By Catherine <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: December 2001
Summary: When Jimmy gets involved with new friends over the Internet, the prospect of meeting them excites him. However, things don't go entirely as he planned…
Jimmy Olsen was so absorbed in what he was doing that he didn't realize someone had called his name three times. He was logged on to the Internet on his brand new laptop and spending time in a chat room he'd come to enjoy: TechTalk. It was a place to go to trade ideas for new gadgets and even new hacking techniques. Most of the people were amateurs, but Jimmy was finding a few interesting people to chat with, especially since there was a convention of computer wizardry heading to Metropolis in a couple of days. As it was, three of the people from the chat room were scheduling to meet face to face at the convention. There was Comp_Witch, a twenty-year-old from a nearby town; Ghayme_Over_Guru, a guy named Jeremy who hadn't given up much information about himself and last but not least, him, Cybr_PhtPr. Jimmy wasn't worried about meeting strange people from chat rooms. In fact, Jimmy …
The young photographer jumped and ran a hand through his hair. From the sound of his Editor's voice, Perry White had called him more than once. Perry didn't like to be kept waiting. With a sigh, Jimmy logged off and jogged over to the Editor's office. Before walking inside, he self- consciously smoothed out his blue jeans and gray T-shirt. Taking a deep breath, he turned the doorknob and walked inside.
Perry was seated behind his desk, glowering. Even the fierce expression didn't take away from the man's fatherly demeanor. He was wearing a pinstriped blue shirt and a navy blue tie. "Olsen, next time I have to call your name three times—"
"Sorry, Chief," Jimmy drawled, hoping to ease his boss' annoyance, "I was chatting with some friends on the 'Net. We're going to meet up at the computer convention tomorrow. I hear they've got this computer that can hold up to—"
"Well, I'm glad you're interested," Perry interrupted, not wanting to be drawn into a technological tangent that he wouldn't understand a lick of, "Because I want you to cover it tomorrow." He opened his desk drawer and started to fumble around, "Now I know that thing's in here somewhere…"
Jimmy grinned and reached into his wallet. Seconds later, he pulled out a ticket. "I've been planning to go for months. Actually, some friends of mine from a chat room are planning on going together."
"We'll get you reimbursed, son," Perry said. "Now I want you to see about interviewing some of the people there. You're going to be covering this by yourself, because Lois and Clark are looking into the fake abduction of those twin scientists."
The young photographer knew the details of the case. From the start, people thought that Doctors Alex and William Kerenesky were abducted. It soon became clear that they staged their disappearances. Now Lois and Clark were trying to find out why, but also where they were.
Jimmy's lips thinned a little in disappointment. Sure, he was excited about getting a real assignment, but did Perry have to make it sound like the leftovers that his star reporters were too busy for? Then he brightened, an assignment was an assignment. Besides, he would probably get more out of it.
With a pleased grin, the young man walked out of the office. Despite the fact that he'd be on the job at the convention, he was really looking forward to going with his friends. He was dying to meet them face to face. The next day found Jimmy busily typing away at his computer. He was seated at an empty desk a few feet away from Clark Kent, otherwise known as Superman. To Clark's amusement, Jimmy seemed light years away from the Daily Planet. He was very absorbed in something. The young man's fingers were flying across the keyboard at phenomenal speed. Underneath the desk, Clark could hear his friend's foot tapping against the floor.
With a sigh, Clark looked away and returned his focus to his own computer. For a few moments, he glowered at the blinking cursor, marking an empty page. How could he write anything when he had no new information? The case of the Kerenesky brothers started out as a mess and was still one. Ever since he and his partner, Lois Lane, discovered that the twin scientists had faked their own abductions, the case was going nowhere. Actually, Lois discovered the fakery; she noticed that the closets of both men were empty. As she pointed out, what kidnapping victim has time to pack?
Now the case had gone cold, not only for them, but for the police as well. Any lead they could scrounge up proved to be a dead end. The world was an awfully big place to search for people who didn't want to be found. Yet Clark's reporter's instincts were telling him that the brothers were still in the city. He had a gut feeling that they were involved in something illegal, they had no other reason to fake a kidnapping. Of course, their kidnappers could have taken the clothes to make the police think the abduction was staged…
Clark sighed deeply and ran a hand through his hair. As much as he loved his job, he had a feeling that this was going to be a boring day.
This was going to be a great day! For the second time in under a minute, Jimmy had to restrain from bouncing on the balls of his feet. He'd dropped into the Planet to pick up a few extra rolls of film for the convention and develop a few rolls he'd taken last afternoon of Superman stopping an attempted bank robbery.
He was waiting in front of the elevator, his mind going over the plans he'd made with his Internet friends over where they were going to meet. Comp_Witch, a.k.a. Sabrina was going to be waiting at the entrance, wearing a black skirt and a purple cardigan. As for Jeremy, well, he hadn't logged on to the chat room for the last two days, so Jimmy hoped that he'd made plans with Sabrina. He couldn't wait to meet these two people face to face.
At last, the elevator arrived; Jimmy practically leapt inside, then pushed the button for the appropriate floor. He hummed softly before exiting at the appropriate destination. He walked through the doors of the Daily Planet, closing his eyes as the warm sunshine enveloped him. A soft breeze ticked his skin and he was glad that he hadn't worn a jacket today. It was just too gorgeous.
When Jimmy opened his eyes, he was shocked at what he saw. There was an extra long black stretch limo with heavily tinted windows parked in front of the Planet. The most shocking thing of all was that the chauffeur was holding out a cardboard sign with his name on it. Stunned, Jimmy walked over and asked the man what all of this was.
"Mr. Ghayme sends his compliments," replied the man with a faint Irish accent.
Mr. Ghayme… Jeremy! A small grin ghosted across Jimmy's lips. As the chauffeur, Tom, opened the door, the photographer thanked him. Once seated, he double checked that the camera in his lap was fully functional and that he had the appropriate back ups in the small shoulder sack he was carrying.
After that, Jimmy glanced around; this limo was stocked to the max. There was a TV, VCR and DVD, a CD changer, a wet bar and a radio. Resting his hands against the leather seats, the photographer found them to be supple and smooth.
Upon second glance, he noticed that a glass of champagne had been poured. Unable to believe his luck, Jimmy took the glass from its holder and took a tentative sip. While he wasn't an expert on champagne, he knew that this was the good stuff. He finished the glass in a few sips. As he set it down, he noticed that the privacy window had been raised. He didn't remember doing that.
Without warning, the doors locked. Sensing that he was in danger, Jimmy lunged for the window, his panic increasing as a loud hissing sound began. Within seconds, his frantic pounding against the windows began to abate. It was getting harder to summon the strength to panic, let alone move. Jimmy's head began to droop; he felt detached from his body and seconds later, he collapsed against the smooth leather seats, unconscious.
"He's not hurt, is he? I can't afford to have him damaged."
As always, the cold, mechanical voice of his boss/captor made doctor Alexander Kerenesky shudder with dread. He didn't like Jeremy Ghayme, the man had no scruples. Until this point, Alex had believed this trait to be true of himself as well. He'd had no problems plotting a false abduction, then creating this device, this hideous contraption that he wished he could un-invent.
From the start, his brother tried to convince him that neither of them could be bothered with a conscience when there was so much money at stake, ten million dollars each for one measly little injection. Alex glanced over at his twin, who was hunched over a Petrie dish, making the final adjustments to their invention. William was totally devoted to this project. Alex found that he was now alone with his morals, but he was terrified of that, because he knew what Jeremy could do.
Alex's eyes closed in dread as the unconscious body of the young man Jeremy had chosen was wheeled in, restrained to a stretcher. Maybe things would be better this way; if the man, scarcely more than a child really, was unconscious, then that could make things seem less monstrous.
"He'll need to be awake for us to make sure it's working properly." Alex glanced at his brother, aghast by William's curt, uncaring tone.
Alexander threw down his gloves, "I refuse to have any further part in this." He turned around and left the room. No one tried to stop him; he knew that they wouldn't. He'd already played his role in this hideous experiment, now he wasn't needed. Soon, he would get his money and then he could try and forget the name Jeremy Ghayme.
