"All Shook Up": Revisited

by ultragirl

I wake up in a hole, naked, in a strange place, one I don't remember. As I wonder how I got here, a strange voice suddenly cries out to me, "Hey, man, whatcha doin' down there? You got to be freezing!" I look up at him, wondering why I'm not cold, when, clearly, I should be. He gets some clothes and throws them down to me. I'm glad to have the clothes. I definitely don’t feel comfortable naked.

As I put on the old clothes, he asks, "Where are you from?", with a frown on his face.

I think for a minute, and I realize I don't know.

I finally reply,"I don't know."

He looks at me kind of funny for a minute before he asks whether I'm hungry. I think about it, wondering whether I should be. //I guess I could eat something...// I'm not sure what I'm supposed to say, so I reply, "Uh… I think so, yeah, maybe. "

"Well get a move on! We can still catch dinner down at the shelter," he says.

I don't really want to go, it feels…wrong; I feel scared, I don't like this. I start to tell him to go on without me, but before I can say anything more, he exclaims, "Don't be puttin' down the shelter, man! You ain't got no clothes on, you sleepin' in a hole!"

//Well, that much is true. I can't argue that.//

He goes over to his cart of belongings and comes back with a pair of old glasses, all bent out of shape. Suddenly I think I remember something, something about glasses, but he starts talking again, and the memory’s gone.

"Here, put these on," he says, tossing me the glasses. "At least you won't look so dumb."

//Am I a dumb person?// I don’t know, but I sure feel that way right now.

I put the glasses on, even though I don't need them. Maybe now I won't feel "so dumb"; when I put them on, it feels right, like I've done this before. //Maybe I wear glasses...but I can see fine without them, so why would I wear them?// I wish I could remember.

The man remarks, "This thing up in the sky hits, we're all goin' t'be sleepin' in holes."

//What does he mean? What "thing up in the sky"? Why will everyone be sleeping in holes if "it" hits? When will "it" hit, if "it" ever really will?// There are so many questions, and I can't answer any of them! It frustrates me so much! //Am I always this...well, dumb?//

"What's your name?" the man asks.

I wonder what my name is, and I don't know that either.

It scares me. //Why don't I know my own name?//

//Who am I?//

I say, "Uh...I don't remember..."

//He must think I'm crazy. *I* think I might be crazy.//

His replies, "Boy, you is a mess." He extends his hand to me to help me up. I take the proffered assistance. "Come on," he says.

Since I don't know what else to do, where else to go, I go with him to the shelter. When we get there, we get some food, and he takes me to sit down. He doesn't say much, and neither do I. I guess we don't know what to say.

The man, who said his name was Sam, says he'll be right back, and he leaves our table. I see him head towards the back of the large cafeteria, where the bathrooms are.

Suddenly, some police officers start to come towards me. I realize they've been quietly observing me for a while already. The one in the lead seems familiar. I feel like...I know him, somehow. I hear him tell the other man to stay back, and he approaches me alone.

I'm suddenly suspicious. //Am I in trouble with the law? Is that why the police are here, coming towards me?// I don't know...again. So I remain in my seat as the authoritive, yet friendly looking, man walks toward me.

"Kent, what are you doing here?" he asks as he stops in front of me.

I look up at him in wonder; did he just call me "Kent"? //Is that my name? How would he know my name?//

As I keep staring at him, trying to figure out what I should do, he shifts uncomfortably. I only watch him. He must find my staring unnerving, because he again asks, "Kent? Are you okay? Are you working undercover for the Planet here or something?" He says the last part a little more quietly than the rest.

I have no idea what he means by "undercover" or "for the planet", but I realize that this man must know me, that I must be Kent.

Finally I inquire, "I...I'm sorry, sir, but...do I know you?"

He looks at me strangely for a minute, then grins. "Ha, ha, Kent. So what are you really doing here?"

"I, um, I... I'm really sorry, but I really don't know you. Who are you?"

He looks at me again with that strange look. "Kent, are you kidding or something, because this isn't funny."

//Kidding, why would I be kidding? I don't know this man, but he seems to know me.//

"I'm sorry, sir, but you obviously know me, but I honestly don't remember you."

His mien turns worried, and he pauses a minute before saying, "I'm Inspector Bill Henderson, of Metropolis P.D."

As he tells me his name, it sounds vaguely familiar, but I can't seem to grasp the little bit of memory that comes with hearing it said.

When I don't answer, Inspector Henderson continues, "Can you tell me your name?"

//Oh, no.// I don't know what to say. //Why would he ask me my name if he already seemed to know it? Why can't I remember anything?// It makes me so angry that I can't seem to produce any answers to any questions.

I momentarily think about making up a name, but I don't do it for two reasons. The first, if he already knows my name, he would see right through me. The second, it just doesn't feel right, like it isn't something I would do. I don't know why I feel that way, but I do.

I tell him, feeling ashamed for not knowing, that I can't remember it. I look down at my hands as I do; I'm too embarrassed by the fact that I don't even know my own name. I feel so helpless, and dumb, and vulnerable, because this man, Inspector Henderson, seems to know me better than I do.

The creases of worry on Henderson's face deepen, and he tells me my name is Clark, Clark Kent. //Clark Kent.// I repeat it and try it out on myself in my mind. //Sounds good. It sounds...right. Maybe it is me.//

Henderson interrupts my musings by asking me to come down to the precinct with him, so he can talk to me a little. I figure that if this man knows me, it wouldn't hurt to talk to him, so I agree.

He starts to lead me away, but then I remember Sam, who found me and gave me some clothes, and brought me here. I ask Henderson if I could just thank the man first, before we go, and he smiles a sad kind of smile and says, "Sure, Clark. Go ahead."

I smile at him and turn for the bathrooms. I run into Sam as he's coming out of the bathroom. I tell him that I met up with a man called Inspector Henderson, and that I'll be going down to the precinct with him. Sam says he knows Henderson; he claims that Henderson's a good cop, a little cynical at times, but a good guy nonetheless. He says that I should go with him. He says he thinks Henderson might be able to help me better than he could, and smiles and waves at Henderson, who waves back. I thank Sam once again.

"No problem," he says.

