By Lynn Baldwin (LBALD@aol.com)
Summary: Jack pays a visit to the Daily Planet newsroom, hoping to snag a Superman interview for the Metropolis Free Press. But everybody gets a scoop when it becomes apparent that someone has targeted Lois' friend Allison for murder.
(after rambling for 16 pages, I couldn't think of a title, so this doesn't have one!)
Clark Kent tugged absent-mindedly on the end of his blue and burgundy polka-dotted tie as he stared blankly at his computer screen. It had been a slow news day, and he was having trouble coming up with a fresh angle for his story on the Metropolis Moped Meet. He stifled a yawn. If the story bored him so much, how could he expect the readers of the Daily Planet to be interested?
Clark glanced sideways at Lois Lane, who was seated at a nearby workstation. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as a smile slowly crept across her face. Clark recognized that smile - it meant she was onto something good. But what could she possibly be working on? He reviewed the day in his mind. They'd been together the whole time- from the interview with the man who claimed to have eaten lunch with Elvis, through the two hour wait at the road commissioner's office, to the false reports of a three-alarm fire. Where had she found a story?
Clark knew that he shouldn't, but the temptation to peek was too strong. He lowered his glasses slightly and peered over the tortoise-shell frames, then zeroed in on Lois' computer screen with his x-ray vision. The words on her computer screen were as surprising to him as if Lois had suddenly told him that she was Wonder Woman. Filled with amazement, he read: "She knew she shouldn't feel this way about him, but she did. After all, they were coworkers, partners, a team. But that first memory of his bare muscled chest still burned in her mind. That, and his kisses. On the few occasions they had kissed, she'd wanted more, oh, so much more."
The clickety-clacking of the keyboard paused as Lois stared dreamily into space. Clark stared dreamily after Lois. He couldn't believe what he had just seen. He'd known she was writing a romance novel that she refused to share with anyone. What he hadn't known was that he, and the relationship he shared with Lois, played such a pivotal role in the story. But what *was* their relationship? He knew he loved her, he had since the first sarcastic comment she'd thrown his way. But he was never quite sure about her feelings for him. Although lately, things were looking brighter. Ever since he'd visited her as Superman and gently nudged her towards the real him - Clark-and away from the man in blue, red and yellow, she'd been behaving a little differently. He sensed that she was ready to move their relationship forward a step, but wasn't sure how to go about it. He certainly wasn't going to make another move; he'd probably already crossed the line by involving Superman.
"So, what are you working on, Lois?" Clark asked, curious as to how she'd respond.
"Um, well, I'm just cleaning up my files a bit. You know, deleting stuff I don't need anymore," Lois replied with a furtive glance at her computer screen. The words "she stared at his chiseled profile" stared back at her, mocking her as she faced the protagonist of her novel face on.
"Oh, I thought you were working on something big. You seemed to be really hard at it," Clark said, a slight smirk crossing his face.
"Nope, nothing big," Lois replied, as she casually closed the file.
They were relieved of further conversation by the sound of the elevator opening. A familiar jeans-clad figure bounded into the newsroom. "Jack!" Lois and Clark exclaimed in unison, as they rushed towards him.
Jimmy Olsen beat them to their former co-worker. "Jack, buddy, great to see you," said Jimmy, vigorously shaking Jack's hand. Jack looked at the shaggy-haired, puppy-faced guy smiling eagerly at him.
"Jimmy?" he asked.
"Of course it's me. I mean, I know it's been a while, but … what's wrong with you?"
"Nothing, man," replied Jack, shaking his head in disbelief. "It's just that you look totally different. I don't think I even would have recognized you."
"But there's two people I definitely recognize," Jack continued, directing his comments at Clark and Lois, who were now standing in front of him. "How're you two doing? Did you finally get together?" Jack unabashedly asked, as he noticed how the hem of Lois' skirt brushed up against Clark's knee.
