This is a fic playing with some ideas I have about how Clark's powers could be explained in the episode Man of Steel Bars. This Clark is also a mixture of my CJ and the Clark from an unfinished fic only bobbart would recognize. I also played with Lois and Lex a little as, for an idea on a longer fic, I'm trying to figure out where their relationship comes from if you go from Pilot to HoL. There are some other characters I played around with some in ways I hope are interesting. And, rematching the episode again, I'd never caught that Luthor actually orchestrated the run away train and (at least its hinted at) at least one other incident where Superman used his powers (maybe the prisoner outside the courtroom that leaves to the lovely mimicking of "Don't mess around with Jim"...
Disclaimer: This is a fan work based on “Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.” All rights to the characters belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros. No profit was made off this work.
Clark's eyes flew wide as the accusation silenced the room. Beside him, Lois had frozen, a stricken look on her face. After all it had been her haranguing that had allowed the scientist to step forward with his theory.
Clark felt his face turning red as he fought to restrain his laughter.
* * *
Clark watched the floor show from his seat, suppressing an amused smirk. Friez was analyzing the 'proof' from the press conference while Superman's champions, Lois and Jimmy argued in furious defense of their hero. Then Cat added her usual brand of excitement to the office. Much as the woman drove him crazy, even he had to appreciate her... boldness.
His attention was soon recaptured by an eruption from Lois' direction. He tuned back into the conversation. He nearly groaned aloud as he realized Perry seemed to be in full support of this crazy theory. However, he was content to leave his defense to the cheerleaders (he inwardly winced at referring to Lois as that, no matter the accuracy of it).
Then Friez offered up, "...most physicists do think Superman's power is solar induced."
Jimmy rushed to defend the hero, but Clark cut him off, "And since when has anyone offered any kind of proof that Superman's powers are somehow an exothermic process?"
The conversation stuttered to a halt. Perry eyed him closely, "Something to share with the class, Clark?"
Clark sighed, he'd wanted to stay out of this. This was going to be a precarious balance... of course he knew his own powers better than anyone, but trying to speculate without revealing too much... He'd even thought of playing devil's advocate to Lois' biased support. But, if *Perry* was already going to print the theory... this was fast spiraling out of control. He marshaled his thoughts under the gaze of his colleagues.
Finally, he spoke, "This theory relies on the idea that Superman is somehow *creating* energy whenever he uses his powers. Which makes *no* sense. Shouldn't he be drawing energy *out* of the system, if anything?" Friez's expression turned thoughtful. "Also, if using his powers is enough to raise the temperature this high in the *entire city* shouldn't it be like a bomb going off wherever he's *actually* using his powers?"
Friez flipped through one of the reports. "It says here that Superman is acting as some sort of solar conduit, drawing the sun's energy into city..." he broke off abruptly as Clark failed to hold back his incredulous laughter.
It took Lois' irate hiss of, "Get ahold of yourself!" to quiet him.
Clark faked wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. "Who *is* this guy? Who's actually letting him research or practice or whatever he's doing..." he let out an incredulous snort, "better yet, what place gave him a *degree*?" He shook his head in amazement. He decided to pass the science lesson onto his colleague, "Eduardo, what's the main cause of the temperature variation in summer vs winter?"
Lois rolled her eyes and said sarcastically, "The amount of sunlight we get..."
Friez looked pensive, "That's right, to a point, the duration of daylight exposure due to the tilted axis of rotation aligning either towards or away from the sun during the extremes of winter and summer account for some of the variation. But, even more importantly, is the *angle* at which this tilt makes the sun's light hit our planet. That angle is what controls how much of the sun's heat is absorbed or reflected in the general terms of our seasons." He considered the report again, "But that kind of seasonal variation doesn't explain why the boundaries of Metropolis are now a hot spot."
Clark nodded. "True, but my point there was that the same amount of sunlight hitting the earth at different angles is what creates winter and summer, not *more* or *less* sunlight..." He tilted his head a bit. "There are areas of the world that are naturally warmer than they should be though..."
Friez nodded, "England, Canada and parts of Russia lie along the same latitude, which means they should have roughly the same climate. However, due to the Gulf Stream pumping warm water along the English coast, England has a relatively milder climate.***"
Clark nodded and added in exasperation, "Even then, that's a difference of *maybe* 10°, not the difference of *60°* or more we've been experiencing. So are they really trying to say Superman is disrupting the environment more than *global ocean currents*?!"
Friez final lifted his hands in surrender, "What better theory have we got?"
Clark sighed, "Now that I *don't* know."
Lois gave a decisive nod, "Then that's *our* job: to find out what's really going on."
