Guy Rule Number One
They arrived at Fort Truman with Jimmy in tow jabbering their ears off about the latest Military Rogue game that had a weapon just like the ATAS they were going to see demonstrated today. It had been informative the first ten minutes, but after listening to him go on and on about it for the past half hour, Clark was ready for the demonstration to be over with so Jimmy would stop talking about the video game.
He spotted the wooden benches across from the demonstration field where General Marshall stood, pointing at the targets behind him and adjusting the trajectory of the ATAS team with his team of specialists.
They climbed the benches, and he couldn’t help but laugh as Lois commented, “They spend eighty million dollars on a new weapon, but we’ve got to sit on these hard-wooden benches.”
“Well, the Army’s not known for being big on comfort.” Clark reasoned, taking a seat next to her.
Jimmy took a seat on the other side and yelped in pain, “Tell me about it.” He rubbed his backside, cautiously lowering himself back down to the bench, “I just got a splinter in a very embarrassing place.”
Lois offered him a sympathetic smile and a pat on the shoulder before turning to the officer that had been standing next to General Marshall earlier. “It is now my great honor to introduce the base commander of Fort Truman, General Ralph Marshall.”
There was a scatter of applause as General Marshall approached the podium, “Thank you, Colonel Fane.” He then turned toward the weapons system they’d all been given pamphlets on, ‘ATAS.' “What you are about to witness is a demonstration of the ‘ATAS.’ The first step toward taking the United States Military into the twenty-first century.” He held up a remote control as he gave the orders, “Forward, five yards!”
The robotic weapon began to move forward with a long neck and rotating head
Jimmy leaned in to snap a photo, “Check it out!” He pointed, “Killer robot.”
Lois read from the brochure they’d been given, “Actually, the ATAS is an 'All-Terrain Automated Soldier.'”
Jimmy gave her a dumbfounded look, “What's the difference?”
Clark smirked and added dryly, “About a hundred thousand taxpayer dollars worth of P.R.” He glanced back toward the ATAS and watched as it came to a stop twenty-five feet from the target.
“The ATAS has the ability to replace the fire power of an entire infantry platoon, with pin point accuracy.” General Marshall explained as he pulled the remote to him and gave the next order, “Center target, fire! Lower left quadrant, fire! Target three niner west, fire!”
The wooden target in the center was sprayed with a round of bullets, tethering the wood to pieces. Lois and Clark exchanged a look. It was impressive. If this robot could do what they said it could, it would save so many lives when the military was forced to engage with enemies in war.
“The ATAS swivels and fires upon a troop truck, exploding it in flames.” General Marshall continued.
Jimmy continued snapping pictures, “Remote voice-activated. Cool.”
Lois handed Clark the binoculars she was using, “Want to try these?”
Nonchalantly he shook his head, “Don’t need ‘em.” She gave him a surprised look, and he scrambled for an explanation, “Uh….they’re hard to use with my glasses.”
“If the target is out of visual contact, the ATAS will automatically reposition itself.” General Marshall explained then spoke into the remote, “Target one zero, zero south, one six zero East. Fire.”
The ATAS rolled down the filed ten yards then turned around and aimed itself at the crowd. “Get down!!!” Clark held his breath as he pushed Lois and Jimmy down inside the bleachers as he felt gunfire ricochet off his back. The crowd around him scattered in the hail of gunfire as he inched his way to the back of the bleachers and made a quick change into the suit.
Clark landed in front of the ATAS, blocking the gunfire from the crowd, catching the bullets at super-speed as he reached for the base of the ATAS to stop it from firing. He tore it off, and the ATAAS fell silent.
Clark spotted Lois and Jimmy coming down from the bleachers and approached them, “Are you all right?”
Lois gave him a shaky nod, “Yeah I think so.” She looked around at the platform that had been destroyed and managed a shaky, “Thanks.” She looked around in confusion and asked, “Where’s Clark?”
“He…went to get an ambulance.” Clark lied, hoping she’d buy it.
Jimmy shook his head, looking at the platform where General Marshall had been standing, “It’s too late. General Marshall’s dead.”
Lois threw her things down at her desk in a huff, “Unbelievable.”
“It’s not that bad,” Clark said, taking a seat next to her.
“All my notes. Gone.”
“It’s the military, Lois. What do you expect?” Clark asked, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. There it was. That spark. ‘Stop it.’
She chastised herself. ‘Don’t think about that. Remember last night?’
