By Louette McInnes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Superman is scheduled to appear in Egypt to help complete a survey of the Valley of the Kings, and Lois and Clark are assigned to the story. Snooping around, Lois thinks she has stumbled onto an assassination plot.
The start of the 3rd season gets L&C out of Metropolis, but with a different excuse than one I had envisioned. So here is the excuse for travel I imagined. I always thought X-ray vision would be a great thing to have (shame on you for what you are thinking! - You're wrong! Read the story and find out…) and it was also a way to use some of the intriguing hints the writers have dropped into the show from time to time about Clark's travels.
"What I want to know," demanded Lois, "is how you got a personal invitation?"
"Well," Clark started, only to be interrupted by Perry White, his boss at the Daily Planet, asking "What invitation?"
"To cover any new archaeological finds that Superman helps uncover in Egypt," Lois added, "after he was asked to help with that new survey in the Valley of the Kings."
"Some of the old tombs got lost or covered up in the last 150 years since they were first found, and some are in bad repair and dangerous after the flash floods that sweep through," Clark added. "Superman is the only one who could safely go in and see if it's still worth trying to re-open the passages. He might even find some new tomb, as well, and that would make a GREAT story."
Lois was obviously delighted with this thought, and had intended asking Perry if they could be assigned to go and cover the event together. Superman's help was considered a diplomatic and academic courtesy to the Egyptian government. It had been arranged by the American ambassador to Egypt. The arrival of a personal invitation on Clark's desk from the Antiquities Department in Egypt, asking him to cover the story, had upset her plans for the two of them to go together. And no way was she going to let him go by himself!
"Now, Lois," said Perry, "I'm not sure the story rates two reporters unless they find something really big. And Clark would be a lot safer than a woman trying to get work done, especially since he seems to have some connection already."
That finished it as far a Lois was concerned - how dare her boss imply she would be less effective because she was female! But Lois also knew when a frontal assault was futile.
"But Perry," she said, all sweet reason, "Clark will need someone to help do the write-up and get things sent off - you know how bad the phone lines are at times. And I can cover something in town at the same time from the woman's angle. They are making some progress in women's rights over there, and maybe also do a fluff piece on the exotic dancers." The last was thrown in remembering Perry's 'retirement' party when Lex Luthor had taken over the Planet, however brief that retirement had been.
More than distrustful whenever Lois seemed too reasonable, Perry realized Lois' suggestion did make good sense about the communication problems. He also knew his best stories seemed to break whenever the two reporters worked together, and he promised to see if the budget would allow both to go.
Three frantic days later, Lois and Clark were busy unpacking in Luxor and arranging to be able to get their stories out by fax or phone, whichever was operating fastest.
"So give!" Lois demanded. "How did you get a personal invitation? The Antiquities Department asked for you specially. Okay, so Superman was going to be here, but they shouldn't know you're him! So they shouldn't invite YOU just because he's agreed to come!"
Clark sat down on the bed in Lois' room and pulled her onto his lap. "Do you remember me telling you that I learned dancing from a Nigerian princess in London?" he asked.
"Vaguely." she answered, playing with his hair.
"I got to know quite a few of her friends, and one was an Ali Hassan who was studying at Cambridge. He was interested in archaeology and used to come to London frequently to visit the British Museum. They have an amazing collection of antiquities!"
Lois interrupted, "So why would he remember you?" concerned about anyone who might connect Clark and Superman. Having finally made the connection herself, she was now overly cautious and protective if she thought anyone else might suspect.
"Rugby," said Clark.
"Rugby," he repeated. "Think of it as American football without the forward passes. Ali showed me how to play. It's a whole different strategy. You have to…"
"Oh, sport!" interrupted Lois, suddenly looking bored. "I should have known!"
"You might like it, Lois. They don't wear all the padding I had to use in high school and college, and they wear these little shorts."
Lois perked up and smiled wickedly, "Little *tight* shorts?"
"On second thought, maybe I'd rather you DIDN'T watch any rugby…" Clark's sentence and attention to the conversation trailed off as Lois snuggled down comfortably on his lap and wrapped her arms tighter about his neck.
The next few days were busy for both of them.
