By Emily M. Hanson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2002
Summary: When a psychic vision alerts Jimmy Olsen to the danger his neighbor is in, he, Lois and Clark must find out who is behind the attempted murder before it's too late. Sequel to the author's "Remnants of Chaos."
Disclaimer: The author does not own any recognizable characters from the Lois & Clark series. To the best of my knowledge, they're owned by DC comics. Margie Dawson and her daughter, Heather, are original characters and may not be borrowed without the author's permission.
Note: This is a sequel to Purple Chaos, Shades of Chaos, and Remnants of Chaos. If you haven't read my other stories in this series, you may want to read at least one of them.
Jimmy Olsen had just entered the apartment building where he lived. He was ready to relax after a long day at the Daily Planet when he felt a vision coming on. In his mind, he saw the neighbor lady, Mrs. Dawson, struggling with a well-built man whose face was obscured. Then the image flashed to a scene of the woman's body on the floor. As he returned to reality, Jimmy raced to her apartment and knocked on the door.
She opened it. Marjorie, or Margie as she liked to be called, was in her late seventies. Jimmy often did errands for her on the weekends. She was a tall, thin woman with curly silver hair and peridot-green eyes. "Yes?" she asked. "Is something the matter?"
"Uh, that's what I wanted to ask you, Margie. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Jimmy." She looked at him closely. "But are you?"
He forced himself to grin, not wanting to mention the vision. There was no need to freak her out, he thought. "Oh, I'm fine."
"Then you can come in and have some tea. My daughter was visiting last week. She said that she ordered the tea from an online company. I've tried it and it's pretty darn good. Next thing you know, we'll be buying all of our groceries over the internet."
"Yeah. I, uh, just wanted to make sure that you were all right."
"Well, if you don't have time now, I suppose you can take a rain check. But my daughter brought a lot of tea, and I know I'm not going to be able to drink it all myself."
It wasn't as if he had anything urgent to do, and spending time with Margie would make her happy. She lived alone and did not go out much, except for weekly bridge games with some of the other women in the apartment building. Her daughter, who lived in California, came to visit once a month. "Okay, I'll come in."
"Good. So how was your day?"
"Oh, the usual. You know."
"No, I don't. I can't read minds like yourself, young man." She made a deliberate mistake, hoping to get Jimmy to open up about whatever was bothering him. Margie had noticed long ago that when you reached a certain age, people expected you to forget things. They underestimated her a great deal. She'd learned to use it to her advantage.
"Actually, I'm not telepathic. I'm psychic," he replied. This was due to a DNA-altering chemical once used by the Purple Chaos terrorists, who were now behind bars. Jimmy had other abilities. He could phase through solid objects by stepping out of the current temporal plane. Jimmy could also go back in time, but not more than a few minutes. For some reason, he hadn't been able to travel forward in time.
Margie turned around. "Was that why you were worried about me?"
He turned slightly red, then nodded. "Sorry. I didn't want to freak you out."
She smiled. "Young man, you could never do that. I've seen far too many things in my lifetime. Now, I'll put the teapot on the burner and then we'll talk.
"You got it," he said.
Suddenly another vision flashed before his eyes. Margie was struggling with the stranger, who had a knife in his left hand. Someone else was there too but Jimmy couldn't see them, just their shadow.
As Margie sat down, she noticed that Jimmy had a faraway look. "Having another vision?"
Reality ripped apart the scene. He blinked in surprise. "Huh? Uh, yeah."
"Want to talk about it?"
Jimmy sighed, realizing he wasn't going to get out of telling her at least part of it. "There was a man trying to kill you."
"What did he look like?"
"I couldn't see his face, just his body. He had a knife. Someone else was there. All I saw was a shadow in the back of the room. That's it."
"Why do I get the feeling you're holding something back?" she asked.
He looked at her slowly. "Maybe I'm wrong. I mean, there's always a first time for everything. I haven't had my mutant powers for very long. Who knows if these visions are always going to be right? What if things can be changed?"
Margie realized what he must be reluctant to tell her. "I died in your vision, didn't I?"
He shrugged noncommittally. "I'm not saying anything."
"You don't have to." She put a hand on his shoulder. "It's not your fault, Jimmy. Just because you can see the future doesn't mean that you're the cause of it."
"I know," he said faintly. "But I don't have to like it."
Lois Lane walked to the bus stop. Her car was being repaired while Clark was off saving some islanders from a volcano on the other side of the world. Otherwise, she would have certainly gone home via the "Superman Express," as they jokingly called it. She couldn't believe her eyes when she noticed a familiar-looking woman standing at the bus stop. "Star?"
The African-American woman turned around. "Lois! I had a feeling that you might show up. I usually take the early bus, but I missed it. How are you?"
"I'm fine, and yourself?" Lois noticed that she was wearing a nametag for a prominent clothing store. It read Star Knight, Sales.
"Oh, I'm doing great. I have a wonderful new job. It turns out that being psychic really helps to sell things. I can tell when someone really wants to buy something, and they just need a little encouragement."
Lois nodded as the bus pulled up. The women paid their fares and sat near the back, where the only empty seats were.
