TAC Table of Contents
"Superboy, you've had your parents worried. They said you disappeared a couple of months ago after having an argument. They've been looking for you. As an officer of the Court, I am returning you to the custody of your adoptive parents, the Hurds. Are you going to comply with my order?"
"Judge Hamilton, I suppose I have to. I don't want to break the law."
Agnes wasted no time in throwing her arms around 'her boy'. "Son, let's go home. Once we get there, everything will be fine. And we can throw this atrocious outfit away. You look like you ran off and joined a carnival. Coming Harry?"
"Yes dear," Harry replied.
As soon as the door closed behind the three departing, the judge's clerk stated that the town will have to go back to the way it was before.
"Yes," Hamilton agreed, "Smallville is really going to miss Superboy."
The events of the short gathering in the judge's chamber had shaken the world of the Boy of Steel. In an instant, everything was different now. His having to leave Smallville as well as Jonathan and Martha Kent. How could the Kents explain Clark's sudden disappearance, and at the same time Superboy vanished as well?
And who were these people and why had they done what they did? Claiming to have adopted him fourteen years previously, telling the judge he bolted as a rebellious teen after a disagreement. And where were they taking him?
All of this was galloping through his mind as their automobile headed towards the big city Metropolis.
"This isn't the way to Levy City," he stated.
"Uh, we don't live in Levy City anymore."
"So, are you going to tell me what is going on? And who you two are?"
"Soon, kid, soon. Just pipe down. We'll be there shortly."
And at Smallville High School, all of Clark's friends wondered why he wasn't in class.
"Maybe he's sick," Pete Ross suggested to the group.
"Probably," Rusty Ellsworth agreed. "Hope it's nothing serious."
"Clark almost never misses school," Phyllis Coates. "I bet he has pneumonia or something."
"Oh please," Ross stated. "What's the point of guessing? We'll know soon enough. Heck, we all miss a day of school now and then."
Harry Hurd turned off the highway into the parking lot of the Blue Moon Tourist Camp. He parked the car in front of one of the rundown-looking cabins.
"OK, Superboy, we're here. Get out," he instructed.
"Not exactly the Waldorf Astoria is it?" the lad quipped.
"Never you mind. Let's go. The cabin right in front of the car. You're about to have a joyful reunion."
Harry and Agnes Hurd and their "son" stepped up onto the small wooden porch. Immediately after Hurd gave a rap on the door, a voice told them to enter.
Once inside, a startled youngster exclaimed, "Sickel?"
"Hello Superboy. So nice to see you again," he stated sarcastically. "You remember my friend Albert (pointing to him), don't you?"
"Yes, what a pleasure to see you both again," came the equally sarcastic reply.
Van Sickel and Albert Hodges, the two-bit crooks he had captured after they robbed the Smallville Bank and kidnapped his alter ego of Clark Kent.
"Albert, why don't you take Harry and Agnes next door to the diner and have some lunch? I want to have a little chat with our guest. I'm sure he has a good many questions he'd like to ask."
"I'm not really hungry, Van. I think I'll stay here with you."
"Albert, do what I tell you! Go keep Harry and Agnes company. Entertain them with your wit and charm."
Harry told Albert to come along, as he and Agnes walked out the door. He followed.
As soon as the door was closed, Van Sickel turned back to the Boy of Steel.
"All right Superboy. Let's get down to brass tacks."
"So, you going to tell me what this fraud is all about?" the Boy of Steel asked. "This phony adoption business."
"For the most part, just getting even," came Sickel's smirky reply. "You see, Superboy, it's like this. I've never been one of those clock-punching, strapped to an office desk kind of guys. Work your butt off for the company store and then come Friday you don't get enough coin in the pay envelope to pay the rent. That kind of life is for saps. I'm not a sap. I prefer to work for myself. Usually a much better payday. Of course, there are bigger risks, but when things go right, it's worth it. And it doesn't tie me up forty hours every week, only to get the screws from the corporate brass. One thing my old man told me when I was a kid, 'If you never take chances, you'll never have anything.' And he was right."
"Judging by your current surroundings, I'm not so sure one could say you're on Easy Street."
"I didn't say my lifestyle was perfect, but I'd rather do it my way than the way most stooges do. I don't expect a goody two shoes like you to understand. You're Mr. Nice Guy, the true humanitarian who fights for truth and justice."
"And the American way," Superboy added.
"Sure, whatever you say. But let's get back to why you're here. You see, I went to a lot of trouble and took a big chance robbing the Smallville Bank. And it was going well until the Lang girl and you stumbled onto Albert and me. Yes, we beat the wrap in court due to your violating our rights. Don't you just love this country? I rob a bank and they have to let me go because my rights were violated. I won't deny being sprung was great, but I didn't get the money, thanks to you. I'm just as broke right now as I was before I ever heard of Smallville. So you want to know why are you here? You need to learn that nobody sticks his nose into Van SIckel's business without consequences. Now, I know that you could break me in half without any effort, but knowing what you stand for, I know you won't do that."
"All right, the judge said I had to go with your friends. So, here I am. What now? How long do I have to stay?" the lad inquired.
"Oh, not long. After you do what I ask, you are free to leave at any time. Of course, you'll have to straighten out the legal mess you're in, but that's not my problem. That's between you and the Hurds and the judge. No one can connect me to that in any way."
"Yeah, like you didn't set up the whole thing. So what is it that you want me to do to 'pay off' my crime for trying to bring you to justice?"
"I just need you to replenish the coffers that were emptied when the Smallville Bank money was recovered. That was around $25,000. Naturally, for all the inconvenience you caused me, I'd expect punitive damages, so let's say $50,000."
"And I'm supposed to do that how?"
"I don't really care. However you like. The easiest way would probably be another bank robbery, but with you doing it this time, not me."
"Well, you can forget that!"
"Now, wait a minute Superboy. Look at it this way. With you robbing the bank, no one would get hurt, because no one would try to stop you. You could just walk in, go straight to the vault, take the cash and walk out. No one would even try to capture or prosecute you, because of what all you could do to them."
"And be branded a criminal forever. I won't do it." Rising, he stated, "I've had about enough of all this. Get your coat. I'm taking you and your friends to the police."
"You might want to hold off on that for the moment, Superboy. I figured you wouldn't be cooperative, so I guess it's time for me to play my little ace in the hole."
"And what would that be?" the Boy of Steel asked.
"Something that is obviously very important to you," Sickel continued.
"Don't play games with me. The fact that Superboy and Clark Kent are the same person."
The lad struggled to hide his surprise, "And where in the world would you get an idea such as that?"
"Oh that? Well, I had a talk with your girlfriend, Lana Lang."
"Lana Lang! If you harmed her in any way..."
"Now, hold on. I assure you I didn't. As a matter of fact, she was most cooperative."
"I don't believe you," the Boy of Steel snapped back.
"Well, she was cooperative after I gave her a little sodium thiopental. Then she sang like a canary."
"Sickel, I know a little about these so-called truth drugs. While a person is under their influence, they speak what they believe to be the truth, not necessarily what is the truth."
"Oh, we talked about that, too. She told me how she had suspicions you were Kent, even how she caught you changing identities one afternoon. So after we examined all the data, it became pretty obvious her suspicions were accurate. So you get me that money or I tell everyone in Smallville that Superboy and Clark Kent are the same guy."
"Your word against mine Sickel, no deal. I'll take my chances."
"Oh, how I hate to hear you say that. Why do you insist on making this so complicated? Then I'll have to put my back-up plan into action."
"No, a promise. You refuse again, and some very bad things are going to happen. You see, whether or not you're Kent isn't really important to me. I'll assume you are, but maybe you aren't. Doesn't really matter. Either way, Jonathan and Martha Kent, two very fine people, and your girlfriend Miss Lang, will met quick demises. I have associates with them now. One at the Kent store, one at the Kent home, and one with the Lang girl at, let's say, an undisclosed location. If all three of my associates don't hear from me by a certain time today, they will decrease the population of Smallville by three. You might be able to rescue one, but even you couldn't save them all. That's how serious I am about the money. So...for the last time, what is your answer?"
The cabin door burst open so hard that it toppled the small table and lamp behind it.
"Albert! What do you think you're doing?" an angered Sickel yelled.
"Van, I heard what all you said, and I ain't gonna have no part in no killin'!"
"Shut up, Albert, you will do what I tell you."
"Not this time. You're not gonna hurt that young girl. She didn't do anything to you!"
Sickel argued, "Albert, think. She identified us after we robbed that bank."
"Maybe cause you didn't plan out the job good enough. That's not her fault. No, Van. I ain't gonna let you hurt her."
"Albert, you're getting a little too big for your britches. I'm in charge here!"
"Not no more. I'm through! You get me!"