"Poor Clark," as Lois referred to him, "came down with a nasty stomach bug" and she, fortunately, could fill in at the Valley of the Kings. Perry was glad he had let both go on the trip, and relieved to hear Clark's illness wasn't too bad. Her boss, as long as he was at a distance, was easy to deal with.
"Don't let him drink anything but bottled water! You have to use it even to brush your teeth." Perry yelled down the bad phone connection to Lois.
"Yeah, right," Lois thought to herself. "Clark could drink Nile water, crocodiles and all, and it wouldn't hurt him! But it sure makes a good cover for a few days until he can finish the Valley survey. And I get to go out in the field like I wanted and show some of those arrogant males who didn't want a female reporter here what a good reporter of any sex can do."
Lois had been surprised but pleased to find Ali Hassan, as liaison officer for the Antiquities Department, much more liberal and cultured than she had expected. His concern when he was told Clark was sick had seemed genuine, and her only problem had been to keep him from carting Clark off immediately to a doctor, and to coach Clark in what symptoms to complain about. But an incident at Ali's house the next morning gave her cause for worry.
They were getting organized to travel up to the Valley of the Kings very early in the morning to avoid the searing heat of the day when he had rushed off briefly to speak to a strange man. She had just caught the quiet greeting, "I see Hassan, the Assassin is back in business again." before they disappeared. Ali had returned shortly and seemed to have heard something he liked, or so Lois judged from the smiles he spread all around. This worried her, and she watched him all day for anything odd, but he acted the perfect liaison officer, helping her sort information, directing Superman to the correct places in the Valley, and making sure any artifacts were carefully documented.
Clark was really enjoying himself. He had travelled extensively, so much so that he had been heartily sick of it by the time he settled down to work at the Planet. He travelled as Superman, alright, but this was the first time he had been back to this part of the world as himself in quite a while. He might not see much of Lois for now, but they had planned to spend a few days here after the assignment finished so they could see some of the sights. In the meantime, he wasn't having to rush off every few minutes on a rescue. He felt guilty about that, but the government had asked for help to preserve an international cultural treasure. Of course, there had been the workman pinned by a large rock this morning, and the tourist at the temple complex who had fallen and gotten a concussion, and - well, maybe he shouldn't feel so guilty after all.
With any luck and a little super speed, the actual survey should only take 3 days. He couldn't map the entire valley complex. Even X-ray vision had its limits when trying to penetrate limestone. But he could investigate and clear the tombs in disrepair. Even in the cleared tombs, X-ray vision meant he could check through the dust and rubble for the small but often important pieces left by former grave robbers. He thought about the gold amulet and small ushabti of Seti I that had lain in a small cleft at Deir el Bahri for 3000 years, ever since its owner and 30 other pharaohs of Egypt had been moved by the priests for safekeeping after their original tombs had been plundered in ancient times. He reminded himself that greed was not just a product of modern society.
Lois had seen little of Clark the last few days or nights. He was busy as Superman during the day, and he could hardly appear as Clark at night in Luxor when he was supposed to be sick in bed. They could meet in the cool of the evenings, but of course Perry expected them to write and fax over some articles. Lois had some plans to rectify the situation. The Valley of the Kings was almost like a rock fortress. Looking up at the cliffs, she could imagine the royal guards stationed there in the past to protect the final resting place of the pharaohs of Egypt. The valley itself seemed to collect the heat and become a searing mass of stone, heatwaves shimmering upwards by mid-morning. The tombs, cut deep into the rock, alone remained cool, and some of those dark, cool passages in the Valley could be quite a romantic meeting place! If she could just find out which ones Clark was supposed to look at that day. Clark had been a bit annoyed with her, and suspicious when she hadn't met him the previous night. He had asked what she was up to, and she had explained she was merely covering the story she had really been sent to cover - the woman's angle in Egypt.
"You can hardly complain about that! Not when I'm covering your story and making it possible for you to fly in each morning as Superman." She had used her best "affronted" tone to keep him from daring to follow, so he wouldn't know what she was really up to. But she didn't want to make him so annoyed or hurt that he might resist making up afterward - after all, that would be the best part.
Ali proved a problem on that last morning at the Valley, being annoyingly attentive and eager to provide details of the past glories of his country.
