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Lois and Cl... Kal-El 3/?
May 29th, 2010 at 3:24pm
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Day Two
“Lois,” Perry White yelled from his office door. “Where is Clark?”

“Am I his keeper?” Lois shot back, then promptly felt ashamed. “I haven’t seen him since yesterday when he left to meet someone, I’m guessing a source. But I went by his apartment this morning to give him a ride in and I don’t think he came home at all last night. His bed hadn’t been slept in and he hadn’t gotten his phone messages.”

“Do you know what he was working on?” Perry insisted. Perry’s annoyance at Clark not checking in had turned to worry. Clark was a bit of a flake, disappearing at odd times, sometimes for hours, but he’d always come back or checked in with a story, often a Superman exclusive.

“He said something about Bureau 39,” Lois said.

“I thought the Feds disbanded that bunch of loonies.” Alarms were going off in Perry’s head.

“That’s what I told Clark, but I don’t think he was buying it,” Lois said. She brushed a dark lock of hair away from her face.

“Look, Lois, see if any of your sources might know something,” Perry instructed. “I’m gonna’ call Bill Henderson, let him know Clark left yesterday and we haven’t heard from him since.”

“Aren’t we supposed to wait forty-eight hours before declaring somebody missing?” Jimmy Olsen asked. He’d come up behind Perry as they’d been speaking.

“Clark’s a reporter, Jimmy,” Perry said. “Henderson won’t mind us giving the police a heads up that we’ve got one that’s AWOL and possibly in over his head in something.”

-o-o-o-

Clark woke up, finally, shaking his head to clear away the fuzziness he still felt. It only made things worse as his head started pounding. He hurt, every joint, every muscle protesting as he tried to get up off the cold, damp floor. He felt the aching cold against his skin and realized his suit was gone. He was bare foot, wearing only a loose pair of cotton pants with an elastic waistband and a sleeveless cotton shirt that was actually too big for him. He struggled to his feet and looked around.

He tried to remember how he got to where he was, a small stone-lined, windowless cell with a single light fixture set into the ceiling. He couldn’t remember and the last thing he did recall was going into the alley behind Fale’s Jewelers, followed by two policemen. He remembered feeling the pain of Kryptonite exposure, falling to his knees, then nothing except nightmares. He had no idea how long he’d been there. No idea if anyone even knew he was missing.

He felt a sharp pain on the inside of his left arm at the elbow when he flexed his arm. There was white gauze taped to his arm, and under it – he loosened the gauze to look – he saw that a plastic tube had been sutured to a vein. The tube was sealed at the ‘open’ end with rubber or vinyl and was filled with some sort of fluid.

Something felt warm and metallic against his neck and he reached up to find out what it was. His fingers touched a smooth cylinder of metal that went all the way around his neck. It wasn’t tight, luckily, but he couldn’t feel a clasp or even a seam.

He sat down on the cold floor, pulling his knees to his chest. The nightmares came back to him, unbidden. Rough hands on his body, removing the suit, examining him. Questions. Questions he couldn’t answer, wouldn’t answer. Needles. He remembered the pain of needles. Had they given him drugs? He wasn’t sure what affect drugs would have on him while he was powerless. Everything was disjointed, disconnected, but he thought he’d struggled against the hands. The bruises he felt on his body leant credence to this theory.

He realized he was hungry and thirsty. He hoped someone would figure out he was missing. Perry or Lois. They were smart. They had sources. If he was lucky, they’d find him before it was too late. He put his head down and prayed.

  -o-o-o-

Inspector William Henderson was a twenty-year veteran of the Metropolis Police Department. He’d come up through the ranks and was now considered one of the top criminal investigators in the department, if not the country.

He also considered Clark Kent a friend, ditto Superman, even though he was only a few years older than Henderson’s eldest son. The boy had promise, Henderson had to give him that. Not many kids his age would have had the guts to berate a uniformed cop for being insensitive. Of course, twenty-six was only a kid from the point of view of someone closer to Henderson’s ‘advanced’ age of forty-three.

He had personally taken Perry White’s call that Kent had gone missing. If it had been anyone else placing the call, if it had been about any other reporter aside from Kent or Lane, he would have reminded the caller that the official waiting period was forty-eight hours. In fact, would have been unlikely he would have even seen the missing person’s report.

Henderson stepped out of the elevator into the lobby that looked over the newsroom of the Daily Planet. It was, he realized, the first time he’d been on this floor. He scanned the half-empty room, realizing most of the staff was out doing their job and would most likely be back later. He stepped down onto the lower level, crossing the room to Perry White’s office.

“Henderson,” Perry called out, beckoning the police officer into his office. “I know I’m probably over-reacting, but when Lois told me Clark was still looking into Bureau 39, and he hadn’t been home at all last night, alarms started goin’ off. Especially since it’s only been a week since he got his memories back after that amnesia episode. I’d hate to think he was wandering around again without a clue.”

“Hopefully, he just got involved in what he was doing and it just slipped his mind to call in,” Henderson said. It was funny that Perry had mentioned Kent’s amnesia. That was one of the things that clued Henderson into the real relationship between Clark Kent and Superman.