"Yeah, I get you, Albert. So I guess this is goodbye..."
Superboy's head was swinging back and forth between the two as if he were witnessing a tennis match. Suddenly, before he could respond, two deafening shots rang out. Both men hit the floor.
"Great Scott!" he shouted. One man was still moving. The Boy of Steel checked the still man first. Then he moved over to the other.
"Take it easy now, Albert. Let me look at you." A short moment passed. "You'll be all right. You're hit in the shoulder. Albert, what can you tell me about the men holding Mr. and Mrs. Kent and the Lang girl hostage?"
"There ain't no men. There's just Van, me and the Hurds. Van was bluffin' ya. How is Van?" Hodges inquired.
"You must be a better shot than Van. He's dead."
The Boy of Steel returned to the courthouse where he stood in front of the desk of Judge Hamilton.
"I have spoken with Bill Henderson, Superboy. He's pretty much brought me up to speed with what happened in the cabin of that tourist camp, according to what you told the Metropolis police officers who investigated your emergency calls. Correct me if I have any of the information wrong. An argument broke out between Van Sickel and Albert Hodges. The argument became very heated. Some shoving occurred between the two men. Sickel pulled his pistol from his waist and fired at Hodges, who pulled his pistol and fired at Sickel. Both men went down. Sickel was dead, Hodges shot in the shoulder. Am I correct so far?"
"You then called the police for assistance and medical help. The Hurds were next door in a diner during all of this?"
"That's right, Your Honor. I grabbed them trying to get away in their car. I assume they heard the shots and decided to take off."
"The police arrived. Hodges was taken by ambulance to the hospital in Metropolis. The coroner took Sickel to the Metropolis morgue. You and the detectives held Harry and Agnes Hurd until Bill Henderson could arrive to bring them back to Smallville."
"Yes, sir. That's about it."
"Well, the shooting took place in the jurisdiction of Metropolis, so we won't have to deal with that," stated Hamilton.
"That's what the Metropolis officers told me, but I did tell them I will testify at the coroner's inquest that Sickel pulled his gun first. I hope that's enough for them to rule his death self defense. I'm hoping they won't bring charges against Hodges. I sort of feel sorry for him. I don't believe he's really a bad person, just a little 'slow' and easily influenced. In a way, he was much like a child under Sickel's supervision. Van Sickel pretty much used Albert Hodges for his own criminal purposes."
"As for the Hurds," the judge went on, "what they did is within our jurisdiction. District Attorney Bruton is going to file charges against them for using the courts to perpetrate a fraud. Knowingly submitting fraudulent documents to a court is a very serious charge, and if they're convicted, could get a pretty long stretch in state prison. I can't preside at their trial since I'm the one they defrauded, so an out-of-town judge will be brought in for that. And for what happened, and my involvement, Superboy, I am truly sorry. I certainly didn't want to rule the way I did, but I have to base my decisions solely on the evidence, not by my wishes. I didn't know the evidence was false. I hope you'll forgive me."
"Of course, Your Honor, I understand," the youth responded.
"Now, Superboy, we're back to where all this kind of started. The issue of your being an unsuspervised minor."
"Judge," he started.
"Superboy," the bailiff jumped in, "this might be a good time for you not to talk, just listen. Will you do me that favor?"
Confused, he answered, "OK."
"I know that with your extraordinary abilities, you are more than capable of taking care of yourself. But the law of this state requires that all minors be under the direction of a parent or guardian until they reach the age of eighteen. Now I have no way of knowing how old you are, and you haven't told me. You testified in my court that you have never seen your birth certificate."
He started to say something but saw the bailiff shaking his head with his index finger to his lips.
The jurist continued, "Now I can make a guess as to your age, but it would only be a guess." He turned to his bailiff, "You're probably better at predicting someone's age than I am. How old would you think Superboy here is?"
"Well, Your Honor," he quirked, "He could be around sixteen."
"Could he be seventeen?"
"Sure," he responded.
"How about eighteen?"
"You know, Judge, I believe that's very possible. Maybe even nineteen."
"Well, a person eighteen years of age is legally considered an adult, responsible for their own actions. And since I have no evidence convincing me you are not of legal age, I can't prove you are a minor, so there's really nothing legally I could do in this matter. That is, unless you have something to say."
The bailiff's finger went back to his lips as his eyes met the Boy of Steel's. He also tossed in a wink in his direction.
"Uh, no, Your Honor, I have nothing to say," was his verbal response.
"Very well. Then I suppose we are done here. Thanks for coming in Superboy, and welcome back to Smallville."
"Everything's Ducky? Not with me. This is about the worst movie I've ever seen," the redhead exclaimed. "Jackie Gleason should be ashamed."
"I guess they all can't be THE GUNS OF NAVARONE," Clark replied.
"Clark, I don't want to waste any more time watching this. Do you mind if we leave?"
"I was ready to go ten minutes ago," he replied.
"Good. Let's get out of here. It should be illegal to charge people to see this monstrosity."
She cranked the engine and started to pull out of her space.
"Wait! Don't forget the speaker." Clark warned.
"Oh yeah, thanks." She returned the speaker to its pole, then pulled out.
Kent suggested that taking County Road # 6 would shave about ten minutes off the trip back to his house.
"But it's a dirt road," Lana answered.
"I live on a dirt road, remember?"
"Oh yeah," she answered, hanging a right on good ole # 6.
As they passed through the country, she told her friend how glad she was that there hadn't been the need for him to pull one of his disappearing acts, that they had managed to watch the entire first feature without any interruption.
"Lana, please don't start up with that again. I don't do disappearing acts, as you call them."
"Oh no? I can't count how many times you have vanished right before Super...oh my gosh...there's a fire!"
Up ahead, about fifty yards off the road, they saw roaring flames.
Using his x-ray vision, Clark could immediately tell a wood frame home was engulfed.
"It's a house. Quick. Turn up the side road."
"How do you know it's a house? I can't see anything but flames. It could be a barn or the woods on fire."
"TURN!" he commanded. For once, the independent teen obeyed.
"Here. Stop here! Don't get too close!" He immediately jumped out of the vehicle and ran towards the inferno, with his friend close behind. When they felt the heat from the flames, they stopped.
"It is a house!" she yelled. "Someone could be inside."
Again his super sight revealed a woman and a small child trapped inside a bedroom on the other side of the structure.
"Clark, I hear screaming! What do we do?"
Knowing that every second counted, he determined there was no time to come up with an excuse for one of those 'disappearing acts' to make his transformation to Superboy.
"I've got to try to get in there and help," he shouted.
"Clark, you can't go into that house! You'll burn to death in a matter of seconds! Oh, if Superboy were here..."
"Well, I don't see him anywhere, so I'm going in. You get to a phone and call for help!"
"There's no time to argue, now hurry!" the lad shouted as he ran towards the front door.
Lana watched as he entered the dwelling and disappeared to the right. She then ran back to her car and peeled out as fast as she could.
There was no need to shed his outer Kent clothing as the flames immediately went to work on his sweater, shirt and slacks. By the time the Boy of Steel reached the bedroom door, all that remained of Clark Kent's presence were semi-melted shoes on his feet and the belt around his waist. The lenses of his eyeglasses, made from glass in his Kryptonian rocketship were intact, but the earth-made frames had melted off his face. He caught the lenses as they fell towards the floor and slipped them into the pouch sewn into his cape.
His target for entering turned out to be a woman and her young daughter, crouched in the corner furthest away from the flames. He grabbed them from the floor and easily burst out the back side of the home. Carrying them safely away, he put them down on the dew-covered ground. Neither appeared to have been burned, but they had digested a good bit of smoke. Slowly, both mother and daughter came around and seemed to be out of harm's way.
His super-sensitive hearing picked up the sirens of approaching emergency vehicles. Lana had apparently achieved her goal of getting help.
"Better get rid of Clark's belt and shoes," he told himself. Removing them, they joined the lenses.
Several minutes later, the fire crew were on-site, and it was determined pointless to waste water on the inferno. The house was a goner.
"We'll stick around until it burns itself out, then hose down the rubble to speed up the process. The mother and daughter are on oxygen and are going to the hospital to get checked out. Thank you, Superboy, for getting them out of there."
He shook the officer's hand and turned to see several cars approaching. One was Lana Lang. She had followed the firemen back to the fire.
"Superboy! Where's Clark! Oh God, where is he!"
"Now calm yourself down, Lana. Clark Kent is fine. He's fine."
"Where is he!"
"Now, that's a good question. The last I saw of him, he was standing outside the front door of the place. I went in to get the people out, and when I had finished, Kent wasn't here."
"But he was O.K.? He wasn't hurt?"
"Not a mark on him, best I could tell. Now don't worry. Maybe he caught a ride with one of the cars that stopped." To divert her attention, he asked, "By the way, what are you doing out here this time of night?"