Lois jumped back a few inches. "Wh-what are you talking about?" she stuttered. Clark smiled good-naturedly, shrugging his shoulders with a look of "who knows?"
"It's good to see you, Jack. So what brings you back to the Planet?" Clark asked, in an attempt to change the subject.
"Well, I'm not exactly back. I'm just here on a story."
"A story?" shrieked Lois, "You mean you're a reporter now?" She eyed Jack with wonder. He couldn't be more than 18, in fact he was probably more like 16. She, Lois Lane, had started young- but she had been 22!
"Yeah, I'm working for the Metropolis Free Press now." He reached in the pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out his press pass, which he proudly displayed for all to see.
"Oh, *that* explains it," Lois said, breathing a sigh of relief. The brief thought that Jack could be further ahead in his career than she had been at that age bothered her immensely.
"Explains what?" asked Clark.
"Well, it's not the Daily Planet. It's a weekly!" Lois answered.
"Hey, everyone's got to start somewhere. I think it's great, Jack." Clark said, with a friendly pat on Jack's back.
"You would think it's great, Clark. You used to work for the Borneo Gazette. That's not even a paper …"
Lois glared at Clark competitively as Jimmy interrupted with, "Some things never change, do they, Jack?"
"Sorry, Jack," Lois apologized as she and Clark looked sheepishly at each other. "So what's this story you're working on?"
"We're doing a series of profiles of important people. You know, the man behind the public facade, or in this case, the man behind the cape. So I figured I'd start here. The Man of Steel seems to hang around here quite a bit."
"You're doing a profile of Superman?" Lois asked. When he nodded yes, she added smugly, "It's been done, Jack."
"But not like this. Listen." He pulled a crumpled-up list of questions out of his jeans pocket and began to read, "What is your idea of a perfect evening at home? Which do you prefer: Italian food or Chinese? Who's your favorite football team?"
"The Bills," replied Clark, then laughed to cover up his mistake. He'd been lost in thought and hadn't even realized he'd responded aloud. The idea of giving Jack an interview as Superman was strangely appealing. It would be a great boost to Jack's career, and would let people see a more human side of Superman. But what would that possibly accomplish? Or was it that he just wanted Lois to see a more human side of Superman - the Clark side!
Clark turned his attention back to Jack, who continued eagerly with his questions. Jimmy looked on with interest, although the look on Lois' face was hard to categorize. After studying her for a few minutes, Clark realized that she was jealous. She didn't think anyone else had the right tointerview Superman!
Jack's voice droned on. "So what do you think Superman does in his spare time, CK?" Jack asked.
"Um, I don't know. Maybe he writes." Clark answered.
"Well, I'm going to find out." The sudden look of determination on Jack's face startled Clark. He had grown very good at keeping his two personalities separate, but almost lazy in protecting his identity. After all this time, it didn't seem likely that anyone was going to guess his secret. After all, if Lois hadn't figured it out with all the clues he'd given her, it didn't seem probable that anyone else would.
Clark mentally kicked himself for forgetting about Jack and his suspicions. He thought back to the time they'd all been held hostage at the Daily Planet by a group of terrorists. Clark had broken the handcuffs that bound him to Jack and saved the day. Although he'd been as careful as possible that day, his friends' lives were in danger and he'd taken a few chances with his identity that he normally wouldn't. He recalled the comment Jack had made to them after they were safe, "Nobody would believe me if I told them, would they?"
*Now*, what was Clark to do? He wasn't 100% positive that Jack knew his secret, but he definitely was suspicious. Jack was hot on the trail of his first story, and exposing Superman's alter-ego would be an enormous scoop. On the other hand, Clark had basically rescued Jack from living on thestreets and gotten him started in his journalism career. They'd always beenfriendly, and Clark knew that Jack looked up to him like a big brother… Clark's reverie was broken when he picked up faint cries for help with his super-hearing.