"I saw Jimmy Olsen's article about the terrorists last week," she remarked. "He's really developed a knack for writing. How are you and Clark?"
Star suddenly saw the bus seat in front of them vanish. She was having the same vision as Jimmy.
"Are you okay?" Lois asked.
Coming out of her trance, she blinked. "Yeah, but who's Margie?"
Jimmy had once mentioned her at work, but there was no way Star could have reasonably known the woman's name without knowing her. "Margie is Jimmy's neighbor. He does errands for her sometimes. What did you see?"
Star described it, whispering so that no one else could hear. "I haven't had a vision this clear in years. I think this woman is really in danger."
"All right. Let's call Jimmy. He can check on her and make sure that she's okay." Lois picked up her cell phone and dialed.
He had just finished having tea with Margie and was walking into his apartment when the phone rang. He knew who it was as soon as he picked it up. "Lois?"
"You'll never guess who I met at the bus stop."
The name came unbidden into his mind. "Star?"
"Yes." She sounded surprised.
"Wow. I must be on a roll today."
"Anyway, she's concerned about your neighbor, Margie. She thinks something might have happened."
"This is so weird. I was just at Margie's place because I had the same feeling. Let me talk to her for a minute."
"Sure." Lois handed the phone over. "He wants to talk to you."
"Okay. Hello, Jimmy."
"Hi. Uh, can you tell me what you saw? Did you actually see anything or did you just feel it?"
"Well, I saw this scary guy with a knife. Then I saw Margie struggling. There was a dark shadow on the other side of the room, like someone else was there, but I couldn't tell who it was. And then I saw, you know…"
"Margie on the floor," Jimmy said flatly.
"That's exactly what I saw," he replied. "I talked to her and she doesn't know anyone fitting that description — yet."
"Hmm. Maybe we could put our heads together. Sometimes two psychics are better than one."
Jimmy chuckled. "Okay. But you're on Lois's bus, aren't you?"
"Have you passed 19th street yet?"
Star glanced out the window. "We're just arriving there."
"Okay. Get off there and go left past the bar on the corner. My place is two blocks down." He gave her the apartment building address and the last four digits of his phone number so that she could call him at the door.
"All right. See you soon." Star handed the phone to Lois and gathered her purse. "Jimmy and I are going to see if we can't work this thing out."
Lois nodded. "Maybe I should come with you. I might find something in the details."
"Good point." She signaled the bus driver to stop and they got off.
Jimmy was a little surprised to see both Lois and Star at the door. "Hi. Come in. Uh, sorry about the mess. My life has been kind of crazy lately and I haven't had much time to clean."
"Don't worry about it," Star said. "If you think this is bad, you should see my place."
"Do you guys want anything to drink? I have orange juice and milk in the fridge, but not much else."
"Water would be fine," she answered.
"Yes, that sounds good," Lois added.
"Okay." He filled the glasses while they sat down at the kitchen table.
Lois noticed that his Shade costume was strewn across the floor in front of the sofa, as if he'd taken it off late at night and slept there. That was entirely possible. He'd seemed tired lately, but not so exhausted that he couldn't keep up at work. "Jimmy, are you getting enough sleep?"
"I've been catching up lately," he answered, "except for last night. I came home at three in the morning."
"What were you doing out that late?" Star asked.
"Stopping thieves from robbing a jewelry store, and also keeping some jerks from beating up a little girl out walking with her father. You know, they went after her because she was a mutant. She was just a kid. She didn't even have any powers yet. Her dad punched one of the creeps. There were five against him, and they had knives, — so he didn't stand much of a chance." He set the glasses full of water on the table and then sat down.
"I wouldn't be so nice as to call those guys jerks," she replied. "Maybe slimy scumbags…no, that still doesn't do them justice."
"You have a point," he agreed. "I can think of worse names, but I'm not saying them out loud."
"Okay. Let's go over what you both saw," Lois suggested. "Did either of you see the man's face?"
"Nope," Jimmy answered.
"No," Star replied. "I wish I did."
"He was holding a knife, correct?" They both nodded. "Okay," she continued, "did the knife have his reflection?"
"I can't remember," he replied.
"Me neither. Wait a second! Jimmy, I can hypnotize you."
"Hold that thought," Lois said as her cell phone rang. She answered it, "Lois Lane."
It was Clark. "Hi. Sorry, but I'm going to miss dinner tonight. Superman has to stay and help the villagers rebuild. He froze the volcano so it stopped erupting, but there were a lot of homes destroyed by the lava before he got there." Clark spoke about himself that way because you never knew who could be listening in on a cell phone conversation, and he didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.
"All right." She filled him in on Jimmy, Star, and their vision.
"I know that I don't have to tell you to be careful," he replied. "I'll be thinking about you, as always. I love you."
"I'll see you when I get back," Clark said.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
"Were you expecting someone else?" Lois asked as she turned off her phone.
"No." Jimmy stood up and went to the door. His jaw dropped as he realized who was there. "Dad?!"
"Hello, son," Jack Olsen said. "Mind if I come in?" Then he noticed that Jimmy had company. "Is this a bad time?"
"No. Come in. I didn't know you were going to be in town." He hadn't even had the remotest idea that his dad was on his way. Obviously, being psychic wasn't all it was cracked up to be.
