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Justice University: Ch 9

THE NEW ORDER

“So it was Mace all the time?” Wally asked John as they strolled through the grounds.

“That is what Clark tells me.” John nodded. “He is in police custody right now, along with Luthor and Kalibak. And Cat is safe. The university issued a public apology to her for leveling false accusations against her.”

“Yeah, I saw the whole thing.” Wally said, chuckling. “The dean looked so mad to be making an apology. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of that guy.”

“Well, it was an unpleasant start to the Year, but now perhaps we will have some peace.” John said. “And this seems a good way for the college to forget that unpleasantness.” He gestured towards the students around them, talking and laughing with their friends.

It was a youth fest taking place on the college grounds. Stalls were erected on all sides, and the students were milling around the food courts. Wally and John were roaming the grounds, taking in the sights. They didn’t know where the others were, but they had all planned to meet at the fair.

A gleaming stretch limo was driving on the road when it stopped suddenly, its engine making a screeching, ominous sound. There came sounds of the ignition key being turned repeatedly but the engine stayed dead.

The chauffer got out of the car and hurriedly went to open the back seat door.

“I’m so sorry, sir.” He whispered in a voice of respectful regret. There was a note of apprehension in his voice. It was bad enough that his company, which prided itself on its efficient service, would have this happen during a job, but when the client was someone like this guy… “We were a little overtaxed these past few days. A lot of demands were made on this car. Something seems to have gone wrong with the engine.”

The man got out of the car with a nod of understanding. It would have been hard to guess his age from a first glance, yet the wrinkles around his eyes told of a long life. He was a distinguished looking gentleman, with a full head of silvery gray hair. He gazed around his surroundings with eyes that were a startlingly bright, electric blue. They had stopped in front of a large gate, which bore the name of the establishment on the top.

“Metropolis University” the man read out.

“Largest university in the state, sir.” The chauffer offered deferentially. “Very old and respected establishment.”

“There seems to be some sort of celebration in progress.” The man said, listening to the sounds of revelry coming from within the walls.

“It’s a youth cultural festival, sir.” The chauffer said. “It takes place every four years, and the entire city is invited to attend. It’s quite entertaining, I’ve heard.”

“How long will the car take to be fixed?” the man asked.

“Er…” the chauffer stared at the limo guiltily.”Well, I believe the engine has suffered some rather serious draining. I’ve called a mechanic, he’ll be here presently, and in the meantime…, well I’m really sorry sir, but this was the last car we had available tonight, all the rest are booked…”

“Then I might as well while away the time at this festival.” The man said. “Call me when the car is ready.”

The chauffer nodded in relief. He had been about to suggest they call one of the other transport companies to arrange a substitute car, but now he kept his mouth shut. It was never a good idea to hand over clients to the competition, especially if the client happened to be this particular man.

“Yes, sir. Just as you say.” He said. “We’ll have the car running again in no time, and in the meantime, I’m sure you’ll enjoy yourself in there.”

“Very well, then.” The man said, making his way to the entrance gate of the university


Clark and Bruce and strolled through the fair, taking in the sights. They were looking for the others.

“How’s your arm now, Bruce?” Clark asked.

“Fine.” Bruce said.

“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to attend college again.” Clark said.

Bruce shrugged. “It was just a scratch.”

They were walking past a group of friends taking a photo together when they saw Diana coming towards them. They waved to her and she waved back. They greeted each other and resumed their strolling together.

“How’s your arm now, Bruce?” Diana asked.

“It’s much better now, thank you for asking, Diana.” Bruce said. “It gets a little sore sometimes, but the doctor gave some pills which help. And there wasn’t any infection, thanks to the first aid you gave me. Now it’s just a question of riding it out. I’m sure I’ll be good as new soon”

“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to attend college again.” Diana said with a smile.

“Yes, well, I came here to get and education, I want to make sure I get it.” Bruce said. Clark eyebrows were raised. “I can’t let a small scratch slow me down, that’s not how I work.”

“That’s the spirit, Bruce.” Diana said, her smile growing bigger. “See, Clark? And you said Bruce was too pessimistic to ever see the bright side of things.”

“He said what?” Bruce said with a scowl at Clark.

“Just a general observation.” Clark said hastily. “Let’s go find the others.”

They made their way through the crowd. Bruce was deliberating over his next move. How to get rid of Clark? How to get her away from the others? How to get rid of Clark? How to find out whether Diana was interested in him? How to ask her out on a date? How to get rid of Clark?”

It seemed to Bruce as though he couldn’t walk two feet in Diana’s company without tripping over Clark’s spit curl. It was perhaps an uncharitable way to think of his friend, but Bruce could be quite irritable when things weren’t moving according to his plans. Admittedly Diana had been Clark’s friend first, and he was the one who had introduced them. Plus, Bruce had tended to avoid the others at first, which meant he and Diana usually met when he was with Clark. But now Bruce wanted some alone time with Miss Prince.

They found Wally and John along with Arthur at the refreshment stalls and decided to have lunch before going to the entertainment section of the fair. Bruce took one look at the open table arrangement of the food stalls and hurriedly excused himself to go wash his hands.

He was returning from the restroom and stowing his handkerchief in his pocket, brooding on the number of germs the food stalls had, when he was bumped suddenly by someone from behind as the person hurried by.

“Hey, watch it.” he snapped at the girl.

“Bite me, rich boy.” the girl snapped back. She was glancing around hurriedly. When her face was turned towards him, Bruce saw that it was that girl Selina Kyle. She looked over her shoulder and swore “Oh, crap”. The next moment, she had disappeared in the crowd.

A few seconds later, a burly guard had come striding up to the spot.

“You see a girl come by here?” he demanded of Bruce. “Black hair, green eyes?” he was swinging his stick menacingly. “She stole something from one of the stalls.”

“No” Bruce said, taking a look at the heavy stick. “I didn’t see anyone.”

The guard turned around and went back into the crowd, muttering to himself. Bruce resumed his walk back to the food stalls.

He did not see the old man with the bright blue eyes watching him from a distance.

The old man stood staring after him thoughtfully, and then suddenly seemed to decide on something. He followed Bruce back to the refreshment stand, keeping a discrete distance between them. He stood watching the group of friends from afar.


It was a week later. Bruce had received his computer that Lucius fox had sent him. It was kept temporarily in the computer lab, where Diana was working on a presentation for her chemistry class. Bruce was showing Diana the extra features Lucius had installed in the computer.

He was congratulating himself on finally getting her alone and away from everyone else when he saw Clark enter the room.

“What do you want, Kent?” Bruce said irritably.

Clark raised his eyebrows. “You asked me to come, remember?” he said. “You said you wanted to show me the computer.”

“Oh” Bruce said, considering. It was true. “Well, okay. This is pretty much it.” He gestured towards the desktop.

“Hey, Diana.” Clark said, bending towards the screen next to her. “Have you witnessed the wonders of this computer yet?”

“Bruce was just showing them to me.” Diana said with a smile.

“So what’s the new program you said was installed in this?” Clark asked Bruce.

“A code breaker.” Bruce said. “It can take any amount of random letters and cycle through as many of their permutations and combinations as possible until the right sequence is found.” he grinned. “It means I can basically find out the password of any program I want to. It was developed at first to make sense of jumbled words in programs, where the meaning Is garbled, until they thought of applying the technique to code breaking.”

“So I just have to do this?” Diana asked. She typed a group of random letters on the screen and pressed enter.

Nothing happened. The two looked at Bruce.

“It needs some time to compile, okay?” Bruce said defensively. “Besides, I haven’t’ installed the crack code yet. This is just a demo file. Lucius will send the full version over in a few days, along with the crack file.”

Clark took out a folded paper from his jacket. “Did you see this?” he asked them. He unfolded the paper to show a large pamphlet to the other two.

“What is that?” Diana asked.

“Yeah, I saw the project.” Bruce said with a contemptuous glance at the paper. “I can’t believe they actually expect us to fall for it.”

“It’s a plan for an educational reform project they want to try.” Clark explained to Diana. “They’re letting us know about it already, which is not, however, as strange as the actual idea of the project.”

Diana was reading the pamphlet with a frown.

“This is strange, to say the least.” she commented.

“The student believed by this stage to be old enough to assume responsibilities of a larger nature, and the administration to be reinforced to a greater extent if the rules are made by the students, for the students.” Bruce quoted from the pamphlet, going to sit in a chair. “They want to turn over the entire control of the college to the students.”

“Never mind the fact that students won’t have the time to study.” Clark remarked wryly. “The parties in the campus alone would be numerous enough to discourage the most determined scholar.”

“How could they even expect a plan like this to work?” Bruce wondered aloud. “It’s insane in the extreme.”

“They’ve come up with stranger reforms in the past.” Diana said. “This is still tame compared to some of the older ones.”

“They used to huddle over the brewing teapot in the studies in my day.” The three heard a voice say. They turned to see a silver haired man enter the room slowly, his hands clasped behind his back. “But I suppose time changes traditions.”

The three stood in silence. The man was coming towards them with a pleasant smile, but none of them could remember meeting him before.

“You are Clark Kent.” The man said, coming to stand before them and extending his hand. Clark shook it automatically. “You must be Mr. Bruce Wayne.” He shook Bruce’s hand. “And of course, the lovely Miss Diana prince.” He kissed the back of Diana’s hand. She looked at him uncertainly. “I’m sorry, you have the advantage over me.” She said. “Have we met before?”

“No, but I rather fancy we will in the future.” The man said gently, looking at her intently. There was a piercing quality to his startlingly bright, electric blue eyes, as though he could see into your very soul.

“Ah, I see you have seen the reform plan.” he said, spotting the pamphlet in her hand. “And what do you think of my educational reform?”

“This is your idea?” Bruce asked. He stared at the old man. “I’m sorry, but how can you expect such a ridiculous idea to work?”

“All revolutionary ideas seem ridiculous at first.” the old man said serenely. “I fancy the next few days will prove the project’s worth.”

The three stared at him in astonishment.

“What do you mean?” Diana asked.

“I mean that in a few days, the reform will take effect in your college. Then we shall see whether it works or not.”

“But that’s impossible.” Diana said. “A reform needs to be discussed and passed through the board of directors. The process takes months at the very least, even if it is merely an experiment. How could you make such a peculiar reform so fast?”

“where there is a will, there is a way, Miss Prince, in the absence of which there is money.” the old man said with a smile. “And I assure you, I have plenty of both. The question is, how do you propose to cope with this change?”

The three stared at him, not knowing what to say to this stranger who had so abruptly sprung such bizarre news on them.

“Who are you?” Clark asked abruptly. “And why are you doing this?” the old man’s smile grew wider.