"No, your *jobs* are to get me something to print for the afternoon edition," Perry cut in. Lois opened her mouth to protest and Perry held up a hand to stop her. "Friez, you're on this theory. I want to see both sides: the printouts we got and the questions Clark here brought up." He returned his gaze to Lois. "Lois, you're on the effects of this heat on Metropolis. Team up with Sanchez if you need more medical jargon." Lois rolled her eyes and nodded sullenly. "Clark," he turned to the last reporter, "I'd like a sidebar to go with Friez'-"
"Chief," Clark cut, "I actually have another angle I'd like to write."
Perry raised an eyebrow, but motioned to Clark to continue.
"I want to write about the dangers of rushing through with the new power plant. I know the power situation has caused a lot of grief, but I think there's a lot more risk of something going wrong with LexPower than people want to think there is right now," Clark finished pitching his idea.
Perry tilted his head in consideration for a moment before shaking his head. "Son, I just don't think we have anything to back that up."
Clark sighed, "How about an article on how to cope with the heat? I've spent time in Australia, the Mediterranean, the Amazon and India so I know how to deal with weather this warm better than most."
Perry nodded sharply, "Now *that* is an article I can get behind. Get to it!" he turned sharply and headed for his office.
Friez nodded to Clark, "Thanks for the food for thought, Kent, I might need to clarify a few things with you before I finish my copy, but I should be fine for the most part." He gathered his papers and headed for his own work station.
Lois turned a lethal glare on Clark. "You want to *stop* the power plant from coming on line?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "No, Lois, I want the power plant to come on line without making a *bigger* mess. You think the heat is bad? Try living in a nuclear fur-" Clark cut himself off as his eyes went wide, "nuclear furnace..." he whispered.
Lois ignored him, flipping her hair as she parried, "Lex just wants to help the city, like he always does. I can't believe you're trying to find fault with that." She dropped into her chair and woke her computer to begin her own article.
Clark's brow furrowed as he looked at his some-time partner. He wondered when Luthor had elevated himself to the same blind defense Superman received from the tenacious reporter.
* * *
Later that day, Clark burst into a burning building to free some trapped workers. Once they were gone he turned to suffocate the flames like he normally did when he paused. This might be a good time to test a theory he'd always had.
Clark centered himself into a light meditative trance, the transition easy now after years of practice. Turning his senses inward he utilized an ability he knew instinctively he had, but had never experimented with much.
He began to extend and relax muscle fibers at will all across his body. Flex. Release. Flex. Release. So fast he was sure he would appear to vibrate if anyone had been observing him. After a minute of the rapid but infinitesimal display of his powers he broke his trance and looked around him.
Shining particles of ice hung in the air in a nebula around him and frost formed a circle around his feet. Ice surrounded him in the middle of an inferno during a record heat wave. Even the fire looked somehow reduced, like he'd sucked the energy from the room even if there was still plenty of fuel and oxygen.****
With a satisfied smirk, Clark extinguished the flames and left the building to meet with the fire chief.
* * *
That afternoon, the temperature in the city had risen to a balmy 98°F. Smallville regularly got above 90° in July and August, but you typically had to go a bit further south to get this close to 100°.
The problem in Metropolis wasn't, in and of itself, the heat. People who lived in Texas or Arizona knew to keep to the shade and wear light clothes. People in Spain had their siestas. In Italy anyone who was able took a vacation around Ferragosto to escape the worst heat there.
But many people in Metropolis lacked the habituation to feel comfortable in the heat nor did they know appropriate coping mechanisms, nor did they know simple things like drinking more water. Superman had ferried far too many people to the hospital due to heat stroke and exhaustion during this heat wave.
Clark's thoughts were interrupted as the City Attorney came out to address the press conference he, Lois and Jimmy were attending. Reaching the podium, Patricia Cheng greeted the assembled press, "Good morning. We, the city of Metropolis, have decided to seek an injunction tomorrow ordering Superman to cease using his powers until such time as their culpability for our current situation can be determined." She paused for a moment to let the outcry this announcement caused to die down. "A subpoena has been issued requesting his appearance to in court but, in lieu of an address we can deliver it to, I am issuing a public appeal that he meet with us in court tomorrow to address the situation."
A TV newsman Clark had long ago learned to dislike called out, "What if he doesn't show?"
Cheng appeared aggrieved as she replied, "Superman has always adhered to our laws. I fully expect to see him here tomorrow under his own recognizance. That is all." She turned to reenter the courthouse.
Clark nearly groaned as the rumor-mongering reporter called after her, "But really, what if he doesn't? Will you nuke him?" The other reporters exploded into a frenzy of questions and tried to follow Cheng inside the building.
As the trio from the Planet drew back from the surging crowd, Lois vented, "Am I the only *sane* person in this entire city?" Both men simply stared at her but she ignored them. "We've got to do something."