Consciousness returned slowly to Jimmy. As he opened his eyes, he realized that he was restrained in a darkened room. He tried to move his head, to get a better look at his surrounding, but found himself bound around the neck as well. Fully recovered, he prepared to yell for Superman, but a hand was clamped over his mouth.
Jimmy's frightened blue eyes locked on to the expressionless face of a Caucasian man in his late forties with hair the color of lead and dark brown eyes. There was something very familiar about him, but before Jimmy could make the connection, a new voice thudded dully off the walls.
"Jimmy, after all this time, I'm so pleased to finally meet you. Though it's not quite under the circumstances you were expecting."
The voice was unlike anything he'd ever heard before: gravely, mechanical and not human in the slightest. The speaker finally entered Jimmy's line of sight and when he saw the person before him, his eyes widened into two nearly perfect circles of terror.
"Does my appearance frighten you?" Jeremy Ghayme's voice was full of disdain. Though he and Jimmy Olsen were relatively the same age, fate had arranged it so that they were wildly different physically.
The disease which had affected Jeremy since birth was so rare that it didn't even have a name; the few doctors who knew of it called it B-7542K. It was fortunate this condition was rare, because the results of it were quite terrible. Ever since the age of six, Jeremy had been struck blind, mute and was confined to a wheelchair. Yet paradoxically, while his body was so weak and frail, he had an incredible mind. He made things easier for himself with a wheelchair and dark glasses to hide his eyes. Though his incredible intellect filled him with arrogance, he was always aware of his disabilities.
Even the computer he'd designed to vocalize his thoughts was not enough; he knew that no medical technology could ever cure him. So, as in everything in life, he used his mind to solve the problem. In fact, his mind was the only useful part of his body. The rest he could, and would, do without.
William Kerenesky placed the oxygen mask over the face of the restrained young man before him. As opposed to his kind hearted brother, William felt nothing. He wasn't after this for the monetary gain (though that was a nice surplus) he was merely interested in the scientific challenge. No one had ever attempted something like this. A square centimeter of DNA held more information than a trillion CDs, this was true. However, the Kerenesky brothers weren't aiming to copy everything. They sought out extensive scans and found a way to copy Mr. Ghayme's vital personality traits, his very identity on to several microscopic disks. In theory, when applied to a new mind, the disks would be able to assert control, if not wipe out the original person entirely. The disks would function as the DNA relating to Jeremy Ghayme's identity. And, in accordance with computer terminology, the disks were going to be downloaded.
"I hope you don't mind, Mr. Ghayme," Jimmy heard the voice as though from a distance. He was trying to fight the oxygen mask without success. "But I've modified the disks so that you will be able to speak, walk and understand what you see within seconds."
Then, the man turned and looked down at Jimmy, a false compassion on his face. "Now if you hold still, this will hurt less. Of course, this sort of thing has never been done, so I don't know if it hurts at all. At any rate, things on your end will be over for you soon."
As a syringe approached him, Jimmy began to struggle against the bonds. Panic was making him more aggressive and he fought with everything in his being. Then, a hand forced his head to the side and he found himself staring at a wall on the far side of the room. He hissed with pain as he felt the tip of the needle pierce his temple. Then he felt nothing at all.
Jeremy was sitting upright on the stretcher, swinging his legs. People really took that sort of thing for granted: Swinging their legs. William's modifications worked like a charm; he was able to see and speak using Jimmy Olsen's body within a few minutes. He was talking and walking as though he'd been doing so all of his life.
Distastefully, he stared at the body he'd once inhabited. Jeremy's body was still, gazing back at him, but seeing nothing. It was about the size of a child's body because Jeremy could not handle physical activity. The skin was pale from no time spent outdoors; the legs hung uselessly from its hips. Immaculate blond hair lay limp and stringy over his sunken cheekbones. Behind the sunglasses there was blindness, it seemed as though there was no intelligence either.
As William handed him a mirror, Jeremy took a moment to admire himself. He ran a hand through his brown hair. Blue eyes twinkled at him merrily from the reflective surface.
Of course, he hadn't chosen Jimmy Olsen solely for his looks. That was why Jeremy had been searching the Technology chat rooms; he was looking for someone with an above average intellect. That way, when he made an appearance, it wouldn't appear as if a brilliant mind suddenly sprang up overnight.
Yes, Jeremy had considered his plan carefully. He knew that if he were simply to disappear after the cerebral download, many questions would arise. There would also be a search and that could not be tolerated. So, Jeremy planned to live Jimmy Olsen's live for a month or two, then "move on to something else." That way, things would be left nice and tidy and there would be no questions asked.
Speaking of tidying things up…
His hands shaking softly, Alex Kerenesky grasped the brass doorknob that lead into the laboratory. When he saw that the operation was already complete, his stomach sank a little; he'd been hoping for his twin to come to his senses and stop this madness. Alex paused in the doorway, poking his head out so that he could hear what they were saying.
"Thank you for your services, William," Jeremy said, using Jimmy Olsen's body and voice.
"My brother played a big role in this as well," replied William.
"Oh don't worry, I'll be thanking him as soon as he gets back from wherever he is." In a sudden movement, Jeremy lunged from the table and reached for his wheelchair. Seconds later there was a flash of light, a startled cry of pain and the unmistakable stench of gunpowder enveloped the room. Jeremy addressed the crumpled body on the floor.
Horrified, Alexander forced himself to close the door quietly. Then he whirled around and found himself in the room where he and his brother (oh God, Will!) kept all of their notes. The laboratory was used primarily for the construction of the cerebral download. Unable to think clearly, Alexander popped open his briefcase and began to shove folders into it. He grabbed everything he could fit inside. He didn't know why he was doing this, only that it was important for him to get this information out of this building. It was imperative that somebody know what was going on … even if he didn't live to talk about it.
After being driven home, Jeremy walked through the rest of his home, testing out his newfound mobility and his ability to speak. He was still quite sensitive to bright light, but that was fading. By tomorrow he would be ready to assume Olsen's life and then Phase Four could begin. As his huge gothic mansion loomed before him, Jeremy smiled; he couldn't wait to see what it looked like for the first time.
After so many years confined to a wheelchair, Jeremy was not inclined to sit. He paced around, studying everything, pleased that he'd hired an interior decorator so that things matched. He didn't much care for the earthy tones which adorned his mansion, but now that he could see the colors for himself, he would adjust things accordingly. Despite the majesty of his eight story home right on the outskirts of Metropolis, Jeremy Ghayme was known as a recluse. He had a spokesperson hired to release information about his inventions. Including the interior decorator, the spokesperson and the Kerenesky brothers, only eight people had been inside this home since Jeremy had it constructed.
Upon discovering his illness, his parents had him carted off to a 'special school'. They thought he was an idiot. Oh, he kept tabs on his progenitors; they were living in a slum house in Chicago. Since they didn't have any faith in him, he wouldn't help them. But now, now his life could finally begin. After being stuck in that sensory prison, only able to hear, touch and taste, he was going to exploit his newfound health. For the first time in his life, Jeremy Ghayme was going to live.
The case of the Kerenesky brothers had taken a terrible turn, Clark mused. Yesterday an anonymous tipster reported to police the location of William Kerenesky's body in an unoccupied warehouse on the other end of the city. Since the company that the Kerenesky brothers worked for required all of its employees to have their fingerprints on computer, it was verified that the body belonged to William.
He'd been shot in the heart with a Colt .45. Other than that, there was virtually no evidence. In fact, the only evidence that William hadn't simply been dumped there was the puddle of blood which surrounded his body. Aside from the body and the blood, the storehouse was almost impeccably clean, no amount of dusting could reveal any fingerprints.
The other rooms of the building were just as empty. A strange case had just gotten stranger. There was no indication of who'd killed Kerenesky, but some people were inclined to think that it was his brother, Alexander who'd done it. Clark wasn't sure what to believe; his instincts were telling him that there was a lot more to this story than the facts they were being presented. One thing was certain: Alex Kerenesky had to be found.
He had to find Alex Kerenesky. Jeremy fumed silently while waiting for the elevator to drop him off at the news room of the Daily Planet. The good doctor was the only one who could expose his plan and he could not allow that to happen.