“Well, I’m actually a stranger in these parts.” He said, crossing the little distance left between them. “And my name…, well, that’s really quite irrelevant to this conversation. But you can call me mister…” he bent towards the computer and gazed in amusement at the group of random letters Diana had typed on the screen. “Mxyzptlk, is it?”


The next day, the news of the reform had spread through the entire college. Students were stunned when the teachers informed them that they would now be in charge of the complete administration of the college.

The students were packed into the auditorium while the teacher explained the rules to them. Teachers would only stay on in the capacity of tutors. Any disciplinary, administrative or cultural decision would be decided upon solely by the students and the leaders they choose. The new guidelines were to be followed for the immediate future.

The teacher then left the hall, leaving the students buzzing amongst themselves over the abrupt and radical change.

Suddenly, a voice spoke up from one of the rows. “Why is there so much bad talk about this reform here?”

The boy who had made the comment now stood up and moved towards the front of the crowd, followed by two others. He was a very tall guy, with broad shoulders and strong muscular arms. The black hair was combed carefully back, the blue eyes cold. Clark had seen him in the campus before and knew his name was Qlak Khent, but had never talked to him.

The guy on his left was Thomas Vane, the son of a Gotham city millionaire. Bruce knew him by sight, although he had never actually met him.

The student who had gone to stand with them was Johnny Kuik. He was considered one of the best athletes the university had ever seen, and had missed out on representing the college at the athletic meet by a hair’s breadth in a final race against Wally. It was well known how hard he had tried to change the decision on the race, but the judges had been firm and had given the race to Wally.

The tall boy walked up to the stage alone. He turned to face the students with a face set in determination. “My name is Qlak Khent.” he spoke into the microphone. “I belong to one of the oldest and most respected families in Metropolis. My father is the chief shareholder of the first bank of metropolis.” he stared at the audience impressively. “I am in my second year studying chemical engineering. I would like to talk to you about this reform business.”

“This is a brilliant opportunity for us.” He spoke into the microphone. “People told us college was a place where you were finally treated as adults. But when I came here I saw that the conditions were just like in school. The teacher tells us to study, and if we don’t do things their way, we don’t pass the course. Then where do we learn independence? Where do we learn to search for our true calling? Isn’t life supposed to be about more than the safe and familiar? How many of us haven’t wished at some point that we’d made a choice to the one we really made? A choice that was not about what others expected of us, but what we expected of ourselves?”

There was absolute silence in the room. All eyes were riveted on the tall and commanding figure on the stage.

“So you think this new project is too far fetched? That it doesn’t make any sense? I say to you that it completely makes sense. This is a chance for us to see what we’re truly made of. A chance for us to decide for ourselves what we want to make of our lives. A chance to show the so called experienced elders that the real future is with the next generation. With us.”

Qlak Khent paused. He was breathing heavily. He stared at the mesmerized crowd, the dark blue eyes filled with purpose.

That is the new order of the college.”

The crowd was listening to his every word intently. In there mind they saw themselves, finally accepted as complete adults, in complete control of their lives.

There was a strange foreboding in Clark’s mind as he listened to Khent. He had met people like him before, but none who had the personal magnetism of this guy. It was people like lee who so easily led the crowds astray with their rhetoric and mania. They were even worse when left unchallenged, leading without any opposition.

“You want to know what we’re going to do. We’re going to show the authorities that this project is the best educational reform of our time. We’re going to show them that by the time a student reaches college, the need for teachers and other figures of authority become obsolete. Students are smart enough to know what’s good for them. We are strong enough to look out for our own interests. And those who won’t, will be punished. They will serve as a reminder to the rest to toe the line.

Clark was staring with unseeing eyes at the person seated in front of him, a slight frown on his face. He looked up to see Bruce looking at him intently. He thought he understood that look. The frown on his face deepened and he shook his head slightly.

But Diana was staring at him too, with that expectant expression, as were John, Wally and Arthur. He sighed, exasperated, and looked again at the stage.

Qlak Khent was still going strong.

“We need to establish order in the campus.” he was saying. “And for that we need a leader. This day is a turning point in the history of education. The day when students take control over their lives. Let me tell you a story.” he stood at the centre of the stage, his hands clasped behind his back, a tall and commanding figure. “My grandfather fought in two wars. He was made the captain of the advance party in the second war, even though he had a wound in his shoulder. Why? Because the army realized people like my grandfather were very rare, and incredibly useful in times of need. he always used to tell me, “Remember boy, to beat the enemy you need guts, not just on the field, but every single moment of the operation, to lead your men with the strength that they need to overcome their doubts.” my father used to be an air force pilot, and he told me about the life and death decisions he’s seen made thousands of feet off the ground, where death is only seconds away from a bad decision. So at this crucial period, we will need a leader, not one of the monitors the teachers foisted on us, but someone we chose ourselves, someone who we believe knows what is expected of him. Someone who will not be afraid to say, “Yes, we want to be treated like adults.” Why is that possibility something you are all so afraid of? Why can’t we embrace that sentiment? We need to show the world we are in charge, then why this fear of our own destiny?”

“Because we’re not adults yet.”

The words were out of Clark’s mouth almost before he had realized he had said them. The heads of hundreds of students turned in his direction. His friends had a satisfied look on their faces. Clark stood up and made his way to the stage, hundreds of eyes following him.

“Destiny, decisions, paranoia, delusions of grandeur.” Clark said quietly, striding towards the platform. “Massive and often quite abstract concepts, the full magnitude of which cannot be comprehended in a single day.”

He reached the platform and turned to face the crowd. Qlak Khent was watching him through narrowed eyes, but he ignored him.

“I didn’t come here to start my own kingdom” Clark said quietly, his eyes on the crowd. “Heck, I have trouble keeping my dorm room in order most of the time, forget the entire campus.” he added wryly. A few of the students laughed. “So now we’re expected to form our democracy, I think that’s the basic idea? Quite a huge task for a body of students from pretty much every corner of the world, with different ideals and very different notions of how to live their lives.”

“It might be too much for you, perhaps.” Qlak Khent growled. “But the rest of us are not afraid of the challenge. We are willing to do what it takes to prove our point.”

“Then I congratulate you.” Clark said calmly, his eyes still on the crowd. “Because, personally, I wouldn’t dare take the risk.” he stared at the crowd and said softly. “We all have way too much to lose.”

The crowd was listening intently. Clark was making the point Qlak Khent hadn’t mentioned, which the students had been too caught up in his rhetoric to remember, but which was now brought back to them.

“I repeat, this is not what I signed up for when I did not come to this university, nor do I believe, did anyone else. I came to finish my education, so that I can get the skills necessary to get a good job, which is why we’re all here. You think it’s demeaning to still be considered students? Of course we’re still students. We’ll always remain students, because it is in human nature to learn, no matter how old you get. We need the teachers and the authorities because we need to concentrate on our studies, not on playing kingdom on campus. We need… to re-establish the old order. Proving that we can handle responsibility? Taking charge of our own lives? We’ll have to do that anyway once we get out of this place. In here, however…., all we need to do, and all we should have to do… is study. ”

“So no, I don’t think this is the best educational reform of our times. In fact, I think it’s a pretty terrible idea. We need to get things back to the way they were, when the authorities took care of the college and left us to study in peace. This reform is only in the experimental stage, and we need to make sure it doesn’t become a reality. There will come a time when the responsibility of the world will be on our shoulders, but now is not the time. For the sake of our parents, who spent so much money to send us here, for the sake of our studies and our careers, we need to step back from this reform.”

Clapping from the students showed they were in full agreement with Clark. A vein was throbbing in Qlak Khent’s forehead, but there was nothing he could do. The applause died down slowly.

There was silence again in the hall. Then Wally’s voice popped up. “But we still need a leader until the duration of this reform.” he was grinning broadly.

“The guy with the stupid spit curl looks like a pretty good choice.” Bruce’s voice this time.

“But he hasn’t even introduced himself, I wonder who he is?” Diana shouted as well, grinning as Clark rolled his eyes.

“My name is Clark Kent. I’m a student of this university.” He stood on the platform with his hands thrust into his pocket, his farm boy grin on his face. “That’s pretty much all you need to know about me.”

The hall erupted with redoubled cheers as the students rose to clap and shout. Bruce was smirking at the crowd’s reaction. Wally leaned in to whisper to Arthur.

“Looks like we’re gonna need a team to maintain order in the absence of authority. How does league sound? …”

Justice University: Ch 8


TRUST

It was three in the afternoon. Clark, Diana and Bruce came out of the cafeteria and headed in the direction of the parking lot. Students were allowed to keep vehicles for transport in the campus, and Bruce had taken advantage of this rule.

“How is Cat feeling?” Diana asked.

“She’s really upset.” Clark said quietly. “She was still crying when she left with Lois to go to her room.”

“Things do look pretty bad.” Bruce said. “The biggest problem is that the gun which was found was unregistered. That makes it an even bigger felony. But it’s not over yet. Maybe there’s still some way we can help her.” He led the way to his car.

Clark was momentarily distracted by the sight of Bruce’s car. “You own a Lamborghini?” he asked in an awed voice.

“Sure.” Bruce grinned. “Bought it last month.”

Diana gazed at the jet black car. “Is it safe to have such an expensive car in the college Bruce?” She asked as she ran her hand over the shiny hood.

“I’ve got two more.” Bruce said with a shrug. They got into the car, the leathered upholstery sinking luxuriously under their weight. “I like the way this things handles under high speed.”

He started the ignition, and the car sprang smoothly to life. They backed out of the drive and headed onto the road.

“So you two are going to Cat’s dorm now?” Diana asked.

“She looked like she could use a little support.” Clark said. “Besides, this whole business is really fishy. We might find out something that could help her.”

“I wish I could come with you.” Diana said regretfully. “But we have a test today. Will you let me know if you find out anything?”

“Sure, we’ll do that.” Clark nodded. “We’ll see what we find today, and then we’ll drop by your place in the afternoon.”

“Is this it?” Bruce asked, pulling up next to a building.

“Yes, thank you, Bruce.” Diana said, getting out of the car and scooping up her bag. “Good luck, both of you. I hope you can help Cat.”

“Best of luck for the test, Diana.” Clark said. She waved to them as she left. Bruce started the car again, taking them to Cat’s hostel.

He parked the car in front of the hostel and the two went to Cat’s room on the second floor. They found Cat coming out of her room just as they arrived.

“Thanks for coming, guys.” Cat said. They could tell by her voice and bloodshot eyes that she had been crying again.

“No problem, Cat.” Clark said. “How do you feel?”

Cat shrugged. “I’ve been better.” she said, attempting to smile. “Still can’t believe this is all really happening.”