Jimmy rolled his eyes and returned, "Lois, meteorologists from all over the *world* have been studying this, what can we find that we haven't?"
Lois looked pensive for a moment then ventured, "They've been studying the weather... we're going to study Superman." She tapped Jimmy's shoulder excitedly as she continued, "I want you to study Superman's activity-"
Jimmy groaned, "Friez already did that."
Lois rolled her eyes, "He looked at *dates* I want-"
"Locations," Clark cut in, awed. It was a great insight from his partner.
Jimmy looked between the two for a moment before muttering, "On it." He rushed off to find his way back to the Planet.
Lois turned towards her partner, "You got any ideas, partner?"
Clark eyed her warily, "I have *one* but I have no proof. Let's go help Jimmy with those maps."
* * *
That evening Clark landed in a deserted area of Patagonia. It was late spring here in the southern hemisphere but in even in the height of summer, it never breached 75°F on these grasslands and steppes surrounded by the dagger-like spine tail of the Andes.
It was a region he had visited several times in the past to experiment with his powers. In over 400 thousand square miles of territory there were less than 2 million people... an average of less than 5 people per square mile. Before Superman had existed it had been one of his safe havens in which he explored the boundaries of his abilities.
That evening Clark pushed himself as hard as he could. There was no one around to be bothered by sonic booms so he pushed his speed as fast as he could. He turned his heat vision up as high as he could to vaporize glacial pools then made his breath as cold as possible to freeze them. He followed crevices to the bottom of a glacier and pitted his strength against the mass of ice.
The results were the same for every ability he tried except one.
The air around him got *cooler* or started to crystalize into water and other ices if he was pushing his limits.
His breath was the only exception. When he pushed the limits there *he* got warmer, but pulling heat from the air in his lungs (he assumed that was what he was doing) only raised his own body temperature a few fractions of a degree.
Satisfied that his intuitions about his powers had been correct, he headed back to Metropolis.
Only to hit what felt like a wall of hot air as he entered the city. Curious, noted Clark, even in the middle of the night the temperature hadn't changed. Maybe he *should* take a closer look at that power plant like he'd wondered earlier. It was something *Luthor* had a hand in, after all.
* * *
The next morning found Lois and Perry seated in a crowded courtroom while Superman waited in the defendant's place while Cheng manned the prosecution. Clark had called in before the injunction to tell Perry he'd overdone if the previous day and come down with heat exhaustion. Clark knew the judge was Angela Diggs, unfortunately he had not met her before today. The bailiff interrupted his thoughts and called for them all to stand as the judge entered the room.
Unhappy with the continued activity in the room, Judge Diggs immediately yelled, "This hearing will be in order! This is a courtroom, not a circus tent." Reaching her chair and retrieving the gavel she immediately put it to use. "This is a gavel, when I pound it, that's the international symbol for all of you to pipe down!" With a final strike she surveyed the room, finding it to her tastes now, the took her seat. The bailiff called for the room to follow suit.
She took a moment to arrange her desk and then looked at Clark. "Good morning, Mr. Superman."
Clark nodded to her and rose to his feet once more. He replied, "It's just Superman, ma'am."
Her eyebrows rose. "Is that your real name?"
Clark sighed inwardly, he hated having questions like that. "That is the name I've been given here and the one I've made my own."
Diggs nodded and looked to her stenographer and instructed her to just use "Superman" for the record. She returned her attention to Clark. "I understand you've refused council?"
Clark inclined his head and explained, "I prefer to speak for myself, your honor."
Diggs smiled in response and continued, "Now, Superman, I have to say upfront that I'm a fan. One might even say a big fan." She smiled at Clark for a moment. "I've seen quite a few of the lowlifes you've helped bring in and it's unfortunate that we had to meet under these circumstances. Between you and me-"
"Objection!" called Cheng as she launched to her feet, "Your honor-"
Diggs rolled her eyes and looked over at the other woman. "You can't object, Patricia, because this isn't actually a trial." The attorney reluctantly sat back down as the judge returned her attention to Clark. "Now, Superman, do you understand why the city attorney dragged you in here today?"
Clark nodded decisively, "A concern has been raised that my powers may be causing the unusual heat wave Metropolis has been experiencing of late." Turning his gave to the obviously frustrated Cheng, he continued, "I can't find fault with any attempt to assuage the concerns of the citizens I strive to serve."
Diggs considered him for a long moment before asking, "And what's your opinion about these concerns?"
Clark took a steadying breath before replying, "The theory brought forth is one based on a statistical correlation between when I use my powers and when the temperature rises. I don't believe this correlation indicates a causal relationship though. But, I also do not want the people of this city to have any cause to fear me. I am willing to collaborate with whomever the city wishes to prove that my powers are not to blame."