His musings were interrupted when the elevator stopped at the appropriate floor. He stepped off and acquainted himself with his surroundings. The darkroom was on the floor beneath this one, he knew that. Courtesy of the city's architectural plans, he'd been able to memorize the layout of this building. His eyes skimmed over the desks. Two familiar faces stuck out, mostly because he recognized them from the pictures he'd been studying: Lois Lane and Clark Kent, the star reporters for the Daily Planet. In many of the publicity photos which featured them, Jimmy was either beside them or in the background. He knew that they were close.
"Hey, Jimmy, want to grab me a cup of coffee?"
Jeremy looked to his left, eyeing the man who'd spoken. He was about five foot ten, pudgy and the only hair on his head was either his eyebrows or growing out of his ears. Other than his physical ugliness, Jeremy saw no indication that this man would be physically incapable of getting his own beverage. So he simply said, "Get it yourself."
The man was surprised, so surprised that he said nothing. Figuring that the conversation was over, Jeremy simply walked away. He didn't see a desk with his name on it, so he simply walked over to the coffee machine, extricated a Styrofoam cup and poured himself a cup of coffee with a single cream. Taking a tentative sip, he surveyed the area, wondering if he'd missed the location of Jimmy's desk. He had to sit somewhere, didn't he?
Jeremy stumbled forward and nearly dropped his cup when a hand tapped his shoulder. He whirled around, panting with shock. The man standing next to him was wearing a dark suit with a white shirt and a truly bizarre tie. Thin, wire framed glasses rested on his nose and he was staring at Jeremy with concern. In seconds, he knew who this was.
"H-Hi, Clark," he knew it was a gamble to use Kent's first name, but he figured that this guy was close to Jimmy. Besides, if he was too formal, the reporter might get suspicious. He watched the man's reaction carefully.
"So, how was the convention?" Clark leaned against the counter where the coffee machine sat. He seemed genuinely interested.
"It was all right," he replied, taking another sip of his coffee. "Nothing really caught my eye."
Clark seemed surprised, "Really? You were so exited about going. Well, I'm sure you got some great pictures anyway."
Aw hell, he'd forgotten to have someone take photos for him. When he'd been told of the photography equipment in the limo, he'd planned to get someone to take photos in his place. Damnit.
"My camera broke, the shutter got stuck and by the time I realized it, we were already there. Besides, it was a long wait just to get in and I didn't want to go through it all over again."
Before the other man could say anything, a loud, booming voice demanded that Olsen, Lane and Kent enter the meeting room. Obediently, the two men went into the room, along the way, they were joined by Lois. Before entering, Jeremy noticed a note pad with Jimmy's name on it; he snatched it off the desk, taking a pen as well. The meeting room was dominated by a large round, wooden table and several chairs. There was a television set resting in the corner and Perry White was at the far end of the room.
The three took seats. Jeremy sat down and crossed his legs; he rested his elbow on his table and his chin in his hand. He watched the older man launch into a tirade about stories that needed to be finished, what kind of progress was being made on various projects. As the topics grew more varied and less about him, Jeremy rolled his eyes and allowed his mind to wander. He was really getting used to this new body and was beginning to plan for what he'd do as soon as he was done with this idiot box. Even though he couldn't use his real name anymore, any laboratory in the world would be tripping over itself to garner his services. Then, he would open up his own lab. This was going to work, it really was. First, he had to work here for a month without going insane.
How could people find this job interesting? He couldn't bother himself to pretend to take notes, which he suspected he should have been. But this was so boring! Well, things were going to be changing in a couple of …
Jimmy had actually become aware of things shortly after the completion of the cerebral download. Unfortunately, the whole experience was so shocking for him that he wasn't able to come to terms with it until now. He felt paralyzed, yet aware of everything. He could see and hear, but he felt nothing.
Actually, he did feel; he felt intense hatred for Jeremy, unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. He couldn't even describe it, only that he had to make the man who'd taken control of his body pay for what he was doing. He was a thief and sooner or later, people were going to find out about it. Jimmy felt confident that Lois and Clark and all the others would see through Jeremy in no time.
With a start, Jeremy stared down at the note pad. He was startled to see that he was writing, but he wasn't aware that he was doing it. The young man stared down at his hand, trying to will himself to stop, but his body wasn't obeying him. He couldn't control it.
Jeremy slammed the notebook shut with his other hand and stared at Perry, startled. He must have looked as shaken as he felt, because the older man's eyes softened. "Are you all right, son?"
Frowning, Jeremy went over what he knew of Perry White. This man wasn't Jimmy's father, he was sure of that. It was a term of affection he decided, "I-I'm fine," he replied, trying to regain his composure. "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Still wired from the convention, you know?"
"Well, I'm glad you're so enthusiastic, so let's see the pictures you took." The man's voice managed to be sharp and condescending simultaneously.
Jeremy bit back his instinctive, indignant reaction. He was silent for so long that Kent answered for him, feeding the older man the line about the broken camera. "Next time make sure your equipment is working before you head out, Olsen. Now send it out to the repair place as soon as we're finished here."
"I can fix it myself," replied Jeremy. He wanted to get out of this meeting so he could take a look at his notebook. That and he couldn't send it out to the repair place because it obviously wasn't broken. If Olsen had found a way to interfere with the download like that, then he had to make sure that it couldn't go any further. His lips curled in distaste, if things worsened, then he would actually need Kerenesky to fix the fault before killing him.
The others were looking at him oddly, but Jeremy was content to pursue his own train of thought. Distantly, he noticed that they'd moved on to other topics and that was fine with him. Within a few minutes, the meeting ended. The young man grabbed the notebook, clutching it against his chest protectively and did his best not to run from the room. He sat down in the nearest, bare desk and flipped open his notebook.
"Hey, Jimmy, what's up?"
Jeremy slammed the notebook shut once again, bolted to his feet and shouted, "What's up is that I want a little privacy, is that too damned much to ask?"
All activity in the news room fell silent. Jeremy, panting and red faced from his outburst, found himself staring at a very shocked Lois Lane. As words of insincere apology occurred to him, she spoke again, "Well never mind then, I'm sure Clark and I can handle taking pictures during our stake out just fine."
"If you can handle it, then why were you going to ask me?" To him, it wasn't a particularly inflammatory question. He was a scientist by nature, and he didn't believe that questions should be wasted. Jeremy was genuinely confused as to why this woman would request his help if she was capable of doing the task herself. From what he'd read about her, Lois Lane was a very intelligent, capable woman. So why would she waste time by getting him to do something she was able to do on her own? He tilted his head quizzically and awaited her response.
Her only response was to glower at him and stomp away. Slowly, all of the regular noises that permeated the Daily Planet news room began to resume anew. Rolling his eyes, Jeremy settled back into his chair. Who would have guessed that being normal would be so noisy? Back in his home, nobody disturbed him. Out here, everyone wanted to talk to him. He'd tried to choose an obscure person without many friends, yet Olsen was proving to be more popular than he'd calculated.
Shrugging off his annoyance, he glanced around him, made sure nobody was approaching him, before opening to note book to the appropriate page. His eyes widened as he read the words on the page. They were scribbled hastily, as though by a child, but the message was definitely clear.
Thief, murder, thief, murderer, you stole it, you stole it, you stole it, thief…
Gasping and terrified, Jeremy closed the notebook and tried to maintain a calm outlook. He was in control of this body. However Olsen had managed to subvert it, that could be corrected. But he was the dominant force here. Maybe, in a matter of time, Jimmy would be wiped out and he wouldn't have to worry about him anymore. All he had to do was return to Olsen's apartment and figure out how to speed up the process.
"Lois, would you calm down? I'm sure he didn't mean anything by it." For the third time that night, Clark Kent tried to appease his angry partner. She'd ranted about her encounter with Jimmy during the whole drive to the stake out where Nick Hebner, one of the men who'd assisted in faking the abduction of the Kerenesky twins was supposed to be staying. They wanted a chance to talk to him before the police. There was even a slim chance that he might let them in on some clue as to where Alex was.
However, Clark was busy trying to keep Lois from losing her temper. Even the spring rolls he'd picked up on the way to this apartment hadn't helped.
"All I was trying to do was …" Lois shook her head and flopped down beside Clark, who pulled back to allow her to share the telescope's eye piece. Nothing was happening, but she forced herself to focus. "Never mind," she said.
