Alright, without further ado, might I present our thirty-third chapter (Wow, are we really this far already? Geez!)? If you don't know the meaning of the Italian title, Google or Wiki it. LS is to to teach you something every once in a while! :D
B, get better, love! And let us know the update on Little Miss! We love you and thank you for beta-ing this despite feeling awful!
No words between them when he dropped her off on the roof; Lois turned to him mutely as he let her down, and he smiled sadly. Touching her cheek once, so lightly, Kal-El left before he couldn’t bring himself to go, not trusting himself to speak.
Lois had turned her face into his palm, closing her eyes for a second to savor his touch. Oh, yes, when all of this over, we have a lot to talk about. All of us.
Shaking off her melancholy mood, Lois headed downstairs. She had much more important things to think about at the moment. Like where the twins were… Lois had to suppress a shudder. God, please.
Hurrying the rest of the way down to the Planet offices, Lois kept her mind turned resolutely forward. She’d no sooner stepped into the conference room, however, than she stopped cold.
Four heads turned to look at her. Jimmy, Perry, Richard … and Lana. Lana? What the hell is she doing here?
For one instant her expression must have been obvious. Jimmy cringed, Perry looked away, and Richard flinched. Lana, however, met her eyes frankly.
Whatever unfortunate thing Lois was about to say was forestalled by the door behind her opening – and knocking into her arm. “Oops! Gee, sorry, Lois,”
“I’m fine,” she growled, thinking I know you could see me right through that door! But then she realized how much of a hypocrite she was being over Lana. What right do I have to be territorial? “Hi, Ms. Lang. Thanks for helping us.”
“If I’m going to be helping you find the twins,
Perry looked a little nonplussed; having his authority usurped twice in one day – and not by Lois – was a record. Clark adjusted his glasses as he sat down, and said, “Well, the number that the message was sent from belongs to a woman in
“So it’s a dead end,” Lois sighed, biting her lip. What did you expect, Lane? The poor man only had a couple of minutes anyway.
“Well, not totally,”
“All right, then, let’s do it,” Lois said. “Who do we have to call?”
“That’s the problem,”
“Neither of which we can contact,” Richard griped. “Dammit.”
“The police already know, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Lois said, remembering suddenly. “Todd Thomas called them when he found the twins’ teacher hurt… My God, I left the phone hanging. Barbara must’ve panicked…”
“I took care of that,” Perry said. “The hospital’s gonna keep us updated on Mrs. Mosley. And as for the cops, I told Lieutenant Sawyer about Luthor’s threat. Maybe she can help with getting the cell phone information.”
“Let me try first,” Lois said earnestly, and glanced at
“Speaking of you, I assume you got a hold of Superman?” Perry asked. “What did he have to say?”
Lois managed to keep from glancing at
That left all of them silent with foreboding; even
“His … retreat, I guess you could call it. And no, I can’t say where it is,” Lois told them. “Unfortunately, the only other human being who knows the location is Lex Luthor. Superman just found out about the theft today, when he saw the chip of crystal I found.”
“I know,” Lois said grimly. “Taking the twins is just a ploy to buy time, I’ll bet. Once Superman – or I – found out about the missing crystals, all hell was sure to break loose. This is Luthor’s way of keeping us busy while he does God-alone-knows-what.”
“Us?” Richard interjected. “Superman is going to help us look for the kids?”
Lois hesitated for a fraction of an instant, and this time couldn’t stop her eyes from darting to
Everyone at the table shared a speculative glance. Of them, only Lois had seen Superman with any kind of frequency. Jimmy and Perry had each met him once or twice, but for Lana and Richard seeing the superhero was going to be a novel experience.
“First things first,” Perry said gruffly, “we’ll see if we can narrow down this list. I know he can see through anything except lead, but that doesn’t mean he’s got the time to look over every square inch of the city. If the twins are even still in Metropolis.
“Okay, boss,” Stanford said. “Here we go.” Riley and his camera hovered in the background. Lex merely nodded, not quite trusting himself to speak.
On the lighted worktable in front of Stanford lay fragments of the meteorite. The outer pieces were black and charred, but the ones from the center of the rock were a deep, translucent green. The largest remaining piece was a smoothed cylinder about the thickness of Stanford’s bicep, and it was currently fitted into a padded vise with a large-bore drill bit just touching one end.
He took a deep breath, glancing at Lex again as he started the drill. Now everything he knew about mineralogy was being put to the test; if he’d calculated the flaws in the stone, its stress lines, incorrectly, the whole thing would shatter.
And Lex would probably kill him. Trying to ignore the trickle of sweat running down his spine, Stanford touched the drill to the stone.
Slowly, slowly, the diamond-tipped bit polished its way through the kryptonite. Riley leaned in close, and Stanford bit his lip; this was not the moment to distract him! Didn’t that idiot realize this was incredibly delicate work?
Probably not – none of these guys had any appreciation for things that required more dexterity than pressing buttons. Not even Riley, with his camera obsession, had any true technical skill. Even as he guided the drill further into the kryptonite cylinder, slowly boring a channel into its center, Stanford couldn’t quite stop himself from reflecting on the difference between himself and the other three men Lex had brought on this mission.