“I’m sorry.” Clark said softly. “Has the warden been here again?”

Cat nodded. “He told me to pack my stuff and vacate the room.”

“How many people have been to your room since they found the gun?” Bruce asked.

“Not many.” Cat said, wiping her eyes. “The warden came and found the gun. He kept the door locked till the police came. They had a look around the room once, and then they took me to the dean’s office and started asking me where I got the gun from, and what I’d been planning to do with it. It was so horrible.”

She was crying again. Clark handed her his handkerchief.

“Are you allowed to go into the room now?” he asked quietly.

Cat nodded, dabbing at her eyes with the handkerchief. “They’ve given me until tonight to get my stuff out of the room.” she said.

“You must be tired Cat, and you’re really upset.” Clark said gently. “Why don’t you go to one of your friend’s room for a while? You’ll feel worse if you stay here thinking about it.”

“Yeah, all right.” Cat said, still sniffling. “I’ll go to Lois’s room. She’s following up some leads, but she said she’ll be back soon. I’ll go wait for her.”

She left the two in the hallway in front of her room. Clark rubbed his eyes tiredly. “Lois must’ve gone to see what she can find out on her own about this business.” He said. “She might get into trouble.”

“There’s nothing we can do for her right now.” Bruce said. He looked at the door of Cat’s room. “The police don’t seem to have done a lot of investigating before charging Cat with the crime.”

“It’s a cut and dried case for them.” Clark said. “The weapon was found in her room with her belongings. That makes it a pretty straight forward crime of possession.” he looked at Bruce grimly. “Except that it can’t be her, Bruce. Cat’s not the type of person to do something like this. She’s being framed.”

“That’s what I think too.” Bruce said. “But what we have to find out is, who would want to do this to her?”

“Unfortunately, the list is a pretty large one.” Clark said. “Cat had a habit of snooping around. She knows a lot of student’s secrets that they want to keep quiet. Lois was telling me how Lex Luthor came to her house and Cat’s to scare them off writing the stories about him in the newspaper.”

“Luthor” Bruce said thoughtfully. “You think he might be the one who did this?”

“I would say it’s more than likely.” Clark said darkly. “I don’t trust that guy an inch. But we can’t prove anything unless we have evidence.

Bruce glanced at the door of Cat’s room. “Want to see if we can find out anything in there on our own?” he asked, jerking his thumb at the room.

Clark nodded. “Let’s go.” he said.

“At least the room didn’t have a lot of visitors to mess with any of the evidence on scene.” Bruce said as they entered the room together. “We might find something useful in here.”

The room was in a semi orderly state. The books were piled in a corner on the study table. The bed had not been made. It was obvious from the decorations that a girl lived there. There were various drawings and paintings that Cat had apparently made herself, and posters of two boy bands. It was a bright and cheerful room, but seemed to have a strangely desolate air, as though aware of the trouble that had occurred there.

At the time when the two boys were searching through Cat’s room, Lois was stepping out of her car and making her way to the old abandoned auditorium in a corner of the campus, which was deserted because of the construction work going on at one end. Ever since learning about Cat, she had been obsessed with finding out who the real culprit was. She refused to believe Cat was guilty. But an illegal gun was not something that could not be procured easily. She was here for a meeting she had arranged with one of the students whom she knew were involved with some of the shadier elements of the college. She was hoping the person she was going to meet would tell her who the students were who could have smuggled an unregistered gun into the college.

Lois went towards the auditorium and stepped inside the deserted hall, feeling a shiver run down her spine that had nothing to do with the cold wind. She stepped over a pile of old lumber and made her way to a dark spot behind the wooden shack. There she stood and waited for her informant.

She did not know the informant had already told about her investigations to the people it concerned in return for a fee.

Suddenly, she heard a series of rapid footsteps behind her. Before she could turn, a hand was clamped over her face, covering her nose and mouth with a cloth that smelled of some strong chemical. She tried to struggle, but her head was swimming. Her legs buckled under her, and she sank to the floor, unconscious.

The moment Bruce entered Cat’s room a sea of impressions flooded his mind. His senses seemed to have sharpened, and almost unconsciously, a distant part of his brain began to notice the details of the room.

Muddy footprints on the floor, recent and only partially dried, spaced two feet from each other, indicating a short person. The bed hasn’t been slept in. There are scratches over the keyhole in the desk drawer. The cupboard is open. Most of the contents of the desk drawer are in the cupboard. A pile of paper had been knocked to the floor. A few loose pages are still on the floor. Half of the papers in the pile were put back a little to the left, half a little to the right. The effect is very untidy. One paper left on the floor is folded into a specific pattern on the left side. Cupboard was unlocked and already open. It has the same lock as the one on the front door”.

Clark stood to one side, letting Bruce absorb the surroundings. He knew Bruce was a remarkably observant person, which coupled with his highly logical mind meant he saw a lot more into a situation than others. He waited for Bruce to finish inspecting the room.

Bruce leaned against the wall and stared around at the room. “Some points are fairly obvious.” he said. “There are footprints on the floor, and judging by their freshness and the length of the distance between them, they were made by the warden when he came here today. But what’s interesting is that Car wasn’t here the whole of last night. That means there was already plenty of time for someone to plant the gun in the room. The paper on the floor is twisted into a pattern, something the culprit seems to have done unintentionally while trying to come to a decision about where to put the gun. The pattern is on the left side, showing that the person is more comfortable with the left hand. So that makes the person left handed, not to mention someone who knew Cat well enough to know she did not use the desk drawer very often, and that would be a good place to hide the gun and not have her find out. That person was able to get away undetected and had access to illegal weapons. However, once the person was in the room, he or she then had a problem making up their mind whether to put the gun in the desk drawer or the cupboard, finally deciding on the cupboard.”

Clark nodded. “Good work. This information gives us something to work with, and narrows the down the list of suspects a bit. We should-.”

He stopped talking as his phone rang. Clark took it out and saw that it was Cat. He switched it on.

“Yeah, Cat?” Clark said. “Is everything okay?” he fell silent, and Bruce heard Cat’s voice on the other side, sounding anxious.

Clark closed the phone. There was a look of foreboding on his face. “That was Cat.” he said. “Lois still hasn’t come to her room. Nor is she answering her cell. And they can’t find her car either.”

The two looked at each other in silence for a moment.

“I’ll have to go and try to find her.” Clark said finally. “Maybe Perry or one of the other reporters knows where she was going.”

Bruce nodded. “Be careful.” He said. “This is a weird mess we’ve gotten into. Keep your eyes open.” Clark nodded as he turned towards the door.

“Wait, Clark.” Bruce said. Clark turned back in the doorway. “We’ll need to stay in contact. I’m going to try to get in touch with some people who might be able to help us get to whoever’s behind this. I’m going to the cyber cafe. I’ll need a computer with a safe IP address. If I find out anything useful, I’ll let you know.”

Clark nodded. “I’ll keep my phone on the whole time.” But Bruce shook his head.

“I don’t have my phone with me right now.” he said. “There are some extra features being installed in it by Lucius Fox, from Wayne tech. He’ll send me the set in a few days time. We’ll need some other way to communicate.”

Clark stood thinking for a while. “There’s a fax machine in the news office.” he said.

“And there’s another in the cyber cafe.” Bruce nodded. “Yeah, that should work. If I find anything, I’ll leave you a message.”

“Okay, here’s the number of the fax machine in the office.” Clark said, taking a sheet of paper from Cat’s study table and writing the number down on it. “If you need me let me know. Good luck.” He handed the sheet to Bruce and hurried out of the room.

Slowly, Lois’s mind was recalled from the depths of unconsciousness. She tried to open her eyes, but found she could not. She tried to sit up, but again, her movements were restricted. She could not even yell out. She tried to feel her surroundings with her body. As far as she could tell, she was in the back of a car. Her hands and feet were tied, her mouth was gagged and there was a blindfold over her eyes.

Her ears however, were still free, and that moment she heard a horrible sound, the breaking and tearing of metal against metal.

Lois began to struggle. She knew that sound. It was the sound the cars made when they were inside the trash master, which reduced the cars to scrap metal in minutes. She now knew that she was in the physics section of the science lab, where the trash master was located while the auditorium underwent renovations, and that in a few minutes the car she was in and all its contents were going to be crushed.

Lois struggled desperately against her bonds but they were too strong. She could not move them an inch. Her heart was hammering wildly in terror as the sound of the tearing metal grew nearer and louder. She was helpless and could only await the end.

Then a different crash occurred, as a heavy rod was slammed into the back window of the car. The glass on the window shattered, showering Lois with its fragments. Lois did not even have time to wonder what was going on before a pair of powerful arms reached in and pulled her out of the car, moments before the car was swallowed by the trash master.


It was an hour after dark, while Lois was lying unconscious in the back of the car, that Mace heard a knocking on his door and went to open it. Bruce Wayne stood outside.

“Hey, Mace.” He said. “Did you get my message?”

“Yeah, come on in Bruce.” Mace said, stepping to one side. Bruce entered the room. Unlike Cat’s overtly feminine room, this one was simply furnished. A large closet in a corner seemed to be enough to store all of Mace’s personal belongings. There were no hangings on the wall or any ornaments on the table. The study table was crammed with books on art and drama, with a copy of The Phantom of the Opera on top, and a chair kept next to the desk.

Bruce was lost in his thoughts as he looked around the room. He had always been used to acting alone in any problems he was dealing with. But it seemed that at the university the problems were too complicated to handle alone. The day at the science fair had confirmed this idea. Now he was realising that fact all over again today. But the problem was he had difficulty trusting anyone to such a personal extent. And yet, that was apparently what this sort of life demanded every day.

Trust is very important when you’re part of a group.

“Is Cat all right?” Mace asked anxiously as he closed the door.

“She’s hanging in there.” Bruce said. “This is a pretty grim mess she’s gotten herself into. But I’m hoping we can help save her. I’ve already sent Clark a fax about what I’ve found out. Now we need to get a few things straight about this business.”

“Okay, how do we do that?” Mace asked, sitting down on his bed. Bruce remained standing.

“We think Cat is being framed for this crime.” He explained. “Unfortunately, she was out with Lois last night covering some story, and only came back at nine today. The gun was discovered an hour later. So it could’ve been anyone who planted the gun in her room in that period. It’s likely that the culprit is left handed. Cat knew a lot of people’s guilty secrets, so the list of suspects is pretty large.”

Mace nodded soberly. “So how can I help?” he asked. “There can’t be that many students who can get a gun into the university.”