She then replayed the entire evening's activities back to the Boy of Steel. He listened intently as she unfolded the story. It was worth the time if it got her mind off the "Clark Kent disappearing acts" she had mentioned earlier.
Putting as many miles between Superboy and his secret identity was always a worthwhile cause, especially if Lana Lang was involved.
Leaving the scene of the catastrophe, Lana decided it best if she continued on towards the Kent farm. Clark could be walking the rest of the way home, and if so, she could pick him up and take him there.
How fortunate they had taken the shortcut via County Road # 6. If they hadn't, the woman and her child would have perished in the blaze.
She came to the end of the shortcut. No sign of Clark. So she turned right onto the road which went led to his house and headed in that direction.
The life of a teenager is seldom problem-free. So many things going on physically and emotionally. The life of Lana Lang, just sixteen years and one day of age, was most likely more complicated than the vast majority of her peers. She was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Incredibly popular, she found herself caught between two young men. Her teenage crush on the Boy of Steel grew with every day. Yet, she had deep feelings for Clark Kent, not so much romantic feelings, but it seemed reasonable to assume those emotions could evolve into a romance. After all, she and Clark had known one another for over ten years. They had grown up playing together as well as going to church and school. The two saw each other practically everyday.
Even though she had Phyllis, Noel and others as close girl friends, the person she was closest with was Clark. And for a reason she couldn't even understand herself, an obsession took her over soon as Superboy made the scene that he and Clark were the same person.
The redhead wanted Clark to be Superboy, and the slightest thing could at any time compel her to prove her theory. But just as quickly, she would change her mind and shrug it all off as a silly idea. How could Clark be this incredible super hero who suddenly appeared out of nowhere? Ten years she had known him and had never seen any indication he had special abilities. In fact, he seemed to be quite the opposite. Yes, he was an intelligent and caring person but showed no special physical abilities at all. Not now, not before. He couldn't play baseball or football worth a hoot. Very quiet, not nearly as outgoing as she.
She had noticed no change in Kent's deportment pre-Superboy and post-Superboy. If Clark suddenly became the mild-mannered person after Superboy arrived, that would give credence to her theory, but he's always been the way he is. So, it didn't make sense.
On the other hand, she had never seen the two at the same place at the same time. Sure, she questioned Clark about it. His glib answer, "Maybe he doesn't like me," just added to her frustration. Catching him in the back room of the general store that afternoon seemed to clinch it, but he calmly had an explanation.
But at this moment, the part of her brain that says, "No Lana, Clark is not Superboy," was in command, as she was concerned about her friend's safety. That's why she had chosen to drive to the Kent home.
As she approached, she noticed no light at all coming from inside the structure. She parked in front of the house, leaving enough space for any car to pass safely.
"No lights on. They must all be in bed. Or at least Mr. and Mrs. Kent anyway. Clark may not be in there. He wasn't on the road anywhere, maybe he cut across a field to save time. I'll give him a few more minutes."
She gave him fifteen. No lights came on. If Clark had come in through the kitchen, he'd have turned on a light. And no one entered the front door.
"Should I knock on the door and wake everybody up to make sure he made it home all right?" she contemplated.
After considerable deliberation, she decided she would not.
"I'll drop by the store in the morning and check on him."
Clark would be touched that Lana was so concerned about him.
The irony of the late night dilemma...as Lana was starting her car to leave, the dark sky hid the approach and descent of the Boy of Steel. Setting down in the woods nearby the Kent home, he lifted the trap door and entered the tunnel leading inside to his hidden room. Not able to don Clark's clothes due to their incineration in the house fire, he made a rare entrance into the living room attired as Superboy.
Just as the Lang vehicle cleared the crest in the road, he turned on the overhead light.
People walking on the sidewalk of Smallville's main street couldn't help but notice the youngster running as fast as he could, zigzagging in and out as he made his way through the pedestrians. Finally, the boy disappeared through the front door of Kent's General Store.
A few close by even peered through the front window out of curiosity as they passed.
Inside, owner Jonathan Kent greeted the youth as the boy stopped at the counter, panting to get his breath.
"Benjy, what in the world?" he inquired as he bent over the counter. "Calm down before you pass out."
"Morning, Mr. Kent," he answered, gasping for air. "Is Superboy here? I need to see him right away."
The boy's comment shocked Kent, making him return to his erect stance. "Superboy! Now Benjy, what would make you think that Superboy might be here?"
"Well, because..." The Banks child stopped as he heard the stock room door open and saw Clark entering, carrying a basket of cabbage headed for the produce rack.
"Oh, hi Benjy," Clark greeted.
Without hesitation, the lad rushed over to young Kent and blurted out, still in excitement, "I need your help Superboy. Won't you help me...please?"
Clark was as startled as his father had been. He sat down the cabbage. "Whoa Benjy, aren't you a bit confused?"
"Well, you are Superboy, aren't you?"
The two Kents' eyes met one another, both showing gratitude that no one else was in the store at that moment.
"I have a problem Superboy, and I need your help. You will help me, won't you? You're always helping people when they are in trouble, and man, am I in trouble!"
"Well Benjy, my dad and I will be glad to help you if we can, but I don't understand. Why would you think I might be Superboy?
"Because of this..." The boy reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a photograph and handed it to Clark. Young Kent did the best he could to mask his reaction when he looked at the photo showing him changing identities.
"Uh, where did you get this Benjy?"
"I took it."
"You took it? When?"
"The other night. Not last night, but two nights before that."
Jonathan joined the two and asked if he could see the picture. "Where did you take it Benjy?"
"Beside the hotel, in the alley," young Banks replied.
Clark's mind raced back to the night in question. That was the night he and his Dad worked into the evening taking inventory of the stock room of the store. They had walked around the corner to Tony's Diner for supper before going home. About half way back to the store after eating, Clark responded to several police car sirens. Being closer to the alley next to the Smallville Hotel, he elected to change to Superboy there to save time instead of returning to the store and using the secret escape tunnel.
"I was just walking around taking some pictures with my new camera. I was trying to get a picture of a cat I saw run into the alley, so I followed him. Then I heard sirens and someone said, "I'll see you at home" and someone starting coming towards me. I was scared so I hid behind some trash cans. The person stopped. I couldn't see very good because it was pretty dark, so I just snapped a picture. Then I heard a whooshing noise and the person was gone. I didn't know who it was until I developed the roll of film last night. The noise I heard was Superboy flying away, and that's you in the picture."
"Benjy, this photograph is pretty dark, you said so yourself. I can see the figure of someone, but other than that..."
"Look real close Clark. You're taking off your shirt, and I can see the big "S" on your chest. And I heard you take-off into the air. It's Superboy for sure. And see (pointing to the photo), he's wearing glasses just like you do."
"Benjy, lots of folks here in Smallville wear eyeglasses, not just Clark. That could be almost anyone," Jonathan added.
"Benjy, I'm flattered that you have the idea that I might be Superboy, but he and I are really nothing alike. I'm sorry to disappoint you. Do you understand?"
"Yeah, I guess so," the boy answered, "but now I don't know what to do."
"Well, if you don't mind telling us Benjy, why do you need Superboy's help?"
"There's two guys who won't leave me alone. They're older than me. They pick on me and call me things like 'Momma's boy' and make me give them free newspapers. And I have to pay the Sentinel for those papers. And if I try to get away from them, they tell me they'll hunt me down and hurt me."
"Do you know their names?" Clark inquired.
"Oh sure, it's Luke Brown and Brody Murphy. I was hoping that you were Superboy so you could talk to them and make them leave me alone. But since you're not," he said, lowering his head in disappointment, "I guess I'll go on home."
"Hold on a minute Benjy. Is there any special place they usually stop you and cause you problems, or..."
"Yeah, right after I pick up my papers at the Sentinel. They know my paper route. They know where I have to go everyday. They hang around the corner around from the loading dock at the paper and wait for me. Sometimes they make me give them money, too."
"Well, maybe I can help you after all. How about this? I promise that the very next time I see Superboy, I'll tell him what you told me, and I'm sure he can do something to help you out. What do you say?"
"That'll be great. But when do you think you'll be seeing him?"
"Well, I never really know Benjy, but this is Saturday. Dad, isn't Saturdays when Superboy often comes into the store?"
"Uh, yeah, that's right, he's almost always in the store on Saturdays. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he didn't walk through that door in the next while or so," he answered, giving Clark a wink.
"Well, there you are Benjy, sounds like your problem may be solved already," Clark stated encouragingly.
"Gosh, thanks a million Clark. You too, Mr. Kent," the lad replied as he started for the door.
"Benjy, what time do you go to the Sentinel for your newspapers?"
"On Saturdays, about 1:00."
"O.K. Thanks. Oh, and can I keep the photograph, sort of, as a souvenir.
