By Jon B. Knutson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Clark Kent wakes up one morning to find that he's married to Lois Lane … but has no memory of it. In fact, he's missing three years of his life.
Well, here's this week's story from me… until I get inspired by something in tonight's IRC session, at least…
Clark Kent woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. It was still dark out, but according to the clock radio next to the bed, it was 5:18 am. The alarm hadn't even gone off yet, but still he was awake.
Clark sat up in bed, scratching his head. He didn't know where he was, but the bedroom was not furnished in any style he recalled seeing. Not that it wasn't tasteful; in fact, it was very tastefully decorated, if not much more expensive than he was used to seeing.
The next thing Clark noticed was that he wasn't alone in the bed. "What's the matter, honey?"
Clark nearly jumped out of his skin. "Lois?!? What are you doing here?"
Lois Lane rolled over to face Clark. Even with her hair messed up, she was still the most beautiful woman Clark had ever seen. "Oh, well, I caught an earlier flight last night, and got home after midnight. You were already asleep, so I just crawled into bed. I still don't know why you wanted to stay behind while I was on that tour."
"What tour?" Clark was completely lost, grasping for information any way he could. Now he knew how Sam Beckett felt when he leaped into someone's life, he thought.
"You know, silly, the book signing tour. My publisher says this book will sell even better than my first one."
"Oh, the book tour." Clark got out of bed, and discovered he was a little under-dressed than he was used to around Lois. He spotted a pair of robs hanging over a chair, and put on the larger of the two, tying the belt tightly.
"So, why are you up so early?" Lois asked.
"I'm not sure… go back to sleep."
"Okay, hon… but after I've had a few more z's, you'd better be ready for me!" Lois drifted back to sleep quickly.
The best reporters are also detectives, and it was these skills that Clark put into use. The bedroom opened up to a large apartment, almost twice the size of his and Lois' apartments put together (at least, what he remembered as his and Lois' apartments). Looking out of the living room window, he changed his mind… not an apartment… a penthouse, with a beautiful view of Metropolis, one he was only used to seeing when flying.
Framed on the walls were a variety of photographs, which Clark started looking over. One series of pictures were those of a wedding… a wedding which was for himself and Lois.
"There's no way I could have forgotten this," he thought. Off of the living room was a study, with two antique desks and walls of bookshelves. Clark searched through the drawers of both desks, feeling like he was invading someone's privacy. He discovered the wedding license. Comparing it to the "Far Side" desk calendar on the same desk the license came from, he learned that the first anniversary was coming up in less than a week.
"It's 1997?," Clark said aloud. "I've lost three years of memories somehow?"
He found the concept very hard to believe, and expected any minute now Rod Serling would walk around the corner and tell him that he'd exchanged places with a future self.
But Mr. Serling chose not to show up.
Clark walked into the kitchen (rather than wandering around trying to find everything, he made an x-ray vision scan of the penthouse to acclimate himself) and decided to fix himself breakfast, since he discovered he was hungry.
He'd just sat down at the dining room table with a plateful of food when Lois wandered in, wearing the twin of the robe he had on. "Clark, you know I can't sleep when the smell of freshly-prepared food is in the air."
"Oh, I'm sorry… I must've forgotten."
"It's a good thing you gave Herschel the week off, though… if he saw you were settling on scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and hash browns for breakfast, he'd have a coronary," Lois said, sitting down next to Clark and stealing a piece of toast. "I can just hear him saying, 'Sir, a man of your position does not eat the home-cooked equivalent of a Grand Slam Breakfast,' " Lois said in a very broad British accent.
"Herschel's our… butler?"
Lois gave him a strange look. "What's the matter, Clark? Don't try to tell me nothing… I know when something's bothering you."
Clark took a deep breath to brace himself. "Lois, this is going to sound strange, I know, but when I woke up this morning, I couldn't remember anything that's happened since about late 1994."
"I seem to have some kind of amnesia. I don't remember our getting married, or even getting together at all…"
"Nothing? What's the last thing you do remember?"
"The last thing? I'd gone to sleep. Alone. In my old apartment on Clinton Street. I remembered that we were best friends, and that I loved you, and thought maybe you loved me. I knew you were writing a romance novel."