“My thoughts exactly.” Bruce nodded. “That’s the biggest clue we have. These illegal transactions have a certain order and method in them, just like any other business. So they’re probably arranged through one particular person, who must have some sort of paperwork on the dealings, unless it’s destroyed immediately upon completion of the work. It’s a slim chance, but it’s the best we have right now. I have an idea on how to smoke out whoever that person is. We’ll need a pen and a paper.”

Mace went to his desk and took out a sheet of paper students usually wrote their assignments on. He searched through his bag that was lying on the chair and located a pen. He shook it a few times and checked the nib to see if it was working.

“We’ll need it to look completely natural.” Bruce said thoughtfully. “The thing is we don’t even know the guys name. But I’m guessing the writer’s identity is written the same way in every letter, even the criminal ones. Just write Bruce Wayne, second year, Metropolis University first.

Mace carefully wrote the words at the top left corner of the page. “What do we write next?” He asked. “We need to make sure they don’t get suspicious or find out that we’re trying to trace them with the letter.”

“That’s okay” Bruce said quietly. “I found out what I needed to know anyway.”

“What’s that?” Mace asked, puzzled, bending over the paper.

Bruce strolled over to where he was standing and looked down at him. “You’re left handed, Mace.”

Silence filled the room. Mace stood frozen in his bent position. Bruce was still looking at him. Mace put the pen down and got up slowly.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” He asked. His voice had grown very soft, yet somehow more dangerous.

“I think the technical term is ‘the game is up’.” Bruce said quietly. “You’re not going to frame Cat with the gun.”

“Bruce, if you’re implying-”

“I’m not implying anything.” Bruce cut in. “I know. And soon the police will too.”

Mace had gone deadly pale. He was starting to sweat again, but seemed too preoccupied to think of his handkerchief now. Bruce went over to the closet and stood with his back to it.

“Should I spell out what you did?” He asked. Mace made no reply. Bruce spoke again.

“Cat dumped you yesterday. This caused you to go into a rage, and the only thought in your mind was that she must be punished for what she’d done to you. That’s when you decided to kill her. You came to her room last night. You had the spare key she’d given you, and the gun in your pocket. But at the last minute, you got scared. You couldn’t go through with it. Then you had another idea. You hid the gun in her room where it could be easily found. Then when Cat came into the room with Lois, you pretended you’d come to return the key. The next morning you told the warden that you’d seen the gun in Cat’s room, and begged him to keep your name out of the matter. They found the gun exactly as you planned and charged Cat with the crime. That was her punishment for dumping you. Does that cover everything?”

“I think it pretty much does.” Mace said. His voice had changed even more now, rougher and more sunken. “Looks like you’ve got it all figured out. Can I ask how you found this out?”

“Followed your thought processes.” Bruce said with a shrug. “From a psychological point of view your brain is a fascinating place. The fact that Mace is not your real name would be strange for someone who had nothing to hide. I had to get your school files from an old acquaintance. They were very informative. A split personality is a tricky thing to handle.” Bruce glanced sideways at Mace, who was still standing frozen. “You’re a long way from Gotham, Harvey Dent.”

What little colour remained in Mace’s face drained at Bruce’s last words. His knees shook, and for a moment Bruce thought he was going to fall. But he remained standing.

Bruce had thought of Mace as just an ordinary nerd at first. It was that day at the picnic that he had noticed something strange about him. The rapid and frequent changes in his manner were extremely puzzling. The way he had transformed almost instantaneously from passive to angry indicated a strangely disturbed mental state. It was this behaviour that had drawn Bruce’s attention to him. The way he had started talking about the most beautiful woman in the world and then abruptly and without the slightest pause begun to talk about the extremely violent beating of the gang member showed a disquieting split in his mind. When Wally and Arthur had dared him to jump down the stairs, he had exhibited that split in his personality again, in the way he had gone to jump, yet pulled back at the last moment because of fright. It showed the way his mind worked alternately as careful and reckless. Bruce had resolved to keep an eye on him because of the signs of bloodthirstiness he had shown while talking about the beating of the gang member, not to mention the excessive and unnatural anger he had exhibited later, when he thought he was being made to look like a fool in front of Cat.

When Bruce had been discussing the possibility of Cat being framed, his mind had jumped immediately to Mace. When he asked Cat about the last few days, and she told him about dumping Mace, his suspicions had been confirmed. When he had inspected Cat’s room in the morning and seen the paper put in a hap hazarded pile on the desk, as though the unknown person was unsure as to which was the right angle to put them in, Bruce had known it was Mace’s indecisive personality coming through in his actions again.

Now he stared at Mace, waiting for him to make a move. Mace remained standing frozen.

Bruce heard the door of the closet open behind him. He was aware of someone rushing at him from behind. It would have been easy to step out of the way.

The figure crashed into Bruce, sending him sprawling to the ground. A shower of kicks rained down on him, catching him in his stomach and ribcage, until a voice called out “That’s enough”

The figure stepped back to join the others, and Bruce looked up to see Mace standing next to Lex Luthor and Kalibak.

Lex was staring down at him with a mixture of anger and triumph. “You think you’re very clever don’t you?” He growled. “Feeling heroic now?”

Bruce was staring at the three of them. “I knew Dent was too scared to do this all on his own.” he remarked as he pulled himself into a sitting position on the floor with his back to the wall.

“It takes brains to form these plans, Wayne.” Luthor said with a smirk. “Brains like mine. I was the one who thought of putting the gun in that girl’s room. I planned it down to the last second. It would’ve worked too, if this freak had just followed my orders. But that’s okay. We can make up for that mistake now.”

Luthor reached inside his pocket and took out a knife. It was the best weapon he could lay his hands on at such short notice, but it should get the job done. This business was supposed to have been over long ago, but it had all gone wrong. And only because of Mace’s unpredictability.

When Lex had been busy making connections with the people that would be of use to him in college, he had come across a student who had known Mace in Gotham. From him Lex had learned about Mace’s split personality. He had stored the information in his mind for future use. Then when he heard about his break up with Cat, Lex had realised it was the perfect opportunity to get rid of two thorns in his side.

He had gotten the unregistered gun from Lobo, who had connections with every type of lowlife in Metropolis. The gun had been given to Mace, and he had been made to see how cruel and unjust Cat had been in dumping him, and that death was the only punishment she deserved. When Mace had gone to Cat’s room, Lex had also told a junior to tell Lois that Cat had called her. Mace would have had time to kill Cat, and time for Lois to come to the room. Mace would have been forced to kill her as well. When the crime would have been discovered, it would be Mace that the police would catch. Once they had his record examined, they would have found out about his mental illness. And who would have believed his story of having Lex as his accomplice when he was clearly crazy, and Lex had been nowhere near the scene of the crime, and had alibis to prove it?

But then Mace had screwed everything up. The rage that had been driving the violent side of his personality, blocking out every thought from his mind except that of revenge, had been replaced by the weak side. At the last moment he had gotten cold feet, and made a new plan. Even then the gun in the room frame up was a pretty good idea. At least it would have taken Cat Grant out of his Lex’s way. The frame up had worked, but then Bruce and Clark had gotten mixed up in the whole thing, and Lex had known there would be trouble. He would have to become directly involved. When Mace had told him that Bruce wanted to see him alone in his room, Lex had decided to be on hand just in case something went wrong.

Now Lex stared down at Bruce, while Kalibak panted next to him. He had had the satisfaction of kicking Bruce several times in the ribs and had gotten payback for the time that Bruce had beaten him in the cafeteria. Even now he was itching to have another turn.

Lex bent and searched roughly through Bruce’s jacket. He took out a folded piece of paper. It had Bruce’s writing on it. It was a short message.

Clark,

Make sure to gather as many Manchester books related to the main subject as possible from the Archetypal college library. obviously, we’ll need all the Chlamydomonous help we can get to survive this Exorbitant term.

Bruce

Lex stared at the letter, his eyes growing hard. He gave another kick to Bruce’s fallen form.

“So you knew it was me, big deal.” He spat. “This was supposed to be a secret message? A child of eight could’ve broken it. And you brought it here with you. You’ve given this to Kent? Great, now he’ll waste his time in my hostel on the other side of the campus, and we’ll be in here finishing our work. You’re not as clever as you think you are, Wayne. You really think you’ll get out of this room alive now?”

“We need to get away.” Mace said in a whisper, his face sweaty again. “It’s not safe here anymore.”

“Shut up, Dent.” Luthor snapped at him. “You’re the one who screwed the plan up in the first place. We’re doing this my way now.” he stared down. “Any last words Bruce?”

Bruce was saying something in a low voice. Luthor leaned in to hear.

“Trust ” Bruce whispered. “Is very important.”

Lex stared at him in confusion, and a sudden suspicion sprang in his mind. He checked the message again, his eyes scanning the page rapidly. A look of comprehension dawned on his face. He swung around on the other two.

“Lock the door” he roared. “Lock the door now”

Kalibak was startled by the panic he heard in Lex’s voice. He rushed towards the door to lock it. But it was too late.

The door was thrown open with an explosive force by someone on the other side. Kalibak rushed at the intruder, but was sent flying back with a punch. The next moment Clark Kent had entered the room.

Three boys rushed at him together, and the next few seconds were a whirlwind of punches and throws. Mace was thrown back first, his body flying headfirst into a wall. Lex followed soon afterwards, the knife he had been carrying not of very great use in such intense physical fighting at close range. Kalibak remained in the fight for seven seconds more, but a final straight left to the jawbone rattled every bone in his head. He staggered back and slumped to the ground. Clark stood alone surveying the room.

It was at that moment that Bruce truly understood for the first time how much Clark had changed, and how little Bruce really knew about him. No trace remained of the boy he had known for two years. The warm and friendly light usually present in Clark’s eyes had disappeared, replaced by a look of cold fury that was frightening to behold. The lips that were always to ready smile were pressed into a thin grim line. Waves of power seemed to roll off the broad shoulders. The strong hands were clenched tightly into fists, the muscles in his arms taut and defined. The tall figure seemed to dominate the room, and the fallen forms of the three shrank back against the wall under his gaze.

Clark looked over at Bruce, and the look of fury died from his face, to be replaced by concern. He walked over to Bruce and bent over him.

“You okay?” He asked quietly, checking his body for injuries.

Bruce nodded. “Nothing serious. I’ll live.” Clark stood up and offered him his hand. For a second Bruce hesitated, but then he took the hand and slowly got to his feet.

“We’ve got what we needed.” Bruce said. “They’ve confessed. Now we need to get to the police.”

“I’ve taken care of it.” Clark said. “I managed to get a message sent to them before coming here. They should be here any minute now.”

Just then, the door opened and a man in a police uniform entered the room. He had grizzled hair and a squat body, with eyes that seemed slightly strained but alert.