"Sure Clark, you can have it. And Clark, I'm sorry you're not Superboy like I thought. Being Superboy would be neat though, wouldn't it? Bye!" he shouted as he closed the door behind him.
"Dad, it really makes me mad that guys would pick on someone as nice as Benjy."
"I know son, but there have always been bullies, and I guess there always will be. But, at least, here's two of them that can be taught a good lesson."
"Well, I know where I'm going to be at 1:00 this afternoon. Let's see if I can't put a scare into Luke Brown and Brody Murphy. And what about this photograph? It is difficult to make out that it's me, but I can't risk it falling into the wrong hands. If someone else got a hold of it, they may not buy my explanation as quickly as Benjy did. If Benjy had taken the picture fifteen minutes earlier when it was lighter outside, my goose would have been cooked."
"Yes, very fortunate," Jonathan remarked.
Clark tossed the photo upwards and as it fell, a beam of his heat vision cremated it before it reached the floor.
Close to 12:30, Clark Kent arrived back at work from a trip to Belson's clothing store. Several pieces of his wardrobe needed replacing from the previous evening's events.
He had failed to see the shiny new convertible at curbside.
"I'm back Dad," he said, having to speak over the sound of the bell attached to the front door.
"Hi Clark," was the first response he heard from an all too familiar female voice.
"Oh, hi Lana. What brings you to town?"
"I stopped by to see if you were OK."
"Sure, I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Well, the last I saw of you, you were dashing into a burning house. I just wanted to make sure you were all right. That's not a problem I hope."
"Of course not. Thanks for your concern. No, I'm fine."
"Well, tell me what happened?"
"I didn't get very far into the house before the heat drove me back out. Fortunately Superboy was there by that time, and he took care of the rest."
"Yes, I know. I talked to him after I got back with the fire department. Superboy didn't see you leave, so I didn't know what had happened to you."
"I guess he was more concerned with other things to have to look after me. Anyway, once I saw the lady and her child were safe, I left. There was nothing else I can do there."
"So how did you get home?"
"I hoofed it."
She then explained how she had driven the road to his house but never saw him. He answered he took shortcuts through fields and came up behind his house.
"I appreciate what you did though Lana. I mean, trying to find me. I wasn't sure you were coming back after you went for help."
"Of course, I was coming back. I wouldn't leave you out there in the middle of nowhere. You're my best friend."
He was shocked when the redhead then leaned up and kissed him on the cheek.
"I was worried about you."
Not wanting one o'clock to slip up on him, he picked a bad time to look up at the clock behind the check-out counter.
"What? Am I boring you?" she asked.
"No. I'm sorry. Just checking the time. Thanks for stopping by to check on me, but I should get back to work."
"What's in the bag?" she asked, ignoring his comment.
"Oh, I picked up a few things at Belson's that I needed."
"Let's see what you got," she replied as she snatched the bag from his hands. Dumping the contents on the counter she inventoried the new merchandise...red sweater, white shirt, dark blue slacks. "Good grief, Clark, nice but not very original. You always wear red sweaters, white shirts and dark blue slacks. Why didn't you get something different? Why must you always look like a walking American flag?"
"Sometimes I wear light blue (referring to a particular costume)."
"Oh fine. Big difference. Haven't you ever heard of the colors green, yellow or brown? Mix it up a little Clark. Live a little."
I happen to like red sweaters and blue slacks. I would think you'd like them, too. After all, your dreamboat Superboy wears red and blue. You seem to like it on him."
"Oh, so now you're comparing yourself to Superboy?"
"Well, not exactly."
"You know what Clark Kent? I believe you're jealous of Superboy."
"Jealous? No Lana. I know I don't have a chance with you as long as Superboy's around. But I tell you what. Sometime when you have a chance, you go look through Belson's young men's department and take some fashion notes for me. Then you can take me shopping. I won't make any promises, but I'll be glad to see what you think I should buy instead of the boring clothes I wear all the time."
"Well, I might just do that," she snapped.
"Fine. You do that. Now, I really need to get back to work."
"Very well Clark dear. Excuse me for caring. I will see you later," as she closed the door firmly behind her, making the customers in the store take notice.
"Sorry about that, Dad."
"That's OK, son. She's a pistol, isn't she?"
"I'll say. Dad, it's getting close to one o'clock. I should..."
"Go ahead Clark. Benjy is counting on you."
The lad went into the store's back room. Now in seclusion, Clark Kent made his transformation to the Boy of Steel.
"And now for a little man-to-man with two not so tough guys."
Young Benjy Banks had his bicycle basket packed with the Saturday edition of the Smallville Sentinel, ready to begin his run deliverying the day's latest news and happenings to his customers.
The daily job often had its troubles, especially Saturdays. "They" would be waiting for him.
In this case, "they" were Luke Brown and Brody Murphy, two older kids who took pleasure in picking on the lad and even stealing newspapers to sell themselves, and sometimes money, from him.
The town clock on top of the Smallville bank struck one o'clock. Time to get started.
And the help he had hoped for was not to be seen.
"Man, I guess Clark didn't get to talk to Superboy," he thought to himself as he placed his right foot atop the pedal to put the bike into motion.
He felt something grab his wrist. Looking up, he saw the much-needed aid.
"Shhhh," the lad in red and blue whispered, his finger to his lips. "Hi Benjy. Clark Kent told me you were in a pickle and might need my help."
"I sure am. I haven't looked, but these two guys are probably right around the corner waiting for me."
"They are Benjy. Using my x-ray vision, I'm looking at them now."
"X-ray vision. Wow. How neat is that?"
"Yeah, it's pretty neat. But let's deal with the issue at hand. Here's what I want you to do..." He leaned over and whispered into the boy's ear.
"That punk better hurry up. I have other things to do," Brody Murphy told his friend. "I need to sell five or six of his papers so I can get some more smokes."
"Let's give him a few more minutes. If he doesn't show, we'll go get him and teach him a lesson. Heck, forget the papers today, we'll just take his money," was Luke Brown's response.
Just as he finished, the lad on his bike rounded the corner, right into the grasp of the two older thugs.
"Whoa!" they stated, grabbing the handle bars. "What's the idea keeping us waiting? We're busy men. Now clean out your pockets and give us the dough. And our share of the papers, too."
"And what if I say 'no'?" Benjy replied.
"That wouldn't be very healthy. You do want to make it to your next birthday, don't you Banks?"
"Sure I do."
"Then give us the stuff!"
"Ya gonna beat me up right here on the street in front of people?"
"Ya think we're stupid? Nah, we'll drag you off to some place out of sight. And then beat the tar out of ya! Now, give us the stuff!"
"I don't think a good friend of mine would like that very much," Benjy informed the bullies.
"I didn't think you had any friends," Murphy stated. "Your friend gotta name?"
"Hey, did you here that Luke? Benjy here is a friend of Superboy."
"Really? Well, how nice. Cut the crap Banks. Superboy doesn't even know you're alive. And even if he did, we're not afraid of Supergoof." They laughed.
"So what's it gonna be Banks? Give us what we want or take a beating."
"Well, I've given you all the stuff I'm gonna give you. I guess I'll have to take the beating."
"OK kid, you want it, you're gonna get it. Let's go. Back around the corner, then down the alley behind the Sentinel."
Brown and Murphy guided the handle bars so their prey couldn't try and make a run for it.
Turning into the alley, Brown suggested, "Down here by the dumpster. No one will see us."
"Right," Murphy agreed.
Just as they cleared the trash container, a voice spoke, "Hi Benjy."
The delinquents barely managed to gasp, "SUPERBOY!"
"Hello gentlemen. Out for a stroll with my friend Benjy? How nice. Well, haven't you anything else to say? Ah, c'mon guys, you were just talking about Superboy, or did I hear Supergoof? Well, now you've found him. What's on your mind?"
"Very well. Let me tell you what's on mine. Benjy Banks is a good friend of mine. Here's a young man who goes to school and has a job on top of that. He's learning responsibility and making some spending money so he doesn't have to steal it from other kids, like you do. And, on the other hand, there's you two. I assume you both go to school. Do you guys have jobs?"
"I thought not. I suppose it's easier to intimidate a younger kid and steal his money than to work for your own. But I strongly suggest that this stops immediately. Now, I can't do anything about making you guys get jobs and learn responsibility or to be nice boys, but I can do something about your picking on Benjy. I'm going to say this and say it only once. If my buddy Benjy here ever tells me or if I even hear that you two geniuses are causing him any trouble whatsoever, you will be dealing with me. Not your parents, not the police, but ME! Do I make myself clear?"
Brown and Murphy shake their heads.
"Guys, I don't want to hear your heads rattle. I want to hear you say it."
"YES SIR! Never again. We promise!"