"Wow. Do you think maybe one of your enemies might have caused your amnesia?"
"I don't know… maybe. You do know I'm Superman, right?"
"Of course I do… you told me when we finally stopped being stupid started dating."
"And how did you take it?"
"I thought I took it rather well… I was only mad at you for hiding it from me for about three or for weeks, but I finally came around. You never told either of my parents, though, or anybody else that I'm aware of. You really don't remember any of this?"
"Not a thing. I'd always hoped this would happen, of course, but I never dreamed I'd wake up one morning and discovered I'd lost almost three years of my life. Can you give me the highlights of the last three years?"
"Of course… maybe something will spark your memory. Let's see, it was the summer of 1995 that we started dating, and by the end of the summer, we said that we loved each other. You proposed to me on Christmas Day that year, at your parent's place in Smallville. On New Year's Day, here in Metropolis, you told me you were Superman. I was mad at you for most of January, but by the end of that month, I'd accepted it."
Lois stood up and started pacing, continuing her outline of what Clark had forgotten. "I finally finished writing my first novel in March of '96, and it was accepted right away, to my surprise. We got married the day it hit the stories, June 16. While we were on our honeymoon, my book hit the New York Times best-seller list, but even though my publisher wanted me to start a second one right away, I told them to wait until after we got back.
"With the money coming in from the book, both from sales and the movie rights…"
"Warner Brothers optioned it as soon as it hit the top ten, and the movie opened just in time to be considered for the Oscars. It didn't win anything… heck, it wasn't even nominated, but it did make some big bucks for us, which is how we paid for the penthouse."
"Is that most of the highlights?"
"No, not by a long shot. Well, okay, Reader's Digest condensed version. With the book sales, and the demand for a follow-up, I quit the Planet, although you stayed on as a free-lancer so we could spend more time together. You've been working on your own book, a science-fiction novel you haven't told me the name of yet, for the last six months, and my publisher has already demanded first refusal rights. Perry hated to see us go, but understood. And just before I left on this tour, I discovered that we were going to be parents."
Clark nearly choked on his coffee. "You're pregnant?"
"It's not noticeable? That's good, because I'm supposed to appear on a talk show in two days to promote the new book, and my contract says I don't have to do TV appearances if I'm far enough along in my pregnancy."
"I'm going to be a father…" Clark said softly.
"In another eight months."
"I'm going to be a father…"
"You just said that," Lois reminded. She sat next to Clark and put her hand on his shoulder. "I know, this is a lot to deal with all at once. Did any of it help your memory?"
"No… nothing's familiar."
Lois frowned. "Well, we can't exactly take you to a doctor… it wouldn't take long for your secret to get out."
"I never came up with a way around that?"
"No, we didn't. Maybe we should go talk to your parents… they might have some ideas. Let's get dressed and go."
"Good idea. I could use a shower, too."
"Hmm… me too… does that give you any ideas?" Lois asked, with a sly grin.
Clark looked at her apologetically. "Lois, I hate to have to say this… god knows I hate to say this… but unless or until I regain my memory… it just wouldn't feel right. It's hard enough for me to take in the fact that we're married… I hope you understand."
Lois looked upset. "I guess I do… it's just that we've been apart for so long, I was hoping for a little different homecoming." She smiled a sad smile. "But it does give us an incentive for curing your amnesia."
As Clark walked back into the bedroom, he started to feel pangs of regret, but let them pass. At this stage, he didn't think it would be fair to Lois or himself to be that intimate with Lois.
Clark showered quickly, dried himself, and dressed. "Your turn, Lois," he called out to the living room.
"Okay, hon… be there soon," Lois responded from elsewhere in the apartment.
Clark walked out of the bedroom again, drying his hair. He saw Lois was pulling some files out of one desk drawer. "I thought maybe reading through your stories from the past three years might help," Lois said. "At least it'll give you something to do while I'm getting cleaned up."
"Thanks," Clark said as Lois went to the bedroom. He started reading the files at super-speed, but nothing seemed familiar. Yet, all the stories had his byline (or a shared byline with Lois), and were definitely in his style.
Before long, Lois was finished with her shower. She walked out of the bedroom dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with a Daily Planet logo, blue jeans and sneakers. "Let's go," she said.