Lois had watched him carefully the previous two days to see if he tried to pocket anything from the finds Superman brought to light. She couldn't spot anything suspicious along those lines and decided whatever he was up to must be tied in with that name she heard. A more direct approach than just observation seemed a good idea.
"Who was the man that came to your house so early the first morning we came up here? I thought he must be working on the mapping project, too, but I haven't seen him since," she asked casually as they walked to the next site on the day's list.
Ali smiled, "Just an old friend from London. He isn't on the project but he wanted to enlist my help for a little enterprise he's planning soon."
"He's either very keen or an insomniac to come out that early in the morning!" Lois commented, fishing for more details.
"Very keen," said her companion. "for a little excitement and revenge."
"Sounds a dangerous combination, don't you think?"
"Not at all," he answered unperturbed, "if you plan ahead and prepare yourself for action." Then he abruptly changed the subject. "Ah, here's tomb 55! It was a great puzzle when it was first found. It contained a man's body, but in a coffin obviously meant for a woman of rank. The embalmers and priests weren't usually that sloppy, and the name had been chiseled off everything. But at least the poor chap did get buried, even if he was laid out like a female. You know they positioned the arms differently for men and women."
"You mean to tell me they had cross dressers that long ago?" exclaimed Lois. "Well, actually, some people think it was meant either as an insult or to conceal who was really buried there."
"Why would somebody do that?"
"If we are correct in our identification, it's a pharaoh who deserted his wife, a very beautiful wife of many years, to have an affair with his younger half brother, which outraged a lot of people. You may not have heard of Akenaten, but I'm sure you will have seen photos of the elegant bust of his wife, Nefertiti, that's in the Berlin Museum?"
"Of course! Now I know who you mean. Everyone has seen that beautiful head. And Akenaten got in trouble also for trying to promote the sun god, Re, as the only god." Lois was trying to think of a way to turn the discussion back to Ali's visitor. "Akenaten made a lot of enemies who must have wanted revenge very badly - right through all eternity to them if they could destroy his body. Wasn't he - assassinated?" she asked, looking directly at Ali to see his reaction. "Your country has a long history of assassination, right up to the last president." But even that got no reaction other than a half hour lecture on the probable family history of Akenaten, the relation to Tutankamen, the Amarna period, and the art of that time.
Lois had completed most of her story on the valley and really had something else in mind for that morning. Only a small statuette uncovered by a workman at another entrance had allowed her to slip away.
Unfortunately for Lois, the welter of limestone chips marked as small hills on the maps had been repeatedly moved over the years as archaeologists shifted the piles to search underneath on the valley floor. The poor marking on the entrances, and the changes wrought by a succession of desert flash floods through the valley over the years meant she crept, flashlight in hand, into a narrow passage not where she expected to be, but 30 yards away from where Superman, her SUPER man, was scheduled to work that morning. Old timbers from former excavations and limestone blocks fallen from the roof of the passage made it difficult for her to progress, but she knew the depth was supposed to be at least 60 yards straight into the cliff face where a small entrance room had been described before the tomb was "lost" last century.
"You could at least have widened things a bit when you came in!" she complained to the dark, not realizing no one was there to hear her. At last the flashlight showed some color on the walls, and the passage came into a small room much sooner than she expected.
A wooden sarcophagus lay splintered in pieces, ruined by robbers or floods. Some of what could have been bowls and pots also littered the ground. A skull stared at Lois from a corner. As she pushed her way past the last pile of fallen rock and wood, an ominous rumble and a veil of dust followed her. "Superman?" Lois called. She thought he must be deeper in the tomb. But there was no answer. The small room proved to be just that - one small room, not the complex she was expecting. Realization hit like one of the limestone blocks, and Lois moved back to the entrance, only to find the last rockfall had narrowed the passage too much for her to squeeze through.
Clark, trying to move a large alabaster sarcophagus lid out of the tomb he was in without chipping it on the walls, heard the rumble and wondered if another workman would need to be rescued. He listened carefully and heard not a workman, but Lois' voice calling frantically. He dropped the lid carefully and dashed out to the surface rather than try to smash through the limestone and ruin some precious and beautiful wall paintings, then over to the narrow passage where Lois' voice seemed to be coming from. Half a minute's work cleared the passage, and she was in his arms and safe.
