DC Universe: Trail of Time368
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|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
|Series:||DC Universe Ser.|
|Product dimensions:||4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x (d)|
About the Author
He has been VP of Marketing and Senior Editor for comic book publisher WildStorm Productions, Editor-in-Chief for IDW Publishing, and a freelance writer. He and his wife Maryelizabeth Hart and partner Terry Gilman are the owners of Mysterious Galaxy, an independent bookstore specializing in mystery, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. He currently lives in Arizona with Maryelizabeth, daughter Holly, son David, two cats and two dogs, in a house filled with books and comics and toys and music and laughter.
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DC UniverseTrail of Time
By Jeff Mariotte
WARNER BOOKSCopyright © 2007 DC Comics
All right reserved.
Chapter OneClark Kent dreamed of flying.
He swept and sailed, stooping like a hunting hawk, then soaring into clear blue skies, turning, twisting, looping around on his own trail like Ouroboros himself. He laughed as he flew, his mouth open, and he could taste the air rushing in, cool and sweet with a flavor almost like fresh spearmint. Below him, the upreared spires and wide avenues and arching highways of Metropolis glittered in the morning sun.
The sensation was liberating, thrilling. To be weightless, unbound by gravity. To have the wind buffet his face, whip his hair, press his clothing tight against his skin. To know true, limitless power.
He had dreamed the same thing often these last several nights. But it always came to an end, as it did on this morning. Clark awoke in his bed, his body feeling heavy, weighted down by gravity and responsibility. With a groan, he reached for Lois. Her side of the bed was empty and cool. She had been up for some time, then. He groaned again and rubbed his eyes, then pawed the nightstand beside the bed for his glasses. Fitting them into place brought the room into focus. Turning as he rose, Clark put his feet on the floor and walked to the curtained window. Sweeping aside the curtain to gaze at the sky, he wished he could recapture, even for a moment, the thrill of free flight.
Instead of the crystalline blue he remembered from the dream, the sky was its usual leaden gray, with darker clouds, almost black, roiling inside. From the high-rise apartment, the view swept over rooftops and towers of concrete and glass jutting toward the charcoal clouds. Bright points of flame jetted from tall chimneys. Others issued smoke that merged with the cloudscape. Metropolis, industrial center of the Eastern Seaboard.
Through the thick haze, Clark could barely make out the fiery orb of the red sun, rising in the east.
Pulling on a robe against the morning's chill, Clark padded into the living room, and through that to Lois's office. She sat at her desk, fingers flying across her computer's keyboard, her dark hair pulled back off her face and tied in a ponytail. Clark waited until she paused before interrupting.
She swiveled to face him. When she did, and he saw her intent brown eyes, her sculpted cheekbones, the wry half smile curling her generous lips, he wondered if it was really possible to fall in love with someone over and over and over, or if it was just one continuous arc of emotion interrupted by peaks that cropped up every time his gaze found her again. Whenever he remembered that they were married, he couldn't believe his luck.
"Morning? I guess it still is. Not for much longer, though-I thought you'd sleep till noon."
Clark glanced at the digital clock on her desk. "It's just after seven."
"In your world, maybe," she said. "But not everyone on Earth functions on Metropolis time, Clark. I've already been on the phone with half a dozen people in Europe, running down that lead I got yesterday from Farris."
Clark suppressed a groan. Henry Farris, king of conspiracy theorists. Lois knew better than to encourage him, but this time, Farris insisted, he really had something, and whatever he'd told her at their secret meeting had convinced her that he was right.
Running down leads wasn't their job, though. Reporting the news was. I wish you'd leave that stuff alone, he might say, to which she would reply something like, You just tell your stories, Clark, and leave the real news to me. They'd had the conversation so many times he didn't even need her participation anymore.
"Well," he said, knowing it would do no good to lecture, "seven is still seven as far as I'm concerned, and I've got to get in the shower if I'm going to be at the Planet by eight-thirty."
She let the smile take over the rest of her face. "Shower?" she asked. "As in, naked?"
"Generally, that's how it works."
Lois turned back to the computer, saved whatever it was she'd been working on, then spun around again. "Maybe if I help, we'll both get to the Planet by nine."
"But that's ..." Clark caught himself in time, returned her grin. "Sure, nine's good."
He was at his desk by ten after, half-expecting to see Perry White breathing fire for his lateness. The Daily Planet's editor-in-chief had other worries, though. He apparently hadn't noticed Clark's tardiness. Clark had to log in when he sat down at his workstation, however, and Perry's bosses were never as distracted as Perry. Certainly Barton, the uniformed guard at the newsroom's door, had caught it as well-Barton's gaze flicked toward his wristwatch when Clark stepped from the elevator in his blue suit, white shirt, and red-and-white-striped tie. The rules governing Clark's employment mandated that he begin work at nine, and the fact that he frequently started earlier didn't compensate for late days. He swallowed nervously as he logged in, then tried to put it behind him so he could reach the day's required word count.