"Isn't that going to be a little chilly for flying to Smallville in?"
"Oh. Um, actually, your parents live in Metropolis now. They sold the farm in Smallville about a year ago… at a dirt-cheap price, if you ask me… to one of those youth organizations that takes problem kids and takes them out of the city."
"Oh… well, it's nice to have them so close."
"That's what you said when they first told us they were selling the farm and moving to Metropolis. Actually, they're living in my old apartment… yours wouldn't have been large enough for them."
"Well, at least I remember how to get there."
Clark took Lois in his arms and flew to his parents' apartment without bothering to change into his Superman uniform. Lois tucked her head into his chest to protect her face while they flew. Clark had to admit that it felt right to hold her… yet somehow wrong.
Before long, they arrived at Lois' old apartment. Clark's parents had apparently maintained the habit of keeping one window unlatched for the occasional fly-in visit.
"Clark! What a surprise!" Martha Kent said from the kitchen as she heard them fly in.
"Hi, Ma," Clark said, setting Lois down.
"Lois! I didn't think you were going to be back in town until later today!" Martha said when she turned to face them. "Jonathan will be so upset he missed you."
"Pa's not here?" Clark asked as he and Lois gave Martha a hug.
"No, he had to go out to a doctor's appointment first thing this morning." Martha looked at the clock, noting it was just before eight. "It's nothing serious, Clark, just a physical."
"That's good to know," Clark said.
"Martha, if I let Clark wait to get around to the real reason for our visit, we'll be here all day — not that we don't want to stay," Lois explained.
"Is something wrong, dear?" Martha asked.
"Ma, I woke up this morning and discovered that I've lost about three years of my life… I don't have any memories from late 1994 until this morning."
"Oh, dear… that's serious. Have you been able to figure out why?"
"I don't have a clue… Lois thought maybe you and Pa might be able to help me remember."
Martha sat down in the closest chair. "I don't know what we can do, Clark… but we'll be glad to help in any way we can."
Martha (and later Jonathan, when he returned) sat and talked to Clark and Lois for several hours, discussing everything they could remember that happened in the last three years, but nothing helped Clark at all.
Finally, Clark gave up. "It looks like we could sit here and talk all day, but none of this seems to be helping. Maybe we should focus on why I've lost my memory… maybe it has something to do with my being from Krypton, instead of Earth?"
"I don't see what that would have to do with it, son," Jonathan opined.
"What if there's something about my being on earth that's affected my memory, something that I hadn't encountered before, that causes memory loss?"
"The only thing that's ever affected you before is Kryptonite," Lois said. "Maybe you were attacked by some kind of weapon that was powered by Kryptonite?"
"Then why did I wake up this morning in my — I mean, our — bed, with no signs of a fight? Unless it had some kind of delayed effect," Clark said.
"There hasn't been anything unusual about your Superman activities for months, Clark," Martha said. "Unless something happened just last night… but Superman makes news no matter what you do, and if you'd done anything as Superman last night, I'm sure it would've been on the news or in this morning's paper… and last night, you were over here for dinner. You didn't leave until just before midnight."
"Lois, what time did you come in?" Clark asked.
"It was just after one, and you were sound asleep already," Lois answered.
"So whatever happened, it had to have happened between midnight and one. That's not a very long period."
"No, it's not… maybe someone at the Planet might have heard something? Jimmy should be in by now."
Clark considered this for a moment. "That might work. But I think it would be better for Superman to stop by than for Clark Kent to call… I wouldn't want to jeopardize my dual identity." Clark started walking to the open window. "I'm going to fly back to our place too quickly to be seen, so I can change into my Superman outfit. I assume you can get back all right, Lois?"
"Your father and I can drive her over, and we'll wait there," Martha suggested.
"Okay. Hopefully, I'll have the answer by the time I return." With that, Clark flew out the window. If anyone had happened to be looking at the window, they would have only seen a multicolored blur.
At the speed he was flying, he had changed to Superman and arrived at the Planet within minutes. "Superman!" Jimmy Olsen said… a slightly older, more mature, Jimmy than Clark had remembered. Jimmy's hair was much more neatly styled, and he was dressed in a suit and tie… Superman smiled, realizing that Jimmy had modeled himself somewhat after Clark. "Long time no see," Jimmy said.