Steering her mind back to the present she awarded him a half-smile, “I think keeping Fort Truman’s business under wraps and out of the press went out the window already.”
He took a seat next to her and smiled broadly, “That may be true, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re currently in damage control mode.” He gave her knee a gentle squeeze, and she did her best not to react.‘Snap out of it.’
She told herself. ‘What about Superman?’
She looked up and saw Clark looking at her with a hesitant expression on his face, “What?” She asked, unsure if she wanted to know the answer.
“I wanted to talk to you about last night. I shouldn’t have…”
“It’s fine, Clark. Really.” She cut him off before he could finish his thought. “We’re friends. It’s not like it was an actual date or anything.”
“But what?” Lois looked back at him, uncertain if she wanted to know the answer.
He seemed really upset with himself for leaving her to herself after Mayson had cut in on their dance. He’d still been dancing with Mayson when she’d gone home for the evening. At the time, she had been upset…really upset about Mayson intruding on their dance. But now, after spending the evening in her apartment with Superman...There was something there. Something she was determined to discover in-depth with the man of steel. She wouldn't be distracted by a silly crush.
The last few months they’d grown closer. He was her best friend. Seeing him with anyone else was hard, but it was something she’d grow to tolerate. Even if she couldn’t stand the pushy blonde District Attorney, she’d play nice for Clark’s sake. Last night she’d seen a glimmer of hope on a dream she’d thought was dead and buried after her confession of love for the man of steel during the time of her failed wedding to Lex.
“You left early.” He pointed out.
“I was tired.” She shrugged.
“Are you sure that’s all it was?” He pressed.
Alan from Research approached them with a message slip, “Clark, you had a missed call from Mayson Drake while you were out.”
“Oh.” He gave Alan a weak smile as he took the phone message from him.
“You should give her a call,” Lois said curtly. “I’m going to check with Jimmy and see if there was anything left on that roll of film he had in his camera.” With that, she got up and headed toward the darkroom leaving a confused Clark Kent behind her.
What had just happened?
Clark stared after Lois as she talked with Jimmy who had just come out of the darkroom with his prints. It was like she had done a complete 180 from yesterday. The last few days he’d done nothing but argue with Lois about Martin Snell and her suspicions about Mayson. He still wasn’t completely sure about the young District Attorney, but he found it flattering to have someone finally see him, Clark Kent and not Superman. Whether that would ever blossom into anything else, he wasn’t sure. He knew he had had a good time with her last night, but after his dance with her, he’d found Lois had disappeared. When he went to find her Perry said she’d gone home.
He never should have gone to her apartment as Superman.
That had been a mistake.
One minute they’d been talking and the next minute he’d been dancing with her, showing off—as Superman. It would have been fine if he’d gone to her as Clark, but now all the work he’d put in over the last few months trying to rebuild the trust between them after his confession of love and her rejection of him was gone. If given a choice between his identities Lois would always choose Superman. That was a fact that continued to torment him. He wanted more than anything for Lois Lane to see him—Clark Kent—as more than a friend.
They had grown close over these last few weeks. He thought they were finally moving past everything that had happened this summer….closer even. Now she was back to pushing him away it seemed. He stared down at the message slip in his hand. “Choices, choices…” He muttered to himself.
Lois stood by the printer, waiting for the last of her notes to print off and avoiding Clark as much as she could. She really didn’t want to pick up the conversation she’d been having with him earlier.<<“You left early.”>>
<<“Are you sure that’s all it was?”>>
“I’m telling you I saw it with my own eyes!” Dianne’s voice caught Lois’ attention, and she looked toward the coffee machine where she and Darlene were fixing their coffee and gossiping.
“No way! Clark Kent has been hung up on Lois Lane since day one. There’s no way he’d start looking at the first floozy to throw themselves at him.” Darlene argued as she stirred her coffee.‘Hung up?’
Lois thought to herself, ‘Boy is she wrong…’
She glanced toward her partner who was sitting at his desk on the phone—probably calling Mayson back to plan another date—Why did that bother her so much?
“Well, last night he was.” Dianne sniffed then grinned back at Darlene. “Floozy?”
Darlene shrugged, “If I’d known he was on the market I’d have made my move already. We all would have.”
“I still don’t understand Lois. I mean she’s got a guy that hot following her around…working next to her day in and day out.”
This conversation was heading into dangerous territory. Did they seriously think Clark was …what? She recalled his confession of love last summer and his other confession outside the Planet. She’d felt like she had the wind knocked out of her when he took his declaration of love back but later she’d accepted it and thought it best. They were partners. Friends. Nothing more. The gossip of the Planet seemed to tell a different story though…
“But we all know Lois Lane only has eyes for Superman.”