"Good. Now scram. And Mr. Murphy, you shouldn't smoke at your age. It doesn't make you look tough. It makes you look stupid."
Young Kent sat on a counter stool at Tony's Diner enjoying a sandwich, convinced Benjy Banks would have no more trouble from his two tormentors.
"Could I have another glass of milk, please, Elaine," he requested of Tony's lovely daughter.
"Sure, Clark, right away," came her response as the owner walked behind the counter.
"Hia Clark, you working today?"
"Yeah, Tony, just grabbing a bite before I have to get back."
"Your folks doing all right?"
"They're fine, Tony, thanks. Hey Tony, I see you still have the rifle on the wall you got from Superboy."
"Oh sure," he responded. "That rifle not agoing anywhere. It's a warning to anyone who might wanta cause trouble for Tony. Sort of tells everyone that me and Superboy are justa like this," he answered, crossing his fingers.
"Has he been in lately?"
"Oh asure. Almost every day. He eats here a lot."
Kent replied, "I'm sure he does, Tony. As a matter of fact, Tony, I know he does."
The youngster took the last bite of his sandwich and downed the rest of his milk refill. "So, how much do I owe you, Tony."
"Let's asee. Hamburger, french fries and milk. I noa charge you for the extra milk. Seventy-five cents, Clark."
Handing him a dollar bill, Kent instructed Tony to keep the change.
Stepping out onto the sidewalk, the lad decided to talk a little walk. "Still have a few minutes before I need to be back to the store."
He headed towards the town square, then crossed over and continued down the street, now into a residential area.
"A really beautiful afternoon," he thought as he went on. Trying to relax and to clear his mind, he made it only three houses down the street when he heard the sound of a woman's voice.
"You. You there!"
He looked across the street to see a woman, near hysterics, trying to flag him down.
Crossing the street, he responded, "Good afternoon, Mrs. Van Geons. How are you today?"
"You're the Kent boy, aren't you. Chuck?"
"Oh yes, I recognize you from your father's store. You've got to help me."
"What's wrong, Mrs. Van Geons?"
"Oh, it's awful. Mr. Van Geons climbed up that tree, and now he can't get down. Please help us."
His eyes followed the trunk all the way to the top. "I don't see your husband anywhere, Mrs. Van Geons."
"Mr. Van Geons isn't my husband, silly, he's my cat. Well, Mr. Van Geons used to be my husband, but he passed away some years ago, so I named my cat after him, so I'd always feel like he was still around. But now, Mr. Van Geons has gotten himself stuck way up there."
"Oh yes, I see him now," he remarked, feeling a bit sad at her situation.
"Can you climb up there and get him for me, Chuck?"
Ignoring her error with his name, he answered, "Well, I can't, Mrs. Van Geons. I'm afraid of heights. Maybe the fire department could help you."
Then he quickly thought what a waste of time and money to send for the firemen, when he could actually rescue the cat. Not as Kent, but as Superboy.
"Never mind the fire department, Mrs. Van Geons. I'll go try to find help for you. Give me a few minutes. Don't worry. Mr. Van Geons isn't going anywhere."
"Thank you, my boy."
So, at a brisk pace, he walked back across the square and headed left down the block to the family store. Entering, he barely broke stride, only slowing enough to speak, "Hi Mrs. Coates, Mr. Grayson. Dad, I forgot something. I'll be back shortly."
He closed the stock room door behind him.
"Wow, Jonathan, I remember when I was Clark's age. I wish I still had his energy."
Back at the Van Geon home, Superboy flew into the top of the tree, then slowly floated down beside the disturbed old woman.
"My goodness. Mr. Van Geons, you're a bad boy. How did you do what you just did, young man?"
"It's a bit complicated, ma'am. I'm just glad I could be of assistence," the Boy of Steel replied.
"You must be...let's see, what I am I trying to say...?
"I'm Superboy, ma'am."
"Superboy. Yes, that's it. You know, you sorta look like the Ke..."
"Maybe you should get your cat inside, ma'am. He might be thirsty."
"Yes, yes, you're exactly right. Thank you again, young man. Come, Mr. Van Geons. You and I are going to have a little talk."
The kitty rescuer smiled, then sprung into the air, headed back to his point of origin.
"Mr. Grayson gone, Dad?" Clark inquired upon returning to the store.
"Yes, he had to get back to his shop. He just dropped in to chat. Is everything O.K.?"
"Oh sure. Had to rescue a cat from a tree, that's all."
They both looked up in response to the ringing bell on the door. In walked a redheaded teenager.
"Uh, oh," both Kents mumbled under their breath.
"Hi, Mr. Kent. Hi, Clark."
"Good afternoon, Lana. Lovely day," Jonathan answered.
"Mr. Kent, would you mind excusing Clark and me for a minute?"
Father and son exchanged glances. "Why sure, Lana. He's all yours. I'll be in the stock room, son."
As soon as the door clicked shut, her face was a foot away from his face.
"All right, what's your explanation this time?" immediately going on the offensive.
"Uh, explanation for what?" he responded.
"I was just up the street in Gower's Drug Store. I saw everything."
"What did you see?"
"I saw you run down the street past the drug store. I stepped out and saw you come into your store."
"Well, actually Lana, I did pass the drug store, but I wasn't running. Is walking down the street so strange? You do it all the time."
"O.K., not running, but walking pretty fast. And while I was still outside, I saw Superboy fly overhead from the direction of this building. So let's hear it. What's your explanation?"
"I still don't get you."
"Where did you...or, should I say, Superboy go?"
Putting his palm to his forehead, he said, "Oh no. Not this nonsense again."
"Well, I'm waiting..." she pressed.
"Very well, Lana. Here are the exploits of Clark Kent's day to this point. Should I skip the part about getting up and brushing my teeth?"
She gave him a stare that could probably melt metal as well as the Boy of Steel's heat vision.
"I worked here at the store all morning with my Dad until my lunch break. I wnet shopping at Belson's, but you know all about that. I walked to and ate lunch at Tony's Diner, which consisted of a hamburger, french fries and milk. No, sorry, two glasses of milk. The check came to seventy-five cents. I left a twenty-five cent tip. Then I decided to take a walk. After a bit, I realized my lunch break was almost up, so I briskly walked back to the store. And here am I. As for your Superboy sighting, you'll have to ask him about that. As for the rest of today, I can't predict the future, so it's still a mystery. Check with me tomorrow for a full report. Satisfied?"
"No! Sounds like a bunch of double talk to me," the redhead stated.
"Well, I really don't know what else I can tell you, Lana."
"I'll tell you what you can tell me, Clark. You can just tell me that you are Superboy. Is that really so difficult? Go ahead and admit it to me. It will make both of our lives a lot easier, because I'm not going to let it go until you confess or I prove beyond any doubt that my theory is true. You can tell me, Clark. I won't tell a soul. Just tell me."
"Very well. Lana, I am Superboy. Happy now?
"Do you realize what you just said? You admitted that you are Superboy!" red-headed Lana Lang said in amazement. "I knew I was right! Thanks for telling me, Clark. I promise I won't tell anyone."
"Tell anyone what?" the lad asked.
"That you are Superboy, silly. Weren't you paying attention?"
"Oh, I thought we were playing a game. You asked me to say I was Superboy, so I did. Now it's my turn. Oh, Lana, please tell me that you are Sandra Dee, or maybe Connie Stevens. No wait. They're blondes. You're a redhead. I guess that makes you Deborah Walley. Please tell me you are Deborah Walley."
He could almost hear the blood in her body boil from the anger.
"Clark Kent, you are the lowest form of human life. I never want to see you again as long as I live."
"But Lana, dear, we've gone over this time after time after time. If anyone has the right to get mad, it's old Clark. This obsession of yours that I could be Superboy. It's upset not only me, but also my parents. It's disrupted our lives. You even told my mother that you would drop the whole thing. Apparently, you didn't mean what you said. Now, I'm asking you for the last time, leave me out of this 'thing' you seem to have for Superboy. He can probably deal with you better than I can."
She remained calm for a moment, perhaps digesting what he had said.
"As you wish, Mr. Kent. But I still never want to see you again, is that clear?"
"Perfectly. Are you still picking me up tonight for the movies?"
"Yeah, seven o'clock. And don't keep me waiting," she replied with a slight smile on her lips as she stormed out of the store.
Clark Kent laughed after the door closed. "You can come out now, Dad. It's safe now. Hurricane Lana has blown over."
Clark closed the front door behind him and walked into the living room, finding Jonathan in Martha's chair.
"Mom gone to bed?"
"Yeah, said she was tuckered out. I'm about headed that way myself. How was the movie?"
"Hard to say. We talked through most of it," the boy replied.
"Oh, anything important, son?"
"Want to share?" the elder Kent asked.
