disguise.
"Her color is probably as fake as my own," Lois said, thinking resentfully of Mayson's beautiful, albeit over- hair-sprayed, tresses. "I'll bet Clark likes blondes."
Now where did that thought come from? Lois was not interested in Clark Kent. He was just the means to a really great story. Maybe two. That was all. The kind of romance that lasts forever is just an invention of romantic stories; her father had proved that. And Lois wasn't about to settle for anything less. So why did Clark's smile make her wish she could risk taking a chance on him?
Lois jumped in surprise when she felt a vibrating buzz near her hip. She dug her beeper out of her pocket and glanced at the number. Her heart began to pound loudly as she recognized it.
"Clark!" she yelled. In moments, Clark came running into the room.
"Mayson! What's wrong?"
"Trask is beeping me. One, can I use your phone to return his call? He might get suspicious if I wait too long, and I left my cell phone in the hotel room. And two, what do I tell him?"
Clark took a deep breath and sat down at the table. "First, calm down. He'll get just as suspicious if you are all worked up."
"I'm calm, I'm calm. Do you think I should ask him about the ship? Do you think he took it or a subordinate who might not have told him?"
"I guess you should try to tell him as little as possible. Find out what he knows first. Unless he found the ship and has guessed already, don't tell him that there's an alien involved."
Lois closed her eyes, forcing herself to calm down. Too many lies to keep track of. She couldn't even remember what Trask already knew or what she had already told him. She nodded to Clark and reached for the phone.
"Ah, Lori, so good of you to check in," Trask said. "And what have you found so far?"
Lois gulped. "Well, the meteors landed as you said, in a field. Nothing seems particularly unusual except for the new metal, but that's probably just some remnants of the meteor or space debris. Honestly, Trask, I may be just a rookie, but I think you could have given me something better than this to prove myself at!" she fired at him. Perhaps complaining about the task would throw him off track.
"Nice try, Lori, but your acting could be better. I found the ship, and I want the alien delivered to me. Protect it, and you will be treated as befits any traitor to the human race."
Lois replaced the phone slowly, her gray face turning to meet Clark's. "He knows!" she whispered.
"Yeah, I heard," Clark said.
Lois gave him a bemused look, and he blanched as he realized that he'd almost given away his secret.
"Uh, he was talking pretty loud," he said. Then Clark blinked. His hearing was back! Could his other powers be coming back as well? He lowered his glasses and glanced at the outside wall to try to see through it with his x-ray vision, but while he felt his power start to make the image of the wall fuzz, he couldn't see through it. He sighed and raised his glasses.
Lois nodded absently. "Clark, if he knows there's an alien to find, he'll retrace my steps and find you. What are you going to do?"
"I guess I should leave before he gets here. Start over somewhere new."
Lois paled. She was honestly worried for Clark, but at the same time, how could she let the story of the century escape her this easily?
"What about your parents?"
"My parents!" Clark exclaimed, leaping to his feet. "They're still at the festival! We should go tell them what's going on. If we have to leave, it'll take some time to pack."
Lois stood up. "I'll help however I can," she said.
"Well, isn't that touching?" a voice from the doorway spoke.
Lois and Clark whirled to face the intruder.
"Trask!" Lois exclaimed.
The Kents entered the door behind Trask, followed by one of Trask's men who kept a gun carefully trained on Martha Kent.
"So, Lori, you found the alien for me. I'm very impressed. But given your reputation as the best new investigative reporter in Metropolis, I figured it would be an easy task for you."
"A reporter?" Clark asked with surprise, glancing at Lois.
"Oh, yes, didn't she tell you? Lori Lake, or whoever she told you she is, is really Lois Lane, top investigative reporter for the Daily Planet."
Martha gasped, and Trask beamed.
"I knew from the start, of course, about your little plan to go undercover for Bureau 39. I went along with it, though. Figured the best person to find my alien for me was the Planet's star reporter. What, one year there and already basking in the glow of your first Kerth Award?"
Lois could feel the angry gazes of all three Kents, and she kept her eyes apparently trained on the floor. But she was watching Trask's gun, measuring how fast she could kick it out of his hands. She realized, though, that there was no way she could get both guns before Trask's goon shot Martha.
"What do you want, Trask?" Clark asked, the anger in his voice deepening his tone.
"I want you, alien. You, and the truth about the alien invasion."
"There's no invasion, Trask!" Clark bit out.
"Ah, but let's see if you change your story with a little persuasion. Ray, take Ma and Pa here and tie them upstairs. Then I'll have you deal with this one," he said, his gaze focusing on Lois. "Maybe she hasn't heard, but nobody leaves Bureau 39. It's kind of … a curse. And I would definitely call sneaking into the Bureau and turning traitor defecting."
Trask grabbed Lois and held her against him, the gun against her temple.
"Just in case you had any ideas, alien. And keep in mind that if something happens to me, my subordinates will ascertain that your parents and Lois die too, preferably in front of you. And that's only the beginning."
Two more men came in through the door, and Trask nodded to them. "Tie him to the chair while I keep an eye on his little girlfriend here. He won't try anything while I have a gun pointed at her head."
Clark looked hopelessly at Lois while the two men tied him to a chair, but he didn't put up a struggle out of fear that they'd hurt Lois.
"Now go search the grounds. It must be here somewhere."
Once Clark was secured, Trask grabbed another chair and forced Lois into it, tying her down and shoving the chairs back to back.
"What are they looking for?" Lois whispered to Clark.
"I honestly have no idea. We know he has the spaceship already."
Lois paled. "The rocks?"
There was a long pause, then she felt Clark nod. "Yeah, maybe. If somehow he found out about what they are and what they do."
Trask glanced at his watch, then followed his men outside. Lois and Clark could hear slamming car doors and shouts.
"Mayson — Lois — what is your real name?" Clark asked once they were alone.
Lois sighed. Here goes nothing. "Lois is my real name, Lois Lane. Trask was right, I really am a reporter for the Daily Planet."
"I understand why you lied to Trask, but why lie to me?" Clark asked, although he thought he knew the answer.
"Because you'd never trust me not to print your story if you knew I was a reporter, and you'd never work with me. Though I probably already knew enough to print then if I'd wanted to anyway."
Clark suddenly found himself very glad that he'd never told Lois about his powers. Would she really print that article? He'd have no private life again, and it wasn't only his life at stake. His parents' lives would be ruined, too.
"Are you going to print anything?" he asked.