"Earth to Clark. Earth to Clark," Lois repeated, snapping her fingers in front of his face as if to wake him from a trance. "We're going to get something to eat. Do you want to come?"
"Um, I'll meet you there," Clark answered. He was in the elevator loosening his tie before anyone could protest.
"Why does he always dash off like that?" Lois asked to no one in particular.
"Who knows," Jack replied with a thoughtful look on his face, as he stared at the door through which Clark had disappeared.
When Clark got outside, the source of the cries for help he'd heard was immediately apparent. A crowd of people was gathered outside of the Daily Planet. Every pair of eyes was focused upwards, on a small commuter airplane which was sputtering and wobbling as it rapidly fell towards the ground. With a swoosh of his red cape, Clark shot upwards and grabbed the underside of the aircraft. Clark could hear the sighs of relief from the passengers inside as he steadied the plane. Holding on to the landing gear, he maneuvered the plane around several trees and onto the grass of a park across the street from the Daily Planet building.
Lois, Jimmy and Jack had by this time joined the group of onlookers who were now cheering and clapping. Clark opened the door of the plane to help the passengers of the plane get out. Luckily, nobody was seriously hurt, although a young blind woman was too shaken up to get out of the plane of her own accord. Clark gently lifted her out of the plane and set her upon the ground. "Are you okay?" he asked, taking her trembling hand in his.
"Yes, I'll be fine. Thanks, Superman."
"Superman, hi," Lois said, rushing across the street.
"Lois Lane!" said the blind woman in surprise, " I was going to look you up when I landed. Now I guess I don't have to."
Lois had been too caught up in admiring Superman to notice the woman he had just rescued. "Allison! What are you doing here?" Smoothing her brown skirt, she sat down besides Allison and hugged her. "I saw what happened? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, thanks to Superman."
Lois said, " I know what you mean. He's rescued me more times than I'd like to remember!"
"Personally, I kind of liked it," Allison replied. The two women let forth a stream of giggles.
Lois glanced up to see Clark walking towards them.
"What's so funny?" he asked, straightening his tie as he approached the two women.
"Clark, meet an old college friend, Allison Byers. Allison, this is my partner, Clark Kent."
"Partner? Wow, you must really be something. I don't think Lois has ever let anyone be her partner before!"
Before Lois could comment, Clark extended his hand to shake Allison's. "Nice to meet you."
A strange look crossed Allison's face as she grasped Clark's hand. She held it for a few seconds longer than necessary. "What strong hands you have," was what she finally said.
"You always were a flirt, Allison." Lois teased.
"I can see you two have some catching up to do. I'm going to get back to work," commented Clark, slightly worried. What had that look meant? He'd held her hand as Superman just seconds earlier, but why would she make the connection? Lois never had. Of course, he'd always heard that blind people had heightened senses, but she couldn't possibly know just by holding his hand. He decided that he was probably just paranoid because of his fears about Jack.
After Clark left, Allison explained to Lois why she was in town. She was the public relations manager for Hamburg Hotels, a large hotel chain that was expanding into Metropolis. Allison was to give a press conference at the groundbreaking, scheduled for the next day. As Allison talked, Lois recalled seeing the press release about the event come across her desk. She'd dismissed it as non-newsworthy. But now that she knew Allison was involved, she'd have to attend.
"So where's this hotel going to be?" Lois asked. When Allison gave her the address, Lois exclaimed, "That's great. That's right across the street from my Uncle Mike's restaurant."
The next day, Lois and Clark joined the group of television and newspaper reporters gathered outside of the site of the new Hamburg Hotel. Jimmy and Jack had arrived earlier, and were seated on plastic fold-out chairs in the front row. "What eager beavers," commented Lois, pointing towards them.
"The early bird gets the worm," replied Clark evenly.
"I don't think this is going to be a major scoop, Clark," said Lois, slowing pulling a notebook and a pen out of her oversized purse. A double crunch bar fell out in the process. She quickly grabbed it before Clark could spot it and make a comment.