Kent had been found buck-naked in a smoldering crater by Henry O., one of the winos who lived on the streets in Suicide Slum. The homeless man had taken pity on the younger man, giving him a pair of pants and a shirt, and taking him to a homeless shelter where one of Henderson’s men recognized him. It was the opinion of the police psychiatrist that Kent’s memory loss was due to a combination of a blow to the head and a need to distance himself from the disaster facing the planet in the form of the Nightfall asteroid. They speculated that Kent had also been mugged, explaining why he’d been found without clothes or ID.

It was only afterwards, after Superman reappeared and took care of the surviving chunks of asteroid that Henderson put things together. He had gone to the alley where Henry had told officers he’d rescued Kent to see if there was any evidence of what had really happened to the young man. What he’d found was evidence that Superman had fallen there after he’d lost radio contact with EPRAD. But it was Kent who’d been found in the crater – dazed and clueless, without a mark on him.

Perry stuck his head out of his office. “Lois, honey, when did Clark leave yesterday?”

“About ten after ten. He was working on something on his computer just before he left. In fact, he didn’t bother to turn it off. And you know how careful Clark’s is about his computer, always does backups, does all that techie stuff,” Lois told them. “So I’m positive he was planning on coming back to finish the story we were working on.”

“Lois, exactly what did he say about Bureau 39?” Henderson asked.

“He’d heard they may have found more kryptonite in Smallville, and then Joe the Nose had a friend of a friend who may have had some information on Trask and his people,” Lois said. “He was supposed to meet them sometime today.”

“But you don’t know where or when?”

Lois shook her head. “He said he wanted to do the story on his own.”

Henderson shook his head. His job wasn’t getting any easier. “Look, give me a call if you remember anything else. I’m going back to headquarters, see if anything’s come in on him.”

Henderson headed for the elevators, and then stopped. “Just out of curiosity, has Superman been seen in the last 24 hours or so?”

“Come to think of it, I haven’t seen anything on him since that report about the false alarm at Fale’s Jewelers,” Perry said. “Why?”

“Just an idea,” Henderson admitted. “I know Superman’s a friend of Kent’s, so he might have an idea where he is. If you do hear from him, have him get in touch with me.”

-o-o-o-

As soon as Henderson was back in his office, he requested all the available information the MPD had on the previous day’s incident at Fale’s. Henderson was familiar with the area and knew there was an ATM directly across the street from Fale’s. He called the bank and requested the recordings from the ATM surveillance cameras as well. If he were lucky, the recordings would give some clue as to what really happened yesterday at 10:10, when Clark Kent disappeared.

The daily reports were on his desk within an hour. The reports by the two officers who responded to the original alarm were disappointing at best, and deliberately incomplete at worst. They wrote that Superman had arrived, was informed it was a false alarm, and simply flew off.

The ATM record arrived from the bank less than two hours later. The video made a lie of the official report. Superman had walked into the alley behind the jewelers. When he came out, he was accompanied by the two officers, and although it was hard to tell from the video, he looked ill. The video showed him being helped into the back of the squad car.

Checking the names on the false report, he sent a request to the day watch officer of the fifth precinct for those two officers be called in and sent to his office. He got a call back from their superior. The two men had failed to call in and their squad car had been reported abandoned near Suicide Slum.

Henderson placed a phone call to a number he had been given five months before, the day after the Daily Planet broke the story about the alien who saved the Prometheus space shuttle.

“This is William Henderson, Metropolis PD,” he announced to a voicemail box. “We have a problem. I have reason to believe Superman has been taken.”

-o-o-o-

The door to the cell opened, and three men wearing military style uniforms walked in. Clark didn’t see any rank markings or name tags. He tried to keep the fear out of his face. Superman shouldn’t show fear.

Two of the men grabbed his arms, pulling him to his feet, forcing his hands behind his back. He felt shackles round his wrists. He felt the hands of the third man hooking a chain to the collar around his neck. Chained like an animal. He struggled against them and managed to kick one of them. The third man cuffed him on the side of his head for his trouble.

The vertigo and nausea came back and the room started spinning. He began retching. One of them grabbed his hair, forcing his head down as he started heaving. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink in more than twenty-four hours, so his gut was empty, but that didn’t keep his body from trying as he went to his knees, doubled over.

After a few minutes, he stopped retching and the men on either side of him pulled him upright. They half carried him out of the cell, into the dimly lit corridor beyond. He remembered the corridor from his nightmares and started shivering. The ‘examination’ room was just beyond the next corner.

Fear put strength into his struggling, but it was no use. The men holding him were well trained in subduing unruly prisoners. The third man punched him in the gut and he doubled over once again.

"It will go so much easier for you if you just cooperate, Kal-El."

"And why should I believe you?" he gasped. The two men holding him pulled him upright once again.

"No reason at all," the third man told him. "But we will get what we want out of you. Don't even think about doubting that. One way or another, we will get your secrets."

The man stepped closer, running one finger along the line of Clark's jaw.

"Before I'm done, you'll be begging me to listen to you."

Clark shivered again. He'd been scared before, but this man terrified him. His mouth was dry but he managed to produce just enough saliva to spit in his tormentor's face. He would not go down without a fight.