Meanwhile, across town, Alex Kerenesky was holed up in a darkened motel room. It was dark because the only illumination was provided by a bare light bulb which flickered like Morse code, hanging from the cracked white ceiling. There was barely enough light for him to read, but he forced himself to do so. Ever since he William had developed the cerebral download, something had been nagging at his brother. There was a flaw in this, but he couldn't grasp what it was. So he was pouring extensively over he and his brother's notes, looking for some clue. Alex was not a psychiatrist, but even he was alarmed by the fact that he hadn't grieved for his brother. He and William hadn't always been close, but their minds worked in the same way, they'd always been able to improve upon each other's work. Jeremy Ghayme had come between them, and eventually, destroyed their bond. Now, Alex was struggling desperately to undo some of the damage caused by he and his brother.
Yet, part of him still longed for his twin's presence. Logically, he knew that his brother was dead, but it felt so strange to not be wracked with all consuming grief. It was as though his determination to solve the puzzle before him was over riding his other emotions.
Nothing like the cerebral implant had ever been invented; the only way they'd had to field test it was to put it into action. That was why the disks contained a mere copy of Jeremy Ghayme's personality; if something went wrong, he wouldn't be dead. He and William suggested the concept in itself. Jeremy had been prepared to simply download his consciousness on to the chips immediately. Mr. Ghayme had been drawing up the framework for this idea for years; he'd been eager to get underway.
William was adamant that they do a practice run and Jimmy Olsen was chosen as the target. Alex knew his brother, meticulous to a fault, but sometimes his eagerness to break new scientific barriers overrode that. There must have been something in his research that made him nervous. Something that convinced him that this first download would go wrong. And, after that, he would go about correcting the flaw.
Alex closed the folders containing his research and opened his brother's. Now that he had an inkling of what to look for, he searched the files as though trying to decipher an alien language. He searched through the files for hours, discovering that most of his information corroborated with his brother's.
Then, he found the word combination he was seeking: over ride. As he read the data, it became clear what he'd begun to suspect, that this was nothing more than a monstrous field experiment. William was testing the download to see how long it would function for before it faltered. Then, the design could be improved upon and perfected.
With increasing urgency, Alexander's eyes scanned over William's hypotheses regarding the first signs of cerebral degradation. There was potential for severe migraines, loss of certain unconscious and conscious functions. Of course, this was all in the event that the download didn't function correctly and wipe out the original identity. If one personality, be it the biological or artificial one, did not succeed in eliminating the other, then there was potential for a severe stroke. After all, the human brain was simply not equipped to handle accepting impulses to two minds.
Now that he knew what was happening, Alexander knew that he had to alert the proper authorities. As he reached for the phone, a terrible panic gripped him; he knew that Jeremy was looking for him. Jeremy needed him dead in order to insure that his secret was safe. Now that the download was completed, he could have any reasonably skilled technician make the necessary adjustments without them ever knowing its true purpose. If he dared to call the proper authorities, they couldn't protect him from Jeremy Ghayme. Despite the rickety wooden chair he was sitting in, Alexander drew his knees up to his chest. Visions of his brother's murder echoed in his mind, like a never ending nightmare. He wondered if he was having an auditory hallucination, because he could hear his brother's cry of pain, hear the gun fire. Or maybe it was a visual one, he could see Will's body collapsing to the ground over and over again. Was it possible to have both hallucinations simultaneously, in such vivid detail? He closed his eyes and moaned softly. He hated this, all he wanted to do was go back to his regular lab and help people.
Alex Kerenesky was a man of science, he could not handle the idea of all this clandestine activity. Hell, right from the start, he'd objected to Jeremy Ghayme's plan. Of course, William managed to talk him into it. Will always did know how to convince him. But now Will was dead.
Whining softly, William wrapped his arms around his legs and rested his forehead on his knees. He didn't want to die.
As Jeremy arrived in Jimmy's apartment, he felt exhilarated. He'd never been on a motorcycle before, much less driven one. His medical condition made certain of that, but he'd just done it and it only took him a few minutes to figure out the basic principle of the contraption. After all, it was a relatively primitive bit of technology. Now that he was in control of a healthy body, he could set about creating something more efficient. When he walked into Olsen's apartment, his exhilaration dwindled and his nose wrinkled in distaste. This room was in shambles. Oh, it was decorated nicely enough, but there were clothes draped over the couch, on the floor, it looked terrible. With a sigh, Jeremy walked over to the telephone and found a phone book. He searched through the pages before finding the number of a cleaning service.
After they arrived fifteen minutes later, he was informed that it would take an hour for them to be finished cleaning. He decided that in the interim he could go and get money from the bank. As he walked out into the street, Jeremy glanced down at his clothing. He was wearing faded blue jeans and a white T-shirt. When he'd been blind, he had people buy clothes for him that were only black. Immediately, he decided that he needed some new garments. Even if he was going to be playing the role of boy photographer, he couldn't abide these colours. No, he definitely needed to do some shopping; it was simply a matter of finding appropriate places to acquire a new wardrobe. Besides, he mused as he shivered in the night air, it was getting cold, hardly the time to wear a T- shirt.
"Well, someone's dressed up," Lois said the next morning from her desk at the Daily Planet. She'd looked up from her computer in time to see Jimmy walk in, actually, it looked more like strutting. The photographer was wearing crisp black jeans and a cream colored button up shirt that appeared to be made of silk. Expensive looking black shoes clacked loudly against the floor. A thin leather car jacket completed the outfit. His eyes kept wandering to the left and right, as though daring someone to challenge what he was wearing.
Reluctantly, Lois turned back to her computer. She had nothing new about the case to report. The stakeout last night turned out to be a bust, Hebner didn't do anything interesting and even when confronted by them, he had nothing to say. She knew that Perry was getting irritated, but how could she and Clark write anything when there was nothing new to write? This case was going nowhere fast, but Lois was not to the type to give up when a case went a little cold. She was determined to bust this story wide open. She took a sip of her coffee, then typed a few more words on to her article. Although she had to admit, this case was one of the toughest of her career. Nobody was talking, Alex Kerenesky was still missing, William Kerenesky was still dead and even the police were still searching for clues.
As Jimmy walked by and went towards the empty desk he'd claimed as his own, Lois spoke up, "You're pretty dressed up today, Jimmy." She was still a little irritated from his snobbishness last night, but now he'd piqued her curiosity with the new clothing.
Anything to distract her from the Kerenesky case, she supposed.
One shoulder rose and fell, "Everyone else here dresses up, it was time for me to do the same." With that statement, Jimmy walked away and sat down. He flipped open the notebook he had yesterday and began to frantically write in it.
Lois frowned; he was acting weird, even for Jimmy. He seemed a lot colder, like he was trying really hard to be a professional. Well, she or Clark could always take him aside for a few minutes and explain to him that professionalism didn't mean you had to impersonate an iceberg. The clothes did suit him though; but she couldn't help wondering where he'd gotten the money for them.
Over the course of the next few days, everyone noticed the changes in the young photographer. It wasn't only his clothes and his attitude. When he went out on a shoot, his photos were different. Not badly or better, but it seemed like they were photographed by someone else. His photos were about the same quality as before, but there was a certain uniqueness that wasn't there anymore. In the past, Lois could have pointed out shots done by Jimmy without fail. Many supposed that it was simply the evolution of his style.
As the days wore on, Jimmy's horror faded into a kind of dull acceptance. He had a little bit more control; he could tap his feet or write things, and he could hear what Jeremy was thinking, but that was all. So far, none of his friends had noticed that anything was wildly different. That was very troubling for him; they should have caught on right away.
Sorry, Jimmy, these mental conversations between he and Jeremy were also nothing new. I guess they like me better; must make a better Jimmy than you do.
"Olsen, I want to talk to you." It was Perry's voice, coming from his office. For once he wasn't yelling.
Though he tried with all his power to stop it, Jimmy sensed his body moving towards the Editor's office. Unable to prevent it, Jeremy sat down and waited. Throwing all of his energy into it, Jimmy focused on his right foot; he willed it to kick his left ankle and felt a brief surge of triumph when Jeremy stumbled and nearly fell. Unfortunately, he made it to the chair just in time.