Clark surveyed the area. Several construction workers in hard-hats stood by idly. Allison was in position behind a podium in front of several trailers bearing the name and slogan of the construction company, "Church Construction - We Build on Faith." Everyone looked calm, everything was ready, but why did Clark sense something ominous in the air? He figured it was just nerves - he was still a little shaken up by Allison and Jack's comments yesterday.
"Your friend Allison looks nice," Clark commented to Lois. As soon as it escaped his lips, the comment sounded strange to Clark. Why had he said it?
Lois turned and faced Clark. "Do you think she's attractive?"
"Well, yes, but… not as attractive as…" Clark stopped in mid-sentence; he suddenly realized what was wrong with the scene. He lowered his glasses to get a better look. The trailer behind Allison was almost completely empty: it contained no tools, no wood, bricks or steel, none of the things needed for a construction project. The only object in the trailer was a small wooden crate. Clark's fears were confirmed as his x-ray vision revealed a ticking bomb inside of the box. Zeroing in on the red numbers of the timer, Clark realized with horror that it was set to go off in ten seconds.
He looked at Lois, who was still waiting expectantly for the rest of his sentence. "You," he said, as he dashed towards the trailer. "Be right back."
In a flash of red and blue he landed behind the trailer, then burst through the double-locked door. The timer showed four seconds to explosion. Clark leapt on top of the table and smothered the bomb. His body shook as it absorbed the force of the explosion.
Cries of panic and shouts of "What's going on?" rippled through the crowd of reporters who had left their seats and were gathered closely around the podium. Clark picked out Lois' voice calling for him. He quickly left the remnants of the trailer and approached the podium.
"It's okay, everybody," he said into the microphone. "There was a bomb in the trailer, but it's been taken care of. I've scanned the area, and I don't see anything else of danger."
"Are you okay?" he asked, turning to Allison.
"Yeah, I'm fine, but we've really got to stop meeting like this!"
With a chuckle, Clark leapt into the air. "Superman, wait," screamed Lois, "Have you seen Clark? Is he okay?"
"He's okay Lois. I spotted him behind the trailer." He again tried to take his leave.
"Superman, wait." This time it was the voice of Jack, although it contained a nervous quiver. Clark hovered in the air, his red boots two feet above Jack's eye level. "Um, Superman, I was wondering if I could interview you. I'm working for the Metropolis Free Press and we're doing a series on influential people, and I thought, maybe…"
Clark interrupted the rush of words spewing from Jack's mouth. "I'm sorry. Somebody is looking for me right now. Maybe some other time." With that, he disappeared.
Seconds later, Clark was at Lois' side. "Where have you been?" asked Lois, her voice a mixture of concern and anger.
"Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go." Clark replied.
"You, you have to stop disappearing like that," Lois insisted, grabbing Clark squarely by both shoulders and shaking him.
"Why did you do that?" Clark demanded.
Lois released her grip on Clark's shoulders and slid her hands down his arms until they met his hands. She looked into his eyes. "I was worried. I was afraid that something had happened to you."
"No, I'm sorry … I" The look in Lois' brown eyes rendered him speechless. He tentatively shifted his body so that he brushed up against her. Lois squeezed his hands more tightly in encouragement and raised her face towards him.
"Oh, Lois," Clark muttered as their lips met. Lois pulled Clark even closer, unaware of the crowd around them.
They would have remained lost to the world for hours if not for the arrival of Jimmy and Jack. "I told you they'd get together, man. You owe me five bucks." Jack said to Jimmy.
Clark and Lois looked up in embarrassed silence as Jimmy fished around in his pocket for the money. "I'm gonna need this money," continued Jack. "If I don't get this Superman profile, the Free Press is going to fire me."
"What are you talking about, Jack?" demanded Lois, quickly regaining her composure and slipping into 'seasoned reporter mode.' "You just witnessed the day's biggest story - now get writing. Maybe Jimmy will be nice enough to let you use one of his pictures to go with it."