As I turn to leave, Sam grabs hold of my shirt and says I can keep it, and the pants, and that I should take care of myself. I realize that I am leaving with Sam's clothes on, and I thank him one last time and tell him I'll return the clothes as soon as I can. He says it's okay, I don't have to, I probably wouldn't be able to find him again anyway. //But I'll try anyway, once I have clothes of my own,// I think. I return to Henderson and follow him out the door.

Outside the building, Henderson leads me over to a police car parked nearby. As he walks around the side of the car to the driver's side, he tells me to get in and have a seat.

I hesitate, again debating whether it's wise to go with this man, this man named Henderson, who knows me better than I do.

Henderson must have noticed my momentary hesitation, because he smiles reassuringly and says, "It's okay, Clark, I don't bite. Go ahead, have a seat. You can ride shotgun. We don't want you sitting in the back like some common criminal, now, do we?"

//Well, I guess that answers one question, one in a myriad of them, and certainly one in a long string of more to come.//

//I am not a criminal.//

I cannot help a small sigh of relief; I don't want to be a criminal. I didn't think I was, considering the way Henderson speaks to me, but one can never be too sure, especially when one does not know his own identity.

I finally agree, seeing reassurance and friendliness in Henderson's expression, and take courage from him. Henderson gets in the car, and I follow his lead.

Soon we are making our way along the only semi-quiet night streets. As Henderson drives, he seems somewhat uncomfortable with the silence pervading the atmosphere of the small, confined space of the car, for he makes several attempts at making idle small talk. He mentions some sports games that took place over the last few days, but his attempts at dissolving the tension in the atmosphere of the car fail, because I don't know what he is talking about. I can't recall watching any basketball games, or baseball games, or hockey games in the past week, or ever, for that matter. I remember what the games are, and how they are played, but I can't remember ever just sitting and watching one on television.

Though the uneasiness is clear, and the lack of memory on my part is frustrating, I feel safe now. Henderson seems to want to help me, it just seems he isn't sure he how he can.

A few minutes later, we pull up in front of a building which I presume must be the police station. Henderson turns the engine off, pauses a moment and gazes thoughtfully at me. I stare back at him, still trying to remember something, *anything*, about him..about me...about anything. Then he flashes me a brief smile. I suppose he's just trying to lighten the mood, but, for some reason, I'm afraid he might be laughing at me.

//No, Henderson wouldn't do that. It's not his personality. I know that.//

//Wait a minute, *how* did I know that?//

//It's probably just his actions toward me, but still...//

Before I can continue questioning that matter, however, Henderson opens his door and steps outside. I follow, not wanting to be left alone. He starts walking up the stairs leading up to the door of the building, and, again, I follow, not knowing what else to do.

I wait in the lobby while Henderson momentarily pauses to talk to someone, I don't know who. I look around, trying to get a feel of the milieu of the room. In front of me is Henderson, leaning on the edge of a secretary's desk; her nameplate reads "A. Palivoda". She has her computer on. Beside her keyboard sits a cup of dark coffee, only half full. In the corners of the front of the room stand two flags, the American on the right, the one of the city of Metropolis on the left. There are police officers passing by, mostly men, but there are some women mixed into the flow. Some rush through the room carrying files or cups of coffee, others walk more lackadaisically. A few civilians, judging by their clothing, sit behind me on wooden benches against the wall; some are dressed formerly, in business suits, lawyers I imagine, others in casual wear.

There are a few officers escorting people in handcuffs to their cells, or somewhere. Suddenly, one of the criminals breaks away from his captor, and, taking advantage of his uncuffed state, grabs the officer's gun out of its holster before anyone can stop him. The commotion gets everyone's attention, and I notice Henderson's body tense in anxiety out of the corner of my eye.

The escapee trains the deadly weapon on the officer and threatens to shoot should anyone attempt to stop him. I nervously shift my stance; I'm the closest person to the criminal. //If only I could stop him... Yes! I have an idea!//

Everyone's attention suddenly shifts from the burly prisoner to me as I swiftly and skillfully tackle him and we land on the floor. I think I've almost wrestled the gun away from him, when I notice his finger pull the trigger.

I hear the gunshot, and close my eyes tightly shut, waiting for the pain I instinctively know will come next. After several seconds, which feel like eons, and no pain, I hesitantly open my eyes again. Apparently, the bullet just missed me, whizzing by my ear. When I realize I'm not hurt I quickly peer around my shoulder, checking to make sure that no one else was hurt. I'm reassured when everyone seems fine. I pull the gun away from the man, then return it to its owner, all while keeping the prisoner in check. The officer takes him away again, giving me a glance which expresses his gratitude better than words ever could.

I realize that the others in the room have erupted into clapping and cheering, for me! //They're treating me like I'm some sort of hero.// I don't like all the attention. I mean, it's nice to know my actions are appreciated, but being in the spotlight...well, I just don't like it. And it's not like I did what I did just to be a hero, I just did what anyone else would have. I was only concerned about the safety of all the witnesses to the attempted escape.

Henderson startles me out of my musings as he claps me on the shoulder and tells me what a great job I did stopping that guy.

"We could use someone like you on the police force!" he adds jokingly, and chuckles.

Then he stops at what must be the puzzled look on my face. That brings up a new question... //Where do I work, or, even more importantly, *what* do I do for a living? Didn't Henderson say something before about me working at the shelter "undercover for the planet"? Maybe he knows the answers to some of my questions...//

"What's the matter, Clark?" he inquires, concerned.

"I...I, uh,... Nothing, never mind," I reply. It doesn't seem like a good time to barrage Henderson with a million questions; I had overheard him talking to the secretary about the police psychologist and me, or something like that, anyway. Maybe I'll get my answers soon enough.

He continues to look at me for a few more seconds before shrugging then turning and heading towards the door to left of us, near the Metropolis flag. As he goes, he motions for me to follow, so I do.

After making our way down several crowded and, what seem to me, maze-like hallways, we reach a room that's been divided into two sections by a partition. On the left end of the partition, the end farthest from the doorway in which we now stand, is a door.

