1964-04-18 - Riddle Me This!
Summary: Riddle me this, Batman: what has questions, death traps, and purple and white tights? This scene!
Related: None
Theme Song: None
ford lois 


Jimmy wasn't sure what to make of the box left at the Bulletin doorstep. All he knew is that it was green, covered in purple question marks, addressed to Lois Lane, and when opened, a tape recorder inside played back a pre-recorded message:

"Greetings and salutations, my pathetic friend! That is a fancier way of saying 'Hello', as I'm sure you've no clue what I'm saying. You do not know me, but I am almost painfully aware of you! I am the incredibly brilliant, illustriously intelligent, the Leading Lord of the Learned Mind, The Riddler, and more importantly, your superior! Day in and day out, your boasts about 'being the best reporter in New York' have dogged my mind like a migraine, begging for some relief! For you see, nobody is better than me! Well now, I would like to put your so called 'amazingness' to the test. It is simple really, even for you! You will complete a series of meanial tasks for my amusement, solve my carefully constructed conundrums, and come out in one piece! Solve my puzzles, and we shall see who is the best! Solve my puzzles… and you don't die. My first of many, many riddles: where do boats go when they are sick?"

Jimmy, being Jimmy, was worried that some wacko was targeting Lois for some reason. But his natural recommendation was to get the police involved. He sounded dangerous!

*

"Jimmy, Jimmy…I got it. Seriously. No worries. Just… go back to taking photos of little league. Isn't the season just starting? I'm sure there is a proud poppa somewhere that needs you to get a picture of his son!" Lois mutters behind her as she is already walking out of the office, cube in hand and eyes gleaming with the glory of being on the tail of another story. Of course, the riddle was horribly obvious, "But…which dock. That is the question." Lois mutters to herself, as she moves down to her beloved El Dorado and pulls out into drive. Chelsea was the most famous. It seemed too obvious.

So, she starts wracking her mind for any stories about recent, strange activity at the docks or a new company coming in. Eventually, she lets her instincts lead her to a certain pier. She could be wrong, but she rarely was…

*

As a matter of fact, Lois picks the correct one! A fire recently ravaged a dock warehouse by Pier 74, leaving the place largely standing, but little more than a skeletal husk of its former self (which wasn't much honestly). Much of the place nearby had been quarantined for safety reasons, as who knew when the place would come down. But formal demonlition had yet to begin on the place, so it stood as something of a creaky ghost house for a long while.

From the outside, the place was unassuming. Most of the exits and places had been boarded up or sealed off, but one path leading to the offices seem strangely clear of clutter. If one squinted, you could almost see a path forming through the junk.

*

A study of the docks, and the most likely one for something truly shady to be set up was this one. So, Lois is here, now. She's actually carrying pepper spray on her person nowadays — she's learned after the last few encounters — but she keeps it close to her side as she creeps along the shadows of that strangely clear path. The more and more she was seeing, the more she felt that her instincts had drawn her right. She pauses just a moment to drag out her camera and take a long photo, holding still several moments in hope that she can get the path even in the dim light. Then the camera is slipped back into her bag and she's continuing forward, up the path to the offices. She's creeping as silent and still as possible, wanting to have a chance to evasdrop and not reveal herself.

*

The approach is slow and the entrance seemed… wierdly unguarded. It has to be a trap, right? There is nobody here, nothing is striking out at her, nothing is seemingly off kilter… it almost seems like she might be wrong. But just as she reaches the door, having to stand on a big board of wood that's been knocked over by a fallen beam, the speaker over the door crackles to life as the intercom speaks up.

"At last. I thought you'd never make it. But you solved it, well done. I mean, I would've expected a CHILD to work that one out, much less the best reporter in New York. Still, well done. But you can't come in yet. You have another riddle to solve! What is it that, the more you take away from it, the bigger it becomes?"

*

The woman was just about to cut around, try and figure another way in, when she half jumps at that sound. Well, so much for not being noticed. Lois' heart is momentarily in her throat, nerves kicking in, but her courage was always larger than her better sense of self preservation. A slight roll comes to her eyes as the crackling voice offers her another far too easy riddle.