Jack stifled a laugh as he retorted, "It was a nice kiss and all, but I don't think it was a big story. I mean, everyone knew it was coming."
Clark and Lois, still holding hands, laughed as Jimmy and Jack headed back to work.
Although their hearts were tempted to continue what they'd started, their investigative minds led Lois and Clark back to the Planet. Perry White met them as soon as they entered the newsroom. "Jimmy told me what happened. Do you kids have any leads?" he asked in his usual gruff manner.
"Not yet, chief," Lois replied, "But I've got a theory. I think that someone's targeting Allison."
"But why?" Perry asked.
Clark joined in the conversation. "I'm … we're not sure yet. But it does make sense. First the airplane crash, then the bomb. Even Lois doesn't get into that much trouble!"
Perry braced himself for one of Lois' famous sarcastic tirades. Instead, he watched in amazement as she merely smiled at her partner and giggled. "Great shades of Elvis," Perry muttered to himself as he headed back towards his office, "I think they've finally come to their senses!"
Clark and Lois sat down at their respective desks to map out a plan of investigation. But try as she could to concentrate on the story, Lois could think of nothing but Clark. She glanced his way and was happy to find that he seemed to have the same problem. His computer wasn't even turned on. Lois watched as Clark suddenly looked up as if he'd heard something. She followed his gaze to the elevator. Twenty seconds later, Allison got off.
"Hi, how's it going?" Allison inquired, as she folded up her walking stick and took a seat between Lois and Clark.
"Allison, the question is: how are you?" Lois asked.
Clark added, "I'm sorry, Allison. We didn't even check on you before we left. I guess we were, uh, caught up in something," .
"So I heard," Allison replied.
"What?" Lois and Clark asked in unison.
"Come on, you two, you were in the middle of a group of reporters. News travels fast."
Clark said, " It wasn't actually news."
"Well, no," Allison admitted, "Not compared to the Superman thing. By the way Clark, did anyone ever tell you that you talk like him?"
Clark didn't have time to think of an answer before Lois butted in with, "You've got to be kidding, Allison. Superman doesn't have that Smallville twang." Lois smiled playfully at Clark. She walked over to his desk and pulled the end of his tie, "Not that I don't like it or anything. But you do have a twang."
"Okay, kids," interrupted Allison, "I didn't come to referee a lover's spat. I've got news. Somebody told me that the name on the construction truck that blew up was Church Construction."
"Right, " agreed Clark, "We Build on Faith."
Allison continued, "That's not the construction company hired by Hamburg Hotels. Nobody there has ever heard of them."
Lois picked up the thread, "And since you were the only representative of the hotel there, you didn't, shall we say, notice the difference."
"Wait a minute," Clark mused. He thought for a moment, then booted up his computer with a burst of energy. He pressed a few buttons, then watched as pages of information scrolled across his screen." Lois observed over his shoulder.
"Will you look at that," exclaimed Lois, "Church Construction is owned by Bill Church!"
"Church? I can't believe that scumbag got off last time."
"He won't get off this time. This has Intergang written all over it," added Lois, stomping her foot for emphasis.
"Yep, and this time we'll prove that he's the head of it."
"Those idiots weren't content to leave well enough alone. They must still be after the land by Uncle Mike's restaurant," surmised Lois.
"Yeah, but why?"
Allison listened patiently to the verbal volley. "I see why you two are partners, but will somebody please tell me what's going on?"
"It's a long story," Clark explained, "but we've got some work to do."
"Okay, good luck. I'll leave you to it." Allison got up and started to leave.
"No, wait. I think you'd better stick with us. You'll be safer that way," Clark suggested.
"Safer?" Lois and Allison asked in stereo.
"Well, Hamburg Hotels is obviously being targeted by Intergang. And that makes Allison a target." Clark knew that Lois wouldn't consider having Allison in the middle of an investigation "safe," but he'd feel better if he could keep an eye on her.