Lois thought guiltily of her notebook, still hidden in Clark's room. "No, I told you I wouldn't tell anybody."
"But that was back when I thought you were a government investigator. Now I know you work for the press."
"Need that make a difference?" The whole conversation was making Lois uncomfortable. She couldn't honestly tell Clark she'd never had any intention of writing a story about him. And she wasn't certain whether or not she still wanted to write that story. But Lois Lane did not break promises. And while she sometimes stretched the truth, telling a direct lie to someone whom she was beginning to think of as a friend was a bit hard to do.
"Lois, I'm a normal guy! Like anyone else you know. Whether I'm an alien or not, I'm not some bug-eyed creature with green skin. If you print an article about me, you will destroy my life and my right to privacy. Can't you put your rabid dog reporter instincts on hold and think about that for a minute?"
"You listen here, buddy! I didn't get into a male- dominated profession by being a softy. When you find a story, you dig in with four claws and you do not let go. That's the way to make it in this field, and that's the only way."
"With no room left for human concern or sympathy?" Clark asked quietly.
Lois stared down at the floor. "I don't think I ever had any of those."
"No? You did offer to do anything I needed to help get my family to safety. Was that a lie, too? You told me what you'd found out about my origins. You could have told me that you hadn't found anything. I think you have a lot more kindness in you than you like to admit."
Lois didn't reply, and Clark sighed.
"You know, I always thought it was rather unexpected how easily you took to my being an alien. I always thought people would think I was a freak if they knew."
"A freak?" Lois asked, surprised. "I don't think they would. They might be curious or interested, but I think only a few would think of you as a freak, and they're not worth considering."
"Did I ever tell you about Lana?" Clark asked.
Lois sensed that this was important. "No. Who is she?"
"Oh, I forgot you didn't go to the Corn Festival the first day. Lana was the Corn Queen. Actually, though, she was my girlfriend through most of high school and college."
"What happened?" Lois asked.
"Well, Lana and I were best friends as kids. When we got to high school, it seemed natural to start dating, and after we graduated college, I proposed. She accepted."
"You're married?" Lois stared at him in shock.
"No, Lois, I'm not. The night I proposed, well, afterwards I realized I hadn't told her about my origins. Just that I was adopted, you know. The cover story my parents tell everyone."
"I take it she didn't take it well?"
"No, she didn't take it well." Clark cleared his throat. "She, uh, called me a freak, said she wanted nothing more to do with me, and threw the ring back at me."
Lois winced. "But surely she realized her mistake later? I mean, I could imagine anyone acting like that if they just found out that their fianc‚ was an alien. But once she'd calmed down?"
"No. She still reacts the same way, and it's been a year. To her credit she hasn't told anyone else. But she flinches if I brush against her, and sometimes I catch her staring at me oddly, like I'm a strange bug she is curious about."
"Clark …" Lois started.
"No, don't say anything. It's hard enough already. I don't know why I told you all that. But you can see why I can't stand the idea of everybody knowing about me, everybody reacting to me like that."
"Like Trask," Lois said softly.
"Exactly. He doesn't see anything human in me. Or even that I'm a person. To him, I'm just an alien. I mean, an invading force? Come on! This guy has got conspiracy theory written all over him."
Lois started to reply, then closed her mouth with a snap when she heard Trask coming back inside, followed by two of his men.
"Okay, Kent, now you're gonna tell me everything you know about the invasion. I want to know names, numbers, who's in charge, when it's planned for, everything. I know you have all the information stored in that alien brain of yours."
"Trask, I told you before, there is no invading force! It's just me."
"Yeah, like I haven't heard that from the last alien I talked to! You aliens are all alike. No, sir, we're here for purely innocent reasons. We'd never invade such a nice planet. No, never. I know better than that, and I'm going to get that info one way or another."
Trask motioned quickly, and the two men roughly dragged Clark's chair into the next room.
"Clark!" Lois called his name as they closed the door behind them.
Clark's mind was whirling. Not only was he without powers and completely in the power of a man that hated all aliens and truly believed that Clark was the forerunner of an alien invasion, but the woman who knew his secret had turned out to be Lois Lane, from the Daily Planet. Lois Lane. He'd been reading her exclusives since she'd started writing for that world-famous newspaper a year or so ago. He'd been amazed at the scrapes she managed to get into, and out of, and the dirt she always managed to find. She'd certainly earned her reputation as a ruthless bulldog of a reporter. In fact, a few people had taken to calling her "Mad-Dog Lane." In fact, he'd often thought he'd like to meet her, to learn from her. In his field, she was the cream of the crop.
Learn from her, yes. But not to have her discover his secret, which was probably only the biggest secret that any person on the earth commonly held. At least she didn't know about his powers. He was pretty impressed with the fact that he'd been able to hide them for so long, and having them lost from his exposure to that strange rock had certainly helped. But if he didn't regain his powers soon, it looked like Trask was going to kill him and Lois and his parents, as well. Would the powers ever come back? And if they did, could he risk using them in front of Lois to save them from the madman?
Once the door was closed behind them, Trask's two men stood guard, arms folded, in front of it. Trask walked around to stand in front of Clark, bending to look into his face.
"Okay, Clark Kent, now you will tell me everything you know about this invasion. Were you sent here as a spy to see if we were ripe for attack?"
"No," Clark said calmly.
Trask slapped him across the face. "Are the rest of the invaders on their way?"
"There are no invaders," Clark said, staring at Trask coldly.
Trask slammed his clenched fist into the side of Clark's face.
"How many are there?"
"There aren't any!"
Trask kicked Clark's chair over and stood over him, his foot threateningly close to Clark's ribs. "When is the invasion scheduled?"
"There's no invasion, Trask!"
Trask kicked Clark in the side with all the force of his steel-toed boots, and Clark gasped as the air was forced from his lungs.
"You're lying to me!" Trask said.
Trask was lifting his foot to kick Clark again, when Clark suddenly heard an odd sound. It was a whisper that sounded like Lois's voice.
"Quiet," she whispered. "I'm going to get you guys out of here; then we're going downstairs and to help Clark."
Clark stared up at Trask wide-eyed, as Trask swung his powerful leg in another kick at Clark's side.
Trask's foot hit Clark's side with a metallic clang and then rebounded. Trask cried out and grabbed his foot, staring at the steel tip of the boot. The steel was dented.
Trask's eyes moved from the boot tip to Clark, and a strange grin began to cross Trask's face.