“I heard a pretty awful racket coming from this room.” He said pleasantly as he entered. “Thought I’d look in to see what the noise was about.”

“Are you here for the gun possession case, officer?” Clark asked.

“That right, son. Dan Turpin, Metropolis police department.” He said, showing them his badge. “I’ve got your Dean with me.” he turned to the doorway. Two other policemen entered, followed by the dean of the college.

Mr. Dak Syde entered the room. He was a very tall man, taller even than Clark. His skin was rough and hardened, and looked as though it was made of stone. A cunning brain was housed behind the massive forehead. His huge frame gave people the mistaken idea of bulk, but it was in fact all muscle. He was a physically imposing man. However, it was the eyes that got people’s attention, and once you looked into his eyes you forgot the rest of the body. They were cruel and pitiless, like twin black holes, devoid of any feelings or warmth. Those eyes were what those who met him remembered afterwards.

He entered the room now, his dark eye sweeping over the area. He stared at the people in the room, his eyes lingering on Kalibak, who looked terrified. Then he looked at Officer Turpin.

“What’s seems to be the problem here, Officer?” he asked. He had a deep voice that was as smooth as it was cold.

Officer Turpin gestured towards one of his men. “Steve came to me a few minutes ago saying that he had received word from a student that a crime was taking place in this room, and that we needed to come here immediately. It might have been a prank but what with finding the gun just today in one of your other student’s room, I thought I’d better come and make sure. And I told Mark to fetch you here too. Looks like we have another crime on our hands.”

“I sent the message.” Clark spoke up. “We needed your help, officer. I gave the junior the message to get you here.”

“You did?” Turpin said, looking at him keenly. “Well, I’m here now, son. What did you want to tell me?”

“You found a gun in Catherine Grant’s room today and charged her with illegal possession.” Bruce said. “But Cat is innocent. These three are the real culprits.” he gestured towards Mace, Kalibak and lobo.

Dak Syde looked at Bruce. There was a menacing look in his eyes “I would be careful if I were you.” he said coldly. “Do not make wild and unsupported accusations at your fellow students, or believe me, expulsion will be the least of your worries.”

Officer Turpin was scratching his chin dubiously. “That’s a pretty big thing to accuse someone of, son.” he said to Bruce. He looked at the three. “You boys want to say something for yourself?”

“We don’t know what he’s talking about, officer.” Luthor said smoothly. “We were sitting here in our friend Mace’s room when these two came and started assaulting us without any explanation. You can see how brutally Clark Kent has beaten my friend.” he gestured towards Kalibak, who had a large bruise on his jaw. “We could not even call out for help because they overwhelmed us. It’s a good thing you came when you did.”

Turpin looked at Clark and Bruce. “Their story seems to put a different complexion on things.” he said. “Anything you boys want say about these accusations?”

“That they are complete and total lies.” Clark said calmly. “I only hit them in self defence, and to save my friend Bruce, who was being savagely beaten by them.”

“That’s your story, Kent.” Lex hissed. “Looks like it’s your word against ours.”

“But that’s just what it’s not.” Clark said with a smile. “We also happen to have proof.”

Luthor’s eyes bulged. He stared in horror as Bruce reached inside the lining of his jacket and pulled out a video camera, which had a tube with a tiny lens at the end attached to it.

“Optical fibre tubing.” Bruce explained, running his hand over the tube. “It’s a Pinhole camera with ten mega pixel resolution. Near three sixty degree bending capability. Pretty good audio recording too.” he selected a recording, put the video in full screen mode and turned the volume up to maximum. He raised the camera up so that everyone could see the screen.

The image showed Bruce’s face for a second as he turned on the video recording. The screen shook briefly as the phone was concealed in his jacket. The view in front of him was still clearly visible as he knocked on the door of Mace’s room.

The rest of the video showed the events that took place inside the room. Luthor, Kalibak and Mace stared in horror as the video showed Mace admitting to the frame up, Lex and Kalibak throwing Bruce to the ground and then kicking him viciously, Luthor declaring his crime in front of Bruce, and then Clark’s arrival. The video continued till the appearance of the officers. Bruce turned off the video.

“That was the important part.” he said quietly.

Dak Syde was breathing heavily, his eyes narrowed. He did not say anything as Bruce put the mobile back in his pocket.

“It seems that you two were telling the truth.” He said finally in a soft voice, the anger apparent in every syllable. “In the light of this newfound evidence it is obvious that Miss Grant was framed by these three. They have been proven to be criminals. You will want to take them with you to the police station, officer.”

“Father” Kalibak whispered in a trembling voice. He inched slowly towards the dean, his eyes full of fear. He was practically grovelling. “Father, please. I… I’m sorry…”

In a sudden, swift motion, Dak Syde slapped Kalibak hard across his face, sending him sprawling to the floor.

“You are not my son” Dak Syde roared. “You are nothing to me. I have no son.”

He looked at Officer Turpin. “You can take them away, officer.” he said coldly. “And I hope they will be dealt with severely.”

At a sign from Turpin, the other two officers took out there handcuffs and moved towards the three. Kalibak continued calling out to his father. Mace was looking as though he had gone into shock. Luthor said nothing as they handcuffed him. He was staring at Clark and Bruce, who stared back. As he was led out of the room, he shot a look of pure hatred at Dak Syde. Finally there was only the dean, Officer Turpin and Clark and Bruce left in the room.

“We’ll need that video and you two as witnesses for the court hearing.” Turpin said to Bruce and Clark. They nodded. “That was some good work you boys did here. You’ve got a pretty useful right hook.” he added to Clark.

“Thanks” Clark said with a smile.

“Well, I’ll see you in your office, Mr. Syde.” Turpin said to the dean. “We’ll need to do the paperwork for this case all over again.”

“You can wait in my office after you have left those three at the station, officer.” Dak Syde said. “I shall join you there shortly.”

The officer nodded and left. Clark and Bruce were left alone in the room with the dean.

Dak Syde looked at the two boys. “It seems you two have saved the university from making a grave error.” He said softly. The two boys returned his gaze.

“Cat’s our friend, sir.” Clark said. “We had to help her when we knew she was innocent.”

“Then Miss Grant is fortunate to have two friends such as you.” Dak Syde said. “You put yourself in grave risk in order to help her.” the way he said it, it was clear the statement was not a compliment.

Those merciless eyes bored into Clark and Bruce, and suddenly they knew. Dak Syde was not happy with how the events have turned out. The disclosure of the events in that room would bring public embarrassment upon the dean because of his son, and upon the college for levelling false accusations against a student. All because of Bruce and Clark. In that moment, the two knew they had made a new enemy.

The two met Dak Syde’s gaze steadily. “Life’s fun with a little danger now and then.” Bruce remarked. “Especially if you’re doing it to help someone.” He was not feeling particularly worried. He didn’t care whether this man liked him or not.

“Indeed” Dak Syde said quietly. “But you should both be careful. In these types of situations people have a strange tendency to… slip.” the last word was spoken as a hiss. “And the fall can be very painful indeed.”

Clark rubbed his reddened knuckles. “You don’t think of those things when your friends are in danger.” he remarked quietly. “It’s really a question of how far you are willing to go to save those you love.” He did not turn away from Dak Syde’s gaze. Although there was something about the man that made Clark’s skin crawl.

Dak Syde gazed at the two, sizing them up. “Then it seems you two have already decided where your loyalties lie.” he said softly. “Perhaps we shall meet again, although I hope not in such dangerous circumstances again.” his tone clearly showed that that was exactly what he did hope for. “I wish you both a good night.”

He turned on his heel and left, leaving a silence in the room for a few moments. Bruce looked at Clark. “Number one rule of making college life more fun- Make the dean your personal enemy.”

“Beat up his son and then show him the recording.” Clark agreed. “I don’t think he’s going to let that go anytime soon.”

“Yeah, I don’t either.” Bruce said. He smirked. “And we’ve still got three years to go in this place.”

“But at least Cat is safe now.” Clark said. “Let’s go tell her the news.”

The two came out of Mace’s room and made their way down to the parking lot, where Bruce’s car was kept.

Clark’s phone rang. He picked it up. “Hey Diana.” he said. “Yeah, I know it’s late and we said we’d come by to fill you in. I’m sorry. We just got a little side tracked. We’re outside Boys Hostel Two right now. You’re near here too? Great, come by the parking lot and we’ll meet you there.”

He switched off the mobile and turned to Bruce. “Diana’s coming.” He said. “You sure you’re not hurt?”

“Positive.” Bruce said.

They found Diana waiting outside the parking lot. It was night time, and the lot was deserted. They went over to her, and Diana stared in surprise at their dishevelled appearance. “What on Earth have you both been doing?” She asked.

“Long story.” Clark said with a sigh. “We’ll tell you about it in the car.” They walked together towards Bruce’s car. Clark glanced at Bruce’s jacket, which had become extremely dirty and dusty from the kicking he had received.

“So you didn’t try to defend yourself at all when they were kicking you?” He asked.

“I was using my arms to protect the camera.” Bruce explained. “Otherwise it would’ve broken from all the kicks Kalibak gave me. But at least we got th-”

A sharp sound rang out from the darkness. Bruce stopped talking abruptly, clutching his shoulder. He collapsed on the ground.

“Bruce” Clark and Diana shouted, rushing to his side. They bent over him and stared in horror at the bullet lodged neatly in his shoulder, the blood beginning to seep out slowly.

Clark looked around in the darkness. It was impossible to tell where the shot had come from. “We’re in danger here Diana.” Clark said. “We need to get him to a hospital. Help me get him into the car.”

Clark bent and put his hands around Bruce. He lifted him off the ground, feeling his head loll to one side sickeningly. Diana ran to open the door of the car. Clark placed Bruce inside the car and went to the driver’s seat.

“Get me the keys from his jacket, Diana.” Clark called out. Diana searched through the pockets until she found the keys. She tossed them to Clark.

“Open the dashboard” She said.

Clark obeyed. He opened the lock with the keys. “What for?”He asked.

Diana rummaged in the tiny compartment. “He’s losing blood, Clark. He’ll die if he doesn’t get some treatment. I may be able to stop the bleeding if I can get some bandages. Someone as paranoid as Bruce is sure to have some type of medical supplies- yes! Here it is.”

She took the box of first aid kit and set to work on Bruce’s shoulder. Clark started the car, half expecting more gunshots, but the night remained silent. He drove the car as smoothly as he could so as to do minimum damage to Bruce’s wound.