Jimmy had no alternative but to listen as Perry started to talk about Jeremy's performance as of late. As he started to cite the strangeness of his behaviour and how different his shots were, Jimmy felt a surge of triumph. Finally, someone was noticing!
His triumph quickly transformed into anger and sadness as Perry mentioned that he seemed more confident. Each word of praise hammered at Olsen as though his coffin was being shut. Perry never talked to him like this; he was sparse with his praise at best. Hell, Perry still hadn't talked to him this way … he was talking to Jeremy. He could feel the satisfaction radiating from the man in control of his body. The last nail struck when Perry spoke his final, most sincere sentence.
"These past few days, son, you've really come into your own and I'm proud of you."
For a brief moment, both Jeremy and Jimmy experienced blinding pain. In that second, neither man was in control, but Jeremy was quick to reassert his presence. He assured Perry that he was fine and hurriedly left the room. "I don't know what you were trying there, Olsen, but it didn't work." Jeremy spoke under his breath, but Jimmy heard him quite clearly.
Truth be told, Jimmy didn't know what that was. He could only hope that the cerebral download was somehow malfunctioning. If that happened again, then maybe he could get a message to someone. For the first time in days, he felt as though there was hope.
Meanwhile, Lois and Clark were at the coffee machine, discussing the changes in their young friend. Jimmy was acting normal enough, but still, there was something going on with him that wasn't quite right. Eventually, they decided that it was a personal problem; if he needed help, he would come to one of them.
When they saw Jimmy emerge from Perry's office looking pale and on the verge of passing out, Clark decided to check on him. If it was a medical problem, something they hadn't considered, then he might not feel comfortable talking to them. Yet, if he was in trouble, then …
"Jimmy?" he questioned.
It was quite startling actually, one second Jimmy looked as though he was going to faint; the next, he was perfectly composed, if a little ashen. "Yes, Clark?"
That was another thing that troubled Clark; Jimmy hadn't called him C.K since before the convention. Although he attributed it to the photographer's newfound professionalism, it was a bit disconcerting. "Never mind," he said. With that, Clark walked away. As he went back to his desk, he spotted Pat, another photographer. The Man of Steel in disguise called the man over and asked him about Jimmy's behavior.
"Nah, he's been cool," Pat replied. "I wish he'd get around to fixing that stuck shutter on the camera, though. He hates the auto focus on the other cameras we have, but it would be really nice if he got around to fixing the extra." "He's been pretty busy lately," Clark replied, "Why don't you take a look at it?"
Pat shrugged, "Couldn't hurt. If it's just a stuck shutter, than I can fix it with a little lubricant, but if it's more serious, then we can send it out. That way it'll be back as soon as possible." When Jimmy went to grab himself a cup of coffee, the two men walked over to his desk, where the camera was.
Jeremy was really enjoying coffee. It was taking him some time to discover exactly how he liked it, but a scientist did nothing if not experiment. As he brought the mug to his lips, he noticed that Clark and another person were fiddling with the camera he hadn't gotten around to pretend fixing.
Whether it was his own surprise or Olsen's doing, the white coffee cup slid from Jeremy's hands. It hit the ground and he cursed. As he stooped over to pick it up, he felt a sharp pain in his hand and glanced down to see that it was bloody. He rolled his eyes and continued to clean. He barely afforded Lois Lane a glance as she stooped over to help him clean. "Why don't you use this?" She suggested with a hint of amusement as she handed him a paper towel. Scowling slightly, he nodded and they cleaned up the mess. During that time, she asked him how he was feeling, if there was anything wrong and let him know that she was around if he needed to talk.
Personally, Jeremy found this information rather redundant. Of course she was there to talk, she was within hearing distance after all. In addition, he found her questioning about his health to be rather intrusive. There was nothing wrong with him and she certainly didn't know anything about the cerebral implant, so she wouldn't have known to ask about that, but he still found it strange.
When all was restored to normal, Jeremy stood up and forced himself to thank her for assisting him with the task he could have accomplished himself. He was still getting used to the concept of people helping him do things. For most of his life, he'd done things alone, unless it required vision or greater height. Having people help him when he was perfectly able to do things by himself was a foreign concept. He wasn't sure whether or not he liked it.
Sighing, he went over to his desk and realized, to his dismay, that Clark Kent and Pat had undoubtedly figured out that the camera wasn't broken. He wondered if he could tell them that he'd found the time to fix it. Fortunately, he was saved the trouble as someone called Jimmy's name and said there was an important phone call for him. Jeremy walked over to the phone and asked who it was. As Olsen's insufferable landlady began to drone on, the young genius allowed his mind to wander. She was an incredibly annoying lady, who seemed to believe it her mission in life to dote on Olsen whenever he was in range of her nagging ways. It was irritating, but for the moment, there was nothing he could do about it.
"Anyway," she said, "There's a delivery man here and he says that you said to make sure that you were here when the delivery cam—"
Whether or not she'd finished her sentence, Jeremy didn't care. He was too busy running towards the parking lot in order to fetch the motorcycle.
Ten minutes and several broken traffic laws later found Jeremy sitting on the couch in Jimmy's apartment, frantically opening a package. Before the download, he'd made certain that he'd ordered these three items in case he had any trouble of the super heroic variety. After the download, he had the address for delivery changed to Olsen's apartment.
He tore at the box surrounding his specially made purchase. As he finished opening the box, an unearthly green glow lit his face. Grinning, he slipped the small item on to his finger. They'd gotten exactly the right size. He put it back into the box and placed it under his couch. If Superman saw the need to interfere, then it would be the last thing he ever did. The moment he stood up to return to 'work', Jimmy Olsen made an attempt to escape.
Caught off guard by a sudden explosion of pain, Jeremy put his hands to his temples and fell back on to the couch. He doubled over in his seat, trying to control his breathing. Pain coursed through his body and he struggled desperately to keep conscious. He could feel Olsen pounding against the barrier created by the download. He could hear the other man screaming about how this was wrong, how he wanted his body back. Jeremy felt as though he was being ripped in half; even when his body's illness reared its ugly head, it never hurt this bad.
With great effort, Jeremy opened his hand, the one that was cut from earlier today, and dragged the injury across the sharp end of the coffee table. He could only hope that this would work. Sure enough, the bodily pain was enough to anchor him to this body and force Olsen back into submission. Jeremy had been working for so many years to get what he'd been searching for and some photographer wasn't going to screw it up for him now. However, he still needed to find Alexander Kerenesky in order to insure that things did not get more serious. He had to track down that man.
"It has taken me a hell of a lot of time to track you down, Jimmy!" Clark Kent was surprised at the hostile young voice that greeted him at the other end of his telephone. Whoever the caller was had typed in the wrong extension number and gotten to his personal phone instead of the official one for the Daily Planet. Nonetheless, he was curious about what this girl was saying.
"Just a moment, Miss, you've got the wrong number. This is the Daily Planet, but I'm not Jimmy."
"Oh," the tone immediately changed from hostile to embarrassed. "I'm sorry. Would you happen to know where Jimmy Olsen is? I kind of have to talk to him."
"So I gathered," Clark said ruefully. "He's not in right now, but I can leave him a message, if you'd like."
"That would be all right, I guess," replied the girl. "Tell him that this is Courtney and if he stands me up again, I'm going to come to Metropolis, find him and kick his a-"
"Well, I'm sure he had a very good reason for missing your date." Clark felt compelled to explain his friend's actions. Still, he was kind of curious; Jimmy wasn't the type would cancel a date for any reason short of nuclear annihilation.
The girl who introduced herself as Courtney snorted, "We didn't have a date. But that's the last time I agree to go to a convention with a couple of guys."
"Wait a minute, did you say convention?" Clark's interest was definitely piqued. "Do you mean the convention that was in town a couple weeks ago?"
"Has there been another one?" Courtney seemed to have a fixation with sarcasm. "Yeah, I mean that one; Jimmy and Jeremy didn't show up."
Vaguely, Clark remembered Jimmy talking about how he was meeting up with two people he'd met on the Internet. The Man of Steel spoke into the phone again. "Isn't it possible that you missed each other?"
"Nah," replied the girl. "We were supposed to meet at two O'clock right by the entrance. There's no way I could have missed them."
"Oh," said Clark thoughtfully. He didn't like where his thoughts were taking him. Saying goodbye to the girl, he hung up his phone.