Before Trask could react, Clark leapt to his feet and, with his newly recovered super-speed, gathered the rope that had been used to tie him to the chair and now tied Trask to the same chair. Trask's two thugs, slow to respond, began to fire at him. Clark zoomed around the room, collecting all their bullets and crushing them into a fine powder. As the men stood astonished, Clark tied them together, then flew out of the room and up the stairs.
As he'd expected, when Clark entered the room his parents had been tied in, he found them free from their bonds and about to escape with Lois. He was rather amused that Lois hadn't been tied for more than a few minutes before she'd managed to free herself.
But now a decision was at hand. There were too many of Trask's men to possibly get them all before something happened to his parents or Lois. He needed to get them to safety as soon as possible, which meant by flying. But flying with Lois would reveal his powers. Could he risk it?
While he was considering, the door slammed open and three of Trask's men burst into the room. Unable to delay any longer, Clark used his super-breath to blow them out of the room, then quickly grabbed Lois with one arm, his mother with the other, and motioned to his father to hang onto his back.
A mighty kick cracked open the outside wall of the bedroom, and Clark floated out the hole, carrying a frantically struggling Lois and his frightened parents.
Once in the air, Clark was uncertain of exactly where to take his parents for safety. He couldn't go anywhere where people would see him land, but he needed to get away from Trask. Finally, he decided the best choice was to stop at Wayne Irig's place. Hopefully Wayne and his family would be at the Corn Festival, and Clark could call Rachel Harris and get her to bring some officers to arrest Trask.
Clark tried to fly slowly to the Irig farm so that he didn't scare his newest passenger more than necessary, but he was unable to contain his impatience and was landing at the farm before she had stopped struggling.
"Dad, I'm gonna call Rachel. Keep Lois here, okay?" he said.
Jonathan nodded, still looking dazed, and Clark flew at super-speed into the Irigs' farmhouse to use their phone.
When Clark returned, Lois seemed to have recovered from her shock. She was standing with her hands on her hips, yelling at his parents at the top of her lungs. His parents were taking her wrath as calmly as he might have expected, not trying to refute a word and looking anxiously around for Clark.
Clark landed behind Lois and touched her on her shoulder. He was unprepared for her reaction, and she turned around and decked him.
Or, rather, tried to. Her fist clanged into Clark's face rather painfully, and she shrieked and held her hand.
"Lois, it's not a good idea to try to hit me. I'm invulnerable. At least, now that the effects of that rock have worn off."
"Invulnerable? That rock made you vulnerable, but you normally aren't? What else have you been hiding from me, you — you — you farmboy?!"
"And you expect me to have told you about my powers when you are a reporter?!"
"You didn't know I was a reporter. You were supposed to trust me! And — powers? Powers, plural? What else can you do?"
Uh-oh. He'd really put his mouth in it this time. "Like I'd tell the Daily Planet's star reporter? And even if I didn't know you were a reporter, I still wasn't about to trust you with more secrets that I had to. And I didn't have my powers most of the time I knew you, anyway. I lost them on that first exposure with that rock, and they only just returned when Trask was hitting me."
"What powers do you have, anyway?"
Clark shook his head. Just as he was about to make some excuse, he heard the phone ringing inside the Irigs' house.
"Just a moment, that's probably Rachel calling back."
Clark zoomed into the house, leaving Lois staring after him in shock and anger.
When Clark returned, his face was grim and tight. "We have a problem. Rachel went down to the house with plenty of officers. They found the wreckage and tire tracks, but Trask and all his men were gone. She tried to follow them, but they were too far ahead. Now we have no idea where they are."
"Any chance they've left Smallville?"
"With a real alien within their grasp, the possibility of validating all their research? No way."
"Then they must be hiding out somewhere. We'll find them, don't worry, Clark."
Clark nodded silently.
"Now, about those powers?" Lois asked, raising one eyebrow.
Clark rolled his eyes. It was going to be a very long afternoon.
Lois was tempted to grab her notebook as she hurried after Clark, but she resisted the impulse. She'd have a lot better luck getting him to confess about his "powers" if he didn't think she was asking him about them for a story.
As she turned the corner of the house, Lois stopped cold when she saw what Clark was doing. On a ladder outside the house, he was repairing the wall of his parent's bedroom, the wall that he had burst through when flying them out of the house. But he wasn't just slowly repairing it, oh no. That was too good for aliens. Instead, he was repairing it at about twice human speed. Vroom, and the supports were rebuilt. Vroom again, and the inner wall was nailed into place. Whoosh, and the insulation was in place. Another whoosh, and he was rebuilding the outer wall.
"Clark Jerome Kent, you know you are supposed to take your time at this so that we can talk!" Lois shouted up at him, hands on her hips.
Clark jerked and almost fell off his ladder at her voice.
"Oh, there you are, Lois," he said sheepishly. Suddenly he narrowed his eyes. "And just where did you learn my middle name?"
Lois gave her patented innocent look and whistled, sticking her hands in her pockets.
Clark rolled his eyes and climbed down the ladder, heading towards the barn.
"Oh no you don't!" Lois said, grabbing his arm. "You're supposed to tell me about your powers!"
"Says who?" he countered. "Besides, I'm only just going to the barn for more paint."
"Oh," she said. "Well, out with it! I want a listing of your powers and what each can do."
"Lois, why should I trust you? How many lies have you told me?"
Lois shrugged. "Only a couple."
"Yeah, a couple, right. 'My name is Mayson Drake,'" he said mockingly.
She took a swing at him, and he ducked and hurried on towards the barn, Lois trailing behind.
"'Oh, and I work for the government. Perfectly innocent position, really, I'm just here to investigate Trask and Bureau 39, not at all interested in you.'" His singsong voice was beginning to get on Lois's nerves.
"Well, I was just here to investigate Trask! You were just my way of getting the information I needed about him."
"Lois, you've said very little the entire time I've known you that was true. You kept me at a constant disadvantage, knowing so much about me while I knew so little about you." He grabbed a bucket of paint from the loft inside the barn and handed it down to Lois. She looked down at it in distaste.
He grinned at her. "By the way, if you're making me do the work at normal speed, so we can talk, then that gives me no advantage over you in the speed I can get it done. Which means that you get to help paint."
"Paint? Me?" she wrinkled her nose at the acrylic smell of the paint.
Clark grabbed a drop cloth and several paintbrushes. "You might want to borrow some clothes to work in. You'd probably fit into my mother's overalls."