Diana removed Bruce’s jacket and tore off his shirt. The blood was flowing freely now, and had drenched the shirt. Diana ignored the blood and focussed on the wound. She had found forceps and an antibiotic in the bag as well. A distant part of her mind wondered if Bruce had actually prepared for the possibility of getting shot at someday. Carefully, she took the bullet out, thankful that the smooth running of the Lamborghini protected them from any unexpected bumps during the ride. The bullet had missed the bone but was buried in a mass of nerves. She applied the cotton to the wound and wrapped the bandage over it, taking care not to let any air into the wound. She checked his breathing, since there was a possibility that the blood loss had resulted in a collapsed lung. But he was breathing steadily. There was nothing else she could do. Bruce was still unconscious. She made sure he was in a comfortable position. Then she went to sit in the front next to Clark.

“How is he?” Clark asked without taking his eyes off the road.

“I think he’ll be all right.” Diana said. “The bullet missed any vital spots and the bleeding has stopped.” She looked at him. “What was this all about, Clark?”

She sounded bewildered. Clark couldn’t blame her. He told her everything that had happened that day, to the investigation they’d done, to Bruce’s suspicions, to what had happened in Mace’s room. Diana was amazed to hear about the new side to Mace’s character.

“Is Lois all right?” She asked.

“Yeah, I got to her in time.” Clark said. “Lobo thought she would be killed without him having to dirty his hands. But I guessed that that was where he would take her when he took her car as well. There was only one place on campus where you could dispose of a car as well as a body.”

“So you knew Mace and Luthor were the ones responsible?” Diana asked. “How did Bruce let you know?”

Clark took out a piece of paper and handed it to Diana. It was a fax of the message Bruce had written. Diana studied it in silence.

“It’s in code.” Clark offered.

“I can see that…” Diana said slowly.

Clark looked at her. Despite the gravity of the situation, he couldn’t help a small smile from appearing on his face. “You don’t think it’s particularly clever?” he asked.

Diana looked at him apologetically. “Well, no. not really.” She said. “And how did it tell you about Mace? I can only see the underlined words spelling Luthor is the one…”

“Take another look.” Clark said, his eyes back on the road. “Ignore the underlined words. Notice anything strange about the message?”

Diana studied the message intently. “The only thing I see odd is that there are four words here that seem to be completely irrelevant.”

Clark nodded. “Manchester, Archetypal, Chlamydomonous, and Exorbitant” he said. “Four words, all completely unrelated to each other and the message, and all with capital first letters. Take the first letter from each word in the order they’re written and you get…”

“MACE” Diana said slowly. She nodded, impressed. “That is very clever.”

“Just a little misdirection to hide the true meaning of the message.” Clark said. “The problem was that we had no actual evidence that could save Cat or convict Mace. We needed to get him to confess. Bruce gambled on using his split personality situation to get him to admit the truth, and get Luthor out in the open. We needed evidence that could prove beyond doubt that it was them. So Bruce sent a message to Mace telling him he was coming to talk to him, giving him enough time to tell Luthor about it and for Luthor to come to the room. But I had to save Lois before she was killed, and because of that I was almost too late to get to Bruce. We managed to get the situation under control till Officer Turpin came. I thought we were safe then. But now…” he trailed off, with a glance towards Bruce unconscious form.

“Who could’ve shot him?” Diana asked, worried. “Lex and Mace and Kalibak must be with the police right now.”

“My guess is Lobo.” Clark said grimly. “He was the one who’d kidnapped Lois. He would’ve killed her right there, if it wasn’t for the construction work going on nearby. The workers might have heard the shot. He was also the one who’d gotten his hands on the gun used to frame Cat in the first place. I wondered where he was tonight when we were in Mace’s room. I think Luthor kept him as a look out. When Lobo saw the police coming with the dean he must’ve taken off to save his own skin. Then he saw us and took the shot. I can see why he’d be angry. We’ve made him an accomplice in an attempted murder case.”

Diana stared in silence at the road. “At least Cat is out of danger now.” She said. “Although it might take her a little time to recover from this experience.”

“Cat’s a pretty resilient sort of person.” Clark said with a smile. “I’m sure she’ll bounce back from this incident and be back to her old self soon.”

“I hope the same will be true for Bruce.” Diana said worriedly. The smile slipped from Clark’s face as he glanced back at his unconscious friend.

The rest of the trip passed in silence, the worry over Bruce casting a damper on conversation. They arrived at the hospital in less than five minutes. Clark and Diana sprang out of the car and ran towards the management area of the hospital. The head nurse was informed about Bruce’s condition, and two medics arrived with a stretcher to take him to the operating theatre.

The operation lasted for half an hour. Clark and Diana waited in the hall. Finally the surgeon came out of the room.

“He’ll be fine.” He said in answer to their questions, removing his bonnet and running a hand through his hair. “The bullet missed any vital spot. Who was the one who gave him first aid?”

Clark gestured towards Diana. The doctor smiled at her. “Well done” he said. “If the bullet had been left in the wound it might have caused lead poisoning. And the bandage prevented excess bleeding. You probably saved his life today.” he saw the relief on both their faces and continued. “He’s still unconscious but he’ll probably wake up soon. You can wait in his room with him if you want.”

The two nodded at once. They followed Bruce as he was carried to a private room and deposited on the bed. They bent over him. He looked extremely pale and his shoulder was wrapped in a bandage, but other than that he looked fine and was breathing deeply and evenly.

“I’m going to get some coffee, you want some?” Clark asked as he stood up.

“Yes, thank you.” Diana nodded. “I’ll call you if he wakes up.”

Clark left the room, and Diana bent over Bruce again. A part of her had been afraid that her inexperienced hands might have done more damage that good when she had given him first aid, and it was an enormous relief to know that he was going to be all right.

Bruce woke to an intense pain in his shoulder. He knew he was hurt. He kept his eyes closed, taking stock of his physical condition. The rest of his body seemed to be in working order, and only his shoulder was hurting. He slowly opened his eyes.

He half expected to see Alfred in front of him, who had nursed him through every illness and every sort of accident ever since he was a baby. But it was not the butler’s bald and wrinkled face he saw. He saw a girl with the face of an angel bending over him. A curtain of hair darker than the night itself fell past her waist. A soft and rosy hand was pressed lightly to his forehead, the large gray eyes full of concern. They stared at each other. He wanted to say something to ease the worry on her face but for some reason Bruce was struck dumb. His brain didn’t seem to be able to process speech.

Diana saw him open his eyes and stare at her. She smiled in relief. “Clark” she called out. “He’s awake.”

Clark rushed into the room holding two cups of coffee, managing not to spill a drop, to see Diana holding Bruce down.

“You need rest, Bruce. Don’t try to get up” he heard her say.

Clark grinned broadly in relief and came to stand on the other side of his bed.

“Gave us quite a scare there.” He said to Bruce, handing Diana her coffee.

“What’s going on?” Bruce asked weakly, looking around the room. His memory was returning. He noticed the bandage on his throbbing shoulder. He looked at Clark. “What happened to me? How did I get here? Last thing I remember is walking towards the car with you.”

Clark told Bruce about everything that had happened after he became unconscious. Bruce listened in silence.

“It had to be Lobo.” he said finally.

“That would be my guess as well.” Clark nodded. “But I really doubt we’ll find him at the university now. He supplied Lex with the gun, and tried to kill Lois. I’m betting he took off tonight and plans on lying low somewhere for a while.”

“Pity.” Bruce said, flexing his hand slightly and feeling the pain shoot up his shoulder. “I would’ve liked to have had a talk with him about this little matter of shooting me.”

“The important thing is that you’re out of danger now.” Clark said. “The doctor said your blood loss was minimal and the bullet missed any vital spot. He says it’s really remarkable how slightly the bullet penetrated into your skin.”

“The jacket I was wearing had a meshwork of leather and Kevlar. It’s a pretty strong material.” Bruce said with a shrug. “It was a prototype my company was developing for more durable clothing. I brought a sample piece here with me. It seemed likely that things would get rough in Mace’s room so I thought it would be a good time to try it.”

“Well, your instincts saved you from a very nasty accident today.” Diana said with a smile. “You’ll be as good as new in under a week.”

Again Bruce found himself strangely tongue tied, and simply nodded. “Is my car all right?” He asked, although he wasn’t really interested in the answer. But it gave him some time to think.

“Oh yeah, it’s totally fine.” Clark reassured him. “I have to say, that is one nice car to drive. Although you might want to replace the back seat covers. There were some pretty interesting patterns made with your blood on them by the time we got you here.”

“Good. That’s good.” Bruce muttered distractedly.

“I think this incident deserves a front page article in the newspaper.” Clark mused. “But I’m not sure if we should let out the details about it yet, the matter’s still not completely resolved. There’s still the court hearing left, and we’ll all need to attend that…”

Bruce nodded absentmindedly, but his mind was elsewhere. He was watching Diana as she sipped her coffee. Strange emotions were stirring within him. Feelings that he had not experienced for a long time were suddenly shooting to the surface, upsetting his orderly brain. A thought came to him that seemed to grow more attractive the longer he thought about it.

Maybe it was time to change his single status.

How your body reacts to different stimulants

Today, stimulants are available in all shapes and sizes, and cater to different needs of individuals. With our increasing dependence on artificial stimulants to perform better at our everyday lives, the focus on the correct dosage and potential side effects of such stimulants have come under greater attention than ever. Let’s take a look at how different stimulants affect our bodies:

1. Caffeine

It blocks adenosine receptors which are present in our nerve cells as well as brain tissues. This results in lower amounts of ATP being created. Epinephrine and Norepinephrine are produced to compensate, which results in a boost to the heart rate and blood flow.

2. Synephrine

This works on Alpha 2, Beta 2 and Beta 3 nerve receptors, which are responsible for the release of fat which is converted into energy through the process of thermogenesis, thus resulting in the boost of energy which acts as a stimulant.

3. Ephedrine

This stimulant targets the norepinephrine receptors located within nerve cells. The receptors normally release small doses of norepinephrine, but in the presence of the stimulant, the cell releases large amounts of the chemical. This results in an increase in heart rate as well as the consumer’s blood pressure, in addition to the lungs taking in greater amounts of oxygen. All of this results in an energy boost.

Healthy Consumption of Stimulants

The key to consuming all these stimulants in a safe manner is to monitor our daily intake and the reaction our body develops to their consumption. There are also various types of supplements available on the market that can mitigate the effects of stimulants, including adaptogenic herbs and food groups which include nuts, seeds, bananas, grapes and chocolate. While stimulants can be consumed on a regular basis, keeping the amount consumed down to a reasonable level will be much better for your health in the long run.

Behind The Fairy Tale

“So once upon a time, there lived a princess in a far away land.”

“Was she beautiful?”

“Of course she was, sweetheart.”