Diggs nodded, "All right then, let's make this short and sweet."
Clark was startled, that was it? He quickly cut in, "Your Honor?"
Diggs paused, "Yes?"
Clark steadied himself, "May I provide a small demonstration?"
Diggs' eyebrows climbed, "I guess..."
Clark carefully stepped around the desk and, as he moved to a more open area, explained, "Before I could be comfortable helping people I had to find ways to test myself and my powers. When I'm starting to approach my limits, I discovered something." He repeated his exercise from the fire the day before, but instead of using rapid muscle twitches, he spun in place. He kept spinning faster and faster, ignoring the attorney's muttered curse as some of her papers started shifting in the breeze he was creating. Then he heard the gasps start.
Clark stopped and opened his eyes. A thin layer of snow petered out from around a bare circle where his boots had been during his spin. On top of that, most of his uniform was covered in frost.
Clark met the judge's stunned gaze, "When I push myself hard enough I pull energy *out* of the air... not *add* energy to the air as I would have to do to raise the temperature." He tilted his head as he considered what to say. "I can honestly say that I do not know how must of my abilities work. But, I imagine I am absorbing energy from around me like a plant does sunlight. And when I exceed what my body can store up, this," he motioned to the rapidly evaporating ice, "is what happens."
Diggs took several long moments to collect her thoughts while Clark returned to his seat. Them, she addressed the court, "Unfortunately, Superman, I can't take that demonstration as proof of your claim."
Clark sighed but nodded his acceptance.
Diggs continued, "I'm going to ask that you cease and desist all further super activity pending study by experts." She turned her gaze to Clark. "Do you wish to contest?"
Clark swallowed before replying, "I wish to obey the ruling of the court. But I am afraid some use of my abilities is instinctual, nor am I sure I could let anyone be hurt or killed if I happen upon a bad situation." He took a fortifying breath, "I also can't actually turn *off* some of my abilities." His eyes squeezed shut for a moment. "My hearing, for example, is attuned now to people calling for help or screaming. Like you wouldn't be able to stop hearing a high pitched hum or how people react to hearing their names. My invulnerability..." he trailed off and looked to Diggs helplessly.
Diggs sighed, brushing a hand across her forehead. "Any ideas, Patricia?"
The attorney sighed and addressed Clark directly, "I'd be happy with you abstaining from assisting in any situation the police can handle and limiting your use of powers as much as you can until we can schedule some tests. Which will be as quickly as we can."
Diggs nodded, "I think we can all live with that." She focused on Clark, "Do your best to restrain yourself, Superman, until we can get the data we need to clear this up."
Clark nodded and the court was adjourned.
As Clark headed out of the room, people choked the aisle, peppering him with questions. Outside the courtroom, Clark's eyes immediately fell on a prisoner relieving a bailiff of his gun. The man had his former guard braced against the wall and he swept the gun around the room, demanding to be let out with his hostage. Clark glanced over to Diggs and Cheng, who were standing in the doorway.
Diggs sighed and shrugged while Cheng shook her head in frustration while subtly motioning him on with her hand. Clark turned back to the prisoner and bounded forward in two strides, plucking the gun from his stunned hands. The prisoner stumbled back and fell to the floor and Clark stood watch while several bailiffs gained control of the man.
Diggs and Cheng joined him as the prisoner was led away.
"Do you have anywhere to stay with less... temptations?" said Cheng sarcastically.
Clark huffed out a sigh, "I've made friends with several people since I came here-"
"He can stay with me!" Lois called out as she rocketed over to them with an adoring smile.
Clark gaped at her for a split second before controlling himself. He cleared his throat and continued, "One of my friends, Clark Kent, came down with heat stroke yesterday and is recovering at his apartment, I could easily stay with him if you could provide me with some discrete transportation. I could also stay there if he feels well enough to go into work later."
Cheng nodded, ignoring Lois as she sputtered behind them, "That will work, we'll need his address and phone number. And we'll see about get you a ride over there." She eyed his costume. "And, though I hate to suggest it in this weather, maybe a trench coat?"
Clark smirked, "I think I can live."
* * *
That evening, Clark sat on his sofa with papers strewn across his table. He wished he'd dared to go into the Planet this afternoon to see how far Jimmy had gotten on his mapping, but he needed Clark to still be ill for now. He didn't think he needed proof that his powers weren't to blame though. He needed to find proof of what *was* causing the heat wave. Especially in light of the fact that, since the injunction, the temperature seemed to have dropped about 10°.
Sighing to himself, he flipped through his notes. Someone had control of the temperature to the very degree throughout the city. They were able to change the temperature at will to match his activities as Superman. The temperature was staying the same night and day. Heck, he could even add in suspicious timing on the part of that prisoner in the courthouse.