Inside this room waits a kind-looking middle-aged woman. She comes over to us to greet us and shake my hand, shifting her legal pad to her left hand in order to do so. I respond in kind, timidly replying "hello" to her own friendly words of greeting.

The woman introduces herself to me after briefly conversing in low tones with Henderson. She says her name is Dr. Terri McCorkle, then asks me what mine is. I pause, glance at Henderson for help, all the while feeling really clueless. //Good feeling,// I think sarcastically. Henderson gives me a nod and a small smile, trying to offer me reassurance.

I still feel shy and very dumb, but I go on and stutter, "My name's...C-Clark. Clark Kent."

Henderson nods and smiles at me again.

"Alright, Mr. Kent. I'm just going to ask you some questions over in that room, okay?" Dr. McCorkle says, pointing to the door I had noticed on the partition before.

//Questions, huh?// I wonder what kinds of questions, and my stomach suddenly feels like a million butterflies are fighting to be released from its confines.

I look over at Henderson again; I'm not sure I want to leave him right now, even if it's only for a while. Right now I feel like he's the only anchor in my life.

But he nods yet again and says, "It's okay, Clark. I'll be here when you're done." I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm not feeling too brave right now.

I feel reassured by his words, so I go with the woman, Dr. McCorkle, into the other room.

Inside, at Dr. McCorkle's request, I take a seat in a chair at a table in the center of the room. Right now I'm pretty worried about pleasing everyone else, since I can't please myself.

Dr. McCorkle asks me a whole bunch of questions, about all kinds of things. What today's date is, who the president of the United States is, what's my favorite color...

I frown, partially out of thought, mostly out of exasperation. Though I know the answers to the other two questions, I realize I have no idea what my favorite color is. I reply, "I don't know, I...I'm not sure. I...I can't remember."

I can tell Dr. McCorkle tries not to express any worry, or any other feeling, for that matter, but I can still see the faint signs of concern and...what...disappointment?...etched into her face, but she changes her expression so quickly and surreptitiously that I barely see the flash of emotion.

Immediately, I wonder what it was I said wrong. I don't want to upset her...it's hard enough not upsetting myself! "I-I think it's blue," I add quickly. I think about that for a minute, and realize that it really is blue..although red is definitely a close second.

Dr. McCorkle glances up at me swiftly and discreetly, then scribbles something down on her pad. Then she pauses and looks at me again. What I see in her face startles me, just a little. She looks almost...sympathetic.

Something about that look doesn't feel right...it's like I don't usually provoke such feelings in people. It makes me feel like I have yet another weakness. I don't like it.

The questions continue, and after a few math problems, like the square root of nine, which I know is three, and geography questions, like the capital of Portugal, which I know is Lisbon, the enquiry is complete.

There are a few more questions that stump me, ones that should be easy, like my address, and my telephone number at work, and the names of my friends. It *irks* me that I can't answer what should be the simple questions, so much! //*Why* don't I know those things?! Why?//

Then Dr. McCorkle says she'll be back real soon, and that a doctor will be right in, then leaves the room. For some reason, I feel very nervous when she mentions a doctor.

Soon, a man about my age comes into the room. He introduces himself as Dr. Gregg. I tell that my name is Clark Kent, and then he proceeds to examine me. His examination, though it doesn't last long, makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't even know why; it just does. Dr. Gregg tells me that I'm in great shape and physically fine. Then he politely excuses himself and leaves, claiming he has other duties to fulfill.

After he leaves, I ponder those annoying questions that Dr. McCorkle had asked me. they still bother me, but eventually my curiosity gets the better of me and I get up and look around the room. I guess I was just too nervous before to pay much attention to my surroundings. To the left of where I was sitting, there's a window in the plain white wall. I go over and fool with the strings of the closed blinds, just thinking about everything that's happened to me since I woke up in that crater in the middle of the city.

Then I notice a mirror on the wall behind me, so I go over and look at my reflection. It's the first time I've gotten the chance to see what I look like. I don't think I look so bad. I have brown eyes. Maybe if I brush my hair over this way... //That's better,// I think with satisfaction after I rearrange my black, slightly curly, hair. //Now if only I had some nicer clothes; maybe they'd make me feel a little more confident...//

A few minutes later, Dr. McCorkle pokes her head into the room and invites me to come with her; she says there's someone she wants me to meet. I hesitate momentarily, then follow her outside.

Outside, Henderson awaits my arrival. Now, however, a dark-haired, dark-eyed young woman who looks about my age waits with him. As I come out of the room, a soft smile lights up her face. She's so beautiful... I suddenly feel...giddy, almost. I feel like I could follow her to the ends of the earth, if that was what she wanted.

//Who is she?// I wonder. I feel like I've seen her before, known her even. //Her name...it's..Linda? No, that's not right...Laura? No, that's wrong too...Lois? That sounds good. Could be...//

"Hi, Clark. It's me, Lois."

//Lois! That *is * it!// Lois seems hesitant, also, just like me.

How does she know my name? I haven't even introduced myself yet.//

"I'm Clark. Clark Kent."

"Yeah, I know," I hear her mutter to herself. I suddenly realize I must know her, although I can't remember from where.

" Lois... Lois Lane?" I ask.

"Yeah, Lois Lane," she replies, surprise evident in her voice, a slight, almost invisible frown crossing her face.

"I thought you said he didn't remember anything..." Lois inquires of Henderson.

I don't think about why I'm hearing the whispers of two people standing across the room from me; I'm too busy listening to what it is they're saying.

"So did I..." Henderson replies. Then they both turn back to me and Henderson continues, "Clark, you and Lois work together at the Daily Planet. She-"

"The Daily Planet?" I interrupt.

"Yeah, the Daily Planet. It's a Metropolitan newspaper," Henderson answers my question.

"So..what do I do there?" I ask again.

Lois answers me this time. "Well, you and I are a reporting team."

"So I'm a journalist." I say it as a statement, not a question.

"You got it," Lois confirms.

Henderson cuts in, saying, "Anyway, as I was saying," I notice that there is no spite in his voice at that comment. "Lois has volunteered to take you back to the Planet with her and show you around."

//Sounds good to me...//

Suddenly, a new voice enters the conversation, and I realize that Dr. McCorkle has been standing quietly in the corner of the room, observing our interaction.