"Well, I've been busy," Superman replied weakly.
"I'm sure our readers would be fascinated to know with what… especially since there hasn't been much crime lately. The mayor's been very pleased with the low crime rate the last year or so, you know… and she attributes it all to you."
"That's very flattering, Jimmy, but it's not the reason I'm here. Do you know if anything unusual happened around Metropolis last night, say between midnight and one in the morning?"
Jimmy considered this for a few moments. "No, Superman, nothing that I can recall… if anything unusual had happened last night, I would think you would be involved with it somehow."
"Me, too," Superman said. When Jimmy looked at him strangely, Superman said. "Never mind… if I have any good stories for you, I'll get a hold of you immediately."
Superman flew away from the Planet. Taking a vantage point high in the sky, he floated in place, turning clockwise very slowly, his telescopic vision sweeping the city for any sign of what may have happened to him.
Something out of the corner of his eye caught his attention, and he refocused his attention at that area. It was the Metropolis branch of S.T.A.R. Labs… something about it was bothering him in the back of his mind.
He leaned forward, and began flying towards the building slowly, scanning it as he approached. To his surprise, the building was devoid of personnel… the last he remembered, there was a full staff on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week… but why?
Superman landed in front of the building. It had fallen in disrepair over the last several years, that much was obvious. The main entrance was boarded over; the parking lot was cracked, weeds sprouting through the cracks. Walking to the entrance, he felt… something… trying to dissuade him from going further, as if he had some sort of second sense that was warning him that there was danger within the walls of the empty S.T.A.R. Labs building.
Nevertheless, he walked forward, fighting the urge. When he reached the entrance, the urge was stronger, almost preventing him from gripping the boards nailed over the doors… almost.
It did prevent him from pulling the boards out, though… He paused for a moment, letting his arms drop to his sides. There's no way possible I could have developed some kind of danger sense power, Superman thought. And in that instant, he acted, sending twin beams of heat vision at maximum power at the boards, which blew away… revealing a whole door on the other side.
"There's something here someone doesn't want me to see," Superman mused. He began to float off the ground, turning away from the entrance. Flying away from the building until he was about a mile away, he turned back, and steeled himself.
Suddenly, at top speed, he flew back towards the entrance, his hands clenched into fists and thrust in front of him. As he neared the building, he felt the "danger sense" again, but ignored it, putting his full will into flying into the entrance.
His efforts were rewarded. The doorway smashed into microscopic fragments when he struck it, but the effort to do so slowed him down enough so that he was able to land on his feet without putting much effort into braking. He had gained the lobby, but was uncertain of where to go from there. As he looked over the lobby, its tiled floor cracked and dusty, he felt the "danger sense" again, but realized that it was at its strongest in a particular direction… down a hallway leading to what he recalled as a high-security area.
As Superman started walking towards the hallway, the "danger sense" was screaming in his mind, and it was taking more and more will on his part to continue forward.
Suddenly, so suddenly that he nearly staggered forward, the "danger sense" cut out. It was replaced a split-second later by a high-pitched supersonic whine… which Superman recalled as the "signal watch" in Jimmy Olsen's possession.
Wincing from the sudden pain of the signal's frequency, Superman turned his head in the apparent direction it came from and focused his telescopic and x-ray vision, until he saw Jimmy Olsen. He saw Jimmy being menaced by strange-looking creatures brandishing nasty-looking weapons.
For a split-second, he almost went to his friend's rescue, but then decided against it. Whatever was trying to prevent him from entering the building may have created this illusion to distract him.
At least, the Man of Steel hoped and prayed that was the case, and instead he wasn't putting Jimmy in mortal danger.
He proceeded forward again, ignoring the whine of the watch, which continued for a few more minutes before it stopped. Risking a glance back at where his super-vision had revealed Jimmy before, there was nothing to be seen.
He then heard a scream that chilled him to the bone. "Clark! Help us!"
The voice was Lois', of that there was no doubt, coming from outside of the building. Superman looked over his shoulder and saw Lois and his parents, bound and threatened by a large bomb, the timer of which indicated only ten seconds until detonation.
Lois was crying, the desperation in her voice reflected in her eyes. The Kents were slumped, apparently unconscious.