Clark was positive Luthor and his power plant were to blame, but he couldn't figure out *how*. Or how to convince anyone else.
A knock on the door broke him from his thoughts and he scanned quickly, seeing Lois through the glass. With a sigh, he changed back into his suit and put away his incriminating notes on Luthor, ignoring the nagging voice reminding him he'd agreed not to use his powers. But Lois' insistent knocking and calling his name through the glass dispelled the feelings.
Reaching the door and opening it gently, he was greeted with Lois' shocked face.
"S-S-Superman?" she stammered out, an awed flush creeping up her cheeks. "I-I..." she fumbled a grocery bag and a frown crossed her face. "Where's Clark?" she glanced around him, looking for his absent other half.
"He's..." Clark fumbled desperately for something to say as he moved from the door, allowing Lois through the door.
Lois quickly moved into his kitchen and placed whatever she's brought on his counter. "Is he asleep?" she asked quietly.
Clark stood mutely, which Lois apparently took as affirmation, as he was struck by the sense that she was *concerned* about him... him: Clark. Even with her idol effectively trapped in the same room with her, she was asking about *him*.
Then Lois had to take his rising euphoria and change it into panic as she headed for his bedroom, tossing over her shoulder, "Let me check on him, then I can serve-" she rounded the partition of his open apartment and stopped dead, presumably staring at his empty and made up bed. Lois whipped back around and asked, "Where's Clark?"
Clark nearly groaned, he hated being cornered into an outright lie. "He's recovering," he tried to prevaricate.
Lois pursed her lips, "But *where*? He shouldn't be alone this long- *You're* not supposed to be alone either-" The phone rang, cutting her off.
Before Lois could react, Clark answered the phone, "Hello?"
"Clark?" his mother's voice came over the line. "Your father and I saw the news-"
"Mrs. Kent," he cut her off.
There was a noticeable pause on the other end of the phone, and Clark cringed inwardly.
"How's Clark?" he asked.
"Am I supposed to say anything?" his mother asked sarcastically, making him want to cringe physically.
"I'm glad Clark's feeling better. Hopefully, he'll be well by the time this heat wave ends and he can come home. Anyway, Lois is here, so I need to go..." he rushed to get out before Lois could get to the phone. "I'll come out to to check on him when I can." He hung up to his mother's audible snort.
He turned back to face Lois and found her standing there in a familiar pose, but not one he expected her to give *Superman*. Her back was ramrod straight, arms crossed and face displaying an exasperation he was well used to when a rescue made him late or absent from something at work.
"You *flew* Clark out to Smallville?" she said, incredulously. "What about the injunction?"
Clark sighed, "Yesterday," he explained.
Lois sighed, but relaxed her pose, seeming to decide her hero was blameless and walked back to her neglected bag. "I'm glad he's out of the heat, I guess." She started emptying the bag, arranging various packaged food on his counter. Then, she smiled shyly at him. "And I'm even more glad I brought you dinner... and with Clark in Smallville..." a blush played across her face.
Clark felt the sudden urge to bang his head against the wall. He was brilliant! Give Lois Superman trapped in his apartment and let her think she had him all to herself with Clark off in Smallville. Instead he decided to see what Lois, whom the office grapevine had labeled a microwave chef at best, had decided to bring. "You didn't need to do this, though, Lois."
She smiled a little more genuinely, and replied, "I wanted to." A look of worry crossed her face, "You do... eat, right?"
Clark almost snorted, one of his duties at work seemed to be to make sure *she* ate... He almost shook himself. Even being in the suit, staying in character as Superman in his own apartment was hard. "I've need felt like I *had* to eat, but I enjoy a good meal."
Lois gave a blinding smile that almost had him loosing contact with the floor. If only she could feel a fraction of that emotion for him as himself. She turned back to removing the covering from a bowl, saying in a rush, "I think you'll love this. I know how to make only a handful of recipes but they're all good."
Clark granted her a small smile, "What is it?"
"Pasta salad," she answered, then a wild blush climbed up her face, "It's the only thing I know how to make that doesn't have chocolate as the main ingredient," she whispered.
Clark couldn't hold back a small chuckle and Lois turned startled eyes up to him. Clark fought against a blush of his own. He said, "As I said at the injunction, sometimes I can't control all of my abilities. Super-hearing is one of the worst in that regard."
Before Lois could formulate a reply, the radio he always kept on a low volume cut to a news bulletin. Clark quickly strode over to the radio and turned it up for Lois. "-train has lost use of it's breaks. The terminal is being evacuated but there are over 300 people on the train." The anchor went on as Clark moved for his phone.