The man didn't bother to wipe it off. He backhanded Clark across the face. "I think it's time we stopped being so gentle," he told his subordinates as they hauled Clark into the 'examination' room. They didn't bother unshackling him as they forced him to sit down on a metal stool set in the middle of the room.

Clark screamed as the man on his left began breaking his fingers.

-o-o-o-

Lois waited until Henderson was gone and Perry was back at his desk before going to Clark’s desk and taking the note pad he’d used the day before to take down the address where he was to meet his contact.

She grabbed a pencil and rubbed the graphite over the indentations on the paper. Luckily, Clark had a firm, clear hand. The time and address came though clearly. She checked her watch. She had half-an-hour to make it to the corner of Martin and Westover to meet Clark’s contact.

She opened the door to Perry’s office and stuck her head in. “Perry, I’m heading out to check on a source.”

“Lois, you be careful now,” Perry yelled. “You know Clark is still missing.”

“I’ll be careful, Perry. I promise.”

-o-o-o-

Lois waited on the corner and finally, Joe Petrosian, AKA Joe the Nose, showed up. He was a tall, gawky man with a liking for baggy, mismatched clothes. “Where’s Kent? I was supposed to be meeting Kent.”

“Well, he’s not here, Joe,” Lois pointed out. “And I am. So give. What were you going to tell him?”

Joe licked his lips in nervousness, eyes darting about. “Um, I had word that somebody from that Bureau 39 wanted to have a talk with Clarkie boy about Superman.”

“We were told that bunch was disbanded,” Lois told the snitch. “Were we told wrong?”

Joe shrugged.  “I was supposed to set up a meeting. I’m supposed to tell Clarkie boy to meet my contact here, this time tomorrow. He needs to be alone, and no funny stuff. These guys are a little squirrelly. Now, make sure you tell him. I promised them he’d be here.”

“I’ll let him know as soon as I see him,” Lois promised. But if he doesn’t show up, I can’t tell him.

   -o-o-o-

“Come in,” Henderson responded to the knock on his office door. He looked up as the door opened and two smartly dressed older men walked in, closing the door behind them.

“Inspector Henderson?” the man with white hair asked. “You made a call to my office concerning Superman.” He was average height with finely chiseled features and bright blue eyes. The other man was taller, brown hair going to gray, leathery skin. He looked tough.

“I made a call to someone,” Henderson said. “And you are?”

The shorter man smiled and shrugged. “I’m General Straker and this is Colonel Freeman. We’re part of a group whose mission it is to keep track of, how should I put it, non-terrestrials on Earth.” He pulled out his identification and showed it to the police officer: General Edward Straker, USAF. The second man proffered his identification as well: Colonel Alec Freeman.

“Non-terrestrials as in Superman?” Henderson asked.

“Superman is one we try to keep a ‘fatherly’ eye on,” Straker admitted. Freeman chuckled.

“Like Bureau 39 was doing?”

Straker sighed. “What do you know about them?”

“They’re alleged to have been collecting evidence of non-humans on Earth. Their methods were questionable at best,” Henderson said. “Their leader was shot and killed by a local sheriff when he took hostages and tried to kill a Daily Planet reporter.”

Straker gave Henderson a grim smile. “For a covert operation, an awful lot of people know about them.” He paused a moment, considering his next statement. “Bureau 39 was an offshoot of Project Blue Book. Their mandate was to identify and collect evidence concerning possible extra-terrestrial threats against the planet.”

“I thought Blue Book proved there were no threats,” Henderson said.

“The Blue Book conclusion was that the U.F.O.s being studied presented no danger to the U.S.,” Straker said. “That wasn’t strictly true and a task force was put together to deal with the problem. Trask’s group had a specific function and they overstepped their bounds. When attempts were made to rein them in, they went rogue.”

“And your people are better?” Henderson wondered aloud.

“I like to think so, yes,” Straker admitted. “Our organization was the key agency in trying to disband Trask’s group. They were never authorized to take action against alleged threats, only collect evidence, which, as it turns out, they failed to turn over to the proper authorities.”

“And your interest in Superman?” Henderson asked. As interesting as the history of Trask and Bureau 39 was, he had a more immediate concern about one particular alien.

“His birth name is Kal-El,” Freeman said. He had a touch of an Australian accent. “If he’s fallen into the hands of Russell Myerson, Trask’s second in command, he could very well be dead already.”

“I thought he was invulnerable to anything on Earth,” Henderson commented.

“Anything native to Earth, yes,” Straker nodded. “But certain individuals have discovered a specific vulnerability and have attempted to use it against him. We have reason to believe Myerson is among them.”

“So, what do you want of me?” Henderson asked. “I’m just a cop.”

“You misunderstand, Inspector,” Straker said. “We’re offering our assistance in finding and freeing him, if necessary. As an officer of the law, there are certain things you cannot do. We, on the other hand...” Straker let his voice fade meaningfully. “Besides, he’s a good kid, even if he doesn’t always act as bright as his IQ would indicate. I would hate for anything to happen to him. And I definitely don’t want to have to explain it to his parents.
  

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