"How did you get in here? Why did Ali let you come in here?" he questioned her as he held her close and safe.
"I thought you'd be here," she answered rather meekly for Lois, "but I think I misread the map or the marking on the outside. I'm not so sure I trust your friend, Ali, but this, at least, wasn't his idea."
"What did you think you were doing?" Clark asked, then thought better of that and said, "No! Don't tell me - I don't want to know!"
"Well, I've hardly seen you the last few days," she said in one of her more reasonable tones, all the while slowly tracing over the S on his chest "And you seemed annoyed when I had to go out last night for Perry's puff piece. So I thought I'd just," Lois hesitated, then burst out, "have you to myself for a few minutes! In the dark. Alone."
"Since you went to this much trouble to get my attention, I guess we shouldn't waste the opportunity," Clark teased as he bent to kiss her.
That evening, the "recovered" Clark escorted Lois to dinner. Lois had on her "I'm suspicious" look, and he asked, "What?"
"It's your friend, Ali," she answered. "I'm not so sure he isn't above smuggling out some small items, or into some other serious stuff."
Clark looked stunned. "Ali? What could he have done to rouse your suspicions. I know you're cynical about most people, Lois, but Ali? I can't think of anyone more concerned with protecting his country's heritage."
"Well, explain why he seemed so cheerful when this strange man appeared a few days ago. I heard this man call him Hassan, the Assassin! Why should he be happy about being called something like that?"
Clark laughed, and Lois definitely started to look annoyed.
"I'll explain," he hastened to say, "but only if you can stand another sports story."
"Remember you asked how Ali remembered me, to invite me out here? I tried to explain how we had played some rugby together, but you kind of distracted me…"
"How can some football game be tied up with assassination?" Lois was really annoyed now. "Can't men explain anything without reference to sports?"
"You asked," Clark replied.
"I'll try to stay awake, then," was the comment fired back at him.
"An old friend of Ali's is here, and they're organizing a game of rugby. He asked me to play if I feel up to it after my "illness". In rugby," he continued, "They don't have separate offensive and defensive units - the same guys play both. Ali played on the wing. That meant he often was the one to score the "tries", and he was really good. But he was also expected to act as defense. Ali had a devastating tackle when he had to mark an opposing winger. I know! The team always had nicknames for each other, and his scoring ability coupled with that great tackle of his got him the nickname of "Hassan, the Assassin". If he wasn't tackling the opposition, he 'killed' them by scoring. Simple." He paused, then continued, "Hello! Lois? Are you still awake?"
"Barely," came the disgusted reply. "Okay, maybe I misunderstood. Male bonding always was a mystery to me."
After dinner, Lois hurriedly stuffed some clothes in a bag, then stopped at Clark's door to say she was going to do the last interview for the puff piece she had started. She planned to be back at ten to help him edit the last of their articles on the things Superman had recovered.
"I'll come, too. You shouldn't be out alone at night here," he suggested.
"Oh, no you don't! You're staying here! My source wouldn't be allowed to talk with a strange man present. This is one time when men are not allowed!" Lois sounded entirely too cheerful, but at least agreed to leave the address where she was going for the interview. She hurried off to her appointment, delighted with the way the piece was shaping up. She had suggested it as an excuse to come, figuring it would be as dull to write as a gossip column. Instead, she had a real human interest story. Not that she thought they were worth much at times, but this had been a story of fighting for recognition, and she could identify with that in a big way.
Rosheen was the woman waiting to talk to her, and to teach her. Rosheen was an exotic dancer, a belly dancer, and Lois had always considered that about as low on the social scale as you could go and still be halfway respectable. Those kind of dancers worked out of smoky, dingy clubs, and she had been mortified early in her partnership with Clark to wake up from the pheromone perfume to find she had done such a dance in front of him.