"…A hole. I am not a child, as you say. And I *am* the best damn reporter in this town. So if you actually want an expose, let me in and let's talk. These games are child's play." Lois grumbles out to the air, though she has this sinking hint that 'a hole' might mean more than the answer. She reaches up, bracing herself tightly against the nearest pole or over hang, just in case the floor goes out from under her.

*

As if on cue, another collection of boards near the door toppled over, revealing a wrecked part of the wall torn into the side. A hole. At least he wasn't terribly predictable. "Easy, isn't it? Well we'll see… we'll see…" Stepping in through the hole leads to a dark chamber inside. Though not as big as one might expect. It turns out, with pitiable levels of lighting, one can tell this is what's left of an office. The sooted ashes of metal on the remains of the desk, charred wooden racks and filing cabinets. Anything of value looks to have burned away long ago.

In the corner of the room, another intercom cracks to life. "I believe you misunderstand my intentions Ms. Lane. I do not want an expose, no no. Nothing so shallow. No, you see… for weeks now, that title you've so arrogantly bestowed upon yourself has nagged at me. Best damn reporter? Truthfully? I fail to see it. Not because you are a woman, not at all. But because you are wrong. You believe yourself so intelligent. So smart. Able to see things nobody else can? I would dearly love to test that. Hence, why I have brought you here. Rest assured, none of my tricks are letahl. Provided you are smart enough. And for someone supposedly as brilliant as you, you should be all too safe."

"But enough expository discussion! Let us move on to your next riddle, shall we?" Once inside, Lois will find that whatever was covering the door has suddenly snapped back into place, closing her inside. "What bites with no teeth, whips with no hands, and howls with no voice?"

*

Well, she was right about the hole, just not that it was beneath her. It was to her side. Lois' brows arch, looking forward into the darkness. "…this…is a dumb idea, Lois Lane…" She mutters beneath her breath, all too well certain she is walking into a trap. She should stop. She should turn around. This was almost painfully obvious. But, it was also a story, and she could never resist a story, so she steps forward into the darkness.

She doens't even jump when the 'door' behind her slams shut. She really expected that one, in truth. Lois looks up to the crackling speaker, then around to the whole ragged little office of a place, looking for any other hint of where she might be able to find a weakness in the structure to get out if she needs. "Wind… Wind bites with no teeth, howls and whips." Lois responds to the speake,r almost challenging the thing to get it on with. "And if you didn't want exposure, you wouldn't be coming after a reporter."

*

"Yet again, Ms. Lane, you misunderstand. I'll try to use smaller words." The speaker replied. "I want exposure… of you! I want to show everyone that this fantastic, tough-as-nails, drugged up little whiner of a reporter is not the superstar she believes she is. And when you lie a broken mess of tears and shattered psyches on the floor, you will know that I, The Riddler, am better than you!"

At her answer, the seemingly wedged door to the office falls inward, slamming down and revealing a large fan blowing air at the office… which the pressure of such threatens to cause it to topple! With Lois in it! "Quite right, Ms. Lane! A bit later than I predicted, but correct nonetheless… I suggest you move."

*

A slight yelp, of the chilly spring air made just bitter cold by the fan blowing that air, and Lois is definitely not comfortable any more. Her black hair whips around her face and she swears to herself, beginning to claw her way forward, towards that wind, so she can escape the office before it does completely collapse or topple over. This is why Lois comes on these adventures sober, mostly, because she needs to be sharp and awake. Cocaine helped with that. She was as 'awake' as she could be and moving quicker for it.

As fast as she can manage, she climbs her way out of the office, trying to get free and on more steady ground away from that bitter, blowing wind. She sighs once more. "It takes a lot more than wind to break me… and many more have tried. So, perhaps we should give up for the night? Both go home with a nice drink and forget this ever happened?"