They’re thugs, plain and simple. Hired for their muscles, not their brains. And I shudder to think too much about what goes on in their minds, anyway – never again will I try to make friends with these goons by going to one of Riley’s movie nights. He suppressed a slight tremor at the memory of those films, which Riley called his little documentaries. They all followed one theme, and it wasn’t one that Stanford, whose worst offense had been fraud, could possibly enjoy. Even Brutus stays away from it, which is really saying something. Of all the ‘security’ guys, he’s the oddest. Never talks about what he did time for; never talks about anything much, really. And he doesn’t get in on all the macho strutting the rest of them spend so much time and energy on. Maybe he doesn’t need to, since he’s the biggest and burliest of them?
More than halfway through, and Lex was still watching with almost reptilian concentration. Did the man ever blink? Speaking of people who made Stanford nervous, Lex topped the list. I may be useful to him, more so than these guys, he thought, slowing the forward progress of the drill even more. But he made it plain that he takes no prisoners. ‘Your life expectancy is directly proportionate to your usefulness multiplied by your loyalty.’ One hell of a quote, and I bet no one else realized that the way it’s worded, the minute either your usefulness or loyalty drops to zero, you die.
Of course, he’s paying everyone well. Very well. But he asks a lot, too. No outside contact. No women at the facility in
The drill bit stuttered, and Stanford hastily backed it out an eighth of an inch. Oblivious to Riley and Lex, he walked around the vise, peering at the crystal. It had only struck a tiny flaw in the kryptonite that ran counter to the rest of the planes of crystal growth. Stanford backed the drill the rest of the way out and started to blow the dust off of it.
“Don’t,” Lex said. “Save it. It doesn’t exactly fall from the sky like manna six days a week, you know.”
The mineralogist glanced at him again, but carefully tapped the kryptonite dust into a tray. As he did so, Stanford noticed that one of the large shards was missing from the worktable. The one that happened to be shaped a lot like a blade…
I’m not thinking about that, he told himself as he put in a fresh, sharp bit and eased it into the nearly-completed channel, Riley’s camera practically on his shoulder. This with using those kids for bait is bad enough, but I don’t want to speculate on why Lex needs a kryptonite shiv. Questioning the boss’ motives is bad for your health around here…
At last they’d sorted the likely locations from the probable and merely possible ones. The lists were still depressingly long; there were so many places that Luthor could hide a couple of frightened kids. Many of them could even be easily soundproofed. Lois looked at the list of Vanderworth properties in and around Metropolis, and for a moment her heart quailed. They could be anywhere … and we still don’t even know if his hint was genuine or a red herring.
But then that fighting spirit rose. Lex is just arrogant enough to give us a real clue. And I’ll see to it he regrets that before I’m done. “Okay, people, let’s split up. We’ll each take a section and start searching.” In her mind she was already planning which sectors Richard should search, which she would take, and which
Suddenly, as everyone seated at the table reached for the lists, Lois remembered Perry’s heart, and Jimmy’s naïveté. And Lana – she had no idea what she was getting into here. But before she could even decide what to say,
“We ought to go in pairs,” he said. “And someone needs to stay here and monitor the situation, keep us in touch with each other. Keep checking the news and keep an eye out for Luthor’s next move. Chief – there’s no one better to command headquarters.”
That was … pretty damn deft for the clueless goober he pretends to be, Lois thought, but Perry accepted it for now. “Sounds reasonable. Olsen, you’re here with me.”
Perry cut him a glare that was somehow still fatherly. “Olsen, what’re you gonna do if you’re stuck alone in an alley with Luthor? Beat him with your camera?”
Jimmy glanced around the table, and replied, “Well, are Lois and Ms. Lang going?”
“Lois’ll shoot him,” Perry said sharply. “As for Ms. Lang…”
“I have no intention of being caught alone in an alley with a maniac,” Lana said quickly. “Isn’t that why we’re going in pairs? At least I’ll have company.”
“Lana, you don’t have to…” Richard began, but she silenced him with a look.
“I said I’d help you,” the redhead said with quiet composure. “And I will. Besides, Lois has her gun – I’ve got a can of Mace in my purse. Girl’s best friend in the big city. That seems to make us the only ones armed around here – although I definitely bow to Lois’ superior firepower.”
The four glanced at each other, and Lois realized just how this would have to pan out. “Fine. Richard, you and I will take everything on this list north of 51st. Clark, you and Lana take everything south.” At least he can keep her safe. Lana shouldn’t be in on this … neither should Richard. Neither one of them have any idea just how low Luthor will sink to get back at the both of us.
Richard glanced at her, then looked out the window. “C’mon, let’s get moving. Daylight’s wasting.”
Perry and Jimmy watched the three reporters – and one brave fashion designer – head out. The editor-in-chief cursed his age, but mostly his heart; cursed every steak he’d eaten, every cigar he’d smoked, every cup of coffee he’d drunk. He was paying the price for those decisions now, forced like an aging bloodhound to remain at the kennel while the younger, stronger dogs took up the hunt.
Jimmy sighed heavily. “Well, Chief, I guess it’s up to us to see what else we can track down on Luthor.”
“Course it is,” the older man said, feeling an echo of pride and valor rise in his chest. “And I’m the best one for it, the kids know that. Nothing like an old reporter for digging up secrets. C’mon, kid, let’s go down to the archives.”