“There’s a laugh.” Dianne snorted.
‘If she only knew.’ Lois thought to herself. ‘It wasn’t a laugh when he was dancing with me in my apartment last night.’
“I know!” Darlene shook her head. “Doesn’t she realize how hopeless that pipedream is?”
“Not only that, but it would never happen. It goes against the guy rule.” Dianne emphasized her point by slamming the creamer into the fridge.
“What guy rule?” Darlene asked.
“Guy Rule Number One,” Dianne smirked. “Don’t go after another guy’s girl. Everyone knows Clark’s hung up on Lois. There’s no way Superman would do that to him…If he did, that’d be very un-Superman like.”‘Guy rule?’
Lois thought to herself. ‘Guy rule? What kind of ridiculous…?’
“I didn’t think they were that close,” Darlene commented.<<“Superman, is there any hope for us? You and me? I’m so completely in love with you….I can’t do anything else without knowing.”
“Lois, I do care for you but…There are things about me you don’t know, that you may never know.”
“It doesn’t matter. I know YOU. I don’t mean you the celebrity or you the superhero. If you had no powers at all, if you were just an ordinary man leading an ordinary life I would love you just the same. Can’t you believe that?”
“I wish I could Lois, but under the circumstances, I don’t see how I can.”>>
“Close enough that Superman could stay with Clark Kent during the heatwave.” Dianne reminded her.<<“Son, you got a place to say tonight?”>>
<<“Why don’t I stay with Clark? I don’t think he’d mind.”>>
“Poor Lois. You think she’ll ever wake up?”
“Who knows?” Dianne shrugged as they made their way back to their desks. Neither of them noticed her standing by the printer where she’d just overheard their entire conversation.
Confused, she stared back at her partner who was just hanging up the phone and muttered to herself. “Guy rule?”
Clark sat at his desk cradling the phone as he listened to the fifth verse of ‘Windy’ come through the airwaves. After calling Mayson back and getting her voicemail, he’d left a message and then started going through the list of contacts they’d been furnished at the demonstration at Fort Truman. He and Lois had been making calls all afternoon, but so far neither of them seemed to be getting anywhere. There had to be someone somewhere that knew something about what had happened on base today.
“Isn’t there anyone at the Pentagon who can say something besides ‘no comment?’” Lois asked into her phone with that familiar tick in her tone. She was growing as irritated as he was with the run around it seemed. A moment later she was hanging up the phone, “’Goodbye’ wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.” He threw her a sympathetic look, and she sighed, looking back to him, “Are you getting anywhere?”
“No, but now I know all five verses of ‘Windy’” He joked. Just as he said that a voice came on the other end. “Yes, this is Clark Kent with the Daily Planet, and I’m trying to get an official statement regarding the death of General Marshall…” The caller hung up before he could finish and he sighed, hanging up the phone as he said sarcastically, “I see. Would that be ‘click’ with one exclamation point or two?”
Lois awarded him a half-smile then got up to walk toward him. “No luck either, huh?”
“Nope.” He said uneasily, watching as she took a seat next to him.
“What’s a guy rule?” She blurted out, staring at him.
“Huh?” He looked at her in confusion, not sure where this conversation had come from or where she was headed with it.
“What’s a guy rule?” She repeated as if it was the most natural conversation in the world.
Thankfully, Jimmy chose that moment to approach with a folder in hand, “Shots from the accident just off the printer.” He beamed at them.
Clark took the photos from him, and Lois continued. “I mean, I’ve heard people talk about guy rules before but I never really understood what they are…I mean, is it just something you all come up with when drinking beer and watching sports or is there more to it than that?”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Clark began cautiously.
“Guy rule?” Jimmy interjected. “Yeah, of course. Guy rules are the code. We live by them.”
“Really?” Lois asked, looking at Jimmy in interest.
“Sure, I mean for instance you don’t date another guy’s ex. You always step up if a guy needs a wingman. Don’t let your friend embarrass himself over a girl…”
Lois looked from Jimmy back to him before asking, “And you actually follow this stuff?”
Clark found himself cut off by Jimmy once more. “Of course, I mean, it’s a brutal place out there. Dating has its rules along with friendship. Girls have their rules, right?”
“Well, I’m not exactly sure I’d call them ‘rules’” Lois said dryly.