"That's okay, I just won't get any paint on me," Lois assured him.
Clark hid a grin. "Sure, Lois."
"Besides, you're the one who broke the stupid wall anyway!" Lois said.
Clark opened his mouth to point out that it was Lois's phone call to Trask that the man traced but closed it again and frowned at her.
When they reached the house again, Clark spread out the drop cloth while Lois opened the paint can and dipped her brush. "Got another ladder?" she asked.
"Nope," he said with a wink. "Guess we just gotta share."
Lois moaned. "Farmboy flirting. Somebody save me."
Clark laughed at Lois and floated gently up beside the ladder, relinquishing it to Lois. She smiled gratefully and climbed up the ladder to paint beside him.
They painted in silence for a few minutes before Lois tentatively brought the subject up again.
"Please talk to me about your powers? We can't be full partners unless we know each other's abilities."
Clark cocked his head. "You know that's not why you want to know about my powers."
"No, it's not, but it's my best argument for why you should tell me. Natural curiosity doesn't exactly sound vital enough."
He laughed. "Okay, Lois. I don't know why I'm telling you this, but you'll probably stalk me until you find them all out anyway."
"Stalk?! I do not stalk people! I tail them. Spy on them. There's a big difference."
"If you say so, Lois."
"Well, obviously I can float."
"Obviously," Lois said, looking down at the ground below them, then at Clark floating in midair. She smiled at him.
"I can also fly. Like, soar through the air."
"Oh, fun! And you can carry passengers."
"Yes, though I can't fly at full-speed when I do."
"Well, the flying's the most dramatic. I have extended visual and hearing abilities. I can hear things from really far away, and focus on specific sounds. For instance, walking through a crowded mall, I could distinguish the heartbeat of my mother when she's at the other end of the mall."
"Wow," Lois said softly. "You'd never get lost as a kid."
"Well, except for that fact that I didn't have all my powers as a kid. They all came on gradually, mostly as I hit puberty. So I didn't have that ability when I was young enough to get lost."
"Along with that, I can see things from very far away, and focus on specific things, like a written note that somebody is holding up a long distance away. I can also see through things, sort of x-ray vision."
"Very useful." The uses of this ability suddenly coursed through Lois's mind. "So, for instance, you could tell me what color underwear I was wearing now?"
Clark's face turned bright red. "I could. But, Lois, when I started developing these abilities, I had to make a lot of choices about how I would use them. Maybe sometimes my choices weren't perfect, but I did resolve never to use them to take advantage of, for instance, a woman I find attractive. I would never look through your clothing, and before you ask, I never looked through the walls into the girls' locker room either."
Lois wondered if that meant he found her attractive, but she didn't ask. "Must have taken a lot of effort on occasion."
"Yeah, sometimes. I mean, I don't know if girls think this way, but suppose you saw a really attractive guy and found yourself looking at his, uh, well, looking. If I wasn't careful, my vision would immediately go through a girl's clothing just because I wanted it to. So I had to be careful not to even look to begin with, for fear of losing control."
"That must have been hard."
"Yeah. And it was hard to control my powers sometimes. Like the first time I developed my hearing abilities? It was here, in the house, late at night."
"So? Isn't that the best time, rather than in a crowded building?" Lois asked. She frowned as she painted a section above her head and splashed paint down into her hair and on her shirt.
Clark raised an eyebrow and waited for her to figure it out, amused by the speckled mess Lois was making of herself.
"Oh, you mean, you heard — oh, geez." Lois blushed, and Clark laughed.
"Yeah, that's kind of what I thought when I had to explain to my parents about my new abilities in the morning. And when I had trouble controlling my visual abilities, or found myself staring at skeletons because I was looking through human tissue without intending to, my parents got me lead-lined glasses. That helped a lot, I can't see through them. After that I didn't have trouble holding back my visual skills, because I had to actually lower the glasses to see through them."
"So what else?"
Clark shrugged and floated a little lower to reach the bottom of the newly-repaired section. "Well, I can, um, make fires with my eyes."
"Really? Wow, that must come in handy." She leaned back on the ladder to survey her handiwork.
He grinned. "Kinda. I think of it as heat-vision. It can be gentle enough to warm a person or heat a meal, hot enough to weld metal or to light a fire."
"Wow." All of a sudden, Lois slipped too far, and the ladder lost purchase and began to fall backwards.
Quick as a wink, Clark sped out behind the ladder, catching it and bring Lois back against the house, getting a healthy amount of paint on her shoulders and back at the same time.
"Thanks," she said. "I guess that was pretty stupid of me."
"Any more questions?"
"I dunno, any more powers?"
"Well, hmm. I also have cooling breath, I can blow things away powerfully, or cool them down quickly. Oh, yeah, and I'm invincible."
"Yeah, of course you'd leave that one for last. You're invincible?"
"When I'm not weakened by that poison rock, yes."
Lois climbed down the ladder very carefully while Clark folded up the drop cloth.
"Shall we tackle the inside next?" he asked.
"We need to talk about what we're going to do next."
"Well, Clark, you're the one who knows his way around Smallville," Lois pointed out. "Where do you think they might be hiding?"
Clark thought for a moment as he opened a new can of paint for the inside wall. "They obviously haven't left; they'd never abandon their search already. They have a lot of men and equipment, so they can't be just anywhere. They need someplace empty and large enough to set up their stuff."
"An abandoned warehouse?" Lois asked, standing on tiptoes to reach the highest part of the wall."
Clark grinned at her. "Abandoned warehouse in Smallville?"
"Oh, okay," Lois said with a grin. "Abandoned barn, then?"
"Abandoned barn," Clark said thoughtfully. "They are fascinated with Schuster's field. Do you think they might go back to that barn?"
"I don't know. They weren't set up there when we went to retrieve the ship after all."
"Maybe it's worth a check anyway."
Lois nodded. "We're just about done here, anyway. Your parents can probably move the furniture back into place on their own. Why don't we head down and check it out?"
Clark grinned. "You might want to change first."
"Huh?" Lois said. She stepped in front of the full- length mirror hanging at the opposite end of the room, and for the first time in her life was completely and utterly speechless.
"But … but …"
Clark grinned. "C'mon, Lois, Mom can loan you something to wear. I told you. You should have taken up the offer for overalls at the beginning."
Lois gave him an evil look, and he laughed and hurried out of the bedroom before she could decide to exact a more painful revenge.