"Dad, I'm in a mess."
"Maybe you'd better tell me about it."
Clark sat on the sofa across from his father. "It's about Lana and me."
Jonathan Kent sat straight up, signifying his deep interest. "More fireworks about her trying to find out your secret?"
"Well, that has become a constant issue, but that's not the main thing. I know that I'll always have to be on my guard with Lana as far as that is concerned, but this is something else, and you may not understand."
"Well, try me."
The lad continued, "Well, in spite of all the chaos she's caused us all in her quest to prove I'm Superboy, for whatever reason, I'm finding myself becoming more attracted to her. I know that probably doesn't make sense. I should be trying to get away from her, all things considered, but my feelings toward Lana are getting stronger, and not as just as a friend, if you get my drift."
"I do, son. And I see what you mean by being in a mess."
"There's more, Dad. A lot more. I told her during the movie about my feelings, even tried to kiss her, and she, I must say, very politely, stopped me. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that she was very fond of me, being friends as long as we have. Even said that she considered me to be her best friend, even more so than Phyllis or Noel. But she thought of me more as a brother, not as a suitor. Now that's what a guy doesn't want to hear."
"Well, I'm sorry, son. But those kind of feelings can't be forced. They just have to happen. Maybe she'll change her mind down the road. Look, there's no rush, Clark. You two are just high school freshmen. Plenty of time for romance."
"I understand. But I think I'm ready to start dating, and I found out she's ready, too. Just not with Clark Kent."
"Oh, she has her eye on another fella, is that it?" the elder Kent inquired.
"Yes sir, that's it. She told me 'her heart belongs to...Superboy.'"
Jonathan Kent put his hands over his face. "Oh no."
"Then she went on and on about how she thinks about him constantly, how marvelous he is, that she can't get him out of her mind. I pointed out to her how she wasn't making me feel so great, and she apologized. Said she got carried away."
"Hmmm," Jonathan expressed.
Clark continued, "She said she wanted to be honest with me before things got started up. Then she said that as long as Superboy was in the picture, he was the only guy for her. Dad, what am I going to do?"
"Clark, I feel very badly for you."
"So the girl I have feelings for will return those feelings when I'm Superboy, but not when I'm Clark Kent. Dad, I'm my own rival!"
"I see what you mean. Well, son, the three of us knew that when you began your dual identities, there would be problems, pitfalls, if you will. I'll admit, this is one I hadn't counted on. I can't imagine how this must make you feel."
"I've been Clark Kent my entire life. That's who I am. That's how I was brought up. Sure, we knew that at some point, I would assume the second personality, and that I would be living two different lives, but Superboy is still just an extension of Clark. Lana is crazy about one but not the other. I wanted to tell her so bad when we were talking. I still want to tell her."
"But you know you can't, Clark, for her sake as well as ours."
"Son, I can't really address the emotional aspect of this situation, but I can tell you this. Even knowing how you feel about Lana, Superboy can not get involved with her romantically. You understand that, right?"
"Yes, I do," the dejected lad answered.
"This may just be a schoolgirl kind of crush, this thing with Superboy I mean, and she may get over it."
" Well, I hope so. But hearing her say all those things that she did almost makes me resent being Superboy."
"I'm sorry, Clark. Like I said, we knew it wouldn't be easy. Most everyone, at one time or another, deals with emotions for someone which aren't reciprocated."
"Maybe, but not like this. I'm going to bed. Night, Dad."
"Good night, son."
The following Monday found Clark, Lana and Pete sharing the same science class. A big end-of-grading period test was coming up in the middle of the week. The teacher was helping her students prepare by quizzing them on some of the subjects which would, most likely, be on the test.
As they went around the room, the instructor asked the same question of each student until someone answered correctly. Pete Ross missed his question. Elaine Carson followed him with the correct answer. Kent was next. He aced his question.
"Smarty pants," Lana leaned over towards him and whispered.
Lana was next. Hearing her question, she could only respond with, "I haven't the faintest clue."
"Then Roger, can you answer?" asked the teacher.
Roger Brannigan, a sophomore, rose and replied, "the transformation of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde into polyermic forms is a chemical change readily reversible."
"Very good, Roger," the instructor rewarded.
"My gosh, was that English he just spoke?" Lana wondered. "He's like a walking encyclopedia. He's probably as smart as Superboy."
The quizzing continued another half hour until the bell sounded. Most of the class breathed a sigh of relief. As they filed out of the room, their teacher offered, "Looks like some of you need to buckle down and review your notes before Wednesday."
Stopping to talk briefly with Elaine and Pete, Lana looked in the hall for Clark, who was nowhere in sight. "Hmmm...he's probably soaring at 5000 feet by now." Suddenly, the redhead had an idea, and lately, when she did, it usually meant trouble for young Kent.
She caught up with the Brannigan brainiac.
"Hi Roger," she said in a flirty manner.
"Oh, hey Lana."
"That was very impressive back there...in science class, I mean. You must be the smartest person in the whole school."
"Well, I don't know about that. Science just happens to be my favorite subject. My hobby, too."
She responded, "Not mine. Math neither. Ha, Clark is always telling me my math is so bad that everytime I add two and two, I get forty."
"Uh, I don't understand."
"Oh, never mind. Just a joke."
"I don't know Clark very well, but he seems like a really nice guy."
"Oh, he is. He is," she answered.
"So how long have the two of you been dating?" he inquired.
"Oh, we're not."
"But I've seen the two of you together a lot around school."
"No, no, we're just good friends. Clark is like a close girl friend, uh, except he's not a girl." She laughed.
"Oh, I see. So then, you're not going steady with anyone?"
"Well, not officially, but..." As she started to tell him she did have her eyes on someone (Superboy), he interrupted.
"Well, in that case, would you go with me to the school dance this Saturday night? I would have asked you sooner, but I thought you and Clark, you know."
The wheels shifted into high gear in the redhead's brain. "I was hoping Superboy would ask me, but I'm getting a terrific idea."
"Say Roger, let's step into the A/V room. No one's in there right now. I have something I want to run by you."
She closed the door behind them after entering.
"I really don't want anyone to overhear what I have to say."
"This is all kinda mysterious, Lana."
"Oh, not really. But I need you to give me your word that you won't repeat any of what I'm about to ask you."
"O.K. I won't."
"I need some help on a little project I've been working on for a while, and you might be just the right person, I mean, being as smart as you are."
"What kind of project?" he asked.
"Well, it's like this. I have been fascinated with Superboy every since he showed up here in Smallville, purely from a scientistic perspective of course."
"Do you mean scientific?" he was puzzled.
"Uh, yeah, that's what I mean. You know, how he can fly and why he's so strong. That kind of stuff."
"Well, to be honest with you Lana, so have I, but I haven't had the chance to meet him so I could ask."
"Well, maybe I can fix that for you. You see, I have met him. In fact, I've been around him a lot. But I, just like you, want to know everything about him. It's like this, Roger, I'm convinced that he isn't always Superboy."
"Huh?" Brannigan was confused.
"What I mean is that I believe when he isn't doing Superboy 'things,' that he disguises himself as someone else. In fact, I believe he goes to Smallville High. But we don't see Superboy as a student, because he's being the other guy."
"Very interesting theory, Lana."
"I'll make a deal with you, Roger. I'll go to the dance with you if you find out Superboy's secret identity and tell me. You're the only one clever enough to do it."
"Why don't we get Clark to help us? He's a smart guy, too."
"No! No! We can't do that. You see, Roger, I have a strong suspicion that it's Clark Kent who is Superboy!"
"Are you kidding? Kent? Lana, he's so timid and mild-mannered, how could he be Superboy?"
"Maybe it's part of an act, Roger. To throw everyone off."
"Well, maybe," he pondered.
"Why not start with Clark? This all may be easier than you think. But remember, tell no one what you're up to. Do we have a deal?"
Enthusiastically, he answered, "Well, it's quite a challenge, but taking you to the dance as a prize, it's a deal."
The orange school bus slowed to a stop at the corner of Lana Lang's street. Three students got off. The bus sat for a moment until the driver turned and asked, "Your stop, Lana. Aren't you getting off?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. No. I'll ride on and get off with Clark. I forgot to tell you, sorry."
The driver threw the vehicle back into gear with a smirk on his face.
Several minutes later, Clark and Lana were standing in front of the Kent General Store.
"Well, ole girl, time for work."
She replied, "I'll come in with you and look around. Maybe there's something I need to pick up. I know, pork chops. I'll get some pork chops and fix them for Dad's dinner."
As they walked into the store, Kent remarked that at the risk of losing a sale, she might want to go home and study for the big science test coming up.
"Oh, I have two nights to do that. Hi, Mr. Kent."
Jonathan returned the greeting, a bit surprised to see the redhead with his son.