"What are you doing?" Lois asked anxiously as Clark dialed in a number.
"Hello?" a voice snapped into his ear.
"Ms. Cheng?" Clark asked.
"Yes? Whoever this is speed it up-" she replied caustically.
"This is Superman," he cut in.
A started pause punctuated her surprise before she began again in a much more congenial voice, "The train?"
"Go," she said decisively, before hanging up.
Clark ended the call on his end and dialed a second number, barely noticing that Lois was now anxiously standing by his side.
"Judge Diggs speaking," came a calmer voice than his last target.
"This is Superman-"
"Go stop that train," she ordered, cutting him off.
Clark replaced the phone without saying goodbye and looked up to Lois, "I need to go..."
Lois smiled brightly, "Of course," she reached up to his face, then seemed to change her mind and squeezed his upper arm. Then she stepped back, "Good luck. I'll try to get there for the story."
"Thanks, Lois," he said softly and walked out to his balcony to take off.
* * *
Stopping the train had been relatively easy. And it didn't actually take much application of his powers. He'd learned while working covertly, long before Superman was even a glimmer of an idea, that the best way to stop any kind of vehicle was to just make what was already there work. So since the controls for the breaks weren't functioning, he manually applied them and spot welded them in place. He even moved fast enough to essentially apply them simultaneously. But, as he watched the train screech to a halt, all he could think of was whether or not the temperature would rise.
* * *
Clark had spent the rest of the evening attempting to distract himself from what he was afraid would happen in the morning. He had half expected Lois to come back and he really wished that he had access to the maps Jimmy had been working on.
Finally he slept for a few hours until it was time to check in with Cheng and Diggs in the morning. He turned on the television as he headed for the phone. However, the news broadcast that came on caused him to freeze.
They were covering a riot around the courthouse. The temperature was now 110° and the citizens were blaming him.
Clark closed his eyes and dialed in the number for Diggs' office.
* * *
Within an hour Clark was meeting with Diggs and Cheng in Diggs' office. Study of his powers couldn't happen in time to stem the tide of the public's fear. None of them could come up with any other solution but one: for the good of public peace, Superman had to leave.
They had scheduled a press conference for just after the lunch hour and now Clark was left to sit and wait with the judge and the attorney.
"Superman," began Diggs quietly, "I truly am sorry it's come to this."
"Me too," said Cheng as she brushed a hand through her hair. Clark was fairly sure neither woman had gotten much, if any, sleep the night before.
"We're all just trying to do what's best for Metropolis," he returned quietly.
All of them jumped when someone pounded on the door.
"Who's there?" Diggs demanded.
The door swung open and Lois stormed in, clutching a folder tightly in her grasp. Close behind her was a bailiff who Diggs waved off.
"I have information you need to see," Lois said quickly. Opening her folder she pulled out a map covered with blue dots of various sizes. "A colleague of mine put together these maps. This one," she gestured to the paper map as she spread it across Diggs' desk, "is a map of *where* Superman performed rescues over the last week before the injunction." She then pulled a large transparency covered in various shades of yellow, orange and red. "And this is a detailed temperature map of the same area from two days ago."
Cheng and Diggs leaned over the maps and Cheng clarified, "So activity for 7 days before the injunction and the temperature the day before the injunction?"
"Yes," Lois replied, "notice that the hottest areas on the temperature maps don't match where Superman was performing rescues."
Cheng sighed, "We need more, Ms. Lane."
Clark studied the map before him, trying to make sense of the hot spots. Suddenly, he saw a pattern. He pointed to the largest hot spot, "This is the new power plant." He pointed to the next largest spots, "These are the water treatment facilities, both where water is taken out of the river and returned to it." Then he sighed, "I'm not sure what that means, though, nor what those smaller nodes are."
Diggs shook her head, "It's not enough, not right now. But it's a start." She turned to Cheng, "Who was the scientist who basically called the guy who proposed the Superman theory a crack pot at the mayor's press conference?"
"Dr. Katherine Goodman," replied Cheng. She looked to Lois, "I can give you her address, can you get these maps to her?"
Lois nodded eagerly, then glanced at Superman, "But what about Superman?"
Clark gave her a small smile, "I will take a few days vacation to put the citizens of the city at ease."
Lois bit her lip, "But what if we need you?"
Clark replied, "I'll keep an ear out, don't worry."
Lois smiled at him and returned her maps to her folder. She then took a slip of paper Cheng held out and headed out the door.
Once she was gone, Clark turned to back to the two women. "I have a request to make."
Cheng and Diggs shared a long look then Diggs said, "We're listening."
Clark took a deep breath, he was taking a huge risk here, but these two had tried their best to help him sort out this mess, so he felt he had to be honest with them... to a point.