Lois stopped her jeep at the side of the road next to Schuster's field.
"So this is where your parents were when they saw your ship land?"
"Yeah. They were driving home, and Mom saw what she said looked like some sort of fireball in the sky. Dad was all ready to forget about it and head for home; it was getting dark. But Mom was a lot like you, Lois. She just had to find out what it was. So she dragged Dad over there, and they found the ship with me in it."
Lois smiled. "They must have been awfully happy to find a baby, just when they thought they'd never be able to have their own."
"It just seems so wrong, somehow, to have this place where that wonderful memory happened tainted by Trask's men."
Lois nodded, remembering why they were here. "Too bad we don't have a gun."
"We don't need one. I'll go check the barn. Lois, you're going to stay here. Trask is dangerous."
"What??? You're kidding, right?"
"Look, Lois, we discussed my powers, you know what I can do and that I'm invulnerable. If I have to protect you, my attention will be split. You want this to work, don't you?"
"I'm not waiting here! Look, I'll sneak in the back so Trask doesn't know I'm there. Then it won't matter. But you are not leaving me behind."
"Yes, I am, Lois. This is something I have to do by myself." And with that, Clark flew across the field in the cover of dark, headed towards the barn at the end of the property.
"Huh, stay here!" Lois muttered. "He has got to be kidding. That, or he knows absolutely nothing about me. Stay here! Hah!" Lois clambered out of the truck and headed off in the direction Clark had taken. Since he'd flown, Lois broke into a run to get to the barn as fast as possible.
As she reached the barn, Lois quickly turned off to the side and snuck around the back of the barn.
There was a back door to the barn, but when Lois tried to open it, she found it was locked. "Darn!" she said to herself. "Now where is that lockpick?" She dug into her purse, pulling it out triumphantly. She inserted the pick into the door, biting her lip as she skillfully picked the lock. "Never let them tell you that breaking- and-entering is a useless skill," she whispered with a grin.
Opening the door slowly, Lois waited until her eyes adjusted to the deeper shadows of the barn before slipping in and closing the door behind her. There were several horse stalls and piles of hay separating her from seeing the front entrance, but they also gave her the cover she needed to slip into the back of the barn. Creeping as closely as she could to the front, she heard voices. Crouching behind the door of a stall, she listened to Clark's confrontation with Trask.
"You think you're better than humans, don't you?" Trask accused him. "All so perfect and superior." This last was said in a singsong voice, which made Clark wince at the implications it held for Trask's sanity. An insane fanatic was not on Clark's top ten lists of villains to face.
"No, Trask, I don't. I just try to be the best person I can."
"So the alien thinks it's a person, does it?"
"I am a person! And a citizen of the United States, the country you're trying to protect!"
"Ah, yes, well, we'll have to get that fixed. I mean, talk about illegal aliens. And you most definitely were not born here. You shouldn't be a citizen at all. And I'm trying to protect my beloved country from an alien invasion, which isn't exactly the smallest of feats."
"Trask, I already told you, there's no invasion. There's just me."
Trask laughed, a long laugh that showed just a trace of insanity. "Mr. Kent, I've already told you I don't believe you. Now, I'm prepared to make you a bit of a deal."
"Which is?" Clark said, unconsciously standing up straighter with his hands on his hips.
"You tell me all the details about the alien invasion. Names, numbers, attack plans, everything you know. You tell me all that, and I'll let you write your "mother" from the research lab once a week."
Clark grinned humorlessly. "And what makes you think you can contain me in a research lab? You know I can fly away whenever I want."
"Well, actually, I was going to ask you if you'd mind helping me with a little experiment, alien. I guess you've anticipated me. You see, I found a little surprise in your father's barn earlier." With that, Trask grabbed for a lead-covered box that had been sitting under the table beside him, and before Clark could react, he'd opened the box.
The pain this time seemed even greater than before, perhaps because Clark realized what kind of a villain was holding the box of rocks that could kill him. Shocks of pain burst through his body, and Clark screamed in agony and bent double. He held his chest, trying to ignore the spasms coursing up and down through his body. With a gasp, he tried to force himself to stand straight and ignore the pain, but it was too great. Another burst of pain, and he was forced to his knees.
Through blurred vision, he could see Trask smiling down at him, leaning closer with the box.
"Aw, I guess my little experiment worked, didn't it?" the agent said with a smile. "It's funny, most people enjoy meeting up with mementos of their home. I guess not aliens. I had noticed that it seemed to emit a strange radiation that didn't affect humans. I thought it might affect you, but I never expected it to work this well. Thanks for your help in this little experiment, Mr. Kent."
Clark groaned, holding his head. Everything seemed to be going red. The pain beat across his body like waves upon the shore, and every momentary respite grew shorter and shorter, the pain stronger and longer. Through the haze, he could vaguely hear what Trask was saying, but he could hardly focus on it. If only he could somehow kick that box farther away.
As if he could read Clark's mind, Trask smiled and sat the box on the table, too high for Clark to reach it in his current state. "Uh-uh-uh, alien, no getting rid of the meteor. We can't have that. And I'm sorry you won't get to write letters home from the research lab. Looks like that research will be in the form of an autopsy. But with luck, perhaps the rest of the invasion force will assume that if we can kill this alien, we can kill the rest. Lucky I found this rock, isn't it?"
Lois's jaw dropped when she saw Trask open the box. She almost leapt out of her hiding place then, but she was honest with herself and knew that there was no way, even with her expertise in Tae Kwon Do, that she could beat a heavier, stronger ex-marine in a fair fight. She knew the only way she was going to have the advantage was if she kept the element of surprise.
"Turn away, darn you, turn your back to me!" she muttered under her breath, giving Trask the evil eye.
She winced at Clark's agony as he fell to the floor, and it was all she could do to hold herself in her position. She felt suddenly very protective of her partner, and she gritted her teeth and forced herself to concentrate on her next move and ignore Trask's taunts.
Finally, Trask turned away from the table and towards Clark. His back was to Lois, and she got slowly to her feet. Then she saw what he was doing. He reached into his pocket and slowly pulled out a gun. He was going to shoot Clark! She had to act.
Before Trask could bring his gun up, Lois ran up behind him and aimed a low side snap kick at the back of his knee.
"K'yah!" she shouted as her kick connected. Trask went down to his knees, his back still to her, and Lois followed up with a backfist to his head.
But Trask's military training had kicked in, and he rolled to his right, avoiding the brunt of her blow.