*

Lois breaks free of the wind and escapes into the main area of the warehouse just in time, with scant seconds before the office leans and crushes in on itself. Looking out into the dark, broad space, illuminated by faint streams of light flickering here and there, the storage facility's power barely in working order and lighting the place up. The speaker crackled to life, but this time, filled the whole of the chamber. "Than it will be all the sweeter when I finally be the one to break you, Ms. Lane. Now then, for your next riddle! But first, a minor explaination."

"The key to the exit is somewhere in here. Do you hear the jingle?" On cue once more, the sound of keys jangling on something echoes through the warehouse. "Follow that jingle, and you'll find your key! Find the key, you find your exit! But enough stalling, time for your riddle! First in a conundrum, last in a panic. I have several different fears, but any one will drive you manic. I am what you do when you have ample light, but boats fear to tread me in the rocky dead of night. What am I?" The keys start to jingle again, signalling for Lois to follow them to their location. She just needs to traverse the dark floors of the warehouse. Which, from the sound of it, seem to be located dangerously close to the water's edge…

*

A slight whimper, then a curse, but Lois takes a deep breath against her heart in her chest and she grabs out her lighter. She, at least, can see SOMEWHAT as she treads through the darkness. The never fail zippo, her old trusty friend, is struck to life and she lets it cast what light it can through the dark debris as she begins to follow the sound of the jingling keys. Meanwhile, this is the first riddle that hasn't hit her mind immediately. She's trying to parse it out as she moves. "…if you are just talking about your last sentence… It's the Sea. Your rambling is muddling the jokes, Mister." Lois mutters back in his direction.

*

" Tsk tsk. Blaming me for your lack of intellect, Ms. Lane? I would've hoped for better, but I suppose I cannot expect too much from you. Now, 'see' if you can 'see' the 'sea'." As Lois navigates, the dark warehouse, she'll find holes here and there that contain the sound of rustling, sloshing of the waves from the water side. It's clear that one slip in, and she's a goner, lost to the murky waters below. But as she follows the jingle, it's clearly getting louder and more precise.

Finally, after a few minutes of careful navigation, she can see the central beam of the warehouse, sporting a valve wheel with a handle, spinning back and forth suddenly every so often. And on it, dangling from the handle, a set of keys jangled. "Very good, Ms. Lane! You know how to walk without falling! I could give the same credit to a 2 year old, but small victories, am I right? But before you leave, you have one more riddle. One more riddle, and you're free! One more conundrum… and you get to live. Here is your riddle: what seven letter words can be spelled the same forwards AND backwards?"

*

The zippo helps. The clarity of cocaine and adrenaline also help, quite nicely, and Lois is managing through that unsteady, hole filled warehouse as best as anyone could. SHe might not be the best reporter in the world, but she was clearly almost as good as she claimed. It's not too much longer and, thank goodness, she's claimed those damned keys. "You know, this might almost be fun if it were ten degrees warmer." She teases him casually, like this was some sort of child's cakewalk.

The last riddle? It just makes her laugh. "There's probably a few of them, but with these keys in my hand… I'd guess a *racecar*." She half crows into the air, rather proud that she really has walked through all of this without much issue, compare to her last villain encounters. Now, she's just gotta find that damned car!

*

"…correct. Goodbye, Ms. Lane." The intercom crackles ominously as it fades out. With the keys in hand, suddenly, the purpose of the riddle becomes all too clear. A pair of headlights blare to life behind her, practically blinding things as the heavy rev of an engine suddenly overwhelms the silence of the warehouse. The squeal of tires and the rev of the engine is all Lois has to let her know that the answer to her riddle is coming right at her, full speed!

*

"…Oh." Lois breathes out for a heartbeat, eyes widening, and then she just has to MOVE. She tosses herself to the side, trying to get out of the way of that car before it hits her full on. All she can hope is that it takes a good bit to get up to speed and she is moving fast enough to find somewhere to get out of the way. She has no time to panic or freak out about just how unfair it is. She just has to MOVE.