“Rule number one, never go after a girl your friend is interested in,” Jimmy explained. He elbowed, Clark in the shoulder, “Right, CK?”
“Uh, sure?” Clark wasn’t sure where this was going. Watching the wheels turning in Lois’ head there was no telling where her train of thought was headed.
“Really?” Lois asked, narrowing her left eyebrow as her lips pursed in that familiar ‘I’ve got a plan’
look on her face.”So, no exceptions?”
“Well, there are always exceptions,” Jimmy explained nonchalantly.
“Exceptions?” Clark asked, not sure if he wanted to hear Jimmy’s list he was sure the young man had.
“Sure!” Jimmy grinned, “So you can’t go after another guy’s girl. That one’s in stone. You can’t go after a girl another guy likes unless…he’s given permission or has moved on.”“Permission???”
Lois looked to Jimmy then him as if he’d slapped her across the face. “Permission, really?”
“It’s the code.” Jimmy shrugged.
!” Lois shot back.
“Maybe.” Jimmy pointed to the folder in Clark’s hands, “What do you think CK?”
Clark looked down at the photos in his hand, recalling Jimmy’s original reason for coming by. “Um…” He grimaced looking at the photos. Most of them were of his feet. “They’re kinda blurry…”
“Let me see.” Lois reached out for the photos, and he handed them to her. She flipped through them and frowned, “Jimmy, these are all
blurry. This one’s completely out of focus. Is this the best we have?”
“Yeah, sorry, my finger froze on the shutter. That happens when you’re being shot at.”
“Is this a picture of your feet?” Lois held up the offending photo.
“Yeah, but you can see the killer robot right between them.” Jimmy pointed out in a hopeful tone.
Clark gave him a weak smile as Lois sifted through them. “No..no…no…no.” She stopped, scrunching her nose up as she flipped the last picture back.
“I’m sure we’ll find something we can use.” He tried to reassure his disheartened friend.
“Oh, my God!” Lois stared at the picture in her hand in shock.
“What is it?” Clark asked.
“This man’s dead!” Lois pointed at the picture.
Jimmy looked at the image of General Marshall on the ground at the podium and looked back up at her in confusion, “I know I’m still kinda new at this, but that seemed kinda obvious.”
“Not General Marshall.” Lois huffed irritably, “This man!”
Clark leaned over to look at the picture she was pointing at. It was of a tall, dark haired man standing by the bleachers and carrying a briefcase in his hands.
Uncertain what to say and thinking she might have mistaken the man for someone else Clark edged, “Lois, dead people rarely walk.”
Lois threw him an annoyed look, “Clark, this is Ryan Wiley! I went to college with him. He was a computer engineer at Fort Truman…where he died
a year ago!” She threw the photo against his chest to emphasize her last point.
Still not believing her but wanting to lighten the mood she was in he placed the photo on his desk with a nod, “So, he’s a ghost? Well, why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”
Jimmy snickered, and Lois glared at him. “I’m gonna go…develop something or something.” He muttered heading toward the other side of the newsroom to get as far away from Lois’ wrath as possible.
Lois moved the chair toward him to confront him, “Is that supposed to be sarcasm?”
“What? I wasn’t clear enough?” He smiled back at her. He was certain it was just a case of mistaken identity, but Lois always had to be right. His attempt at humor with her seemed to be having the opposite effect on her right now.
Lois crossed her arms defiantly and said, “He dated my best friend in college. They were engaged to be married. So I think I would know what he looks like and I'm telling you... this
Clark stared at the photo on his desk, looking at it more closely. If Lois was right and this guy was supposed to be dead, he had a lot of explaining to do…both to the military and to Lois’ friend. Lois was still looking at him, waiting for a response. “If he’s alive…”
“Which that photo proves.” Lois cut him off.
“If he’s alive then that would mean he faked his death, right?”
“That would be the logical leap, yes,” Lois said irritably.
"Why would he fake his death?"
"I don't know. Money? Maybe he was on the run from someone?" At his look she looked down, "He wasn't exactly the best guy."
He picked up the photo and began to examine it. Seeing the 'Press Only' sign pinned to the bleachers he observed, “The bleachers were reserved for press only,”
“The direction he’s walking toward in the photo?” Lois prompted, “Isn’t that the switchboard that was controlling the robot?”
Clark looked at her exasperated, “Seriously?”
“What? He’s got a background in computer engineering. I guarantee you he knows how to override the programming they had on the ATAS.” Lois added smugly.