Troubled, he walked over to Lois' desk and leaned against it until she looked up from her computer to face him. Instead of waiting for him to speak, she launched into her discussion, "I've been looking through the police report and it looks like the Kerenesky brothers have been getting large amounts of money deposited into their bank accounts." She tapped a few more keys, making a face when nothing happened. "Say, where's Jimmy? He could get through this in no time."
"I was just on the phone with someone who wanted to talk to Jimmy," Clark said thoughtfully.
Lois' first instinct was to urge her partner to get to the point. However, looking into his eyes, she was compelled to remain silent. After working with Clark for so long, she knew how his mind operated. He was going over the facts out loud, looking for a connection to piece everything together. Speaking was his way of getting things organized in his head. She turned away from her computer and faced him. It was obvious he had some new information about something, whether it was their current case or not, she didn't know. But from the deeply focused expression on his face, it was something very important. "She said that he and the other guy they were supposed to meet at the convention, but neither of them showed up."
"Which means that he lied to Perry about ever being there in the first place," Lois concluded. She reached for a pen and paper, writing down the facts as they appeared. This was her way of solving puzzles. "Didn't he say that his camera broke when he got there?"
"That's another thing," Clark added, leaning against her desk and crossing his arms. "Pat and I were standing by his desk and Pat decided to take a look at the camera. That camera hasn't budged off Jimmy's desk since the meeting. It only took Pat a few seconds to realize the camera was fine."
"So Jimmy lied about those two things," Lois operating on journalistic instinct now; it didn't occur to her to point out that lying wasn't a habit practiced by their friend. She wanted to know what was going on, because it seemed to be getting serious. "Jimmy doesn't lie for no reason. Maybe he thinks he's protecting us from something." "Courtney, the girl Jimmy was supposed to meet, mentioned another guy, uh, Jeremy. I wonder if he and Jimmy met up or if they never saw each other at all."
Alexander Kerenesky was used to being in his quiet, brightly lit laboratory. It was where he felt most secure and comfortable. He even preferred the company of beakers and burners to human contact. He didn't like that sort of thing, being surrounded by people and unexpected noises.
After so long in that cramped hotel, which shared some of the characteristics of a lab: quiet, solitary, Alexander found himself unaccustomed to being outdoors on a public sidewalk. There were people surrounding him, talking loudly, making noise and he found himself feeling very small and insignificant.
Wearing a bulky jacket he'd bought with the majority of money he'd had on hand, Alexander had walked over forty blocks to get to the Daily Planet building. He knew that the famous reporters Lois Lane and Clark Kent worked there and they'd been investigating his and William's disappearance.
Dr. Kerenesky was scared of going to the police, knowing Jeremy Ghayme he had spies everywhere, but he figured these reporters would be able to help him. If he was lucky, they could even put him in contact with Superman. The only drawback with coming here directly was the chance that he could run into Jeremy. Although the rational part of his mind knew that Ghayme couldn't do anything to him in a public place, he was still frightened. But sitting in his hotel room for so many days, he'd somehow managed to strengthen his resolve; what Jeremy Ghayme was doing was wrong. Only Alexander Kerenesky knew precisely what was wrong; logically, he had to do something about it.
Despite his decision to warn someone about what was happening, Alex took many precautions to minimize the danger to himself. For instance, he'd gone to the small restaurant across the street from the Daily Planet building. He'd ordered himself a meage meal that was the best thing he'd eaten in days and sat by the window. He was watching the exits of the Planet, on the slim chance that he could speak to the reporters privately without worrying about Jeremy.
It was incredibly fortunate for Jeremy to have left when he did. The moment he was gone, Alexander paid for his lunch and ran out the door. Hardly heeding the traffic signals, he ran across the street and burst through the doors. Panting, he asked someone where he could find Lane and Kent. Setting a more subdued pace, he walked to the elevators and pressed the button for the appropriate floor.
Lois and Clark were still ruminating on their friend's bizarre behavior as of late. Clark was in mid thought when Lois shot to her feet, her eyes widening in surprise. Kent followed her gaze and let out a low whistle. After so many nights of staring at photos of the Kerenesky twins, both reporters knew to who'd just entered the news room.
Alexander Kerenesky looked nervous. His flushed face was dotted with sweat and he glanced around the room as though expecting to be physically attacked. The reporters were so quick to their feet that they met him at the foot of the stairs within seconds. He asked them who they were, then pleaded for a more private place to talk.
Seated in a plush chair in the reporters' conference room, Alexander Kerenesky prepared to tell them his story.
"Three months ago, my brother and I were approached by Jeremy Ghayme."
Looking up from where she was jotting down the facts, Lois raised her eyebrows. Ghayme was a reclusive scientist; what was known about him came more from rumor than fact. The only things known for sure were his brilliance and his desire to be out of the public eye. She shook her head and forced herself to continue listening.
"He'd created the blueprints for a device, a series of specially designed microscopic disks designed to copy certain parts of human DNA; it's an incredible bit of technology. If used properly, these chips could give blind people the ability to see, or take years off certain kinds of physiotherapy." His voice choked with bitterness, "Jeremy wasn't thinking of others when he created this."
Briefly, he outlined Jeremy's disabilities. "The design was complete, but there was a lot of micro construction and assembly required — extremely delicate work. He wanted my brother and I to do it for him. Our laboratories have collaborated on several projects, though we'd never met him in person. William was very eager to do this, for purely scientific methods. It was Mr. Ghayme's idea to fake our disappearance; our lab would never approve of our taking so much leave time. Jeremy told us that he'd be testing the disks on himself — we didn't know what he meant at the time."
Grinning confidently, Jeremy walked back into the Daily Planet news room. In a couple of weeks, he'd be leaving this job and taking up working at a small lab in Manitoba. He found himself eagerly anticipating the change of venue. These reporters were seriously trying his patience and he had the distinct impression that they were noticing that something was wrong.
But that was no matter, he would be leaving their midst in a few days for the bliss of a purely scientific environment. He couldn't wait to conduct his own experiments without having to rely on others for its execution.
As he walked inside, he could tell that something was amiss. Many people were speaking in hushed tones and a few were gesturing towards the conference room. Frowning, he walked over to the nearest person, who happened to be Pat the photographer, and tapped him on the shoulder. "What's happening?"
Pat stared at him for so long that Jeremy wondered if he'd heard properly. As he opened his mouth to repeat the question, the man spoke.
"Rumor has it that the doctor that Lois and Clark have been looking for is in there. I wonder what they're—" Much like the landlady, Pat never got the chance to finish his sentence. For the second time that day, Jeremy took off running for the motorcycle.
As he was speeding back to the apartment, Jeremy's mind was racing. It occurred to him that the added stress could trigger more rapid deterioration of the disks. There was nothing he could do about that now, despite the fact that he and Olsen were now struggling for control. He could hear the other man's voice in his head, taunting him, telling him that he was soon going back to that body that he hated so much.
"You're forgetting, Olsen," snapped Jeremy through gritted teeth. "I'm always in that body. This download is a test; my real consciousness is still intact. You're nothing but a pathetic guinea pig who's been more of a disappointment than I'd anticipated. So shut up and let me drive, unless you want to be stuck in the psychiatric ward of a hospital after we both crash and they find me talking to you."
Despite the internal war, the drive back to the apartment was uneventful. Jeremy ran for the couch and reached for the box that was underneath. With trembling hands, he slipped on the very special ring and walked into the kitchen. He reached into the drawer to the right of the sink and opened it. Then he pulled out the gun he'd used on William Kerenesky and checked that it was fully loaded. It was.
"Nothing you can do now," Jeremy snarled. "I'd sooner die than give up this body. If I have to take you with me, then so much the better. Because-" he moaned as his head began to pound mercilessly. "Oh never mind." He only had one more stop to make. "-transfer his mind into someone else's body."
While Kerenesky spoke, obviously struggling to maintain his clinical detachment, Clark felt a rolling nausea in the pit of his stomach. This story was almost too monstrous to believe. But from the look in the scientist's eyes, he was clearly remorseful.
Part of him was angry that such a seemingly logical man would allow himself to participate in something like this. Still, the Man of Steel forced himself to forego his own opinion and hear what the man had to say.