"Why don't we just call the police, Clark?" Lois asked. She tapped her pen against the top of his chair in exasperation.
"And show them what evidence?" Clark questioned.
"I suppose you've got a point," Lois admitted, sliding the pen into her purse.
"Are you up for this, Allison?"
"Well," she said, grabbing her bag and walking stick, "I always did want to be Nancy Drew."
"And you went into P. R.?" Lois asked as the threesome approached the elevator.
A few minutes later, Lois' silver Cherokee pulled into the parking lot of Church Industries, Inc. Lois and Clark threw jackets with the words "LMB Copier Service" over their clothes. They hadn't had time to come up with a good plan of attack, so they'd decided to rely on the copier repair person disguise again. It worked last time, Lois had reminded a reluctant Clark. He'd suggested spending some time developing a strategy, but Lois wanted to jump right in and start snooping. After all, that was what she did best. Somehow, she had won out.
"Um, guys, what about me?" Allison asked from the back seat, "I don't think there are too many blind copier technicians out there."
"Good point, Allison, " Clark said, directing his comment at Lois, "I told you this wasn't a good idea."
"Nonsense, it's a big building," Lois said, observing the ten-story structure, "I'm sure you can pass for an employee. Just follow my lead."
The trio left the vehicle and approached the front door. Once inside, the first person Lois and Clark spotted was a janitor. His back was to them as he slowly mopped the floor in a figure-eight motion. Clark was trying to figure out why the janitor looked vaguely familiar when he sensed that Allison was slipping.
Clark swiftly grabbed her arm and steadied her before she could fall. "Are you okay?"
Allison answered, "It seems like someone is always asking me that these days. I'm fine. Thanks, Supe … I mean, Clark."
A startled Lois looked at her friend, then at Clark. Clark looked terrified, but before Lois had a chance to comment, she gasped in surprise. The janitor had turned around, and Lois and Clark saw that it was Jack!
"What are you doing here?" Lois whispered. Jack motioned for quiet, then pointed to the left. Clark, Allison and Lois followed Jack into a small hallway, then into a dark supply room. He shut the door behind him.
"I'm working on my story," Jack replied.
"*You* figured out the Church-Intergang connection?" Lois asked, not even trying to conceal her amazement.
"Yeah," Jack replied, as he stuck his hands deep into the pockets of his overalls.
"Way to go!" Lois said with admiration. Jack smiled at her praise.
"So, what have you found out?" Clark asked.
"That's the problem, " Jack said, shrugging, "I don't quite know what to do from here."
"Aha," Lois gloated, "this is were experience comes into play. Now, we'll split up. Clark, you stay here with Allison, and Jack and I will go to Church's office."
Jack hesitated before answering, "Um, well, you two go ahead. I'll stay here with Allison."
Lois shrugged, then adjusted her jacket. "Come on, partner," she said, motioning for Clark to follow.
Jack and Allison made themselves as comfortable as possible in the small room, sitting side by side on the tiled floor. "So you're a reporter, too?" Allison asked.
"Well, trying to be. I was supposed to write a story on Superman, but he doesn't seem to have time for an interview. I suppose he's a busy guy."
"Either that, or … or he has something to hide," responded Allison, to Jack's amazement.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I have this theory. I think that Superman has another identity, a human identity," she started. She explained how she'd noticed several similarities between Clark and Superman. "I know it sounds crazy, but when Clark stopped me from falling today, I thought he was Superman for a minute. I mean, I never confuse voices. And every person has a distinct feel, a distinct touch. And Clark's hand sure felt like Superman's."
Jack thanked his lucky stars that Allison couldn't see his expression - it would have given too much away. He was literally stunned into silence. The same thought had crossed his mind. In fact, he'd been thinking about it for a while - ever since the night they'd been taken hostage in the newsroom. On one hand, it made sense. On the other, it was too crazy to even talk about. And if it was true, Jack wasn't sure if he wanted Allison to know that he suspected the same thing.