"I didn't know myself until just a few hours ago. This was a very unexpected trip. Hello, Lois."
Lois smiled. "Hi."
"Dad, this is Star. She's a friend. Uh, why don't you sit down? Here, I'll take your jacket."
"What brings you to Metropolis?" Lois inquired.
"Work. Since I have to be here, I figured that visiting my son wouldn't be such a bad idea."
"What exactly do you do?" Star asked.
"Actually, that's classified."
"Oh. That kind of work."
Jack nodded as Jimmy returned and sat down. He'd noticed the costume on the couch. "Son, if you're planning on having a secret identity, you might want to put a bit more effort into hiding the evidence."
He blushed. "It hasn't been much of a secret since I wrote that story on the Purple Chaos terrorists. It still keeps me busy, though. It's like having a second job."
"Yeah, I'll bet. You know, it's been at least several months since I've heard from you. Did you get any of my postcards?"
"Sorry, Dad. Things have been kind of crazy lately. I got your postcard from Japan and also the one from Germany."
"You've been to Japan?" Star asked. "What was it like?"
"Sorry. I must have forgotten."
"You must be able to talk about general things," Lois said. "How was the weather and the food?"
"It rained almost the whole time. The food was great, though. Jimmy, I might be able to get a week of vacation this fall. I'd love to show you around Europe."
"That sounds great," he replied.
Suddenly a scream pierced the air. The psychics exchanged horrified glances.
"Margie!" Star exclaimed.
"Stay here and call the police," Jimmy said. "I'll check it out."
"You're starting to sound like Clark," Lois replied and stood up. "I'm coming with you."
"So am I," Jack said. "I'm authorized to carry a concealed weapon, remember?" He lifted up his jacket, revealing his government-issued gun in its holster.
"All right, but I'm going first." Jimmy phased through the door, leaving Lois and his astonished father behind.
"Didn't he tell you?" she asked.
"Of course, but it's one thing to know and another to see it with my own eyes. I can't count the number of times I could've used that particular talent. It would be very useful to someone who does what I do."
Jimmy was only dimly aware of their voices as he glided down the hall to Margie's apartment. He saw the door slightly ajar and heard a struggle. Phasing through the wall, he saw a stranger with a knife against the woman's neck. The light was off. Neither she nor her attacker saw him. Sneaking behind the would-be killer, Jimmy suddenly solidified and grabbed the stranger's arm, forcing him to phase at the same time. Margie broke free as Lois and Jack entered the apartment. Lois flipped on the lights.
Jack raised his gun and said in his best I'm-with-the- government-don't-mess-with-me voice, "Freeze!"
Solidifying again, Jimmy ducked as the stranger aimed a punch at him. His father fired and the bad guy went down.
"Margie, are you okay?" Lois asked.
"I'm fine. Thank you." She kissed Jimmy on the cheek. "I guess you were wrong. The future can be changed."
Jack searched through the unconscious man's pockets and found a wallet. Opening it, he saw an ID. "I don't believe this."
"What?" Jimmy asked.
"He's with the NIA."
"Do you recognize him?"
"Why would anyone working for the government want to hurt me?" Margie inquired.
"I don't know. But we'll find out," Jack replied, exchanging glances with Lois and Jimmy.
After giving a statement to the police, Jimmy returned to his apartment. His father had to leave, but Lois came along.
"What happened?" Star asked.
"We stopped someone from killing Margie. He was with the NIA," Jimmy answered.
"That must have been the man in our visions," she replied.
"We should try to find out whatever we can about Margie's future. I don't think she's out of danger yet."
"I can't control my ability like that," Jimmy admitted.
"Have you tried to control it?" Star asked.
"Once." He hadn't been successful.
"Well, give it another shot."
He blushed. "I'm not very good at this, Star. You have way more experience than I do."
"Jimmy, you've been right so far," Lois said. "Just try."
"Okay." He sighed and closed his eyes, concentrating on Margie. Nothing happened. The silver screen in his mind was blank. Jimmy shook his head in frustration. "I can't see anything."
"Keep concentrating," Star advised. "Your gift is much stronger than mine. If anyone can do this, you can."
He focused his thoughts more, but nothing happened. After several minutes, he sighed. "It's not going to happen right now."
Star's cell phone rang just then. After answering it, she disconnected. "I'm so sorry. I have to go. My little one needs me."
"Little one?" Lois asked.
"Oh, didn't I tell you? I have a daughter named Mercy Rose. She's four. I got married shortly after I started that sales job." Star dug through her purse and produced photographs of a cute little African-American girl wearing a bright yellow dress with tiny pink flowers. "These were taken just a few months ago."
"Oh, she's adorable."
She nodded. "Mercy is gifted, but not like me. She's already reading at a first-grade level. We're trying to find a good school, which is a challenge. She's on three waiting lists for kindergarten."
"I'm sure it'll work out. It was nice seeing you again."
"Thanks for coming," Jimmy said. "Keep in touch."
"I plan on it," Star replied. She reached into her pocket and gave Jimmy a card. "This has my work number and e- mail. Can you believe it? I'm actually learning how to use e-mail now. Anyway, let me know if anything happens."
