Summary: An evil scientist who was devoted to Lex Luthor blames Lois Lane for his idol's downfall and eventual death. So he decides to make her pay — by kidnapping her and killing her clone … to make friends and family think she is dead.
Author's note: I wrote this while pondering whatever happened after that avalanche/cave-in thing in "Seconds".
I would like to thank Andrea for her input and ideas, Erin for her support and editing, Nicole for her patience when all I could talk about was this story, and all my friends (FoLCs, of course) for their encouragement and help.
The laboratory glowed in the neon light, the numerous inventions displayed throughout the huge room. Every contraption Lex Luthor had ever created had been uncovered and restored, ready for use.
Dr. Coro Wesley smiled with evil satisfaction. The endless months of work had paid off; Lex's creations were ready to go back to work. He slowly circled the room, admiring each electrical masterpiece. Lex had loved all things scientific, and Coro knew he was nothing short of a genius. A psychotic evil genius, but none the less, a genius.
Coro had worked secretly for Lex for years, idolizing the man's brilliance and determination — even if he was often determined to destroy lives. Coro believed this was only the result of the way people treated him — especially Lois Lane.
Lois Lane loved Lex for his power. He enchanted her, but she never truly loved or trusted him. She broke his heart, but his love never died. The pain Lois brought upon Lex had driven him to sabotage and murder, Coro thought angrily. Driven him to his death. And for that, Lois Lane would pay.
No, he wouldn't kill her. Murder was obvious, but it didn't suit the crime. Lex had suffered long and hard, and Coro intended to make Lois suffer too. Lex would help him, or at least his most incredible contraptions would. Coro knew Lex would want Lois and her brainless friends to suffer, and Coro had come up with the perfect plan.
Lost in thought, he strolled over to the largest of the devices. It was the only one that was currently in use, and it glowed from under the drape cloth that covered it. With a flourish, Coro removed the cloth.
Revealed was a huge tank, somewhat like a glass coffin stood upright. Bright lights gave it a blinding glare, but the object inside was as clear as day. The object stood five foot, six inches tall. It's arms dangled lifelessly at its sides, covered by a simple white dress. It's hair was brown and limp, barely touching the slender shoulders. The eyes were the most beautiful feature of all. Big and brown like the earth, staring blankly into space. Coro loved to stare into the glassy eyes while he planned his revenge on Lois.
The object was a body, identical to the real Lois Lane. Lex had created it weeks before his death. The clone was an exact replica of Lois, down to the fingerprints and DNA. Killed in the same avalanche that had killed Lex, the clone's body had surprisingly not been too badly damaged. The life preserving machine kept her looking beautiful, like a sleeping angel. She looked as fresh as a living woman … that was the joy of the life preservation machine.
By fluke, Coro had discovered the clone's body while digging for Lex's. Lex had been crushed and pretty much destroyed, and Coro had no use for it. But the clone … yes, he could have some fun with that.
Of course, the clone could not be brought back to life. But for the plan, she didn't have to. She just had to look like a fresh corpse … the fresh corpse of the real Lois Lane.
For the millionth time, Coro went over each step of his sinister plan in his demented mind. Kidnap the real Lois and hold her prisoner. Beat, strangle, and throw the clone's body in a river. When the body is discovered, the world will believe Lois Lane was brutally and painfully murdered. That will cause a burning pain in the lives of Lois's friends and her husband, Clark. Coro grinned as he pictured the highlight of the plan: Lois Lane would see it all from her "jail." Her obituary, her funeral, candid photos of her grieving friends, anything about her "death". This was the revenge Coro knew Lois deserved. After the attention on the murder died down, Coro would really kill Lois. That is, unless she died from a broken heart. How gleeful Coro would be to watch her slowly melt away to nothing!
Coro entered the small lead-lined room where Lois would spend the next few months. A big screen TV lined one wall, where Lois would be forced to watch news reports and her funeral. A simple chair with arm and leg restraints sat in the middle, bolted to the floor. It was all set … including the drugged rag that would keep her from vocalizing a cry for help.