"It's become obvious to us that you, Clark, have lost all..er, almost all," she corrects, probably in reference to my recollection of Lois' name, "of your personal memories. That is, your mind continues to retain general information, such as mathematics, geography, etcetera, but you don't seem to remember anything about your personal life: your friends, where you work and what you do, and even more personal things, like your favorite foods and your favorite color."

//So basically what you're saying is...I've lost my...my identity.//

//That cannot be good. Nope, definitely bad.//

"Hopefully, you'll regain your memory by doing familiar things in familiar surroundings with familiar people."

//Hopefully? Will I ever remember again?//

"Will I ever remember again?" I repeat the question, this time out loud.

"Probably, but unfortunately, there's no real guarantee of that," Dr. McCorkle answers. "That's why we've asked Lois here for her help. You seem to recognize her anyway. Right now, she's going to take you back to the Planet and try to get you settled back into your daily rote."

"O-kay...," I reply, still rather hesitantly. Although I am definitely willing to go with Lois just about anywhere, I still feel somewhat unsure as to whether I want to leave the only stable element in my life right now: Inspector Henderson.

Henderson offers me confidence with his next words. "Clark, Lois and Dr. McCorkle are right. I want you to go with Lois back to the Planet. I'm sure everything will work out."

//Well, the "go with Lois" part sounds good..really good...to me.// I nod in thoughtful agreement with Henderson, who then offers to escort us back outside, though he says it with a careful nonchalance. Lois, however, declines his offer, claiming we, the two of us, can take it from here. She proceeds to thank both Henderson and Dr. McCorkle for their assistance, then heads for the door. I love the way she says that, especially the "we" part.

She's almost out the door, but I remain where I am, watching this beautiful, independent...brilliant...woman march out the door.

It's then that Lois seems to realize that I haven't moved, so she comes back into the room and grabs the cuff of my shirt and begins to tug me out the door. I snap back to reality then, and realize we're leaving, so I toss a "good bye" and "thank you" over my shoulder in the general direction of Henderson and Dr. McCorkle. Henderson shakes his head and chuckles before responding. "You're welcome!" he and Dr. McCorkle reply in unison.

Out in the hallway, I turn my attention back to Lois as she continues to half drag me outside. She starts to tell me about what we're supposed to be working on back at the Planet -the Nightfall asteroid story- and I listen to her...babbling...as I admire the sound of her voice. //It sounds like a soft summer night breeze caressing my face...//

I briefly wonder if I'm always this poetic, or if it's only Lois who has this affect on me.

We come to the door through which Henderson and I entered earlier, and Lois holds the door for me as I step out. She finally pauses in her monologue, and I marvel at her ability to say so much in a single breath of air. She looks at me, apparently checking to make sure I'm following her, both physically and in thought. Obviously satisfied that I am, she turns and continues on down the steps toward the street in front of the building where I assume her car is parked. She leads me over to a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee and tells me to get in; as I do, I decide that the color of her Jeep suits her- although I've only known her for a little while, I sense her...outgoingness, boldness, and independence, and the silver seems to represent those qualities.

Once inside, Lois turns to me and says, "Clark... I... You really don't remember?"

I look at her; she sounds so...well, not exactly worried, more like...almost-worried, almost-scared, even. She tries to hide it, but it still slips through her bravado. I feel sick inside at making her feel that way; I don't ever want to hurt her. "I'm sorry, Lois. I don't," I answer quietly, feeling embarrassed, scared, and guilty all at the same time. I can't meet her eyes.

Lois lays a hand gently on my shoulder, then says, "It's okay, Clark. It isn't your fault." She pauses for a minute, then removes her hand and places it on the steering wheel with the other one. "Don't worry, Clark. We'll make sure you remember."

"I hope so," I murmur quietly, more to myself than to her. As she pulls out of the parking space and onto the busy streets, she starts to talk about all that's been happening recently again. She says, too, that she thinks my amnesia was probably caused by my getting hit by a car a day ago. //Well, that must have been pleasant,// I think to myself as Lois continues talking and shudder. I don't think I want to remember that.

Soon we arrive at a large building on a corner street. In front of it, there's a huge metal globe with a ring around it. It reminds me of Saturn, except for the fact that it says "Daily Planet" across the front of the ring in blue neon. I like it; it's sort of awe-inspiring. It makes me feel like I could stand there and just gaze up at the globe for hours.

Lois turns into an underground parking lot beneath the Daily Planet building. She parks the car in silence. I, meanwhile, crane my neck in various directions, trying to see everything; maybe by seeing something familiar, I'll remember something, like Dr. McCorkle said. //And what better familiar place than the place where you spend most of your days-your job.//

Except...nothing looks familiar. //Grrr... Well, I just have to keep trying to remember, I guess.//

Lois and I get out of the Jeep once it's parked, and Lois leads me over to the elevators. "We have to go up to the newsroom and keep trying to recover your memory, not to mention keep working on our story, or Perry'll have our heads!"

"Who's Perry?" I ask Lois curiously. //If he'll "have our heads," he's either somebody very mean, or very important. Or both.//

"Oh, yeah...sorry, Clark. Perry White is our editor-in-chief. He can be a tough taskmaster in the newsroom, but once you get to know him, you realize that he's a really nice guy. There's lots of other sides to him other than just 'editor'. He's really just a big softy at heart, no matter how much he tries to hide it with his 'gruff editor' charade," Lois answers. She laughs a little as she finishes the "gruff editor" bit.

"He sounds like an interesting person," I say.

"He is. He's a really great guy."

We ride the elevator up in silence. As the bell dings and the door opens, a whole other world is revealed to me. Before me is the newsroom. People rush from place to place, shout at copyboys scattered around the room, talk into telephones, while other phones are left unanswered. It's amazing. //I love this,// I think to myself. //The excitement, the hustle, everything; it's just...amazing!//

Lois starts out of the elevator and down the ramp into the bullpen. I follow along, curiously examining my surroundings. Lois stops at a desk at the far wall from the elevators, near one of the conference rooms. The golden nameplate reads "Clark Kent."

"This is your desk," Lois tells me matter-of-factly. "Look familiar?" she asks me.