He nodded. "You got it. Do you need a lift?"
"I can take the bus. Thanks."
After she left, Lois stood up. "I suppose I should get going. Take care, Jimmy."
"Thanks. You, too."
Lois left. Alone in his apartment, Jimmy picked up his Shade costume and dumped it into the bedroom closet. Then he stretched out on the bed, hoping to catch a few winks before going out as Shade later that evening.
Clark got home just as Lois did. He looked exhausted. That latest crisis must have taken an emotional toll. They all did, to an extent, but he appeared as if he'd just fought a super villain bent on destroying the planet — and lost.
"Hi," he said.
"Are you okay, honey?" Lois asked.
Clark nodded and sat down on the couch wearily. "Several people died before I could get there. One of them was a pregnant woman, and another was an elderly man. They couldn't run fast enough to get out of harm's way. I wish I could have gotten there sooner."
"You did the best you could."
"Yeah, I know." He ran his fingers through his black hair. "If I had gotten there just a few minutes earlier, I could have probably saved everyone."
"You can't go back in time, Clark."
"I know. How'd it go at Jimmy's place?"
Lois explained what had happened and finished, "Jimmy and Star both think that Maggie's not out of danger yet. We still have no idea why an NIA agent would be trying to kill her."
"Maybe he was a rogue NIA agent," Clark replied and yawned.
"You must be really tired."
"I am, actually. You know, I feel like I can't keep my eyes open for another minute."
"You'd better go to bed, then," she said.
A drowsy "Mmm hmm" was his response as he drifted off to sleep.
It was about 11:00 pm when Jimmy got up. Putting his costume on, he phased and left the building, staying mostly in the shadows. It was warmer than usual on this spring night. He usually patrolled the neighborhood six blocks down, which happened to be one of the worse crime areas in Metropolis. It was so bad, even the cops avoided it unless they had to be there.
Shade crouched behind a garbage can as a drunk staggered out of a bar, with a sharp admonition from the bouncer about leaving the women alone. The drunk stumbled into the main road just as a car turned the corner.
"Look out, you idiot," the bouncer yelled.
But the drunk's reflexes were too slow for him to dodge the oncoming car. Shade leapt from the shadows and pushed him out of the way, then phased as the vehicle's driver, a teenager who looked barely old enough to drive, slammed on her breaks and swore.
"You stupid freak," she shouted out the window as the car screeched to a halt. "I could've stopped!"
"Yeah, right," he replied, becoming solid. "If I hadn't been here, you would have hit that guy."
"The drunk? Who cares? He's a wife-beater. My best friend lives next door to him. He's scum."
Beneath his mask, he winced. "Well, that doesn't mean he deserves to die. People can change."
"Don't worry about it," said the bouncer. "She didn't mean nothing. You did a good thing, kid. He's one of our best customers. The place would probably go broke without him."
"Oh, so you don't care if he goes home and hits his wife, now that he's drunk off his you-know-what," the girl retorted sharply. "Nobody cares what happens to us; that's why we're all stuck in this dump."
Jimmy sighed. Obviously, this wasn't going to go his way. "Have a nice night," he said, starting to phase into the shadows.
"Hey, Mr. Superhero-wannabe," she remarked.
He turned around. "What?"
"If you really wanna do some good in this town, why don't you find a way to help us get back on our feet? We need decent jobs, but no business will come within ten feet of this neighborhood, and most of us here can't afford cars or bus fare. I'm lucky I have a car to drive because I work in a factory."
An idea was beginning to form in Jimmy's mind, but he had to think it over. "I just might," he muttered, then disappeared.
"Humph," she mumbled as the drunk staggered into the nearest alley and began to empty the contents of his belly.
Maggie was staying at a hotel since the police were currently searching her apartment. One of them happened to bump the tin holding the tea bags on the table.
"Watch it," his partner, a slender Asian woman in her mid- thirties, remarked.
"Yeah, yeah." The detective reached out to set the tin upright, but noticed something made of black plastic inside. "Hey, there's something weird in here."
"What?" His partner leaned over.
The detective reached in and discovered an unopened roll of film. "Check this out. Do you think the old lady put this there?"
"Maybe, but I doubt it."
"Okay. I'll have the lab guys develop it. Keep looking. Maybe there's something else here."
The next day, Jimmy arrived at work several minutes late. "One of my neighbors was attacked and nearly killed last night," he explained to Perry White, owner of the Daily Planet and Editor-in-Chief. "I was filling out paperwork at the police station this morning."
"He helped stop the would-be killer," Lois added.
"That's great, son."
"Chief, can I talk to you? I have an idea."
"Sure. Come into my office."
"I was at 21st and 19th last night when I saw this drunk who was about to get run over. So I pushed him out of the way. Then I had a really interesting conversation with the driver…"
"Olsen, get to the point."
"Uh, right. What do you think about doing a series of articles on revitalizing run-down neighborhoods? There are a lot that could be fixed up over on the east side. If some volunteers got in and cleaned them up, maybe some business owners would finally notice them."
"Hmm," Perry said, mulling it over. "That's not a bad thought. Of course, you realize it would be a lot of work."