"I never meant for this to happen," Kerenesky said abruptly, regret blatant in his voice.
"Once I saw your friend, I realized how wrong this was, but Will, h-he wouldn't listen to me!" The doctor closed his eyes and his jaw tightened, as though he was trying to hold back tears.
"Wait a minute, what did you say about our friend?" Lois asked, concern and anger coloring her voice.
"Will insisted on doing a test run before actually downloading Jeremy's consciousness into someone. Mr. Ghayme went to various chat rooms, t-to seek out someone that he felt suitable."
"Jimmy." All the pieces came together: His lying about going to the convention and the broken camera, his new demeanor. But the pieces were coming together to form his horrifying image.
"Are you saying that Jeremy Ghayme's been in control of Jimmy's body for the past two weeks?" Lois couldn't allow herself to feel horror, not yet. She had to get the facts straight, then she could do something about this. Only then could she let herself go. For now, she had to be a reporter.
Kerenesky nodded shakily, "A-after the transfer, he shot …" his voice choked on a sob and he covered his mouth with his hand. His shoulders began to shake. "He reached for a gun and he shot my brother. I've been so scared of coming forward, because I know he's after me. But your friend…"
"His name is Jimmy," Lois said coldly. While she appreciated this man's predicament and understood his fear; a part of her couldn't help blaming him for allowing this thing to go on for as long as it had. If he'd warned them sooner, then maybe they could have stopped this before it got to this point. She shook her head; now that they knew, this could do something.
"He's in danger," Alex blurted out, "My research indicates that the download could become very unstable. We have to remove it before it degrades completely or he'll die." The reporters burst through the doors of the conference room a few minutes later. They asked where Jimmy was and somebody mentioned that he'd taken off as soon as he'd heard that the scientist was in the room, talking to them.
Minutes later found Lois, Clark and Kerenesky in Lois' car, speeding towards the mansion of Jeremy Ghayme. Alex theorized that the bulk of Jeremy's research was there and if he was planning on leaving town, he would return to his home to get the most important papers.
Clark felt as though he should approach this situation as Superman, but he couldn't do that with the others in the car. He decided to bide his time and wait for the right moment. He was running out of time and this damnable headache was getting worse. Jeremy was desperately shoving papers into a small black briefcase. He could access his money from any bank account, but these documents were indispensable.
He hadn't been back to the house since the transfer. The first thing he'd seen was his true self, original consciousness intact. He found it troubling to see himself that way, as an outsider looking in. They'd even had a conversation, the wheelchair bound Jeremy explained that all the files were stored neatly in the lab and if there was any trouble, he could hold off interlopers for a few minutes. In addition, he added that he'd ordered a helicopter to remain on standby at a nearby airfield.
One quick phone call later and the helicopter would arrive within fifteen minutes. Neither Jeremy cared about what happened to the one in the wheelchair; the healthy one had to survive. Although 'healthy' was becoming a relative term. Now that Kerenesky wouldn't help him, he'd have to fix the download himself. It would be complicated, partially because of the terrible pain he was feeling, but he could do it. He simply had to persuade Olsen that it was in his best interest.
The three people arrived at the mansion within seconds. Jeremy had evidently been in a hurry, he hadn't even closed the wrought iron gates that closed off his home. Heart hammering with dread, Lois saw Jimmy's motorcycle parked in front of the grey stairs that lead to the doors of the house.
Upon discovering the door unlocked, they ran inside. Immediately a gunshot rang out and Kerenesky cried out in pain and fell to the ground. Lois was kneeling beside him instantly, trying to find where he'd been wounded. A dark red stain was slowly spreading across his olive green trousers. His face was scrunched up with pain, "It's not serious," he gasped.
The reporters stared at in the direction of the speaker. The voice was utterly without inflection, no emotion. Lois and Clark got their first glimpse of Jeremy Ghayme as he truly was.
If he'd had a little bit of color in his cheeks, instead of ghastly whiteness, or even a smile on his scowling face, one might have called him attractive. Even with the wheelchair and the dark glasses over his eyes, he wasn't as mangled or deformed as he seemed to think he was. His blond hair looked soft and rested delicately on his cheekbones. He was cute, if a little delicate looking.
The gun that was pointing out of the arm rest of his wheelchair was anything but delicate. "Hello." The voice droned.
Without warning, Clark made a move. He darted to the right, then ran past the man in the wheelchair. Lois called out to him, but he couldn't waste breath by responding. If Jeremy fired and hit him, Lois would know his secret. He had to make it by right away.
To her surprise, Jeremy made no move to stop him. Perhaps he couldn't turn around in time. Then he spoke and the mechanical voice was no less chilling than his reasoning. "My counterpart will make quick work of him. As for you, remain where you are." Along the way, Clark transformed into Superman. He flew out an open window to give the appearance that he'd arrived from the sky. Jeremy was standing on the roof, his back to him, one hand pressed against the side of his face in pain. Superman glanced down and noticed that they were standing on a landing strip.
"Give it up, Ghayme," he said loftily.
Jeremy turned around slowly, the hand dropping to his side. "I was wondering if you'd make an a-appearance." Superman schooled his reaction carefully; Jimmy, Jeremy … whoever he was, looked terrible. He was hunched over slightly, as though he didn't have the strength to stand upright. His skin was the color of chalk and he trembled so violently, he could barely hang on to the briefcase in his hands.
"It's over." Superman said.
"Oh, it's not over," replied the man in a flinty, hoarse voice. "A good scientist never abandons an experiment before the end."
"This isn't an experiment," replied the Man of Steel. "You stole Jimmy Olsen's body from him. The moment you did that, you became a thief. Now it's time for you to face justice."
Jeremy laughed, a wheezing sound that seemed hitched and labored. "Don't talk to me about justice. Is it fair for me to have been born with this incredible mind and stuck in a wheelchair, blind and unable to voice my thoughts? Is it f- fair for … for these idiots who parade around, perfectly healthy with nothing to c-contribute to the world? I am doing this planet a favor. What about that line about the pursuit of happiness; that's all I'm doing here."
The sheer longing in his voice caused Superman to feel a good deal more compassion than he'd been expecting to feel for this man. Yet the underlying arrogance in his tone hardened the hero's resolve. "Life isn't always fair, Jeremy. But what you're doing here is wrong and you're not getting away with it."
"Don't act like you care, Superman! One or the other, you hate me or you don't! I am only trying to make life better for myself. You don't know what it's like to be helpless; to depend on others for transportation, for a voice and even to tell you what the room around you looks like! You haven't been completely isolated from the world around you before, Superman. Until two weeks ago, I didn't even know what I looked like and once I got a glimpse, I didn't like what I saw. For the first time in my life, I looked into a mirror and saw a healthy person staring back at me. If you think I'm giving this up without a fight, you are sorely mistaken!" Despite the obvious pain he was suffering, Jeremy tensed. It was an amateur fighting pose, lacking in finesse, but his intent was clear. In a blur of blue and red, Superman approached him, intending to subdue the man and take him to the hospital. He never got that close as a sudden wave of pain made him reel backwards a step.
An evil Cheshire smile spread across Jeremy's colorless lips as he held up his right hand and showed off the ring of white gold on his index finger. The ring itself was quite beautiful, but it was the glowing green stone inlaid on it that caused the Man of Steel's reaction.
"Y-you'd be amazed at what you can get off E-Bay," snarled Jeremy. He backed up a couple of steps until he was standing on the ledge, then he glanced up, as though waiting for something, most likely his escape route.
Quickly recovering from his exposure to the alien rock, Superman stood straight. That amount Kryptonite couldn't kill him, but as long as that man wore the ring he'd never be able to approach Jeremy.
Before, Jimmy could only see things as though from a distance. Now, it was full Technicolor, surround sound and as felt as real as if he was doing all of this himself. He was feeling the same pain that Jeremy was though, and that was hampering his efforts to help. Jimmy knew that they were only the ledge. One little step and he could end this, but that was what Jeremy wanted, to end his life in a healthy body.
"No," Jimmy said in a voice that seemed alien to him. It was a voice filled with terrible intentions. "You don't get off this easily, Ghayme."