In the corner of her eye, Lois caught sight of a heavy metal shovel leaning against the stall door. She grabbed the shovel with both hands and swung it indiscriminately in the direction Trask had rolled.
Trask ended his roll on one knee, and he aimed the gun he was still holding at Lois. Just as he fired, Lois's shovel completed its arc and slammed into his outreached gun hand, catching the hand between the shovel and the hayloft support to his right.
The bullet slammed into the door of a stall behind Lois, and she gasped at the near miss. Trask screamed a profanity and clutched his hand to his chest, the gun falling to the floor.
Lois's first instinct was to dive for the gun, but it was still too close to Trask. Dropping the shovel, she delivered a roundhouse kick to Trask's head.
But Trask saw the kick coming and rolled again to avoid the attack. Coming up to his feet, he charged Lois, tackling her. They crashed into the side of the table that held the meteor, and the flimsy table leg that they rammed into broke. The table collapsed onto the floor and the box skittered across the room to slam into the far wall, where the lid closed heavily down over the box.
Trask landed heavily on Lois, and she saw stars for a moment as the breath was knocked out of her and her head hit the floor with a crack.
Trask bounded to his feet and hurried across the room towards the gun, keeping a careful eye on Lois.
What Trask didn't notice was that Clark, weak but relieved of the intense pain of the poison rock, had grabbed the shovel that Lois had dropped beside him. With Trask's eyes on Lois, he didn't even see Clark swing the shovel at his ankle. It swept out his ankle just as all his weight was upon it, and Trask found himself falling backwards almost without knowing what had happened.
Lois scrambled to her feet and grabbed for the piece of the table leg that had broken off when she and Trask had hit it. Holding it in her right hand, she rushed towards Trask.
As she reached him, Trask was just slowly dragging himself up, and Lois slammed the broken leg into the back of his head. With a groan, Trask slumped to the floor.
Lois ran around Trask towards the gun. Grabbing it, she turned to face Trask, gun held at the ready. But when she faced him, she saw that Trask was lying unconscious.
Taking no risks, Lois circled around Trask, carefully keeping an eye on him. She hurried to the side of Clark, who was just beginning to pull himself to his feet.
"Easy, Clark, take it easy."
"Lois, the rock."
"I got it, Clark. Grab that shovel in case Trask wakes up. The bad guy always regains consciousness at the most inopportune time in movies, and we are not letting him escape."
Lois hurried to the corner of the room where the meteor rocks had fallen. Her eyes widened when she saw that the box had closed when it landed, and she breathed a sigh of relief that it had done so, letting Clark recover. Locking the box, she carried it back to where Clark was unsteadily standing.
"Police! Don't move!"
Sheriff Rachel Harris and three other police officers burst into the room, taking in the scene.
"'Cuff him," Rachel said, nodding at Trask. Two of her men hurried to Trask's side and dragged him to his feet as he jerked awake.
Lois hugged Clark, smiling gently at him. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement, and turned just in time to see Trask throw off both police officers and pull out his gun, aiming it at Clark.
"Clark!" she cried in fear.
A shot rang out, and Lois grabbed at Clark, expecting to feel him sink to the floor. But after a moment she realized that it was Trask who was collapsing, a gun wound in his chest. Lois spun to face Rachel, who had her gun out and had obviously fired the shot before Trask could. Rachel's face was shocked as she saw Trask fall.
One of the officers who had been flung away ran back to Trask's side and felt for a pulse. He shook his head. "You got him, Sheriff. He's dead."
Rachel was still staring unseeingly at Trask's body as the officer pulled out his radio to call for an ambulance.
Lois nodded at Clark and gently let go of him, hurrying to Rachel's side.
"Rachel," she said, "thank you. You saved our lives."
Rachel blinked and looked at Lois, and Lois took a deep breath and hugged her. "You saved us. There wasn't anything else you could have done."
Rachel nodded dumbly, but her color seemed to be returning as the ambulance arrived to remove Trask's body. Clark limped over to Rachel and hugged her tightly.
"Clark, you look pretty beat. Did you fight Trask?" Rachel asked curiously.
Clark grinned abashedly. "Actually, Trask's first blow took me out for most of the fight. Lois was the one who fought him."
"Lois?" Rachel asked, surprised.
"Hey, I didn't get to become a world-famous reporter because I know how to yodel," Lois said with a grin. "But oh, am I gonna be bruised tomorrow."
Rachel laughed, then hurried off as one of her officers called to her.
"Clark, what should we do with the rocks?" Lois asked. "Anything we do with it is gonna be dangerous."
"Well, I've come to decide that you are right. Keeping it around isn't a good idea. Some determined villain will find it eventually. But I think I may know somewhere to take it."
Lois raised her eyebrows, but Clark said no more, and she resigned to needle him about it later. For now, Clark needed to get home before he collapsed.
Clark sat down on the front steps of his parents' farmhouse and leaned against the rail. The stars were brilliant tonight, clear and sharp against the black night sky. So why was he thinking instead of the bright lights and noise and excitement of city life? He had the whole beautiful sky before him and he was yearning for something more.
Meeting Lois Lane, one of the best investigative reporters in the nation, made Clark realize just how much he wanted that. Not the Smallville Post, but a real investigative job at a large city newspaper. And the Daily Planet was, after all, the best paper in the world. He wondered what Lois would think if he applied for a job there.
But could he do that? Leave his parents and the farm and his job, start anew in a far away city? Was he qualified for a job at the Planet? After all, with the Borneo Gazette, the Smallville Post, and other small papers around the globe under his belt, he didn't exactly have a lot of experience at a big newspaper.
Lost in thought, he didn't even hear the door open and was startled when he heard Lois's soft voice behind him.
He turned around quickly, and blinked twice, amazed.
"Wow, is that really you? You look completely different!"
Lois grinned and spun in place. "You like? No more glasses, and I dyed my hair back to its normal shade. Or as close as I could get it. It's shorter than it used to be. I cut it for this assignment. But I rather like it this length. It does this little bounce thing when I turn my head, watch."
She turned her head quickly, and Clark laughed at her obvious pleasure in the new haircut.
"It really was a good disguise. I'd never have recognized you."
Lois sat down on the steps next to Clark. "Well, that's part of my idea. I think you need a disguise."
"A disguise? Why's that?"
She nudged him. "You know! So you can help people without anybody knowing Clark has superpowers."
"But if I help people with my powers, even with a disguise, they'll see me." He stared out over the farm, enjoying the calming influence it held for him.