Jessica smiled up in delight at her father as he lowered her onto her bed. The heavy snow falling outside was barely visible in the small amount of light coming from the lone night lamp in the room. Oliver began to tuck his daughter in carefully, but Jessica was too eager to listen to the story to lie still.

“Tell me more about the princess.” she said excitedly, wriggling out of the bed. Oliver pushed her gently back down.

“Be patient, Jessie. You have to be tucked in properly, or you’ll catch a cold.” he told her warningly as he began to tuck her in again.

“I’m fine. What happened to the princess?” Jessica demanded, wriggling again, but this time deeper inside her bed covers. She had great expectations from the stories her father told her. Oliver was a writer, and he generally found it easy to make up something simple to tell her at night. This time, however, he was going to have to be much more cautious, and pick his words with care.

Oliver brought the stool closer to the bed and sat down. His daughter’s blue eyes and large smile were focussed on him, the genetic traits that she had inherited from him. Her blonde hair shone slightly in the light coming from the lamp. Her mother’s hair.

“The princess was born into a magical kingdom where forest elves and unicorns lived in peace with dinosaurs and giants.” Jessica wriggled again in excitement. This was one of her favourite settings. “The land was lush and vibrant, with sunflowers that grew as tall as trees, and waterfalls that were so tall you couldn’t see their beginning. The forests were alive with every sort of animal you could imagine, and the children of the magic kingdom played with them all day long.”

“One day, the king and queen of the magic kingdom had a daughter. She was the most beautiful little girl in the world.”

“Wait!” Jessica said, bounding out of bed before Oliver could protest. She rummaged impatiently through her toy chest and finally drew out one of her favourite dolls. She jumped back into bed, clutching the doll to her chest as she wriggled under the covers again. Oliver saw that it was a Barbie doll dressed as a princess. “Shall we continue?” he asked patiently, and she nodded.

“So the king and queen had a daughter.” Oliver resumed. “And the whole kingdom rejoiced. People from every corner of the world came to see the princess, and they all declared she was the most beautiful creature they had ever seen. The king and queen decided to call their daughter Mary.”

“Like mom?” Jessica broke in happily.

Oliver was silent for several seconds before speaking. “Yes, like your mom. But honey, you have to be patient and listen to the whole story, and not interrupt. Otherwise you won’t understand it.”

“Sorry.” Jessica said, lying perfectly still and looking up at him raptly. The bright, eager face of his seven year old daughter suddenly made him feel much older than he was.

“So Princess Mary grew up in her magic kingdom.” Oliver resumed the narrative once again. “And she grew more beautiful with every passing day. Her hair was bright yellow, and sparkled like gold in the sun. Her eyes were green like the sea, and filled with merriment. Her laugh was famous throughout the land, and it was said that no one who heard it could resist joining in.”

“All the people of the kingdom loved her. She spent the days playing with the children in the forest. She could walk up to a giant without fear, and the unicorns would give her rides on their backs whenever she wanted.”

“It was around that time that an old woman came to stay in the village of the magic kingdom. She kept a potions shop, and very strange things went on behind closed doors at night at the shop. Strange smells would come from her chimney, weird machines would clink and clank all night long, and her pet warthog would prowl the village after dark, looking for anything to steal and eat.”

“She was an evil witch, wasn’t she?” Jessica burst out, unable to contain herself any longer. “She did all those things because she was evil, right?”

“Yes, she was an evil witch.” Oliver smiled at the excitement in her voice. If only his adult readers could be satisfied so easily.

“Soon her neighbours found her society intolerable. They asked her repeatedly to clean up the street in front of her house and keep her pet under control. But she ignored all their pleas and was very rude to them.”

“So one day she was brought up before the king. They investigated her house, and found she was making all kinds of dangerous potions with a very nasty kind of magic. The king also found out that she was a refugee from a foreign land, from where she had been cast out because of some very wicked things she had done. The king ordered her to close up her shop and leave his kingdom immediately, in case she were to start something similar there as well. The woman did not go quietly. She stamped and she screamed. And even as the guards led her out, she swore she would someday have revenge on the king as well as the entire land.” Jessica’s smile was wider than ever. The plot had begun to thicken.

“Meanwhile, the princess was leaving her childhood behind and becoming a young woman. Her beauty grew with each passing day, and news of her loveliness flew around the world. Kings and princes from every corner came to win her hand in marriage. But none could satisfy the king, who wanted the very best for his daughter.”

“One day the princess was roaming through the forests and singing to herself when she saw a young man binding the foot of a unicorn which had run through some thorny bushes. The princess loved the unicorns and ran to help the man. Together, the two nursed the magic beast, and the princess saw that the man she had taken to be a goatherd was in fact an extremely handsome young man with the manners of someone born to a very high class. The man in turn fell head over heels in love with the young princess, and was soon telling her about the quest he been away on, on behalf of his kingdom, that had ended mere days ago, and he was now returning to his land, when he had decided to take a shortcut through the forest.”

“The princess took the man to see her father, who recognised him as the heir to one of the greatest empires in the world. The young prince confessed his love for the king’s daughter, and the princess did the same. The king was very happy with the match, and sent the prince to his kingdom with promises of a speedy union. The marriage was announced all through the land, and the whole kingdom rejoiced.”

“The princess was beside herself with happiness, and that day roamed deeper into the woods than she had ever done before. She did not know she was being followed. The evil old witch whom the king had banished had been watching her for a long time.” Jessica’s eyes grew wide. “She wanted revenge against the king and his kingdom, and now she saw a way to get it.”

“She uncorked one of her magic potions and fed its fumes to a dinosaur that was sleeping nearby. The dinosaur woke up in a fit of madness, and started destroying everything around it. The entire forest began to shake and tremble. The princess was caught by surprise from the resulting earthquakes while climbing a hill, and a large boulder from the top of the hill tumbled down and collapsed on top of her. By the time the guards heard her cries and found her, her injury had worsened greatly. The witch had also infused the whole forest with a brew that contained a serious disease.”

Jessica was staring her father in surprise. The tale seemed to have taken an unexpectedly dark turn. Oliver braced himself with an effort to tell the rest of the story.

“The princess was very badly hurt, and couldn’t walk. She had also caught the disease the witch had spread through the forest. Everyday her health became worse, and even though the king brought in the finest healers in the lands, none could help her.”

“She is going to walk again, isn’t she?” Jessica said in a small voice.

“Just listen.” Oliver said, clearing his throat to remove the slight hoarseness from his voice. “It was at that time that the old witch returned to the castle. She made an offer to the king. She would give him a tonic to give to the princess. It would not cure her, but it would prevent her health getting worse. In return she would get half of the gold stored in the Kingdom and the royal horse and carriage. The king and queen debated over what to do, but in the end they had no choice. They agreed, and the woman went away with half their gold, and the princess was given the tonic.”

“The princess’s health stopped becoming worse, and the kingdom was glad. The woman had left her a barrelful of the potion, and it would keep her living for years.”

“But then the king noticed something strange. The land of the magic kingdom was growing sick and diseased. Trees stopped growing, flowers stopped blooming, animals stopped grazing, and a blight seemed to have descended on the soil.”

“And it was then that the king and the queen and the princess realised the truth. The potion was keeping the princess alive, but it was feeding directly on the land. As long as the princess kept drinking the potion, the land of the magic kingdom would continue to become sicker and weaker.”

“It was a horrible situation to be in, and no one knew what to do. The princess could not even get married because her health had begun to fail again. The potion had only slowed her disease, not cured it. Slowly, she became weaker. Her beautiful hair began to fall out. She would sleep all day long. The prince and the king and queen were beside themselves with grief. But there was nothing they could do.” Oliver was silent for several moments as he tried to collect his strength.

“And so the princess knew she had to make the decision. It was a very difficult choice, and she knew she had to make it on her own. With her last strength, she made her way to the barrel of the potion that was kept in the room next to hers. The old witch knew the princess was close to the end of her strength, and had flown into the castle to watch the final days of despair for the king’s family.”

“And then…” Oliver paused, and Jessica leaned in closer, hardly daring to breathe, as she waited for the dramatic denouement, when the princess would make a triumphant comeback and defeat the evil witch’s plans. “The princess tipped over the barrel of potion, spilling it all onto the floor just as her family entered the room… and then she died in the arms of her prince.”

Blank shock met the last statement. Jessica did not seem to have understood him. Oliver leaned in and watched her expression as he began to carefully explain the ending to her. “It was her sacrifice, you see, sweetheart? She loved her family and her kingdom. So she allowed the witch to take her life so that the curse would be lifted and her people would be happy.”

“She died?” Jessica’s mouth had opened in horror. “She can’t die. She’s the princess.”

“I know, honey. But this time-”

“Why didn’t the prince rescue her?”

“He couldn’t.” Oliver almost choked on the words. He fought back the tears fiercely from his eyes. “This time he couldn’t, no matter how much he wanted to. It was the princess’s battle to fight, and she had to make the choice on her own.”

“I don’t like this story.” Jessica declared indignantly. “I hate it. Change it and make her live again!”

“I can’t do that.” Oliver said. “You have to understand this, Jessie. Death is a part of life. We all have to die someday and-”

“Change it back!”

“And sometimes people die young. It’s just how it is and that’s what happened to the princess. You have to understand this. You’re not a little girl anymore, and it’s time to grow up.” He caught her wrist as she attempted to move away. It was too late to back off from this conversation now. “Please, for both our sakes, you have to grow up.”

“I hate this story.” Jessica said, trying to wriggle out of his grip. “I don’t want to hear it.”

“No, Jessie, listen to me.” Oliver said, his voice becoming urgent as he bent closer. “I’m trying to tell you something important. I’m trying to tell you something about real life, and I need you to listen to me carefully.”

“No, she doesn’t die!” Jessica insisted, clutching her doll tightly. Her voice had begun to tremble. The shocking end of the story and the strange way her father was behaving was scaring her. “She can’t die. She’s a princess!”

“Princesses die too, sweetheart, just like everyone else.” Oliver’s hand reached out to grasp his daughter’s. “Please, you have to understand this, Jessie. Dying is a part of life, and-”

“But I don’t want her to die.” She was crying now.

“That doesn’t matter.” Oliver’s voice was raised now. His own frustration was beginning to seep through. “We can’t always have what we want. Sometimes people die, and we have to accept it and move on.”

Suddenly she turned away from him and curled herself into a ball, hiding her face inside her blanket. Oliver watched her in a daze. He could not believe how badly this whole attempt had turned out.

“Jessie?” He reached out to touch her shoulder. It was shaking. “I’m so sorry, sweetheart.” He climbed slowly onto the bed and placed an arm around her shoulder. “Daddy was feeling tired, baby. That’s why he yelled. And he wasn’t thinking clearly. Of course the princess didn’t really die. Would you like to know what really happened?” She did not respond, but her shoulders stopped shaking so badly.