"You asked if my name was Superman yesterday, your honor," he met Diggs' gaze. "It's not. I have a," he paused to think of the right word, "civilian identity. My request is that I be allowed to stay in Metropolis, so long as I'm not dressed like," he gestured to his suit, "this."
Both women regarded him in shock for a long moment.
Then Diggs collected herself, "Well, I'm surprised to hear you admit that, Superman."
Cheng added, "I know of a few people in the government and law enforcement who have speculated that you might have a 'day job' but I never expected to get that confirmed..."
Clark quickly cut, "You both have treated me more than fairly. And I ask that both of you keep the fact that I have a private life, well, private." Both women nodded immediately and Clark continued, "I know that Superman needs to leave the city to keep these protests from escalating. I'm asking that you don't make *me* leave..."
Cheng tapped her chin in thought while Diggs leaned back in her chair. Finally, Cheng broke the silence, "I think both the judge and I are satisfied that you are not the cause of this heat wave," Diggs nodded her agreement, "In light of that, I'm fine with you staying in the city so long as Superman isn't seen. Angela?" she turned to the other woman.
Diggs took a moment longer to decide, "I'll be honest. It doesn't make me happy. It will be a deception of the citizens and that goes against what I feel my job to be." Cheng gave Clark a sympathetic look as his shoulders slumped. Then Diggs continued, "However, I also feel justice is not being served by railroading you out of here. I agree." She then smiled at Clark, "Somehow I think I admire you even more knowing you've got a life around being 'Super'."
Clark nearly sagged in relief.
* * *
That afternoon, Clark stood in front of the courthouse. Protestors had gathered around the press with signs that ranged from "Superman Stinks" to "No Aliens Allowed." Many of them were chanting, "Superman must go," over and over. Clark scanned the reporters, seeing that Lois had made it back in time for the conference.
Clark took a deep breath and spoke over the protesters, "When I first came to Metropolis, I said I came 'to help'." The chanting started to die down as he continued, "But, in light of the current crisis, I'm not helping here. I'm going to have find another way to help where I can. Therefore, I have agreed: Superman will leave Metropolis by noon tomorrow." He watched Lois' expression turn to one of horror. "I still don't believe that I am the cause of this heat wave, but I can think of no other way to put the fears of the citizens of this city to rest. I will miss this city and its people and I hope, someday, I might be able to return if proof can be found that I am not to blame for this heat. Thank you." He stepped away from the podium to cries from the reporters for statements.
As he started to lift off, something smacked into his shoulder. Clark looked down and saw an action figurine of himself and looked up to see a young boy running away down the sidewalk. With an aching heart, he disappeared into the sky.
* * *
Later that afternoon, Clark walked off the elevator into the Daily Planet. The temperature outside was already dropping and he felt it best he return to the other half of his life. He easily found Lois at her desk. He made his way over to her desk, a piece of paper in his hands. "Hey Lois," he called softly.
Lois' head snapped around, "Clark!" She gave him a brief hug and then studied him. "You look good, I'm glad you're feeling better." She pulled away from him, saying caustically, "I can't *believe* that things have gone this far..."
Clark smiled sadly, "I am feeling better. I... have something I want you to look over. I didn't make it to the courthouse today, but I did get an account of what happened." He handed her the paper he'd brought in.
Lois scanned the paragraphs, a poignant description of what happened at the end of Superman's press conference. As she read through the paragraphs, tears gathered in her eyes and she squeezed Clark's arm. Clearing her throat, she pulled away from him and gave her usual smirk, "Your usual touchy-feely copy, Clark."
Clark smiled back, "Glad you like it, Lois."
Lois rolled her eyes playfully, then handed him his article back. Then she sobered, "So *he* filled you in?"
Clark tucked the papers in his pocket and nodded, "Yeah, have you heard anything from Dr. Goodman, yet?"
Lois shook her head sadly, "No. I haven't. I didn't catch her at her office, but I left our data with her assistant."
Clark sighed, pinching his nose around the nose pads. "I think we've done all we can for tonight. If you have copies of your data I can look it over while you and Jimmy rest, we can all come back to this with fresh eyes tomorrow."
Lois looked like she was about to protest, but was interrupted by a yawn. "Okay," she said sheepishly. She smiled at Clark, and lightly punched his shoulder, "Welcome back, partner." Then she started to gather her things, leaving a copy of their data behind for Clark.
Clark smiled back and went to hand in his article to Perry.
* * *
The next morning, Clark and Jimmy were trying to figure out what might explain the smaller hot spots on the temperature map. Lois was scanning several printouts, trying to find anything that might explain where the heat was coming from.
"Ms. Lane!" all three reporters turned to see Dr. Goodman rushing into bullpen.