"Yes, but what they'll see is your disguise using the powers! They won't connect it back to Clark."
"So you mean, I wear a special costume under my clothes, and then switch to the costume and run off to save a crashing bus or something?"
"Yeah. And then come back and switch back to your normal clothes, pretend nothing had happened. Think of the exclusives you could get with, well, yourself!"
Clark had to laugh at the direction Lois's mind turned. "All right, so what kind of costume were you thinking of?"
"Your mom and I have already thought of a few prototypes. She has the plans laid out at the table. Time for you to go have some fittings taken!"
"You and my mom … when did you guys do this?" Clark asked, astounded.
Lois twiddled a blade of grass between her thumbs and grinned impishly. "Oh, while you were out here brooding."
"Oh, you!" Clark started to say, but then paused when he heard his mother calling for him.
"Oh, Clarkie, Mommy's calling you," Lois quipped.
"I'm going, I'm going." Clark dragged himself to his feet and headed inside.
Lois smiled to herself as she pictured the many designs she and Martha had planned. He could be in there changing clothes all night.
The image of Clark inside changing clothes made Lois flush, and she quickly dragged her thoughts to other matters. Pulling out a blank notebook, she grabbed a pen and paused for a few moments, the tip of the pen in her mouth.
Finding the right words, Lois began writing. The words came so quickly that she became frustrated with the slow medium of handwriting and wished that she had her laptop handy. When she finished writing out the story, she read over what she'd written with a smile. It was good, really good. She'd written about Trask and his agency, exposing everything she'd discovered about them and their attempt to kill a young man simply because his arrival coincided with a meteor shower. She even discussed the "stone that Trask alone imbued with mystical powers" to kill the "alien." And then she'd gone on to criticize the government to allow a radical agency to receive government funding and called on the government for reform. Some of her criticisms were rather hard-hitting, and she decided to ask Clark to take a look at the story once he'd decided on a costume.
Clark? Why should she want him to look over her story? Lois bit down on her tongue while she considered.
Clark was a reporter, like her. She'd read some of his writing, and she was impressed. He was her complete opposite, focusing much more on human interest stories and sentimentality, whereas Lois preferred to be hard-nosed and biting. But his stories had the same ring of truth and the call for justice that her stories had. It occurred to her that they'd make an excellent team.
An excellent team? Lois worked alone. Or at least, she always had. But part of that was that she was unable to trust anyone. Not just to hold up his end of the weight, but not to betray her. Clark was a handsome man, and considering her history with men, Lois had developed a deep-rooted distrust of handsome men.
But Clark was different somehow. She'd learned most his secrets long before telling him any of her own, and he'd still forgiven her, and even told her more about himself. He'd shared everything with her and been kind to her, even with the knowledge that with one little story she could ruin his life. It took a strong man to do that, even if he was just trying to cultivate the friendship to keep her from telling his secrets. And she didn't think that he was. He hadn't needed to tell her about Lana; she hadn't even prompted it. Her heart softened when she remembered the pain in his voice when he told about how Lana had viewed him as a freak. Lois would never think he was a freak.
She and Clark obviously worked well together. They'd gotten Trask, after all. And having Clark's powers on investigations could be very useful. He could fly up to unlocked windows, float over security-sensor floors, x-ray into file cabinets without having to unlock them, and zoom himself and her out of trouble if danger arrived. He'd also be great if they got caught, not that that happened often. He was invulnerable to guns and could dodge bullets and protect her from them, break out of any ropes or chains that held them, and do just about anything. Plus, Chief always wanted her to write softy pieces; Clark would be good at those. And when the Chief wanted sentimentality in expos‚s, Clark might even be able to help with that. Yes, a combination of their writing styles, coupled with the advantages inherent in Clark's superpowers, could make them the best reporting team in Metropolis. Now to convince him.
Lois looked up as she caught a flash of blue and red just inside the door. "Clark?" she asked, puzzled.
Very, very, painstakingly slowly, Clark walked out onto the porch. Lois clapped her hand to her mouth to keep from laughing. It wasn't so much the costume, although the costume was very … tight. But it was Clark's expression.
"You're laughing," Clark said.
"No, I'm not, really! Clark, it's great! But your expression tells the world that you're naked."
"What???" Clark said, looking down.
Lois giggled. "That's not what I meant. You just look as shy and embarrassed as if you are naked. You have to act confident if you're going to be a superhero."
"Is that what I'm going to be? A superhero?" Clark asked, tugging at the corner of his briefs.
Lois nodded. "Yeah. So, chin up. Cross your arms over your chest. And give me a superhero look."
"Yes, ma'am." He did as she asked, then cocked his head. "Ma'am, you are quite welcome for rescuing your cat from the tree. Yes, ma'am, I'm sure Fluffy enjoyed her flight very much."
Lois shook her head. "Very funny. I do like the costume, though, especially the cape. It'll look great when you're flying."
"That's what my mom said."
She touched his chest lightly. "What's the 'S' stand for?"
"I don't know. It's odd, but when I thought the costume needed something, Mom remembered that it had been in the blanket I was wrapped in when they first found me. It seemed appropriate."
"Yes, it's perfect. You're using the powers your birth gave you, so you get to use something from home to do your good work in. Maybe it's your family's seal or something."
"Maybe. But Lois, are you sure nobody will recognize me in this?"
"Well, it's certain nobody's gonna be looking at your face!"
She giggled. "Seriously though, you aren't wearing a mask. It doesn't look like you have anything to hide. You'll be fine. Clark's been around forever. "
"-and so nobody's gonna associate a recently appearing superhero as Clark Kent in disguise."
"I guess. What about when the story comes out that Trask targeted me as an alien, then immediately a superhero arrives?"
"Well, you're still without your powers from the meteor, right?"
"And I think it'll take considerably longer for you to recover this time, since you were within the vicinity of the meteor for a long time. I'd say, if you can stand it, wait at least a week, then have your debut as a superhero in Metropolis in a week. The fuss will have died down, new city, and bright flashy costume. I think that's the best we're going to get."
"Show up in Metropolis?"
"Yeah, Clark. Read this." Lois handed him her article and waited with bated breath while he perused it. He was obviously reading at human speed, and she wanted to hit him and tell him to read it at super-speed, but she forced herself to wait patiently.
Huh. Patiently. As the chief would say, not a word she usually had in her vocabulary.