"Clark!" Lois cried again, "this bomb was set by the person who's responsible for your amnesia! Save us, and we can restore your memory!"
Superman nearly went to the rescue of Lois, Jonathan and Martha… then decided against it. There was something wrong about all of this… first the "danger sense," then Jimmy's sudden endangerment, and now this… someone was working awfully hard to keep Superman out of an apparently-abandoned building.
Ignoring all other distractions, Superman began to charge forward through the long hallway, first breaking into a run, and then he was flying… the hallway seemed to grow longer and longer as he flew down it, impossibly long.
Superman then closed his eyes, and concentrated every iota of energy and willpower he had into reaching the other end of the hallway.
Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity of flying forward, he broke through… as he landed, he skidded across the floor for several yards before coming to a complete stop. There was something about this room that was familiar… yet there was something missing…
A computer bank lined one wall of the room, without power. There was something the computer was linked to… something belonging in that corner of the room…
…no: Not something… someone.
"Brainiac!" Superman yelled at the top of his lungs. "I know you're behind this now!"
The next thing he knew, he was in his bed… the bed in his apartment on Clinton Street. Clark darted out of bed and checked his desk calendar… it was the day after he'd last recalled going to sleep.
Clark realized he was drenched in sweat, as if the effort he'd exerted in his "dream" had been manifested while he slept. His T-shirt was plastered to his body, outlining the curves and lines of his muscles even more so than his Superman costume did. Clark quickly took a shower to cleanse his body, and dried even more quickly.
He changed into his Superman costume and flew at top speed to S.T.A.R. Labs, which was fully manned and operational, just as he'd remembered it. A security guard stopped him at the entrance, asking for identification.
"I'm Superman," Superman said, matter-of-factly.
"Anybody can put on a set of blue tights and a cape. I'll need more identification than that."
Superman sighed, and reached into a small pouch in his cape, cunningly designed by Martha Kent so as not to inhibit the cape's movement, and withdrew a special identification card he'd been issued from S.T.A.R. Labs not too many months ago.
"Thank you, sir. You may proceed," the guard said.
Superman entered the lobby… and was pleased to find that it was as he'd remembered it, bustling with activity, not as it had appeared in his dream. He proceeded to the high-security area, where he was greeted by Dr. Jenet Klyburn, who headed up the Metropolis S.T.A.R. Labs location. "Superman! This is a surprise. What can I do for you?" The blonde-haired, attractive woman in her late thirties seemed glad to see him.
"I just wanted to make sure Brainiac was under proper restraint," Superman explained. "I have reason to believe that he's able to use his mental powers again."
"I was afraid of that… we'd detected increased mental activity from him late last night, but no physical activity. We've been working all night to shut it down, but it suddenly stopped about fifteen minutes ago. What can you tell us about it?"
"I'm afraid I can't really tell you much, Dr. Klyburn. Apparently, Brainiac had implanted a mental illusion while I slept, one that was fairly seductive… but somehow I was able to break free of it. I can't tell you anything more than that."
"I understand. Well, from what you've just told me, I'd theorize that Brainiac had been concentrating his full power on you, but when you were able to break free, the feedback from that caused a psychic backlash that shut his mind down again… to an even lower level of mental activity than before."
"That's more your area of expertise than mine, Doctor. I'll take your word for it," Superman said. "There's just one thing that bothers me… what if I've broken free of one mental illusion only to be trapped in another?"
Dr. Klyburn thought about this for a few minutes, her brows knitting behind her glasses. "Given Brainiac's potential power, that is a possibility… but I wouldn't worry about it too much." She could see Superman ready to ask why, so she decided to answer beforehand. "Admittedly, we don't really know much about Brainiac, but if this was an additional illusion, would he have allowed the possibility to even be mentioned?"
Superman flew back to Clark Kent's apartment. Everything seemed right again, just as he remembered it. But Dr. Klyburn's statement bothered him… if he had come up with the rationale against this being another illusion, he would be willing to accept it 100%. But if Dr. Klyburn was simply another manifestation controlled by Brainiac…
Superman shook his head… whatever Brainiac had in mind before, it would only help the mentalist's plans if Superman himself became paranoid. Until something occurred that seemed abnormal, he was willing to accept that this was, indeed, reality.
or is it?