I look down at the desk, at the items placed there neatly. "I'm sorry. No," I answer, cringing slightly. //Again. I can never remember!// It makes me feel very frustrated.

"Well, you always come in and grab a donut from the coffee area," Lois says as she goes over and picks one out for me from a box. "You usually like these cake things with the frosting," she says as she returns to me and my desk. "Hmm, they're a little stale now," she adds, making a face at the pastry. "Are you hungry?" she asks as she offers me the donut, almost as if it hadn't occurred to her if I might be.

I'm not though, so I answer, feeling down, "I can't remember anything. I'm not starving. I'm...fine." //In some ways...//

Lois looks at me as though I were anything *but* fine. //Well, that's true!// I think vehemently. //It's not everyday you become an amnesiac!// I watch, silent, however, as Lois fishes a case from my desk drawer and removes a pair of glasses from it. She hands them to me and informs me that I keep an extra pair.

I slip off the broken glasses that Sam gave me, but then I hesitate for a minute. Then Lois, who had turned around for a moment, turns back toward me, and some instinct tells me to put the glasses on, and fast! I slip them onto my nose swiftly. Lois looks at me for a few seconds, then takes me by the shoulders and says, "Now look at me, Clark. You really don't remember *anything*?"

I incline my head a bit. Then I respond, never breaking eye contact, "We're a reporting team, isn't that what you said?"

I watch for Lois' response. She grins a little. "Well, I'm more like the 'senior partner,'" she says rather smugly.

"So you call the shots?" I inquire.

"You could say that," she answers.

"O-kay, soo, what do I do?" I ask.

She looks at me; she seems to have an internal conflict, then her face scrunches up in frustration. "Ooohh, we're full partners, nobody works for anybody," she says in a rush. She glances me over again, then adds, "Although, for the immediate future, you may want to follow my lead."

"Probably a good idea," I agree.

There's a moment of silence until a woman, who is beautiful, but not as beautiful as Lois, comes up to us. She stops and looks me over from head to toe. "Clark, what's the fashion statement here?" she asks.

Before I can reply, Lois cuts in and answers for me. "The statement is: Clark has amnesia," she tells the woman. Then she turns to me. "Clark, this is Cat Grant. She writes the gossip column for the paper. We write the *news*," she informs me.

For a few seconds, nobody says anything. The three of us just stand there looking at each other. Then Miss Grant speaks. "Is there a punch line I'm missing?"

"It's the truth, Miss Grant. I really don't remember much of anything," I respond. Miss Grant just stands there, giving the two of us a skeptical look. Then, seeing our solemn expressions, she excuses us from Lois. Then she steers me away from Lois and starts talking about "what we've meant to each other."

"I guess we work together, huh?" I half-state, half-ask.

"We, uh, do a lot more than that," Miss Grant answers huskily.

"We do?" I ask. Somehow, I just don't see the two of us doing anything *but* working together.

Cat starts to whisper to me about how we've kept it a secret, how I've worried about what people would think; especially Lois, she adds, somewhat disdainfully. I notice that Lois seems to have taken a sudden interest in our conversation. //I know this isn't true...! I love Lois, that's one thing I know for sure!// When I don't respond, Cat starts to break down crying, supposedly over what we've lost. I can't stand to see her cry, or anyone cry, for that matter, so I reach out for her tentatively. Suddenly, Cat grabs me in a passionate embrace. "Does this refresh your memory?" she whispers into my ear.

//Whoa! Hold on here! I don't even know you! Hands off....// Suddenly, I hear someone clearing his throat. Cat hastily detaches herself from me and walks toward her desk. //*Thank you,* whoever you are,// I think gratefully about whoever it was who interrupted "our" embrace. I turn and come face to face with an older-looking, probably middle-aged, man with grey hair and brown eyes.

"Perry White, son," the older man introduces himself as he holds out his hand for me to shake. "Sorry to hear about what happened." Another, young man with black hair and brown eyes approaches. Mr. White introduces him as Jimmy Olsen.

Jimmy sticks out his hand and I shake it. "Hi, Clark," he says. "Actually, I always call you 'C.K.', CK," he adds. I nod my head. //That's cool. I like it.//

Mr. White turns back to me. "So how are you feelin'? Up to going to a news conference?" he asks, concerned. //Huh. Is he concerned about me, or about the paper?// I wonder a little cynically. I notice that Lois has approached us during all this, and I turn to her for a hint. She nods almost imperceptibly with an eager and reassuring look on her face. I turn back to Mr. White and answer that I think so.

"Well, good," Mr. White says. Then he turns to Lois and tells her that "somethin's cooking at EPRAD." Then he turns back to me and says, "No offense, son, but maybe we could get you into some different clothes," he says, then turns to Jimmy and tells him to run me down to the lockers. Jimmy nods and then turns to me briefly before heading toward the elevators. The idea of getting new, or at least better, clothes sounds really good to me, so I follow Jimmy.

Jimmy leads me into the elevator, and we ride down to the lockers in silence. Jimmy glances at me surreptitiously several times, but I’m aware of everything he does, even the smallest of movements. I can sense his nervousness; I don’t really know why he would be nervous, but he is. He seems sympathetic at the same time, though. I still don’t feel comfortable with people feeling sorry for me; I think that I probably never generate such feelings in people. I feel that I’m an independent person.

We exit the elevator a few flights down from the newsroom and I trail behind Jimmy to the lockers. When we get there, Jimmy tells me that my locker is number thirty-six, and then he leaves me to my own devices. I go to open the locker, but then I suddenly realize I don’t know my locker combination. Jimmy obviously didn’t realize that I wouldn’t know it, either. I don’t know what to do, so I run out the room after Jimmy, hoping to catch him before he gets an elevator. A brief, unreasonable wave of panic washes over me when I don’t see Jimmy right away. //What am I gonna do? I don’t know what to do, who to talk to…what am I gonna do?!// I finally spot him halfway down the hall. The panic subsides.

“Jimmy!” I call to him. “Jimmy!” I call again when he doesn’t respond right away. He hears me after the second time I call his name, and turns back towards me. "Yeah, CK?" he asks as I catch up with him.