“So the old witch was watching the princess tip the barrel over.” Oliver said in a low voice. “The prince came in at that moment, along with the king and the queen. They saw the princess faint and fall to the ground, and then the evil witch began to laugh.”

“But then… then the handsome prince drew out his sword and slayed the witch and woke up the princess with a kiss.” Oliver finished.

There was a silence in the room for a long moment. Then Jessica’s head slowly appeared from underneath her blanket as she turned towards him. Her tears had stopped. “So then they live together in the castle?”

“Yes, they got married and lived happily ever after.” Oliver said in a toneless voice.

Jessica did not note the lack of enthusiasm in his voice. She was beaming now. “I like this story much better.” He wiped the tears from her eyes as he smiled in return. “I knew the princess couldn’t die.” Oliver did not say anything, but merely nodded as he rose from her bed.

“Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you so much. And I’m sorry I yelled.” He kissed her forehead and gave her a hug. She mumbled something sleepily; suddenly feeling tired, and snuggled deeper under the covers, the doll still pressed tightly to her chest.

Oliver sighed as he turned off the lamp and made his way out of the room. His hand was trembling. It took him a moment to regain his composure, and then he made his way downstairs. The mobile rang, and he saw it was Doctor Patel.

“Hello, doctor.” he said tiredly as he sank into the armchair.

“Hello, Oliver.” Doctor Patel said gravely. “I’m sorry if I caught you at a bad time. How are you feeling?”

“Reasonably well.” Oliver mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

“There are some papers related to the accident that you have yet to sign.” The doctor paused, then added gently, “I realise how difficult this is, so there’s no need to rush, but I would advise you to get it out of the way now to avoid unnecessary complications.”

“Thank you, I’ll be there tomorrow.” Oliver was silent for a moment, but then the urge to confide in someone, even a comparative stranger, overcame him. “I was trying to break the news to my daughter just now.”

“Oh.” The doctor paused. “How did she handle it?”

“I didn’t tell her.” Oliver said quietly. “I couldn’t… I chickened out. After making a monumental fool of myself.” The doctor was silent again.

“It was the only option, Oliver.” he spoke at last in a low voice. “The accident created very serious complications for your wife. Even if we had used the most radical procedures she would never have been able to walk again. Her body would inevitably have shut down in a few months time while prolonging her sufferings. And the resulting economic strain on your family would have placed you on the verge of bankruptcy. Mary made a very brave choice when she opted to quit life support on her own. She was a remarkable woman.”

Oliver tried to speak, but the lump in his throat was too big. He nodded, though knowing the doctor couldn’t see him, and let out a low breath as the tears gathered in his eyes.

“If you would like some help,” the doctor continued. “We have some child therapists who specialise in trauma counselling for children. They can help you explain the matter to your daughter. I can introduce you to them tomorrow.”

“That’d be great, thanks.” Oliver managed finally to speak in a low voice. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”

“Good night, Oliver. And take care.”

“Good night.”

He placed the mobile slowly on the table next to him and stared ahead at the mantelpiece. Outside, the snow continued to fall thickly. The darkened house seemed oddly muffled and deadened. Finally, Oliver could not hold back the tears, and they fell freely down his face as he continued to stare at the picture on the mantelpiece of a laughing young woman with bright green eyes and shiny golden hair.

THE END

3 Important Training Tips from Ancient Cultures

The world of bodybuilding has seen a lot of changes in the last decade. With advancements in biometric science, the definition of training itself has transformed. One result of this evolution is that current bodybuilders tend to scoff at older training methods. What could the athletes of the 19th and 20th century teach to an enlightened, 21st century warrior? Standing inside a shiny, air-conditioned gym packed with the latest neoprene coated aluminium weights, cyclocomputers and treadmills, it might seem hard to believe that those early athletes who used to train in their dirt floor, open air gymnasiums a hundred years ago knew something about training that we don’t.

But as it turns out, those old school athletes can teach us plenty. Here are three bodybuilding exercises from ancient training cultures that can significantly improve your 21st century training performance:

Kushti (Indian Wrestling)

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Indian wrestling is not as well known in the west as it should be, even though India has presented possibly the greatest wrestler in history to the world. But no matter how unfamiliar you may be with the wrestling culture in India, the fact remains that Indian wrestling pahalwans have a training routine that is incredibly effective in developing upper body strength and agility.

 

The old school exercise: Dand a.k.a Hindu Pushups

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This a particularly useful method of doing pushups, mainly because of the range of motions involved in the exercise. Performing a dand requires you to use your entire body. The technique is so effective that the late, great Bruce Lee incorporated it into his training regime.

Here’s how you should do the exercise (always remember to stretch first):

  1. Get into a regular push up position. Bend your knees until they touch the ground and make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders.
  2. Raise your backside into the air as high as possible, until your body frame resembles an inverted V.
  3. Take a deep breath, and then bend your elbows until your chest comes close to the ground.
  4. Arch your lower and upper back so that your head shoots forward and up.
  5. Straighten your arms while keeping your face upwards. Make sure your knees do not touch the floor.
  6. Now you need to lower your head and torso while raising your hips to go back to the inverted V position, while exhaling steadily.
  7. Repeat the exercise as many times as you can.

 

Muay Thai (Thai Kickboxing)

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This fighting style has exploded in popularity in the west, thanks to films like Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong, and competitions such as the UFC, where several of the fighters are devotees of the fighting style and display the incredible possibilities that it offers to athletes.

The Old-School Exercise:  Tree Climbing

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The strongest weapons that a kickboxer has at his disposal are his legs. You may have heard about thai kickboxers repeatedly kicking a banana tree in order to harden the skin covering their legs, but merely toughening up the skin is not enough to win at kickboxing. You also need powerful legs capable of great kicking and squeezing power, and that is where tree climbing comes in handy.

Nowadays, parallel bars and pull up shafts are what athletes turn to for climbing exercises, but such modern equipment lacks a significant quality, and that is unpredictability. Climbing a tree will allow you to follow an uneven vertical path. You will have to use your wits to navigate the terrain. You will have to constantly reposition your body to suit the tree’s frame. Your legs will have to put in a great deal of effort in order to maintain a stable grip on the trunk as it thickens and thins out at different stages of the climb. It is this very factor that makes tree climbing a very effective exercise.

While tree climbing is great for making your legs stronger, it’s also a full body workout. You get to use every muscle in your body as you climb higher. Here’s what you need to keep in mind while doing this particular exercise:

  1. Test every branch carefully before shifting your entire bodyweight onto it.
  2. Adjust your grip to take advantage of the irregular contours of the tree and maintain a strong hold.
  3. Use your feet as well as knees to squeeze your legs into the trunk surface in a pincer hold as you climb up. This will increase your leg muscle strength and provide a stronger hold for the climb.

 

Farming

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Turns out even the humble farmer has something to teach us about strength training. Before the industrial revolution produced tractors and other farm equipment to ease the burden, farming used to be one of the most brutally demanding lifestyles imaginable (In so many ways, it still is). No matter what the weather, the farmer had to be outside from dusk till dawn, tending to cattle, reaping the harvest, and performing a never ending series of odd jobs around his land. No wonder all that back breaking labour taught farmers a things or two about building stamina and carrying an interminable procession of weights without throwing out his back. And now we get to learn from their experiences.

 

The Old-School exercise: Farmer’s Walk

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This exercise mimics the movements of a farmer carrying something heavy at his side. The exercise is as effective as it is simple. The aim is to create strong tension in your muscles for the duration of the walk, laying greater stress on your forearms, biceps and triceps. Your grip becomes stronger, as does your back and core, both of which have to resist immense pressure in order to avoid buckling under the weight.

Before doing the exercise you need to consider carefully how much weight your body can handle. Wear a belt around your midsection before stating the exercise. Disregarding either of those considerations can result in a nasty injury such as a hernia or worse. Once you’re determined the optimum weight, it’s time to begin the exercise:

  1. Make sure the dumbbell weight is evenly distributed on both sides of your body.
  2. Ensure that you have a strong grip on the weights and rise to your feet. This is a similar position to the one in which weight lifters lock out deadlifts in.
  3. Take small and fast steps in a measured manner. Your breathing should be even and arms straight and hanging down your sides.
  4. Once you begin to feel your grip loosening, place the weights gently down by your side and take a break to recover your breath.
  5. Repeat the process as many times as you can during a workout session. Start adding more plates once your body becomes used to the current weight.

 

 

 

What is B2B Marketing And Why It Works?

What is B2B?

Business to Business marketing refers to an understanding of the marketplace as a place where businesses also act as customers. Thus, marketing of goods and services towards other businesses is referred to as B2B marketing. It differs from traditional marketing to individual customers in three ways:

1. There are fewer customers in the market, since an entire business entity is seen as a single customer. This has the effect of significantly reducing the pool of potential buyers, but it also means individual orders are usually placed in much larger quantities.

2. Most of the business generated is derived from the consumer demand in the larger marketplace. This means the single customer marketplace is still indirectly responsible for driving sales and trends.

3. The transactions between two or more businesses are more complex than in traditional dealings. A host of individuals within each business have to interact over a long period of time in order to finalize and place the order.

B2B marketing strategies use:

1. Its presence is felt more strongly in the world of social media through a solid content marketing campaign that attracts potential clients.

2. Hard data and facts and numbers are used to formulate the business plan and drive sales as well as business partnerships.

3. B2B marketing strategies offer a leaner and more focused approach than a B2C marketing strategy.

First steps to Starting a Small Business: Creating an Online Presence

For small business owners, bringing their product or services to the attention of consumers is an uphill task – especially when competing against bigger and better established companies with greater brand awareness. In this modern digital age, however, the internet has proven to be a very useful tool for increasing sales if employed properly. Here are some tips for building a strong online presence:

1. Your own Website –

Many businesses underestimate the importance of a professional looking site for their products and services, or even the need for one. The site is the first thing a customer sees and judges your company through, and thus experienced site designers should be hired to give your website an attractive and trustworthy appearance.

2. Importance of Google-

This search engine juggernaut is widely accepted to one of the most powerful entities that exists within the virtual world. A study found that google is used for almost 70% of all online searches. Figuring out how to show up at the top of google search pages goes a long way towards increasing your company’s online visibility.

3. The Effectiveness of pay per click –

Hosting an advertisement on a popular social media platform is a sound strategy to pursue for companies with a low online presence. The advantages offered by the pay per click model more than make up for the money that needs to be given to the host site, by generating valuable page views that leads potential customers back to your website.