In a Muslim country, Lois had expected Rosheen's social position to be even worse, if not downright dangerous. Instead, she found Rosheen to be the idol of all the girls in the area, all the poor girls who had no other way up and out of poverty, or out of the strict control of their lives by their fathers and brothers. Rosheen was accepted in the best circles, had travelled overseas, had clothes and money, but still returned to her old neighborhood to teach the girls there. She didn't perform in sleazy clubs, either. Her main employers were the wealthy mothers of the brides whose weddings she danced at - to give a traditional send off to the bride and groom and entertain the guests. Lois had seen her late that afternoon when she got back from the Valley and definitely wanted to learn some of the graceful moves Rosheen had been teaching the girls in her class.
When Lois had not arrived back by 10:00, Clark started listening to every footfall at the hotel. By 10:30 he was worried and annoyed. By 11:00 he was frantic. He flew over the city and the building where Lois had gone, but saw nothing unusual and no sign of Lois. Not knowing where to start looking, he called Ali, apologized for bothering him so late, and explained about Lois' disappearance. She might have just gone somewhere else, but even Superman had to be sensitive about diplomatic situations and he thought as Clark he might, with Ali's help, be able to question the tenants of the building more easily. Rosheen's neighbors generally kept to themselves, but most also kept an eye out for someone so famous who still came to the old neighborhood. With Ali to translate and act as a knowledgeable go-between, he and Clark soon learned that Rosheen and another woman had been seen being escorted into a car that headed back toward the Valley. The neighbors thought it was odd to go that direction since Rosheen's outings at night always occurred when she had been invited to exclusive parties in the best part of town. The dancer had also received threats recently from some Muslim extremists, who felt every woman should be covered from head to toe at all times. Several women in the area had been beaten lately for wearing "provocative" clothing.
What Clark really wanted to do was fly out over the city to search for Lois, but he realized even his X-ray vision wouldn't be enough to find her if she had been taken deep into one of the old tombs. And he couldn't hear her if she had been drugged. At a loss for where to start, he had to act the investigative reporter and use his friend to help. A few more contacts in the right places, and Clark had a definite sighting of the car near the entrance to a noble's tomb. Many of the lesser tombs had served as homes for the poor over the centuries. One had even been used as a Coptic church. Ali, after guiding him there, stubbornly refused to leave and called a friend at the local police headquarters for help. Clark wasn't about to wait, but with Ali there would have to go in as himself if he was to find Lois.
"You can't keep me here!" he heard Lois say. "Superman will find me, or my partner, Clark!" Unfortunately, her abductors couldn't speak English and ignored the outburst.
Rosheen turned to Lois and spoke quickly and quietly in English, "These self-righteous extremists are not above sampling the merchandise, so to speak. If I can get them to let us loose, to demonstrate our dances are not the offensive actions they claim, how good are your legs?"
"Great," said Lois, "but I think that would get us in even more trouble if these puritans object to your dances."
"Fundamentalists, not puritans. Lois, I mean do you know any self defense?" continued Rosheen.
"You talk, I'll kick! If you can get us loose, I can take these two what-ever-they-ares."
Clark wanted to race ahead before Lois and Rosheen tried anything, but Rosheen talked too fast and Ali ran too slowly. Lois was as good as her word. So by the time Clark kicked down the door, Lois and Rosheen were standing over two prostrate forms. Clark just froze with his mouth and eyes wide open. Instead of her business suit, Lois was dressed in what looked like filmy veils of burgundy, and not much else. She had worn similar clothes once before, but in pale blue, and he had dreamed about it ever since. Now that he knew she was safe, he stared in fascination at the fake ruby stuck in her navel and wondered how it managed to stay there. He put that thought aside, just for the time being, and tied up the two kidnappers, then gave her his coat to keep off the chill until the police arrived and removed the two men.
"What were you doing in those clothes?" he asked later at the hotel. "I thought you were doing an interview?"
"In those clothes? C'mon!"
"I had to get into the feel of things, try some of the moves so I could understand Rosheen and her work better," Lois justified her costume. "Besides," she added smiling at him, "I barely remember the last time I did the dance of the 7 veils, and the next time I do it, I want to be sure both of us remember it for a long time!"
Grinning in anticipation, Clark waved a hand toward the center of the room. "I'm ready whenever you are!" P.S. There really is a "Hassan, the Assassin" who got his nickname at a certain boys' school in Christchurch, but not playing rugby.