With each word, the pain increased; it felt like there was a fire in his head; he could practically smell smoke. His strength waning, Jimmy knew he had to do two more things. He pulled the gun from his pants and threw the ring to the ground.
It was happening, the download was degrading and there was nothing Jeremy Ghayme or his brilliant intellect could do about it. He put the gun to his temple, but his slack fingers couldn't maintain the grip. As it clattered to the ground, a shot rang out, which bounced ineffectually off the Man of Steel's chest. Jeremy dropped his chin to his chest, "Not now," he whispered, "Please, not now!" Through the roaring blood in his ears, he could hear the helicopter approaching. He had to hang on for a few more seconds…
Superman didn't understand why Ghayme threw away the ring, he attributed it to the download malfunctioning. In less than a second, he had Jeremy in his arms, but the man was unconscious. He was trembling violently.
Lois jumped as the sound of a gunshot rang out. She saw Jeremy Ghayme smile, then slowly turn the gun towards his temple. The reporter felt a surge of anger; if he thought he was going to get away that easily, then he had another thing coming. She surged to her feet, then kicked the gun out of his hands. It slid away from them and if it became a grab for the gun, then Lois had a clear advantage. In fact, she walked over to get it, then placed it in the hands of Dr. Kerenesky.
Alexander Kerenesky was propped up against a wall; his color returning to him. Lois had bandaged his wound with his jacket. It wasn't serious, but he would still need to go to the hospital.
She ran up the stairs to the roof where she saw Clark holding Jimmy's unconscious body in his arms. "I'm going to call the police and Superman," he told her. He was already in the house by the time he finished speaking.
Lois knelt down beside her terribly pale friend and called for Superman. In seconds, the Man of Steel had Jimmy in his arms. The reporter explained that she could take Kerenesky in the car. Jimmy was the top priority right now. Superman flew Jimmy to the hospital as quickly as his abilities allowed him to, explained the situation in succinct terms and flew back to Jeremy Ghayme's mansion. He became Clark Kent, called the police and told them where they would be. By the time he was done, Lois had loaded Alexander into the car. Clark decided to stay behind and make sure Jeremy didn't flee.
Despite his blindness, the wheelchair bound man seemed to stare right at him. "And where could I go?" He sounded resigned. It was clear he'd acknowledged the failure of his plan.
Half an hour later, Clark was at the hospital. It didn't take him long to find Lois in the waiting room, holding a Styrofoam cup and staring blankly at a magazine. He'd been caught up giving his statement, altering the facts to minimize Superman's activities. It was a new experience for him, downplaying Superman's role in a story. Clark sat down beside Lois, who appeared relieved to have someone to talk to, "How is he?" The worry was evident in Clark's voice.
"I don't know yet. They were prepping him for surgery by the time we got here."
"Where's Dr. Kerenesky?"
At this, a tiny smile ghosted across Lois' lips. "He's in surgery — performing it if you can believe that. After all, he knows more about those chips than anyone. He volunteered to do it, crutches and all."
Clark's lips puckered into a silent whistle. Wow.
Despite the obvious malfunctions of the chips, the surgery went remarkably well. Jeremy Ghayme was taken into custody. Alexander Kerenesky also turned himself in for his role in what had taken place; though he volunteered to testify against Ghayme at the trial. All of this didn't matter right now. Lois and Clark were in the recovery room where Jimmy lay, still sleeping from his surgery.
Swimming slowly back to consciousness, Jimmy opened his eyes and found himself staring at his friends. His headache was gone now and he was sure he had some pretty potent painkillers to thank for that. C.K and Lois were looking at him with concern. They asked him how he was feeling.
It was bizarre for him to realize that now he had the power to answer for himself. "I'm fine," he rasped, his voice a little weak. His right temple itched and he put a hand there, only to find a small bandage covering the skin. He let the hand fall back to his side.
"Do you remember what happened?" Clark asked.
"No," he said, knowing that was what they wanted to hear. And if he told them what they wanted, then they would leave and he could sleep.
He was asleep before they'd turned their backs to him.
After being released from the hospital, Jimmy Olsen dropped the charges against the Dr. Kerenesky. Then he went back to his apartment. More than a week had passed since the ordeal and Jimmy hadn't left his apartment much since; the only time he'd left was to go grocery shopping.
Perry gave him some time off so that he could recover. People left messages on his answering machine, checking on him, asking him if he wanted to go out for the night. He knew they only wanted to see if he'd recovered. In all actuality, Jimmy didn't quite understand what he was supposed to recover from; he felt fine. Yet at the same time, he couldn't help but wonder if this is what it felt like for people who recovered from a stroke. He felt as though he was learning everything all over again. He'd hadn't forgotten how to speak and walk, but it was taking him some time to get used to being in control again. Every so often, glancing into a mirror, he had to remind himself of who he was.
Jimmy glanced over to the pile of clothing that was on his sofa. It was all of the stuff Jeremy bought during his little shopping spree. When he'd first seen it, Jimmy gathered it all up and prepared to give it away. He didn't want to be reminded of his experience. Then, after thinking about it, he decided to keep the clothes. The way he figured it, Jeremy owed him and a new wardrobe was a nice way to start.
Glancing around his apartment, still quite impeccable, the young man found himself feeling a touch claustrophobic. Maybe a night out would do him some good. He stood up, glanced down at his faded blue jeans and plain T-shirt. Unconsciously, his eyes drifted over to the pile of expensive clothing. What the hell, it couldn't hurt. He chose black jeans — he'd been meaning to pick some up for the longest time — and one of his own formal blue shirts. He slipped on his broken in Doc Martens and the new leather jacket. Plucking his wallet off the coffee table, Jimmy strode out the door.
Deciding on a place within walking distance, he went to Platcka, a relatively upscale bar right next to the ritzy district of Metropolis. Usually, Jimmy was too tired from work to enter. When he wasn't, he found the place too intimidating. The cars in the parking lot were all brand new and very expensive. But Jimmy felt like doing something different tonight. Besides, he could always leave. Shrugging, he paid the cover charge and entered. The bar had a reflective black floor and the room was filled by a black light from the ceiling. The tables had glass tops and black legs and the bar was virtually the same, save that the bar top was a mirror. The people inside were dressed conservatively, probably stopping in for a quick drink on the way to somewhere fancier. Soft jazz music was playing and there were about a dozen couples on the dance floor.
Jimmy chose an empty booth in a darkened corner and ordered his drink from a blond waitress dressed in a white shirt and a matching jean skirt.
Ten minutes later found him nursing his second drink and wondering why the hell he'd come here. He should have gone out with C.K or one of the others. Then Jimmy glanced around, his eyes roaming over the other patrons. The bar was so dark that he could only see flashes of faces. But they melted into the blackness as quickly as they appeared.
Then he knew why he was here; he wasn't alone, but he could pretend he was. The weird logic fit the mood he'd been in lately. Feeling more relaxed than he had in a week, Jimmy grinned and settled into the comfortable booth. He wondered why he hadn't come in here before; it wasn't as though he didn't belong. Most of the people here were about his age, maybe a little older. It was just a bar. He ordered his third drink before he was done with his second and just as he'd finished talking to the waitress, a girl sat down in the seat across from him.
Her long blond hair was swept up into an elegant style. She wore formal evening gloves that went up to her elbows. Her dress was strapless, silk with a v-neck that looked incredibly elegant in a place like this. Her make up was done to perfection. Everything she wore was pale purple, lilac.
For all of her elegance, the look on her face bordered on lecherous. "So," she drawled in a voice so perfectly smooth that it had to be practiced, "Are you here alone?"
"You're here," Jimmy replied.
He smiled back.
Her hand was on his knee. "So, what's your name?"
"Jay," he answered without hesitation. It wasn't a total lie, it was a partial truth. Besides, he enjoyed the feeling of anonymity it created.
She gave him a knowing smile, "Since we're going for fake names tonight, Jay," the name rolled off her tongue, as though testing how it sounded. "My name's Virginia."
"Sounds good to me," he replied. He relaxed even further in his chair. It was funny, he mused; under other circumstances, he'd have tripped over his own tongue and scared her away. Maybe his smoothness could be blamed on the alcohol. Perhaps he wanted to spend some time with a stranger; it took off the pressure of trying to act like himself.
Or maybe he just didn't want to be alone anymore.