"Mr. Kent, can I get, say, four pork chops for tonight's dinner?
"Sure, Lana, coming right up," he answered.
As Clark reached for his apron, she offered, "How about walking me home, Clark?"
"I need to help my father. Sorry, but I can't."
"Oh, Mr. Kent. You can spare Clark for half an hour, can't you? It looks pretty quiet in here."
Jonathan, without thinking, replied, "Sure. You're right about that. It's been a really slow Monday."
"Thanks, Mr. Kent. C'mon, Clark," she answered, taking the chops in one hand and Clark's hand in the other. "Just put the pork chops on our account, please."
"Will do," the store owner said.
As she opened the door, Clark shot his father a 'thanks a lot' stare.
The two walked up towards the center of town, turned left and headed past Tony's Diner towards Lana's street.
"Those science questions were pretty hard, weren't they?"
"Yes, I guess so. But if you keep up with the daily work, Lana, it's not as bad. It's playing catch-up that makes it tough," Kent offered.
"Well, that's easy for you to say, Mr. Brainiac. You and Roger Brannigan will probably make 100."
"I don't know about that."
"Well, I'll bet Roger will. He's probably the smartest student in school. He loves science, you know."
"Actually, Lana, I don't know Roger very well."
"Well, you ought to get to know him. Besides being brilliant, he's very nice. I'm going to the dance with him this Saturday. "
That remark brought Clark's feet to a halt.
"I was just about to ask you to the dance!"
"Really? I'm sorry, Clark. Roger asked me at school today, and I told him yes. Of course, I'd prefer to have Superboy ask me, but he seems to be keeping himself rather scarce these days, the meanie."
"Superboy again," Kent responded. "Can't you and I ever have a discussion without Superboy being mentioned?"
"I'm sorry. You're still sore about the other night, aren't you?"
"Disappointed rather than sore. It isn't easy having the girl for whom you have feelings tell you she thinks of you as a brother. I mean, how can I compete with Superboy? How can any guy?"
"You probably can't," she answered. "Look Clark, I can't help how I feel. At least I was honest with you so you won't keep getting your hopes up."
"Yeah...thanks," he lamented.
"Well, speak of the devil..." she stated. "There he is."
"No, dummy. Roger."
"Oh swell," Clark sighed.
"Hi Roger," she yelled as they approached.
The two stopped a bit short of him and stared at what he was doing.
"Roger, why are you hanging from a rope tied to that tree limb?"
"Maybe he's pretending he's Tarzan," Kent offered.
Lana shot him a wicked stare.
"Oh, hi Lana," Brannigan answered, as he dropped to the ground. "And Kent, what are you doing here?"
"Just walking the lady home. But from what I hear, maybe you should be doing that."
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I hear you're taking the lovely Miss Lang to the school dance."
"Oh that. Yeah, that's right," he replied. "Look Clark, I only asked Lana after she told me the two of you weren't an item but just friends. I wasn't trying to cut in on you or anything. Please believe me."
"Sure, I believe you," Kent responded. "Lana, perhaps Roger here can walk you the rest of the way. I should get back to the store."
"Why, I'd be happy to, Lana. But first, Clark, I want to ask you something."
"Do you know Superboy very well?"
Lana watched Kent carefully as he answered, "Well, I've talked to him a few times, but that's about it. Lana here is the Superboy expert. Why do you ask?"
"I really would like to meet him. I want to talk to him about something school-related," Brannigan answered.
"Oh. Well, I wish I could help you, Roger. Tell ya what. If I see Superboy, I'll pass on your message."
"Hey, that would be great. Thanks."
"Roger, I'll do the same," Lang offered.
"And thank you, Lana."
Clark gave his goodbyes and turned back towards his awaiting job.
Waiting for Kent to get a good distance away, Lana fired a question, "Was that O.K., Roger?"
"Yeah. Perfect. I got everything I need. Now for Superboy."
"Clark's curiosity is probably eating him up why you want to talk with Superboy. I'm betting you'll hear from him real soon."
Into the evening, Clark Kent was in his bedroom, getting ready to call it a day. A thought kept flashing through his mind.
"All of a sudden, Lana is going on and on about this Roger Brannigan. I wonder...is she trying to me me jealous, or is she up to something else?"
Another day of school at Smallville High began as the last bus dropped off its load of students at the main door of the building. Two of these students were Lana Lang and Clark Kent.
Separated by several other students, by the time Clark's feet hit the ground, he observed Lana arm in arm with Roger Brannigan.
"Man, when Lana falls for someone, she doesn't waste any time. But since she has no interest in dating me, perhaps Roger will get her mind off of Superboy and her obsession about me. Hey, I guess that's a good thing. Still, it hurts that she only wants to be friends with Clark."
Rusty and Pete found Kent, and the three went into the building as a unit, something they had done many times since Smallville Elementary School.
Now stringing along not only Clark but Roger as well, Lana pressed forward with her plan. One would think that one or both of two of the school's brightest male students would see through the transparency of one young girl's actions. But time after time, history had shown that when the opposite sex got involved, all logic went right out the window.
"I'm not ready to go in there," Rusty complained as the homeroom bell sound vibrated down the long hall.
"Well, too bad, pal," Pete laughed.
The roll was taken, and then the remaining minutes used by many to finish their assignments from the previous night ended when that screeching sound came again.
The students from Kent's homeroom split as they entered the hall, some right, some left. He went left, deeper into the building. Lana Lang caught up with him as they approached their class.
Seeing this as an opportunity to tighten the screws, she remarked, "So Clark, what do you think about Roger? Isn't he about the nicest guy you ever met?"
"If Clark is really Superboy, as I suspect, he's probably quite jealous of Roger by now," thinking to herself.
"What is this, Lana, another of your quizzes? Yeah, Roger seems to be a nice fellow?
"Oh, Clark, you wouldn't happen to have passed along Roger's message to Superboy, have you?"
"No I haven't. I would have had to see Superboy to do that."
"O.K., I was just thinking that you might have run into him since yesterday afternoon. He's got to be around someplace, don't ya think?"
"When do I have time to run into him? I'm in school all day, then at the store the rest of the afternoon. Then I go home."
"Ya don't have to get all huffy about it!" she remarked.
"Well, I did tell my dad about Roger, and he said that if Superboy came into the store during the day, he'd tell him. Satisfied?"
"Does he come to the store?"
Kent continued, "Yeah, he's been in a few times."
"Neat. And do you talk to him?"
"Of course. What do you expect me to do? Ignore him?"
They took their seats.
"That's terrific. Thanks for calling. I'll wait for him outside."
Roger Brannigan placed the telephone receiver back into the cradle and turned to Lana Lang.
"That was Mr. Kent calling from his store. He gave Superboy my message just now and said he would be happy to talk with me about my 'science project.'
"Well, I guess it is a science project, but not for school," she chuckled, "a science project to discover Superboy's secret identity is more like it. I knew Clark would take the bait. He's so predictable."
"Lana, I thought you and Clark were friends," the puzzled Roger stated.
"We are, silly. But I just have to know for sure that he's Superboy. And if he isn't, who is? But I'm betting on Clark. Now you need to get outside. And don't tell Superboy I'm here."
In the back room of Kent's General Store, as Clark shed his outer clothing, Jonathan asked, "Are you sure you know what you're doing, son? This could be another of Lana's schemes."
"I know, Dad. But I've thought this through. At least, I believe I have. I've got to find out what's going on. Lana's so-called new feelings for Roger Brannigan don't make sense. If she is so crazy about Superboy, why the sudden interest in him? I know she isn't that fickle. There's got to be more to it."
Young Brannigan was pacing up and down, almost wearing a path in the grass of his side yard. He seemed a bit edgy when the Boy of Steel landed alongside him.
"You must be Roger."
"Yes. Nice to meet you, Superboy. Thanks so much for coming over."
"Hey, you're welcome. I heard you wanted to talk to me about something for school?" he inquired.
"Uh, that's right. A science project. Science is my favorite subject. Actually, it's more like a passion."
"I see," the super hero answered. "Well, how can I help you?"
"I'm fascinated by the abilities you have, and I was hoping we could sit down and have a discussion about it."
"Oh, is that all? Well, I don't see why not, Roger. But I can't today. I'm needed elsewhere this afternoon. How about tomorrow after school, say 4:00?"
"Sure, that would be terrific. Four o'clock right here, then?"
"I'll see you then, Roger."
Brannigan watched in amazement as Superboy soared into the Smallville sky. He then ran back into his house to the awaiting redhead.
"I heard. You did it, Roger. How long before you know the results?"
"I'll try to have them by school tomorrow morning, Lana. Now, why don't we relax and spend some time together?" he suggested.
"Can't. Gotta go. See you tomorrow."