I suddenly feel really stupid again. I know I shouldn't- after all, it's not my fault I don't remember -but I feel stupid all the same. "I, uh..."

Jimmy looks at me expectantly. "I don't know my locker combination," I blurt out. I cringe inwardly; here we go again, I have to depend on someone else yet again.

"Oh," Jimmy half-whispers to himself. He looks truly horrified that he hadn't thought of that. I guess I must have let some of my fear show.

"Oh, man, CK, I'm really sorry," he apologizes. "I guess I thought... I mean, I just figured... Whoa, I'm really sorry. Here, come with me, we'll go talk to the person who has all the locker combinations." He waves his hand, indicating for me to follow him, as he turns back towards the lockers. I can feel his embarrassment, and even some guilt, over what happened. I feel sorry for him; I mean, it's not his fault either that I got knocked down by a car and got amnesia.

I feel sorry for him- and everybody else who has to help me. I mean, I already feel bad; they must feel just as bad. No, actually...they probably feel even worse than I feel. I mean, they don't have to go through what I'm feeling, true, but they have it pretty rough, too. They have to help me- and right now, that's probably something like taking care of a little kid. I basically don't know anything about myself; therefore, they have to help me by telling me about myself. But at the same time, they can't say too much; after all, I need to find out who I am for myself. So whoever's helping/taking care of me has to be so...extra-careful with me. And patient. Definitely patient. They can't say or do the wrong thing. They have to be cautious around me all the time. Because if they *do* say or do something wrong, they feel guilty about it, and just as stupid as I feel when I don’t know something for not thinking of whatever it was they hadn't done. Like Jimmy. Look what happened; he just helped me out, but it backfired on him when he didn't account for one unknown factor. After all, it was just my locker combination; most of the time, I guess I'd know that, but not today. So, since it was something so every-day, something so normal, Jimmy didn't realize that I wouldn't know my combination. And now he's feeling terrible about it. I can sense it; he feels guilty and stupid and insensitive. I can sense it in the way he interacts, both with me and with others, as we go get my locker combination and head back for the lockers. He's not as confident as he was earlier.

When we get back to the locker room, he says that he'll wait outside for me while I change. I thank him quietly but gratefully, happy at the thought of having someone to help me around when I'm finished. I go inside, spin the lock on my locker, and open it. Inside, I find a spare business suit, tie, and shoes and socks. There are even some casual sweats inside; I guess I like to work out or something after work. //Yesss,// I think silently to myself at the sight of the clothes. I pull them out of the locker happily, and change quickly. I suddenly feel a little better than before; more confident in myself. //Amazing how something as simple as a change of clothes can work small miracles,// I speculate. I turn to close my locker, and stow Sam's clothes inside for now; a glimpse of a silky, bright red and almost electric-blue fabric catches my attention as I do so. //What the hec...?// I wonder. I stick my hand inside to fish out the strange blue and red material. I pull it out, glance at it, and then...do nothing.

It doesn't seem to be...well, anything. Whatever it is, it's inside some kind of plastic wrap, and it seems to be rolled up and vacuum-sealed inside the casing of plastic. I turn it over in my hands a few times, speculating as to what it could be and why I have it in my locker at work. I suddenly hear someone's footfalls as he makes his way toward this section of the lockers.

Some instinct warns me to just put the blue thing back in my locker and leave before the person sees me. //Funny... It's just like what happened before I put my glasses on...// I don't question the warning, though, and quickly stuff the blue and red thing in my locker, making a point of burying it underneath Sam's clothes in the far back of the locker. I slam the locker shut swiftly; I'm not sure why, but a slight wave of panic washes over me as I do. I wait with bated breath for the person to pass me; I can hear his footsteps, coming closer, closer, ever closer.

When I finally see the man pass by this section of the room, I breathe a sigh of relief. I wonder fleetingly why it took the man so long to finally get there; it felt like forever, but I know that's only because I was nervous- though I still don't really know why. Though it wasn't forever, it did take longer than I expected for the man to pass me. His footfalls seemed much closer than the obviously longer distance. //Oh, well. Maybe it's just because I felt so panicked...or maybe I just have really good hearing or something.// The brief memory of overhearing Lois and Inspector Henderson's conversation back at the police station comes back to me; then, too, I remember wondering briefly why I could hear their whispers from all the way across the room. I finally chalk it up to really good hearing; it's not totally illogical- after all, if I wear glasses, maybe my other senses are just sharper.

I finally realize that I've kept Jimmy waiting longer than I meant to, and hurry back outside to meet up with him. As I pass by the bathrooms, I duck in quickly to check my appearance in the mirror. I grimace slightly at my disheveled hair; it looks like it hasn't been combed for days. I run my fingers through the knots, trying to fix it a little. I don't really accomplish much, but I figure it's at least slightly better than before. Then I hurry out to find Jimmy.

"Hey, CK," Jimmy says as I exit the locker room. He glances me over and I look down at myself. "Better, much better," Jimmy says with a grin. I smile back at him.

"Thanks," I reply.

We start down the hall back to the elevators. "How you doing, CK?"

"Okay I guess."

He grimaces slightly. "I guess not really, huh?"

I laugh a little. "I guess when you put it that way..."

Jimmy glances at me. "Yeah, sorry, I don't mean to be morbid, but, y'know, it's pretty depressing."

"You're telling me."

smile. "Okay. Now let's go. Lois will be waiting."

"All right."

And we head back up to the newsroom in silence, but not an uncomfortable one like earlier. When we arrive at the newsroom, Jimmy looks at me and seems hesitant for a minute, but then decides to say whatever he's thinking.

"Hm. I guess you don't really need to hear any of this, do you." Jimmy hangs his head a bit.

I stop for a second and he does as well, looking back at me with a questioning expression on his face. I look at him intently and say, "Hey, Jim, don't worry about it. I understand that this can't be any easier for you than it is for me. It's okay, don't worry about it. I'm glad that you feel you can be honest with me. I don't know, but I have a feeling that we're pretty good friends usually."

Jimmy looks at me and nods as I silently ask him to confirm that. I

"Thanks, CK."

"No, Jimmy, thank you. Really."