*

Thankfully, Lois manages to dive aside just in time to avoid being squashed by the car. Unfortunately, it also hits the pillar she found the keys on… and knocks it over. Which begins to make the whole roof and building shake and crumble. It was now a race, through a black floor marred with holes leading to inky black tide water, to find a door hidden in the darkened corners of the room, with the time limit of a collapsing building imposed on her.

No pressure.

*

None at all! Lois has been through worse situations. She growls out a few more curses as she scrambles back up to her feet and looks frantically across the room, considering her outings. She's sharp, incredibly so, so now she's tracing her way double time back through the warehouse almost the way she came, having memorized the safe areas, and she has her lighter out in front of her again, casting long shadows on every corner and nook she could find, looking for any lump or hint in the wall of the door that would let her out, her other hand still holding the keys. Her mind works lightning fast, insanely so some days. Hopefully it would be fast enough.

*

She is so painfully close! After all this, after everything she has gone through, she manages to snake her way back to the walls and finds what looks like a door! She is home free!

That is, until one of the ceiling's steel beams collapses and blocks off the exit! As if to mock her!

Sadly, another steel beam looks to follow suit, only this time, its unintended target is poor Lois. With a ripping groan of metal being torn asunder, the beam and surrounding roof fall onto Lois… but stop just short of crushing her. Not because it caught on something, but because SOMEONE caught IT! As moonlight pours through the remains of the ceiling, Lois will see that one of New York's many spandex wearing crime fighters has come to her aid… but, shockingly, it's one that hasn't been seen publicly for months. And one she probably recognizes all too well. The white scarf, the purple and white tights, the aviator goggles. This is, undeniably, the infamous Ego, a super hero who's one claim to infamy was his attempt to stop a supervillain from robbing a bank, only to chuck a car and kill an innocent bystander, letting the bad guy get away in the process. His failure sparked massive debates on super hero registries to government programs to outlaw vigilante actions.

That was a good 9 months ago. Yet, here he was, in the tights, lending Lois a saving hand. "Thought something sounded fishy! Good thing I decided to investigate!"

*

"DAMMIT!" Lois hisses out, the moment that first beam comes down and blocks her escape. Her frustration was hitting peak levels… only for it to be quickly replaced by fear as she sees another beam beginning to swing free. She's about to dodge to the side again when it abruptly stops and that *screamingly loud costume* glimmers in the moonlight. "…Ego?" She calls up towards him, definitely remembering the old story, a bit incredulous that HE is the hero that is saving her this evening.

But not complaining! Super, entirely not complaining, "Thank god you're here…Get me out of this place. Jack ass of a villain can't even get his riddles right!" Lois calls in a huff, like she wasn't in mortal danger for most of the evening. She carefully shifts forward on what is left of the floor, trying to reach for her savior.

*

Smirking back at her, Ego reached out and grabbed her hand, tugging her up to her feet and wrapping his arm at her waist. "Couldn't agree more! A crumbling warehouse is no place for a lovely lady!" One hand still holding up the rubble, he effortlessly shoved it aside and away before reaching around to get a good grip on the end of the steel beam that blocked the way. "Hold on tight! Not used to having a passenger!" he instructed, pulling himself and Lois up quickly with a mighty tug, immediately scaling the wall of the warehouse to a hole in the roof.

Slipping through the hole, Ego pushed through the opening and out to the night air, clambering to the edge of the roof and making a flying leap free of the collapsing building. And not a moment too soon! As soon as he lands near her 62 Cadillac, he turned back as the warehouse came crashing down into the waving tide. "Whew… a bit too close for comfort."

*

Clearly, the woman trusts him. Despite the news papers screaming the last time he came in, despite the ridiculous outfit. His confidence does help inspire, and she's just happy to be alive. So, she wraps thin arms around his shoulders, helping to counter balance her light weight even as he scales them out of the crumbling building. "…Impressive." SHe mutters at his single handedly managing to get up and out to the roof, then that leap. She instinctively winces, ducking her head against his chest, not really wanting to watch the fall, but they manage to land safe and sound.