"Yeah. I've seen these places. It won't happen overnight, but if someone doesn't start soon, it'll never happen at all."
"Olsen, I like the way you think. Talk to Lois and Clark, and see what they can come up with. Maybe you could do a series of photographs on the story."
"Yes! Thanks, Chief."
Meanwhile, Lois was talking to a source at the police station. "Uh huh? And this roll of film was discovered where?" She scribbled down a few notes. "Okay. Let me know if anything else comes up. Thanks." She glanced over at Clark, who was going over a list of names that Jack had just faxed to him. "Honey?"
He looked up. "Yes?"
"The police found a roll of film in Maggie's tea tin, and my source says it probably was not unintentionally placed there."
"Which means that someone might have been hiding it there until they could retrieve it later," he concluded.
"But who put it there in the first place? We should ask Jimmy who visits Maggie regularly."
"Speaking of whom…"
"Hi, guys," Jimmy said, realizing they both had the look that meant they wanted to ask him about something. "Okay, what do you want to know?"
"You must be psychic," Clark joked.
"The police found a roll of camera film in the tin where Maggie keeps her tea," Lois said. "We need to know who might have put it there."
Olsen racked his brain. "She said that her daughter, Heather, brought the tea and that she usually visits once a month."
"Could you run a background check on Heather?" Lois and Clark both asked at the same time, then burst out laughing.
"I might be psychic, but you two have to be telepathic or something," Jimmy remarked.
"We're soul mates, Jimmy. That's what happens when you fall in love," Lois replied.
"Sure, I'll run your background check. One other thing…I had this idea and Perry liked it. He said that I should run it past you."
"Okay," Clark said.
"I was out last night as Shade, and I met this girl in an older neighborhood. Things are really getting bad out there. My idea is to do a series on run-down neighborhoods and why they're not being cleaned up, when it would help the people who live there so much. Maybe we could even get a volunteer effort going or something."
"Jimmy, that's a great idea," Lois said. "That would make a really good human interest story, especially if it's combined with volunteering."
"CK, what do you think?"
"Sounds good to me. Next time when you go out as Shade, take your camera along."
"I'm already planning on it," he replied.
"If you get a chance to talk to your father before he leaves town, ask him about the other NIA agent," Lois said.
"I definitely will."
Jimmy was in a great mood when he sat down to do the background check on Maggie's daughter several minutes later.
In California, Heather Dawson had just gotten off the phone with the new head of the NIA. He was disappointed that the film had been found by the Metropolis police, especially since it could reveal certain secrets that were better left undiscovered by the public. The film displayed certain files that had been physically destroyed, but were stored electronically in a computer inaccessible to anyone without top security clearance.
The documents on the film contained details on various Cold War activities that would be politically incorrect if revealed now, but had been necessary, in the government's opinion. Needless to say, it was Heather's job to make certain that those files did not see the light of day. She purchased a plane ticket to Metropolis from a web site and prepared to leave town.
Perry was in his office when the phone rang. The caller ID displayed Alice's current telephone number. They'd been seeing each other again lately, just as friends. It was an experiment of sorts. He answered the phone. "Hi."
"It's me," Alice said. "Something's happened. I'm going to need a place to stay for a few days. Every hotel in town is booked because of two sold-out rock concerts and a political convention. My good friend, Dorothy, is out of town visiting her mother, so I have nowhere else to turn."
"Of course, you can stay at my place. What happened?"
"My apartment burned down early this morning. I've been trying to make temporary arrangements all day."
Shocked, Perry quickly clicked on a link to a local news site. The only mention of the fire was a brief headline near the bottom of the web page. No wonder he hadn't heard of it. "Was it arson?"
"No. A little mutant girl accidentally used her powers — apparently for the first time ever — and started a blaze. One of her parents had been drinking heavily the night before, so there was some spilled alcohol on the carpet in their living room. That, combined with the flames, was enough to start a large fire."
He winced. "I'm sorry to hear that. Is everyone all right?"
"No one was hurt except for the girl. She was burned pretty badly and had to go to the hospital. The cops talked about placing her into protective custody. I haven't heard anything else."
"All right. Where are you right now?"
"Parked at a gas station with my suitcase. I can make it to your place any time."
He glanced at the clock. "Meet me there in an hour."
Jimmy was meeting his father for lunch at a caf‚. Jack had already gotten a table, and the waiter had brought water.
"Hey, Dad," he said while sitting down.
Jack nodded. "Glad to see you again. I talked to some colleagues, and they've never heard of the guy we stopped from killing your neighbor. The police ran an ID check, and it's like he doesn't exist."
"So he's using fake identification?"
Jimmy shook his head and sighed. "If only I was telepathic. Then I could have gotten his real name."
"You did your best."
"Yeah, but it's obviously not good enough. We still don't know who's trying to kill Margie, or why."
"We're going to find out."
"Yeah. I know. But will it be too late?" Jimmy asked, picking up the menu.
Star had just dropped her daughter, Mercy, off at the day care center. She usually ate lunch with her, then went back to work. As Star put the key into her ignition, she felt a vision coming on. She saw Margie in the hotel room hanging up the phone. Suddenly the door burst open, and a masked intruder held a gun.
"Give me the film."