"It's good. Really good. I noticed you didn't name my name, or say anything about my super-powers."
"I told you I wouldn't, didn't I? Besides, exposing my soon-to-be partner would deny me the benefits of your super-powers in investigations."
"Read the by-line."
"By Lois Lane and Clark Kent." Clark looked up at her. "But you wrote it, Lois."
"Yes, I did, though I'm hoping to get some input on you about it. But I couldn't have gotten the story, not the real one, without your help. And you were a big part of it. And I think that with your by-line on a story this big, Chief will have to offer you a job."
"Yes, Perry White, Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Planet in Metropolis. Clark, I want you to come back to Metropolis with me and be my partner at the Planet."
Clark dropped into a seated position on the steps. "Geez, Lois, you sure don't give a guy any warning, do you?"
"Nope. And I don't plan to give Perry much choice about hiring you, either. Though he'll probably be so grateful that I'm finally, willingly, taking a partner that he'll hire you on the spot."
"Lois, I-I don't know."
"Clark, I know you want to work in the big city. There isn't anything for you here. Well, I mean, your parents are great. But you can fly out to visit them anytime! The city will give you a challenge for your reporting, scandals to uncover, truth to be revealed. And the city will be a bigger place for you to be a superhero too. Unless of course you like the idea of spending all your time rescuing cows."
Clark shook his head. "Anybody tell you lately how amazing you are?"
"Oh, all the time," Lois said, tossing her head nonchalantly.
He laughed. "Okay, Lois. I'll stop hedging. Honestly, before you came out before, I was thinking about moving to the city, trying for a job at the Daily Planet. Wasn't sure if it would bother you, having me work there. But I guess our thoughts have been going in the same direction."
"So you'll do it?" Lois said eagerly, jumping to her feet.
Clark chuckled. "Yeah, I'll do it."
"Yesss!" Lois gave Clark an excited hug, and he hugged her back.
"Just you wait 'til we get to Metropolis! I already have big plans. We're going to win a Pulitzer someday, I just know it."
"There's just one question I have," Clark said, frowning. "Whose name goes first on the by-line?"
Lois raised an eyebrow. "Mine, of course. And don't you dare forget it, Farmboy."
"And don't call me ma'am! You are low man, I am top banana, and that's the way I like it. Comprende?"
"You like to be on top, got it."
They were both still laughing as they went back inside the farmhouse.
Lois stepped off the elevator, pulling Clark forcibly off with her. He smiled through his nervousness at her possessive behavior, wondering if she was always such a — a tornado, for want of a better word.
"Lois!" he heard someone call across the newsroom.
An attractive but scantily-dressed woman was heading across the pit towards them, a handsome blond man in tow.
Lois sighed. "Clark Kent, Cat Grant," she introduced.
Cat nodded at Clark. "Lois, have you met our newest reporter on city desk? Claude Charogne, this is Lois Lane."
Claude bent low over Lois's hand. "I'm very pleased to meet you, Lois."
"Uh, yeah. Listen, Cat, we're kind of in a hurry. Can we finish the introductions later?"
Cat shrugged, and Lois hurried off towards Perry's office, Clark almost running to catch up.
"Lois, do you know what you're going to say?"
"No. I'm just going to bamboozle him. I do it all the time. He likes it. Trust me." With that, Lois opened the door to Perry White's office and burst in.
"Well, Lois, you're finally back. Did you get the story?"
"I got something better!" Lois exclaimed, shoving Clark towards Perry. "Perry White, Clark Kent. Clark's going to be my new partner."
"What???" Perry spluttered.
"Yeah. So that means you need to hire him. Better do it pretty fast, we already have a story we need to get on."
"But Lois," Perry argued pitiably, "you don't work with a partner."
"I changed my mind. Only it's gotta be Clark here. Clark, show Chief your resum‚."
Clark mutely held out the folder he was carrying his portfolio in. It occurred to him that he hadn't said a word the entire time and that maybe he ought to. Then, of course, Lois was doing pretty well on her own. Would working with her every day always be like this? He smiled at the thought. Life with Lois Lane would always be an adventure.
Perry White was perusing Clark's portfolio, his face looking more and more disappointed. "'The Mating Rituals of the Knob-Tailed Gecko,' Borneo Gazette? I'm sorry, son, but with this kind of resum‚ I really don't see that we have a job for you."
"Not so fast, Perry," Lois said with a smile. She whipped out another folder and dropped it on his desk.
Perry took one look at the headline and his mouth dropped open. He skimmed the article, chortling slightly. "Judas Priest, Lois, is this all true? No exaggeration?"
"Every word is the absolute truth, and I have any corroborating evidence you need."
"I can see Clark's influence already, the human element, and keeping you from creating an enemy of the entire government."
Clark grinned and Lois flushed.
"Well, if every story you two write together is like this, you're hired, Kent. Welcome to the Daily Planet."
Lois smiled at Clark and threw an arm over his shoulders as they left Perry's office. "Now about that scandal in the mayor's office …"
Perry chuckled to himself. "I have a good feeling about this. I can see it now. 'Lane and Kent: the hottest team in town.'"
Clark followed Lois meekly to her desk, then sat on the edge of it while she took the chair.
"Do you mind, Kent? You have your own desk." Lois pointed to Ralph, who was cleaning out his desk, the one across from Lois's, on her orders. He gave Clark a dark look, and Clark winced.
"Actually, Lois, I wanted to ask you something."
"What's that?" she asked, rummaging through her top desk drawer.
Clark leaned over and gently lifted Lois's chin with one finger, forcing her to face him.
"Lois, will you go out with me?"
Lois's eyes widened, and she swallowed. "You mean, like a date?"
"Yeah, like a date," he said softly.
She smiled. "I'd like that."
For a moment they stayed in that position, eyes locked on one another, completely oblivious to the bustle of the room. Then Lois pulled herself away.
"Now, get over to your desk and start getting me everything you can on the mayor's election. And I want it pronto!"
"Now don't you dare start that again!"
"Yes, Ms. Top Bana-"
Clark chuckled and flicked the switch to turn his newly acquired computer on. As he started a search, he heard a soft beating sound coming from nearby. Surprised, he looked around to determine the source of the sound. His eyes lit on Lois, and he realized that what he was hearing was the beat of her heart.
His powers were coming back! A new superhero was soon to grace the streets of Metropolis, he, Clark Kent, was a reporter for the Daily Planet, and Lois had agreed to go out on a date with him. Life couldn't be better.