Mindstorm, part 4

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

Lois Lane paused just outside her cubicle to blow across the top of her coffee and take a sip. Her eyes gazed across the press room floor and through the glass doors separating the press room from the reception area. There was a soldier standing there.

Soldiers weren't her worry in the moment, however, and she refocused her attention as she entered her cubicle and settled back at her computer. The puzzle pieces were coming together. There still was not quite enough solid evidence linking Luthor to the Masters killing, and given what had happened on the Imperiex story, Perry was not going to print anything that wasn't 100% ironclad.

She was almost there. She checked her email and smiled as a familiar address appeared in her inbox. Maybe this would be-

"Ms. Lane?"

Lois rapidly minimized her email window and glanced up to find the soldier standing at the opening of her cubicle. "Yes?" Her mind began flashing through scenarios; had the government been tracking her activity? Was she too close to a truth that the powers that be did not want uncovered? The soldier's words caught her off guard.

"Ms. Lane, I'm sorry to have to tell you that your husband was involved in a serious accident-"

An incredulous laugh escaped Lois' mouth. "My husband? There must be some mistake. My husband-"

"Ms. Lane, you are married to Clark Kent?"

"Well, yes."

"Mr. Kent was in Wyoming early this morning and was involved in a serious traffic accident near a military facility-"

"Look, Mr. -" Lois glanced at the young man's ID badge- "Swift, I'm not sure what base you claimed to be from or how you pulled the wool over the receptionist's eyes, but when you're impersonating military personnel you should know enough when to take your lid off-" Her objection trailed off as her eyes finally got to the face of the soldier standing before her, and she felt her blood go suddenly cold. "Wally?" she whispered.

"Yes, ma'am. As I was saying, your husband was involved in a serious accident in Wyoming and was badly injured. My commander has asked that you be brought back to the base."

Lois stood, her hands trembling. "I need to talk to Perry. Oh god. Just wait here, okay?"

Wally gave a nod and stationed himself at the entrance to Lois' cubicle as she moved numbly to Perry White's office. She knocked on the editor's door, barely waiting for Perry's grunt of acknowledgement to enter. "Oh, it's you, Lane. Got your sources square yet?"

"Perry-"

"Great Caesar's Ghost, Lois! You're white as a sheet! What's going on?"

She gestured back out toward the press room where Wally in his military disguise was clearly visible. "That soldier, he says Clark -"

"Lois, what happened?"

"He says Clark was in an accident in Wyoming. That he was badly hurt. I didn't even realize he was in Wyoming-"

Perry shot another look at the soldier. "Lois, shut the door," he ordered.

She obeyed, her knees almost collapsing when she finally lowered herself into the chair across the desk from Perry.

"Lois, this is my fault."

"What-"

"I never thought - Dammit! He shouldn't be such a damned good reporter."

"Perry, what are you-"

"Look, Lois, I didn't really fire Clark."

"What are you talking about? I was right here, I heard it -"

"It was an act. Pre-arranged. We should have told you, but - hell, Clark, even Superman thought it was a bad idea to keep you out of the loop-"

Sudden anger helped Lois function through her shock. "Perry White, you tell me what you're talking about right now or I swear I'll-"

"He was still on the case, Lois. Still looking for evidence on Luthor. Don't you see? We had to make it look like he was discredited, to-"

"Still tracking Luthor."

"I know it wasn't right to keep it from you but we figured the less people knew, the less people were-" he paused - "in danger," he finished weakly.

"Well, this is just great!" Lois fumed, rising to her feet to pace angrily. "Now he's out in god knows where, hurt bad enough that the damned military is telling me to come out to sit at his bedside-" She stopped, standing in the middle of the floor and staring at Wally. He was standing still in her cubicle, and that was a bad sign. "Perry, I need to take some personal leave."

"Of course," Perry said briskly. "All you need. I'll reassign -"

"Don't touch the Luthor-Masters thing," she ordered, a knot twisting in her stomach. They had already been running articles on the suspicious death of Masters, and if Luthor knew - but no, Luthor didn't know that Clark was Superman. Did he?

"I won't," Perry promised. "Just - look, go. Be with him. Call me with any news."

"Okay. Okay." She crossed to his door in a daze. "Give Jimmy the Biyalan Embassy piece - they know him already."

"Right." Perry rose and followed her, holding the door for her as she headed back to her cubicle. Behind her, she heard him bellow, "OLSEN!"

Wally was standing just where she left him. "Let me just shut down my computer," she said. Then, more quietly, "How bad?"

Wally shook his head slightly. "I'm supposed to take you back to your apartment to pack a bag. I'll tell you there."

"Pack-" Lois echoed. "Shit. That bad?" She clicked through a half-dozen "save" and "are you sure?" windows.

"I'll tell you," Wally promised quietly as the computer powered down. Lois scooped up her purse and her jacket and led the way to the elevators.

Wally stayed silent, and Lois wondered if there was reason to fear their conversation would be bugged. Luthor was ruthless, and if this were a threat... but no, Luthor wouldn't be that subtle. He would want her to know what he was doing.

They reached the main lobby, and Wally leaned close to her. "Is there a back door?"

She nodded, turning left instead of right and leading him back toward the alley exit. He glanced around as they exited, then startled her by wrapping his arms around her. "Hold tight," he ordered.

She had been a superhero's wife for too long to question; she grabbed hold and squeezed her eyes closed, protecting her eyes from fine debris in the air and saving herself the vertigo-like effect of watching the world blur by.

It was only a few seconds later that Wally stopped. "Hope you've got your keys."

She lifted her face from where it had been pressed against his chest, and he set her down. She rubbed at one mildly windburned ear and dug in her purse. "So glad I styled my hair today," she remarked, brandishing her keys and opening the door.

She waited until Wally entered behind her and shut the door before she whirled on him. "Okay, West. Spill!"

"Hold on," he stalled, reaching into pocket to pull out some small electronic device. He glanced around the room, then strode over to an available outlet and plugged it in. "Sorry," he apologized, "Batman's orders."

"Scrambler?"

Wally nodded. "We don't know what hit him, Lois. J'onn said it was like a psychic bomb went off in his head. Like someone wanted him to go absolutely nuts and start killing people and destroying things."

"Psychic bomb? Is he - is-?" She wasn't sure how to ask what she wanted to know.

"J'onn said he was able to stabilize him, but I gotta be honest, he looks really bad. He's just lying there, like a coma or something."

Lois closed her eyes and brought her hand to her mouth for a minute.

"Lois?"

She opened her eyes, realizing Wally had changed into his Flash gear and wondering when he had done that, caught by a sense that everything was unreal. She took a steadying breath. "J'onn says he's stable?"

"Yeah. He's the one who said you should be there, so I figure he's gotta have a plan."

"Right," Lois agreed, fighting off paralyzing panic with a sense that she was needed - there was something she had to do. "Just give me a couple minutes to pack."

Wally nodded again, and she headed into the bedroom, grabbing a couple changes of clothes and her toiletry kit. She crammed it all into an overnight bag and went back to the living room.

Wally was talking into his comlink, but he stopped when he saw her. "Ready?"

She nodded.

"Then hold on again," he directed. "We're 'porting up."

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