Her running out irritated him somewhat, but he shook it off and headed to the basement where he had his own pseudo-laboratory. The lad spent much of his free time there.
Suspiciously hovering high enough not to be seen from the ground, the Boy of Steel had his super-vision focused on the area of the Brannigan property. He was not totally surprised to see Lana Lang's leaving the residence.
"Just what I thought. Lana is involved."
"What do ya mean you don't know yet!" Lana Lang said to Roger Brannigan, almost yelling in front of her school locker.
"Lana, I told you, it would take a little time, and I had to study for today's science test, so I didn't get finished," he replied.
The female redhead teenager wasn't happy.
"And besides, the material I got yesterday talking with Superboy wasn't as good as I had hoped. Too much outside noise, but today when he comes over, I'll do it over. Then, I'll know for sure. Just be patient and please be calm."
"Well, all right Roger, but you know how important this is to me. Don't let me down," she snapped. And she was gone.
The brilliant science student told himself that he was starting to get bad vibes about this deal he had made with Lana Lang.
Right on time, four o'clock, there was a knock on the Brannigan front door. Roger anxiously opened it and was surprised to see, not Superboy, but Clark Kent.
"Oh, Clark, I was expecting someone else."
Actually, it didn't really matter that it was Kent at the door. Things could proceed as Brannigan had planned.
"Come on in."
"Thanks, Roger. I'll get right to the point. We need to have a talk."
"About Lana Lang, I'm guessing?"
"Partly," Clark responded.
"O.K., that's fine. Come on downstairs to my workshop. I need to talk to you, too."
Once the two boys reached their destination, Kent spoke first, "Roger, I'm pretty sure that something is going on between you and Lana, something that may involve me, and I believe we should get it out in the open."
"I don't know how you found out, but you're right. And now, I feel remorseful about getting involved."
"How do you mean?" Kent inquired.
Roger Brannigan told Kent the events with Lana for the last couple of days. "And that brings us to this point. Let me show you something."
He produced two sizable pieces of cardboard, each containing what looked like charts of some kind.
"These two graphs are the results of two separate tests I conducted using an oscilloscope, a device which measures speech patterns. On the left, you see Superboy's voice as registered by the oscilloscope, on the right, Clark Kent's. No two patterns are ever the same, just like fingerprints. Yet yours and Superboy's are identical, scientifically proving that you Clark Kent are indeed Superboy. This is what Lana Lang wanted me to do for her. In exchange, she would go to the dance with me. Now, I regret I did. I feel like a fool. Being used like that."
"Don't feel too badly, Roger. You're not the first guy who has been taken advantage of when girls are concerned."
"Maybe not, but it still makes me mad. Lana has no interest in me at all as a potential boyfriend. And I didn't mean to come between the two of you."
Kent explained, "You didn't, Roger. Lana has no interest in me as a boyfriend either. As she told me, her heart belongs to Superboy."
"But that is you. I mean, you are Superboy, aren't you? My tests can't be wrong."
"Yes, Roger," Clark admitted, "I am Superboy. But the next step is deciding how we are going to handle this. You see, Roger, knowing my dual identity puts you and your family in dire peril."
"I don't get you."
Kent then explained the reason of his dual existences and how the criminal element of society could strike at him by harming people he is close to.
"I should tell you that originally I had planned to tell Lana your secret identity if I discovered it, but now, there's no way I would ever do that. In fact, I don't even want to know it myself. I don't want that much responsibility. I could accidentally let it slip out. I don't want to cause you or your parents any hardship that could lead to...well, never mind. What can we do?" Brannigan pondered.
Looking around the workshop and seeing a portable fan, "I believe I know the answer, that is, if you'll consent to being hypnotized."
"Sure...yeah, anything you say."
"Good. Now hear's what I am going to instruct you to do, once you're hypnotized...You will forget that Clark Kent is Superboy. You will not remember trying to prove that Clark is Superboy. You will tell Lana Lang that Clark Kent is definitely not Superboy. And that you will not be involved in any plot to discover Superboy's other identity. Ready?"
"I'm ready, and for what it's worth, I believe we could have been great friends," Brannigan admitted.
"Roger, there's no reason why we can't. Let's get started."
The weekend passed. Monday morning found Clark Kent and Lana Lang walking down the main hall of Smallville High.
"So, how was your weekend, Lana?"
"One of the worst of my entire life," came her response.
"In what way?"
"Roger didn't take me to the dance like we had planned. He read me the riot act about how I tried to take advantage of him."
"Take advantage? What do ya mean?" Kent continued.
"I 'd rather not have to get into it, if you don't mind, but he was right. I deserved having to sit at home alone Saturday while everyone else was dancing their hearts out. Was the dance fun, Clark?"
"I don't know. I didn't go either. Roger, Pete, Rusty and I went bowling. You were right. Roger is a very nice fellow."
"Well...I guess I deserve that, too. And my Daddy let me have it on top of everything else."
"I could never keep secrets from him. He always knows when I'm up to something. So I came clean and told him why I had no date for the dance. I might as well confess to you too, Clark. I made a deal with Roger that if he helped me prove you were Superboy, I'd go to the dance with him."
"WHAT!" Kent snapped. "Lana, that's awful!"
"I know, I know. I broke my promise to you and your parents that I would stop trying to, well, you and Superboy, you know. And I'm sorry about that. If it's any comfort to you, Clark, Roger actually told me that he was actually convinced that you aren't Superboy. He did it somehow using his knowledge of science. I didn't really understand what all he said, but he said that I had been wrong all this time. So I guess I can forget about it. I hope you can forgive me for all the grief I've caused you. I'll never do it again. Friends?"
"Sure, friends," he responded. "But I still have hopes that we could be more than just friends."
"Now, Clark, don't go there again. I told you, Superboy is the guy for me. I'm sorry."
"But what if he doesn't respond the way you want."
"Oh, he will, Clark, don't you doubt that for a minute. When I set my sights..."
"Oh yeah, I know about that."
She suggested they go outside for some fresh air before the next bell. She held her breath as they passed the smoking area, filled with students.
"Yuck! Filthy habit. Why do people do that?"
"I don't know," Kent replied, "I wish my Dad would quit."
They walked a bit further when, suddenly, they both saw an approaching dog, who looked less than friendly.
"What's his problem?" she wondered.
"I don't know. Maybe we should go back inside," Clark suggested.
The dog came closer to them, snarling as he walked.
"Stop, Lana. Hold still. Maybe it's our movement that he doesn't like. Don't move."
Kent's idea seemed like a good one. It just didn't work. The dog's growling became louder as it moved closer, then suddenly made a leap towards them. Clark jumped in front of Lana. She screamed, drawing the attention of all the other students. In a flash, the canine latched on to Kent's shirt and literally shredded it off his torso. Four or five guys ran towards the animal screaming at the top of their smoke-filled lungs. They made enough noise that the critter tuck-tailed and took off. But the worse possible thing for Kent had happened.
"Clark! Your shirt. The red and blue uniform underneath. That dog has done what I couldn't do. He's proven that Clark and Superboy are the same person!" she shouted. "And just when I was convinced I was wrong!"
It shot through his mind like a bolt of lightning. "Gulp! Everybody has discovered my secret. What can I do?" He drew a blank. "I guess there's no use trying to hide it anymore."
"Yes, Lana," he confessed, "you've been right all along."
"But...why didn't you just tell me. Why hide it?"
"I was trying to protect you. I care about you. You know that."
"Well, it's all right now. You don't have to hide it anymore. You can be Superboy all the time now," she stated, trying to comfort him.
"Lana, you don't understand. I am Clark. I've been Clark a lot longer than I've been Superboy. Sometimes I need to get away from being Superboy."
"Oh, I see," the redhead answered. "I think I can understand what you're saying. But what happens now. I mean, by this afternoon, everyone in Smallville will know Clark is Superboy. What will you do?"
"Lana, I just had an idea. I'll have to resort to rather desperate measures to save my secret identity. I can't think of any other way."
"Huh?" she responded.
She and everyone watched as he launched himself straight up into the blue morning sky.
"The poor guy. I feel so bad for him. But the cat's out of the bag. What can he do?"
She walked slowly towards the building, telling everyone, "I knew it all along. My intuition is always right."
The Boy of Steel continued his path until he was in the reaches of outer space.
"I know this is risky, but..."
He flew at super-sonic speed against the rotation of the Earth, reversing the planet just enough to...
The weekend passed. Monday morning found Clark Kent and Lana Lang walking down the main hall of Smallville High.
She suggested they go outside for some fresh air before the next bell.
"It's a little too cool out there for me, Lana. I'm afraid I might catch a cold."
"Oh, good grief. As you wish," she responded, turning around. "How I could ever believe you could be Superboy. Brother!"
"Like The Only Real Magic -- The Magic Of Knowledge"