The silence in the room was rudely broken as the door of the closet swung open. The menacing face of a beefy security guard glared at the two trespassers. "Come with me, " he commanded.
In the meantime, Clark and Lois were faring a little better on the tenth floor. They'd managed to sweet-talk their way around a reluctant receptionist and were outside of Bill Church's corner office. Clark lowered his glasses a fraction and looked into the office. He spotted an office cluttered with file folders, pop cans and pens. The floor was strewn with golf balls and the trash can was overflowing. They were in luck there was no sign of Church. "What a slob," Clark muttered.
"What," Lois asked, as she put her ear against the door, trying to determine if anybody was inside. "I said, 'what a job,' Clark said.
"Somebody's got to do it." Lois and Clark cautiously entered the office, then shut the door behind them. They looked around at the mess, unsure of where to begin. Lois prided herself on her investigative prowess, but this time they really didn't have much to go on. Fortunately, sometimes luck is more important, and as luck would have it, she decided to try Church's computer. Lois pushed the entry key to clear the screen saver - tiny flying Supermen -and gasped when she saw what she'd stumbled upon. The open file was a map of the south side of Metropolis. It was divided into green parcels of land, each one captioned with a price. The monochromatic picture was broken by two blocks in red, with a bulls-eye superimposed on top of each one. From their position on the map, Lois recognized the two sites as her Uncle Mike's restaurant and the proposed site of the Hamburg Hotel.
"Clark, look at this," Lois said, her voice rising in excitement.
"Well, today's our lucky day," Clark answered, studying the screen over her shoulder. "Future Site of the Church Casino," Clark continued, reading the 16-point bold letters above the map.
"So, that's what they're up to," Lois said, pushing up the sleeves of her jacket. "They've bought all the land on the south side except for Uncle Mike's and the hotel. I'll bet their planning on laundering Intergang money through a casino."
"That makes sense," Clark nodded in agreement. He gently squeezed Lois' shoulder, "Now all we've got to do is prove that Church is the head of Intergang."
Lois jumped from the chair at the sound of the door opening. "And how do you propose to do that?" boomed the voice of Bill Church as he swaggered into his office. Three armed guards followed him, nudging Jack and Allison into the office with the barrels of their guns.
Clark lifted his hands in a sign of surrender and motioned for Lois to do the same. Instead she approached Church, " You *are* the head of Intergang, aren't you?"
"I suppose it doesn't matter if you know now, " he replied with a grin. "In fact, if you 'd dug a little deeper, you would have found some more incriminating documents in there." He indicated the computer. "But alas, you've dug yourself into a hole this time, Ms. Lane."
He casually picked a putter off the floor and lined up a golf ball. "I've got work to do" He turned to face the three uniformed guards. " Boys, take care of them." With that, one of the guards raised his gun and prepared to fire.
Clark instinctively jumped in front of Lois, putting his body between hers and the bullet. Church nodded his head in disgust. "Not here, you idiot. I'd never get the blood stains out of the carpeting." He studied the shiny tip of his wing tip shoes for a moment. "I've got an idea. Why don't you make them sweat it out for awhile? Take them upstairs!"
"Right boss," replied the largest of the three guards. They gathered their prisoners into a group and hustled them out of the office and into the elevator. Clark wasn't ready for what he saw when they stepped off of the elevator on the tenth floor- they were in a huge fitness center filled with rows of stationary bikes, stair climbers and every imaginable type of weight machine. Strangely, the room was deserted.
"Hope you're ready to sweat," one of the guards said with a smirk, fingering the barrel of his gun. Clark debated his next move. He could try to take them out now, but it would be a little risky, and he'd definitely have to reveal his identity. He decided to wait for a better opportunity. He only hoped that Lois didn't try anything stupid.