"No, Clark, I mean thanks for clearing that up back there. You and I...we are friends, good friends, at least that's the impression I usually get from you... Anyway, thanks."

"No problem."

"Well, I've gotta get going. Chief has some photos he asked me to develop before, so I'd better get on that before he gets angry." He scans the newsroom briefly, then points out Lois as she makes her way toward us. "Here comes Lois. She'll go with you to the press conference. I'll see you later, okay?"

"Yeah, later. Thanks again, Jim."

"Hey. No problem," he says with a grin and heads off for, I assume, the dark room.

Lois comes up to me then, looks me up and down, then says, "That's a definite improvement. Let's go." And she heads for the elevators. I follow her and as the door closes, she turns and stares back out at the newsroom. I look at her and smile. Yep, there's only one thing that I'm certain of right now. And that is that I love Lois Lane.

The elevator eventually deposits us at the lobby and Lois heads outside. I follow her quietly, wondering what will happen next. Lois stops at the curb and whistles for a cab. I grin as I watch her; she's so sure of herself. Finally, a taxi pulls over in front of us and Lois climbs in hastily. I watch her, then climb in as well as she prompts me.

"City Hall, and step on it," Lois commands the cabbie. And we pull out into the early afternoon traffic.

As we drive, Lois briefs me on what will happen at the press conference; what the topics of discussion will- or at least, should -be, what I should expect, what I should say. I reply that I know how to behave and what to say at a press conference.

Lois grimaces. “Sorry. I didn’t intend to imply that you’re incapable or anything. I just…”

I look at her and smile in what I hope is an encouraging manner. “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it; it’s partially my fault, too. I didn’t mean to sound rude. And I know that it must be hard. It’s hard for me…it’s got to be hard for you, too.”

She looks up from where she had been staring- her feet -and smiles as she looks at me. “Oh, Clark…I’m sorry, really I am.”

“No, it’s okay, really.” I watch her for a second, then decide that I should say something more. “I think it would be a good idea if I ‘followed your lead,’ though. I have a feeling that’s the way it usually works with us…?”

She glances down at her lap and laughs a little. “Yeah, I guess.”

I grin. “Good.”

Then we settle back into our seats and into a comfortable silence. Soon we arrive at city hall. We get out of the cab and as we do, I sneeze.

The next thing I know, the cab we just exited skids across the street and hits a fire hydrant, which promptly begins spouting water several feet into the air. I swivel my head around to make sure everyone is all right, feeling my eyes instinctively widen and my eyebrows go up. Lois turns her head briefly to see what happened, then merely shakes her head at the sight. "One thing you have to re-learn right away, is that metro cabbies can not drive. Never trust them," she informs me.

I nod a little as I stare at the small scene of destruction; no one seems to be hurt- even the cabbie seems to be fine, maybe a little pissed, and confused, but all right -so I turn around and follow Lois.

"Now this news conference we're going to is about Superman and the asteroid I told you about," she says as she leads me to a bunch of people- reporters, to be specific.

I decide not to mention the fact that she already said that while we were in the cab and instead ask a question that has been on my mind for a while. "This Superman- he sounds like he means a lot to you."

Lois shrugs a little after a minute and answers simply, "He means a lot to everybody, Clark.”

//Not to me he doesn’t. I don’t even know who, exactly, this guy is. Except maybe really weird. I mean, what kind of a name is “Superman,” anyway? Well, whoever he is, he must be somebody important, the way everybody keeps talking about him.//

Oh, well. I guess that I’ll find out soon enough.

I fiddle with my notebook and pencil as we wait for the conference to start. I know that I told Lois that I know what to do- and I do...so why am I so nervous? //C’mon, c’mon...what’s taking so long? Let’s go already!!//

I heave a sigh of relief when three men walk onto the small stage set up for the sole purpose of the press conference. One of the men- a short pudgy man with white hair and dark eyes hidden behind the frames of his glasses-steps up to the podium and begins talking into the microphone.

“We have just completed a briefing with the Federal Emergency Management Team. This meeting was called to discuss the scientific assessment from EPRAD about yesterday’s mission.”

Another of the three men trades places with the one who had just spoken. This man too, has white hair, although he is slightly taller and has a mustache and blue eyes. “Superman’s impact on the ‘Nightfall’ asteroid was substantial,” he says. He pauses ever so briefly before continuing. “It was not, however, decisive.”

An almost collective murmur passes through the crowd. People shift uneasily, wondering just what exactly ‘not decisive’ is. I can sense the general feeling of dread emanating from the crowd. Strangely, though, I am not afraid.

A black reporter nearby seemingly comes back to his senses and is about to say something when Lois cuts him off. “Are you saying that there’s still something out there?” Lois asks, her tone of voice both disbelieving and at the same time challenging the official to say otherwise.

The man at the podium doesn’t reply right away. I can sense that he, too, is as afraid and panicked as the crowd around me is becoming. Finally, after a few seconds, he responds. “A large portion- approximately three miles across -remains on a collision course with Earth.”

The same black reporter that Lois had cut off immediately jumps in with another pressing question. “How long?” he inquires simply, yet not.

The official squeezes his eyes shut as he appears to do math in his head. Or perhaps just to hide the fear and sadness he feels in his own heart. “About fifty-five hours from now.”

It hits me like a truck going seventy miles per hour on a freeway. I can almost imagine little red numbers popping up behind me, like in a movie or something, counting down the hours till our lives will be over. I wasn’t afraid before, but now I feel like somebody knocked my legs out from under me.

Lois, however, seems unaffected and seems to decide to dig a little deeper as she responds with another question. “Is that why we haven’t heard from Superman? Because he’s working on a return mission?” she presses.

I almost feel sorry for the man up there on the stage. He looks like a deer caught in the headlights. Whatever’s going on, it obviously doesn’t involve this Superman.

The man who first spoke nudges his way to the microphone. “We have not yet heard from Superman, though we expect to soon,” he says.

Now there is an audible gasp from the crowd of reporters, rather than a mere murmur of curiousity. Journalists look at each other, panic written outright on their faces, trying to make sure that they heard right...that Superman was missing... That they all were going to die in less than three days.