It was impossible to distinguish the speaker's gender by the muffled voice. The intruder was wearing baggy black sweat pants and a sweat shirt besides, so Star couldn't tell from appearance, either.
"What film?" Margie was honestly confused. "I don't know anything about any film."
"It's in your purse."
"My purse? But…"
"Give it to me, now!"
Shakily, Margie reached for her purse and opened it. She took out a small black plastic container that she had obviously not expected to find. "Is this it?"
"Yes. Give it to me."
She slowly handed the film to the intruder. Star caught a glimpse of something moving in the doorway, but couldn't tell what it was until it materialized into Shade.
"Freeze!" Olsen exclaimed.
The intruder pointed the gun at him. Then everything went black. Star gasped as she returned to reality. Quickly, she grabbed her cell phone and dialed Jimmy's number. He wasn't there, so she left a message. Hopefully, he would get it in time.
Heather Dawson arrived in Metropolis just as the film was being developed. As the lab technician hung the pictures up to dry, what he saw shocked him. It was mind-boggling, but unmistakably real. With his expertise, he could tell that no special effects had been used to create the images.
The hairstyles and clothes in the pictures were dated perhaps 30 — 40 years ago. Some American politicians were there, and one of them was expected to run for President in the next election. Several of them had long since retired. There were also men and women wearing the old Soviet army uniforms. The photographs depicted tests on military personnel and civilians, and documentation of the tests.
The tests had to do with genetic engineering — the titles on the documents in the first six photographs made that clear, but the lab technician couldn't make heads or tails of the scientific jargon. The rest showed what had happened to the test subjects — most had died as a result, but a small handful had survived. What had happened to the survivors later wasn't clear.
Back at the Daily Planet, Lois received a call from her source. "Really? Uh huh?" Scribbling furiously on a notepad, she replied, "Mmm-hmm" several times as the lab technician continued. "Okay. Thanks." Hanging up the phone, Lois grinned. "Yes! Clark, you're never going to believe this."
"My source at the police station told me that Margie's photos were just developed. You are never going to believe what was in them."
He leaned closer. "Try me."
Lois lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "Secret government tests that took place during the Cold War. Now, keep in mind this was before anyone really knew about mutants — or Superman, for that matter. Both the US government and the Soviets seemed to be working together on this project. Maybe it was just certain people in the US government. In any case, they were trying to genetically engineer people into super soldiers. Most of the test subjects died as a result. Several survived."
"I don't understand. Why would anyone have been working with the Russians during the Cold War?"
Lois shrugged. "We obviously don't have the whole story yet. But this is huge, Clark. It's much bigger than Purple Chaos. We just need to know what the NIA's involvement is."
"Okay. I'll agree with that. We need to see those pictures," he said.
"Definitely," she agreed.
At that moment, Jimmy and his father were leaving the restaurant. Suddenly, he got a mental flash of a tall woman with long brown hair who vaguely resembled Margie. That must be her daughter, he thought. Olsen glimpsed Heather walking into the police station, talking her way past the security guard, and entering the photo lab. Why would Margie's daughter need the photos?
"Dad, does the name Heather Dawson ring any bells?"
"Yeah," Jack said after a moment of surprise. "She's in a different unit than I am. Why?"
"I saw her just now, and I think she has something to do with this. She's Margie's daughter."
Jimmy nodded. "We need to get to the police station before she does," he remarked.
"All right, then. Let's go."
At the police station, Heather Dawson talked her way past the security guard. She noticed that the office of the detective working on the case was locked, and no lights were on. He was probably out to lunch. But then again, she could easily open it. Heather glanced around until she was satisfied that nobody was watching. Then she concentrated on the lock until the bolts moved and the door opened, seemingly of its own accord.
She'd always been grateful to whatever higher power had decided that her mutant powers would neither be uncontrollable nor inherently obvious. Her father, unbeknownst to her mother, had been one of the government's human guinea pigs in Operation Osiris. Named after the ancient Egyptian deity, the operation's leader had originally intended to discover the secret of immortality, but instead had ended up turning his subjects into mutants.
The origins of the project were shrouded in a haze of secrecy, but thanks to her current job in the NIA, whose director had been one of Operation Osiris's project leaders, she'd been able to uncover many details. One of them was that Operation Osiris had started as a way to unlock the secrets of human DNA, in hopes of discovering what made people age and how to stop it. The resulting discovery would then be applied to certain world leaders who wanted nothing more than to stay in power and maintain the status quo.
Along the way, the scientists had discovered how to manipulate DNA and give people superhuman abilities. Then the mission changed. The countries involved wanted to build super armies, with which they could force a stalemate and remain in power forever. But things changed. Since it was during the Cold War, the United States didn't trust Russia's leader and several other European heads of state to follow through with their original plan to maintain an equilibrium of power. The congressional committee members who were involved pulled the scientists out, and what was left of Operation Osiris disintegrated. The files and photos were locked away in top-secret storage areas, never to be seen again…until now.
Heather entered the room and turned the lights on. The photographs were spread out across the detective's desk. She gathered them up, one by one, and placed them into her purse. Smiling, she turned the lights off and locked the door as she left.