Before she had a chance, one of the guards grabbed Lois with one hand and Allison with the other. "You girls seem to like to get yourselves into hot spots. Let's see how long you can stand the heat." Clark felt helpless as he watched the guard push them across the room and into an enclosed steam room. He threw the door shut behind them, then slid a metal deadbolt into place.
"It's two hundred degrees and rising in there. How long do you boys think they can stand it?" Jack took an angry step towards his sarcastic captor. Clark contained his anger by holding his breath, then slowly releasing it to the count of ten. "Hey, hey," guffawed the guard, clearly relishing his job, "You boys seem a little stressed. I think a workout will do you good."
He pointed to two bench press machines, located side by side. They were not set up like normal weight machines. The weights were suspended by a cable directly over the vertical bench, rather than in a column behind it. Clark looked at Jack to see if he noticed this irregularity. The look of confusion in his eyes said that he had. At the guards' command, Clark and Jack positioned themselves on their backs on the benches.
"Okay wimpo, " the guard jeered at Jack, "Let's see what you've got. " He inserted the pin at the 150 pound mark. With a grunt, Jack pressed the bar upwards. He bent his elbows to release the weight. "Not so fast, sonny. Hold it there." Jack complied, straining to hold his arms straight.
"You look like a strong one," the guard said to Clark. He set the weight at 200, which Clark easily lifted. "A little too easy for you, huh? Try this." He added a few more metal plates, upping the total weight to 250. Clark realized he had little idea of what a normal man would or wouldn't be able to press. He groaned and exhaled sharply this time to appear that he was making an effort.
"What is the purpose of this?" he angrily asked the still-smirking guard, who hovered nearby with his two cohorts. In answer, two of the guards simultaneously snapped handcuffs on Clark and Jack, connecting them to the bars of the machine. They then unhooked the cable from the weights, so that they were not attached to anything. Clark noticed Jack's arms starting to quiver as he realized their fate - if their arms gave out, the weights would come crashing down on them. Grinning mercilessly, the three guards backed out of the room, pointing their guns at Clark and Jack until they exited. They slammed the door, then locked it behind them.
"Oh, God," Jack whimpered, "We're gonna die." He looked to Clark for encouragement.
"Jack, I …" Clark started.
"You know," Jack interrupted, between gasps of air, "I had this crazy, crazy idea that you were Superman."
Clark's brown eyes opened wide at Jack's confession.
"You don't know how much I wish you were."
"And if I was?" Clark tentatively asked, turning his face to read Jack's expression. It was the face of a drowning man who had just spotted a life preserver.
"Nobody else would ever know. I swear on my life."
Clark believed him - he had to. With a snap of his wrists, he was free of the handcuffs. He jumped out from under the weights, catching them in one hand before they fell.
"Jack, I'm sorry I didn't get you out of this sooner," he started to say as he released Jack, "I just couldn't …"
"Don't be ridiculous, Clark … I mean, Superman," Jack replied, as he noticed that Clark had somehow changed into the familiar blue and red costume.
As he was freeing Jack, Clark caught snippets of the conversation between Lois and Allison with his super-hearing:
"Lois, there's something I have to tell you," Allison said as she fought back tears.
"I think Clark is super…"
"Superman!" Lois exclaimed, as Clark burst through the sauna wall, leaving a cut-out of his shape in the wall.
"Are you all right?" Jack asked, running into the steam room behind the red cape.
"We're fine," Lois answered in response to Jack's voice. "I can't see a thing with all this steam! Where's Clark? Is he okay? "
"He's fine, Lois. He's right behind me."
"He's right behind you?" Allison echoed.
"Yep," said Clark, striding into the room as the steam began to dissipate. He rushed to Lois and held her tightly in his arms.
"I guess my theory about Superman was all wrong, huh, Jack?" Allison asked.
"I guess so," Jack answered, smiling at Clark.
Lois leaned against Clark as she said "I don't know what your theory was, Allison. But you were right about one thing. Clark *is* a super man."