Lois quickly stood and rushed to meet the scientist, "Hello, Dr. Goodman, I'm Lois Lane." They shook hands. "I hope you found something." Lois lead her to where Clark and Jimmy had set up their maps.
Goodman noted that they'd labeled the power plant and water treatment plants. She took one of their pens and pointed to the smaller heat nodes. "These smaller concentrations of heat correspond to areas where underground springs come near the surface. Most of them have been paved over or incorporated into the sewers." She let out a long sigh and looked at the three reporters surrounding her before focusing on Lois. "I think you should see something."
* * *
Goodman lead Lois and Clark down into an access point for the network of underground springs than ran under most of the city. It was a monitoring station built by the Geological Survey. They'd sent Jimmy back to Diggs and Cheng with Goodman's data.
As soon as they got underground, Lois groaned, "It feels like a sauna in here."
Goodman called back, "You're partially correct, Ms. Lane."
Clark's eyes went wide. "So the springs are heating up... which is leaching heat wherever they're near the surface and especially the water treatment plants..." Clark said quickly. He thought back over the data. "Since it's the ground heating up, that's what's stopping it from cooling off at night and containing it within the city..."
Goodman nodded. "But that's not the worst part." She pulled out what Clark realized with horror was a Geiger Counter. She turned it on and they immediately heard it's staccato clicks. "It's the new power plant. It seems to be leaking radioactive material into our ground water. The reactions are heating up the water and poisoning the water supply."
Lois suddenly gasped, "They're powering up the plant today." She looked to Goodman. "What will that do?"
Goodman looked grim and said, "We probably won't need to worry about being hot for long."
* * *
They sent Dr. Goodman to try and raise the alarm. Back on the street, Lois turned to Clark, "Do you know where Superman went?"
Clark nodded, "Yes, he's at my parents' in case we need to contact him."
Lois nodded sharply, "You call your parents. I'll try and contact Lex." She rushed to the street, flagging down a cab.
Clark quickly scanned around him before speeding to his apartment. He put on a suit and then put on a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, a jacket, and a baseball cap, then sped to the courthouse.
Keeping the bill of his cap down he scanned and found Diggs and Cheng going over Jimmy's data in Diggs' office. He walked quickly to the office and knocked on the door.
"Come in," Diggs' voice came through the door.
Clark opened the door and quickly went inside.
Diggs and Cheng both frowned at him until he took off his hat.
"Superman?" Cheng gasped.
Diggs cleared her throat. "I assume you heard," she said motioning to the maps.
Clark nodded and replied, "I left Clark Kent a way to get a hold of me. He then explained that Goodman had discovered that not only is the underground water hot, it's radioactive. The new power plant is already leaking."
Both women gaped at him.
"Why are you *here*?" asked Diggs.
Clark said quietly, "The apparent tie between my using my power and the temperature doesn't point to a leak. Someone is *controlling* this 'leak'."
Cheng looked grim. "You're right, but who?"
Clark shrugged. "I have some idea, but I have no proof."
Diggs held up a hand. "If you *get* proof, you know where to find us. Welcome back, Superman."
Clark smiled and disappeared from the office, heading for the power plant.
***As of 2013 this theory has been contested with more modern data on temperature, but would have been broadly accepted in 1993 (I think). Although, I'm not sure how valid/successful the alternatives have been.
****This idea actually comes from the way I explain magical abilities in an original work that I've toyed with on and off since I was 14 (the world and a few stories, not this explanation for where the energy for the magic comes from). The idea is that these people pull energy from around them from heat, entropy or even dark energy (temperature/disorder or energy we can prove should be there but can't figure out what it is). So, when using a *lot* of power, they can actually pull so much energy out of the system around them (air or water in the majority of cases) that they lower temperature of the system to almost absolute zero. Some of the stronger individuals actually use this to form temporary shields of Nitrogen ice (Nitrogen freezes at -210°C, only about 60K/°C above absolute zero at 1atm or on Earth's surface). Now, take Clark's powers. Solar power blah blah blah. If he's drawing energy in the same way, then the *amount* of solar radiation available to him would make a huge difference. So if Rao (Krypton's sun in comics) is, say, a red dwarf star, then it could provide much less energy on the planet's surface than our G-type sun by sheer size alone. I think that in at least some of the comics Krypton was destroyed because Rao was a Red *Giant* but, meh, red dwarf fits this neat little idea for Clark's powers better =) This could also explain the 'super-breath' that has always driven me crazy... he's pulling energy out of the air in his lungs before expelling it. This would also make him unable to 'recharge' as easily in space where the ultra-low density of gasses makes the temperature so much lower... meaning he'd become vulnerable a la 'Stop the Presses' when trying to deal with Nightfall... *evil grin*