At that moment, Jimmy and Jack were entering the police station. They saw Heather leaving.
"Wait!" Jack exclaimed.
She looked at him. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Washington."
"I was called here on an urgent mission," Jack replied. "Apparently, there's a conspiracy afoot."
"You've been watching the X-Files too often, Agent Olsen. You need a break. Go home and rest."
"Go home," he muttered, eyelids fluttering as his mind processed Heather's hypnotic suggestion.
"Hey," Jimmy remarked, "stop whatever you're doing to him."
"You also need a break," she said. "Go home."
Jimmy felt himself getting drowsy, but he was able to shake it off. "I don't think so. Can I get some help here?" he said, raising his voice.
The desk sergeant turned his head. "Yeah, what is it?"
"I'm with the Daily Planet. We think this woman is involved with the Dawson case."
"The Dawson case? How is she involved?"
"She's Margie's daughter. She works for the NIA."
Getting a sudden flash of insight, Jimmy added, "Why don't you ask her what she was doing in Detective Chavez's office just a few minutes ago?"
The expression of anger flashing across Heather's face was all the desk sergeant needed. "Excuse me, Ma'am, but would you care to explain? Detective Chavez is out to lunch, so the only way you could have gotten in there was by breaking and entering. That is a crime."
She flashed her NIA badge. "It's top-secret. I don't have to explain. Why don't you ask him how he knows?"
"Yeah, how do you know?" the cop asked.
"Right, and I'm the President."
"No, really. I'm a mutant," Jimmy insisted.
"Okay. Whatever. Look, if you can't prove to me that the lady committed a crime, my hands are tied."
"Why would she need to hypnotize us if she was being completely honest? Search her. I'll bet she has the photos."
Sighing, the desk sergeant got up and walked over. "All right, Ma'am. Please give me your purse."
With an indignant glare, Heather handed it over. "I assure you, Sergeant, your superiors will hear about this."
"Yeah, yeah. Like they care."
As the officer was searching, Jack came out of his trance. "Wha…what happened? I had the sudden urge to go home, turn on the television, and vegetate."
"It was her," Jimmy said. "She must be a mutant. She hypnotized you."
The officer took several photographs out of the purse. "Okay…whoa, what have we here? The dates on this image were during the Cold War. What's all this?"
"None of your concern," Heather replied in an icy tone.
"Detective Chavez will be back any minute. Why don't you stay and have a nice long chat with him?"
"I don't have the time." She reached for the pictures, but the desk sergeant pushed her hand away.
"These pictures are evidence in an attempted murder case. The victim was your mother. Funny, but you don't seem the least bit concerned."
Heather focused all of her concentration on the officer. "You don't need to worry about this."
"I don't need to worry about this."
"Forget about it."
"Forget about it," the cop's voice echoed eerily.
"Stop!" Jimmy exclaimed.
"Shoot him and his father," Heather said in an even colder voice.
"Heather," Jack protested, "don't do this."
Slowly, the desk sergeant raised his gun. As he did, he dropped the purse. The pictures tumbled to the ground. Most of them lay face-up. Lois and Clark, who were arriving, saw what was happening. Clark glanced at his wife, then darted into the nearest alley and whirled into his Superman outfit. He rushed into the station.
"Ms. Dawson, I presume."
"Superman? Oh well, the more the merrier."
Jimmy phased as the gun went off and broke the glass in the window behind him. Lois jumped out of the way. Jack raised his own gun. "Freeze, Ms. Dawson."
In a hypnotic tone, she continued, "You will point the gun at your head and pull the trigger."
"No!!!" Jimmy shouted as his father started to carry out the order.
Superman wrenched the gun away and crumpled it.
"Too bad," Heather said. "Now I'll have to make you do it."
Concentrating with all of her mental strength, she tried to get into Clark's mind. But his Kryptonian defenses were too strong for her. It was like battering against a steel wall with nothing more than a rolled-up copy of the Daily Planet. Finally, Jack recovered. He took the gun away from the officer, who was just beginning to come out of his trance. Meanwhile, some of the other cops came running. As Superman held Heather, one of the officers slapped handcuffs onto her wrists.
"Careful," Jimmy said as he solidified. "She can hypnotize people to do whatever she wants them to."
Lois picked up several of the photographs that had fallen onto the floor during the fight. "My God," she said, recognizing some of the people. "Jack, isn't this the NIA's director?"
"You're right. Oh, no. I thought Operation Osiris was just a rumor."
Jack nodded and gave her a summarized version of the project. "These photographs prove its existence. It would be highly unethical. As far as to its legality, I'm not certain of that."
"Jack, what exactly are you doing here this time?" Lois asked. "And don't give me the old it's-top-secret line."
He sighed and glanced around. At the moment, all eyes were on Superman, who was giving his statement. "My superiors wanted me to keep an eye on Heather. They believed that she was involved in something that could bring them down — and the NIA as well. What, exactly, they didn't know. But if anything could bring down the top heads of the NIA, this would be it."
"Thanks for being honest."
As Lois, Clark, and Jimmy returned to the Daily Planet, they saw Perry exit the elevator and head straight for his office. Star was right behind him.
"Can you tell me if Margie is all right?" the psychic asked.