Clark's current beat was Metro, although he helped out with other sections as need be. He opened the file that had arrived on his desktop that morning and began the first story. "Metropolis Mayor Graces City with Gifts of Insight, Intelligence and Kindness," the headline read. Below that, in smaller type: "Mayor James Armstrong, sensing a need in the citizens of Metropolis before it was even expressed, has decided to increase the number of Public Safety officers in popular shopping and dining areas at times of peak traffic. Additionally, Public Safety patrols will be increased at other times, with the officers frequently dressed in civilian clothing instead of uniforms, the mayor explained, in order to better fit in among their fellow residents."
In other words, he's beefing up uniformed and plainclothes law enforcement presence, the better to spy on the citizens of Metropolis. The story's meaning was clear enough. Clark drummed his fingers on the desktop for a moment, looking for a way to obscure the truth a bit more artfully than the release had.
A minute passed. Clark knew he had to speed things up-to make his word quota for the day, with his late start, he'd have to work even faster than usual. Failing to meet the quota wasn't an option he liked to think about.
He positioned his fingers on the keyboard, started typing. "Putting into action the next step in a program that has already made Metropolis the safest major city in the nation, Mayor James Armstrong today announced additional measures that will guarantee the long-term reduction, if not outright elimination, of any criminal activity in the city." He read over the sentence. Clunky, but it got the point across. He'd wanted to begin with the measure's intent-cutting crime. The details would come later in the story. Most people didn't read that far down.
Never mind that, as it was, one couldn't walk three blocks in the city without seeing a squad of Public Safety officers. Forget the fact that any minor deviation from the law would result in half a dozen witnesses calling in reports, hoping to add points to their own Meritorious Citizenship rolls. Clark couldn't argue with the results-crime in Metropolis was at historic lows.
As is freedom. The voice inside Clark's head sounded disturbingly like Lois's. She was always going on about freedom, individual liberty, social justice, that sort of thing. The truth was, the Planet's readers didn't care about abstract concepts like that. They wanted to know they'd be safe out shopping or walking home after a late supper. They wanted reassurance that no threats from foreign shores could reach them here at home. Their concerns were concrete-family, home, job, food on the table and roof over the head stuff, not the vapor that Lois obsessed about.
Clark loved Lois Lane more than life itself. Didn't mean he understood her.
Complete understanding, he had learned, was not a prerequisite for love.
Nor, it seemed, for anything else. Clark didn't understand the world he lived in, though he had grown up here like anyone else. Despite all the efforts made by Mayor Armstrong, President Daniels, the military, and Public Safety officers, Metropolis felt like a city under siege. Everywhere he went he saw uniforms and weapons. The city's factories burned day and night, belching fire and smoke into the air, turning out more arms and armaments every day. It stood to reason that there should be an end point, a stage at which reasonable safety was assured, and the nation could afford to slow down its output.
Somehow that never happened. The threat was always imminent, according to officials. The state of alert could never be drawn down, the factories never allowed to still. Everyone needed to be monitored; anyone could be an enemy of the state. Two weeks ago, Rob Courtland, the reporter in the cubicle next to Clark's, had disappeared after writing a piece that didn't precisely conform to its original intent. Clark had always hated the man's overpowering cologne, but without him there the office smelled sterile, empty. He understood the rationale behind Courtland's apprehension, although it frightened him. What if something he wrote was misinterpreted? Could the same thing happen to him?
If his response to such incidents was fear, Lois's was outrage. She saw secret machinations behind the events of everyday life. Somebody else, she insisted, controlled both Armstrong and Daniels. Some puppet master tugged their strings, making them front men who carried out their unseen lord's agenda.
Clark rose from his desk, risking a few seconds away from the keyboard to see if anyone watched him. Even thinking about such things unnerved him. He didn't believe the Daily Planet employed clairvoyants, but it didn't pay to take unnecessary chances. Lois took enough chances for both of them. He respected her ideals, sometimes wishing that he shared them. When he rose from bed at three in the morning and held dead-of-night conversations with his own soul, he had to admit that recasting official news releases as real news stories felt wrong.
Lois spent her workday doing the same, though. She used her private time away from the Daily Planet offices for what she considered her real calling. That was why she got up early and stayed out late, risking arrest or worse.
Frightening Clark half to death.
Someday, he thought, maybe she will have a breakthrough and be able to prove one of her theories. But where will she run the story? Perry would kill it in a heartbeat. It'd never see print in the Planet.
He sat back down, hands on the keyboard. Two more quick stories, and he'd have caught up, reached his word count. He'd made good time today. Perry would be pleased, as would those to whom Perry reported.
Whoever they are.
Excerpted from DC Universe by Jeff Mariotte Copyright © 2007 by DC Comics. Excerpted by permission.
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