“So, you think your, uh, dead
friend here not only faked his death but assassinated General Marshall in front of everyone?” He gave her an ‘Are you serious?’
“Stranger things have happened.” Lois shot back. “When did you become so skeptical?”
“When I have good reason to be.” He said with a shake of his head.
“I know I’m right.”
Realizing she wasn’t going to let this ridiculous theory of hers go, he sighed, “Okay, fine. Let’s say for arguments’ sake you’re right and it is Ryan Wiley in these photos. What would he be doing at Fort Truman?”
“I don’t know,” She looked at the photo on his desk thoughtfully, “but we’re going to find out.”
"Okay." He relented. "We'll look into it."
"Great!" She cheered, looking at him happily, reaching for the photos on his desk at the same time he reached over to hand them to her. Her hand touched his, and he did his best not to react. She pulled back, turning to stand up from her chair. "I'm just gonna give these to Jimmy and..."
"Yeah, that sounds good." Clark nodded. He felt her eyes on him as she continued to stare back at him. "What is it?" He asked.
"Do you think there's anything to what Jimmy said?"
"What exactly are you referring to?" He asked cautiously.
"The 'guy rule'?" She prompted. "I mean, you don't actually follow something like that, do you?"
He still wasn't sure what she was getting at with this line of questioning. Why was she so interested in this 'rule' all of a sudden and why did it matter what he thought about it? Recalling how close they'd been the previous evening and the intrusion by Mayson he suspected the new district attorney might have something to do with it.
"I don't know." He began carefully, "I think there should be a certain amount of respect for friends and their relationships."
"Uh-huh," Lois reclaimed her seat, pulling it up to him as he continued to walk the very unsteady line that had become their relationship over the last few months.
"I mean, if your friend has feelings for someone ... to me, then it would be disrespectful to pursue that person."
"Even if that someone didn't return the feelings?" Lois asked.
"Well, it depends..." Clark began, taken aback by her question. "If the guy is still hung up on someone --someone he cares about--it wouldn't be right for this friend to come along and move in. A) He'd be a bad friend.
It's showing a lack of respect for his friend and his feelings."
"I guess I can understand that," Lois said quietly.'What is she plotting?'
"You're a good friend, Clark." She observed.
"Thank you...I think." He watched as the wheels began to turn in her head. Yeah, he knew that look too well.
"I mean, you'd never do something like that. Interfere in someone's relationship--well, unless they're about to marry a sociopath..." She stopped, looking away at the last observation, recalling his 'confession' he'd later taken back after the fiasco with her almost wedding to Luthor.
"I thought we weren't going to talk about that anymore." He said quietly.
"We're not." She said with a sigh. "So, you and Mayson, huh? I mean, personally, I think you could do a little better. She's got a chip on her shoulder the size of Titanic..."'Yeah, this has to do with Mayson.'
"Lois, is there something you want to talk about?" He asked, interrupting her mid-babble.
"No. I'm fine. Perfectly fine. I'm happy for you."
"Uh-huh, well, as nice as that is...and I use the term 'nice'
loosely. I think you've got the wrong idea."
"I do?" She looked at him in surprise. "Aren't you two...? I mean, not that it's any of my business..."
The idea of him and Mayson together seemed to really be bothering Lois so he put her mind at ease. "Lois, I'm not in a relationship with Mayson. We danced...one dance. That was it."
"Oh." Lois said quietly.
"She's a friend. That's it." He added, hoping that would help put her mind at ease.
"Friend." She repeated uncertainly.
"You've got a lot of friends."
"I'm a friendly person."
"You're friends with me, Jimmy, Perry, Steve... Mayson." She said the last name with a bite in her tongue. "Even Superman."
He shifted under her gaze nervously, "Yeah."
"Does he consider you a friend too?"
"Who?" He asked.
"I guess." He wasn't sure how to respond to that.
"I mean, you did let him stay at your apartment after the heat wave." Lois continued.
"He needed a place to go."
"Another thing a good friend would do."
She kept emphasizing friend
as if it proved a point somehow. "Lois, what is this all about?"
"Nothing. I just want to know more about..."
The phone rang on his desk.
"You should get that." She said.
"I'll call them back." He smiled at her, "What's going on?"
"Just some questions."
"I get that, but..."
The phone transferred to Alan who poked his head over the divider of his desk at him. "Clark, Mayson's on line two."
"Like I said, you should get that," Lois said, getting up and heading back toward her desk.
He followed her with his gaze as he reached over to pick up the receiver of his phone, pressing the button for line two. "Hi Mayson..."