A slow, ragged breath escapes her lips and Lois slowly unfolds from his chest, giving his shoulders one last squeeze and then gently letting go. She's mostly steady on her feet again, mostly. Heart pounding in her ears with the after affects of adrenaline and coke. "That… could have gotten messy. Yes. T-thank you… Ego…" But there was something familiar about the cut of his jaw. Her eyes narrow, head tilting. "…do I know you?"

*

It wasn't merely the jaw. The figure. The voice. Something about him was screaming familiarity about him, but… who? Where and when? "My pleasure, ma'am. Glad I decided to check things out when I noticed the caddy here. Thought it was an odd place for such a nice car, so close to a construction zone with nobody in it."

At her question, he paused, folding his arms and looking back at the wreckage. "…if you've read the papers, heard the radio, seen the news… I imagine so. I believe much of the city knows me. The Ego. The failed hero, I think they favored for a while." He turned a bit more to regard the city behind him. He was dodging the real question, whether he knew it or not. It was if Lois knew of him… it was a question of did she KNOW him.

*

Now down, safe, and ever so curious, Lois studies him a bit closer. She has her suspicions, in truth, and is all riled up in the best of ways. While there should be fear for her life in her eyes, the look on her face is a woman who is having the TIME of her life. She enjoys it — the danger, the risk. Every last moment of being close to death made her feel more and more alive. Lucky, or unlucky, for her fair rescuerer. Because if her thoughts are right, then he's perfectly safe to test in such a way.

So, suddenly, Lois turns her head and she's laying a proper, deep, just as passionate kiss as she can against Ego's mouth. She holds that kiss long and deep, if he lets her, tasting his coffee and possibly his dinner. Drinking in his scent. It was a scent she knew, even if the uniform is different. "…mm… Is the Ego fond of greek diners?" She mutters against his mouth, her voice teasing. Knowing.

*

Lucky for Lois, he suspicion is spot on. Only this time, he didn't recoil from her touch. He returned it, with as much passion and ignited fire as she gave. His hands wrap around her head and body, tugging her into the kiss even closer, bathing in the touch. Even as she spoke, he smirked back into her lips. "Nah. I prefer what happens after. A chance to work off the weight~" He kissed back again for a moment, before speaking again, a little breathless. "How'd you guess?"

*

Even as the building collapses behind them, kicking up dust, debris and dead wood into the air and vile waters below, Lois doesn't seem to care one little bit. Her car is park just outside of the collapsing zone and none of the dust is that bad, the advantage of water. She just wraps both arms around the back of his neck, eyes dancing as she looks up into his familiar eyes. "Your eyes… and your scent. You can't change those. And your hands. The way you lean against your left hip. The smile. Even your voice, really, though you took a care to somewhat change it. It's all the details. I don't forget a man like you and I *am* the best damn reporter in this city. I don't miss details." Take that, Riddler. She'd prove her worth once and for all. But right now, she's just enjoying leaning in his arms. "…Don't suppose I can tempt you for dessert this time, hm?"

*

Ford took the grasp around his neck very well, rocking slightly as he smirked back at her. "So it wasn't just my stunning first impression?" he joked back, the arm around her waist travelling a bit lower than probably appropriate. He was daring outside of danger too, it seemed. "I recognized the caddy as yours, myself. I was passing through on my way home. Figured you must be inside getting into trouble. Thought'd be on hand, just in case." His grip around her tightened, but not superhumanly so. He'd taken great pains to learn to control his powers over the past few months, that much is evident. For someone who could repel falling rooftops and steel beams, his touch was remarkably gentle. "I was just about to ask if the hero gets the girl this time around. Your place? In case you have work tomorrow, don't have to navigate a new neighborhood while exhausted? Because I don't plan on getting much sleep tonight~"

*

"Mm… the girl has been waiting for this hero. I think he'd better get…uh… Gotten, before she gets impatient." Lois kisses him deeply, again, backing him into the side of her car with the sort hunger she puts behind that kiss. Then she pops open the passenger door for him. "Inside. I'll drive." And soon they are taking off, back to her place for a night of not sleeping indeed.

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