"As far as I know. Why?"
"I had a vision of her in the hotel room. Someone was there with a gun. They were looking for a roll of film."
"The film has already been developed," Lois said. "We've seen the pictures. So how could Margie have it?"
"Maybe there was another roll," Jimmy answered.
"Or maybe that person doesn't know the film has already been found," Clark said. "In any case, we'd better get over there right away."
Margie Dawson was napping peacefully when the door unexpectedly opened. But the cleaning service had already been there, so who could it be? She sat up and gasped in horror as she saw someone wearing a mask, dressed all in black, and holding a gun.
"Marjorie Dawson?" the voice rasped.
Whether it was male or female, she couldn't tell with the mask on. "Yes," she replied.
"Where is the film?"
"What film?" Margie was honestly confused. She hadn't known about it.
"You know what I'm talking about. I'm guessing it's in your purse. Where is it?"
"I swear, I don't know what you mean. Please don't hurt me."
The masked individual leaned forward and held the gun up until it was pointed at her forehead. "I'm only going to ask you this one more time. Where is your purse?"
"In the closet." She pointed with a shaking finger.
The intruder lowered the gun, turned around, and very deliberately walked over to the closet. The purse was on the shelf. Taking the purse and dumping the contents out, the would-be thief sorted through them. "Blast! No film. Where is it? Answer me."
"I don't know!" Margie was on the verge of tears.
Suddenly Superman burst through the door, followed by Lois and Shade.
"Hold it right there," the Man of Steel announced.
The intruder turned and fired his gun, not at Superman, but at Lois. Evidently, he realized that the bullets would have no effect on the hero. Shade grabbed Lois's hand and phased. She gasped as the bullet passed right through her and hit the wall. A look of relief passed across Superman's face.
"That was quick thinking. Thanks," Lois said.
In a red and blue blur, the Kryptonian disarmed the gunman and took off his mask. Clark didn't recognize him, but figured he was also a rogue NIA agent. Searching his pockets, Superman found a wallet with an NIA badge. "You're going to be locked up for a long time, Agent Jones. Attempted murder is still a crime, whether you work for the government or not."
Lois let go of Jimmy's hand, picked up the phone on the small table next to Margie's bed, and called the police.
"Thank you," Margie said. "Maybe you can tell me why so many people are trying to kill me."
Superman exchanged glances with Shade. "It has to do with a roll of film your daughter placed into your tea tin without your knowledge."
"What was on the film?"
"Evidence of a conspiracy. I'll talk to the police and see that you get a security guard. You obviously need one."
She nodded. "Shade…Jimmy, thanks."
"If it wasn't for your gift, I'd have been killed by the intruder yesterday. You saved my life."
"No problem," he answered, sounding somewhat embarrassed, though it was hard to tell because he was wearing a mask.
"I'm guessing it was you who led Superman here, also."
"Actually, that was Star. She's also psychic."
"You'll have to thank her for me, then."
He nodded. "I will."
Later, at the Daily Planet, Lois was going through the photographs and a list of names Jack had provided on condition of anonymity. "Clark, look at this."
"Michel Alexander, a former resident of Moscow, was one of the Russian test subjects. He later married a woman named Anna from the Republic of Georgia. They had a daughter named Tatiana."
"Yes. It also says that they died in a plane crash, but Tatiana mysteriously survived. Records showed that she boarded the plane. However, she wasn't on it when it went down. She was found on the ground by rescuers twenty miles away from the crash site," Lois said.
"Do you think she teleported away?"
"Interesting," Clark replied. "We should check into that plane crash. It might be related somehow."
"Hey, it was your good idea to begin with," he responded. After kissing her, he replied, "You come up with your fair share."
Lois nodded. "That's what makes us partners."
"Whatever you say, partner," Clark answered with a grin.
As Jimmy watched from his desk, he couldn't help but wonder how Tatiana Alexander kept managing to interrupt their lives, even though she was behind bars. True, this wasn't her doing, but she was still involved somehow. When would it end?
In his office, Perry White held up a decade-old photograph of himself and Alice. He could have lost her when her apartment complex was set on fire, but he didn't. Perry figured that the universe had given them another chance. The universe was funny that way. When you least expected it, you'd end up with a bit of luck. He wasn't going to waste it.
"Jimmy," Lois said, "can you do some research for us?"
"Sure," he answered.
He found the answer in less than an hour. The Russian plane crash had been investigated at the time, but no proof of deliberate sabotage was ever found. It was blamed on pilot fatigue. Whether or not Tatiana had ever been on board was a mystery. He couldn't understand what made that little girl become a terrorist, but that was probably a question that would never be answered. Life was often that way.
Two weeks later…
Jimmy grinned as his photo appeared on the front page, along with a story written by Lois & Clark with the headline: "Volunteers Assist in Neighborhood Clean-up." The teenage girl he'd met earlier was in the photo, smiling as she scrubbed away graffiti along with other volunteers. The restoration was really going to breathe new life into the area. Several businesses, including a fast food restaurant and a thrift store, were making plans to move in and create new jobs. Superman and Spider-Man had both showed him that it was possible to make a difference, as long as you stuck to your ideals. Life was good.