I glance at Lois. She no longer holds the mask of a calm professional to her face; she is visibly upset. I fleetingly wonder why it didn’t hit her earlier. Then I recall what I had said to her after we got out of the cab.

“This Superman- he sounds like he means a lot to you.”

It looks as though I was right. Only once the general informed the swarm of reporters of the disappearance of Superman had Lois lost her cool. Only then. Yes, Superman means- or maybe, “meant” -a lot to her...a whole lot.

The man motions to us- the crowd -for order. He then continues to attempt to placate us. “There is no need for panic,” he says, speaking loudly, trying to speak over the small din created by the reporters while at the same time trying to keep everything from falling apart. “Even without Superman’s help, we are confident we can handle this latest challenge with existing resources. General?”

A tall, black, authoritive-looking man dressed in military garb steps foward. “We have several delivery systems, notably the Asgard booster, which we are in the process of re-programming. At the same time, we are currently attaching nuclear payloads which, if we can deliver them, will finish the job Superman started,” he informs us.

On impulse, I decide to say something. I feel compelled to ask it, even though I know it sounds kind of dumb. Still, I feel it is important.

“Are you looking for Superman?”

“Superman knows how to find us better than we know how to find him,” replies the general rather curtly.

I don’t even know why I asked that question. After all, I still barely know who Superman is. //I’ll have to ask Lois later.// I wonder where this man could be. What is he doing now? Is he hurt? Is he...dead, even? //Or maybe he’s got amnesia, like me,// I add whimsically.

Well, wherever he is, he must be pretty extraordinary. I mean, after all, how many folks can just smash into an asteroid? Or at least I think that's what he did. Geez, this is sooo frustrating. I need to know more about this guy.

I turn to follow Lois as the crowd of reporters begins to disperse.

"Lois?" I ask of her back.

"Yeah, Clark?" she replies, stopping at the curb to hail a taxi.

"I was wondering-" She whistles loudly as she waves her hand at a passing taxi. The cab doesn't stop. She sighs in frustration and continues trying to get a cab. "-who is Superman?"

That gets Lois' attention. She stops in her mission and turns to look at me. "'Who's Superman?'" she parrots back.

I nod. I hate times like this. I know nothing, so I have to ask somebody. That "somebody" looks at me like I was born yesterday. Then they realize that I might as well have been. Grrr...I really hate this!

Lois looks at me sympathetically. //Don't do that! Please...it's bad enough without getting these looks from everybody.// Then she hastens to explain.

"Superman-" she talks as she turns back toward the busy Metropolis street and returns to her task of getting a taxi. "-is just what he sounds like- super. He just sort of appeared one day...not long after you came to Metropolis. Anyway, I first met him when he saved the colonist transport- a space shuttle -from being totalled by a bomb. He..he ate the bomb in order to save us."

My eyes widen. "Shouldn't he be dead?" I ask increduously.

"Hm," Lois laughs. "Yeah, if he were anybody else, he would be. But that's what makes him 'super.' Superman is very much alive..." Suddenly she stops. She glances down at the ground as a look of pain crosses her face.

//Or maybe not anymore...what if I was right before? God, I hope I'm not right.// I'm about to say something to try to comfort her.

But she doesn't let me. She straightens and her face is suddenly full of determination, no longer marred by the great despair caused her by the thought of Superman being dead. "Well, anyway, Superman *is* alive. He saved me and the other people on that transport that day. Without him, I'd be dead right now."

I look at her; she means it. I see the gratefulness in her eyes. I haven't known Lois very long; but I know that she loves life. "Why's he called Superman? I mean, that's kind of a dumb name, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, well, so is Zippo."


"Actually, I named him that."

//Oops... Heh, did I say dumb? Well, what I meant was...well, dumb.//

"Ahhh...sorry about that dumb thing before, Lois."

"That's okay. I tried to ask him what his real name is, but all he said was, 'Superman seems to have caught on.' I never really bothered to follow up on that whole thing. Maybe he doesn't want everybody to know his real name or something, I don't know."

"So why did uh, you name him Superman?"

"Oh. He flew me from the shuttle back to the Daily Planet after he lifted it into space-"

I feel my mouth drop open a little. And not because Lois has finally managed to get a cab to stop. "Whoa...wait a second... Are you saying that Superman can...fly?"

Lois steps into the cab and I follow, still trying to digest that either this guy is a *lot* more extraordinary than I thought, or Lois is crazy. I don't think the latter is true...but still...a flying man? I don't buy it. I get in the car.

"Daily Planet please," Lois commands. Then she turns back to me and continues. "Yeah, Superman can fly."

"And lift space shuttles into space?"

"Yeah. I guess I should have mentioned the powers before."

"Yeah. That probably would've helped."

She grimaces. "Sorry. Anyway, Superman has all these amazing powers. Flight, super-strength, super-speed, super-hearing, several different vision gizmos-"

"'Vision gizmos?'"

"Yeah, x-ray vision, laser vision, telescopic vision, and microscopic vision. At least that's all I know of."

I'm having a hard time with this. "Lois, this is pretty bizarre..."

"I know. I could barely believe it myself when I first met him. Anyway, although those are all great reasons to call him Superman, that's not really where the name came from. When he flew me back to the Planet, Cat came up to me after he left. She asked me, 'Did you find out what the "S" stands for?,' in reference to the red and yellow 'S' symbol on his chest."

"Red and yellow 'S?'"

"Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting." She looks apologetic. "Superman wears this suit- it's bright blue spandex with a red cape that has a gold 'S' on it and there's a big red and yellow 'S' on his chest, too."

"Why would anybody wear something like that?" I mutter, more to myself than to Lois.

"Beats me. Glad he does, though," she says dreamily.

I raise an eyebrow. She immediately falls from whatever cloud she was just sitting on and glares at me, silently challenging me to say anything. I elect to keep my mouth shut.

"Anyway, so the first thing that came to mind was 'super.' So that's how he got his name, 'Superman.'"

//Well okay then.//

"Okay...so what are we going to do back at the Planet?"

"Well, we have to type up the press conference story, and hopefully by the time we're done, Chief will let us go home."

"Sounds good."

The ride back to the Planet is silent after that.

to be continued...

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