It's almost time, he said to himself. The day was just around the corner …
Lois Lane and Clark Kent walked into the Daily Planet newsroom the next day, not knowing that their world was about to be shattered. It started out as a normal day… well, as normal as any day in the Media World.
"Lois! Clark!" Their chief, Perry White, called from his office. "I've got a theft that needs to be covered. Not too hard, they've got a suspect, hard evidence… they're just waiting for a confession."
Clark grinned. "They might have a long wait. We'll cover it, Chief." Lois looked skeptical.
"Is that the only thing that's going on?" She asked. Perry gave her a look of mock apology.
"Sorry. No crazy murderers on the loose. No one threatening to blow up Metropolis. No dead co-workers." He said the last sentence light heartedly, not knowing how wrong he was.
As Lois and Clark worked on the theft story, Coro was getting ready for action. He parked his tiny Sedan near a dark, deserted alley and created a discreet hiding spot.
Heading for a telephone, Coro pulled a scrap of paper out of his front pocket. He popped in a quarter and dialed Lois Lane's extension at the Daily Planet.
Lois answered her phone while she and Clark discussed the evidence against the robbery suspect. "Lois Lane," She answered nonchalantly.
The gruff voice startled her. "Ms. Lane, I think I have some information you might like."
Lois perked up. "What is it?"
"It involves a certain story…" As Coro spoke these words, he hoped she was working a mysterious story. It would make his offer more desired. "Meet me in the alley behind the old bank at noon if you want the scoop."
Lois spoke with suspicion in her voice. "Who is this?"
"Call me a friend who wants to give you some information you can't find anywhere else." Coro carefully hung up the phone and got a shiny object out of his car.
Lois was left holding the phone at the other end.
"Who was that?" Clark asked, noticing the queer look on his wife's face.
"I have no idea, but he says he has important information about a story I'm working on…" She stood up excitedly. "I bet it's about the robbery! I bet he knows something!"
"How would he know you're working on the story?" Clark asked, pondering how legitimate the call was.
"Oh, Clark. Sometimes you're as bad as me when it comes to believing people. Besides, if he has some information, who cares?" Lois checked her watch. "I have to meet him downtown at noon. I've got just enough time to-"
Clark interrupted her. "I thought we were going to have lunch together at that new little cafe." He sounded a little hurt, and Lois kissed him quickly.
"Meet me there at 12:30. This won't take long. Love you!" She said as she gathered her coat and headed toward the elevator. Little did Clark know, this may be the last time he saw his wife alive.
Coro lurked impatiently in the shadows behind the dumpster. The stench was making him sick, and he was beginning to think Lois wasn't coming. Just as he was about to come out in the open, he heard footsteps approaching.
He peeked out and saw Lois standing, looking lost. As he predicted, she was alone. He held his breath and waited. Just a few more seconds, he thought to himself.
Lois was getting anxious waiting for her informant. Sighing, she turned around and began to pace. Maybe it was all a hoax- just a stupid prank. She checked her watch, noting that the time was five minutes after twelve. If this guy didn't show up soon, she'd have to leave to meet Clark for their lunch date.
Coro paused until Lois's back was completely to him, then pounced at her. She immediately kicked her foot back in self defense, but Coro stood strong. Clutching his hand over her mouth, he aimed the gun at her forehead and held it against her skin.
Lois froze at the feeling of the cold metal against her skin. Her attacker was much stronger than her, and held her in a painful position. She silently scolded herself for acting on impulse- agreeing to meet someone she didn't know in a secluded spot.
Coro dragged the frightened Lois to his car, looking around to make sure no one saw him as he shoved her into the passenger seat. He was careful to make sure the gun never left her head.
"Don't even think about screaming for help, or you're going to have one heck of a hole in your head." He climbed across the passenger seat to the driver seat and gunned the engine.
Lois remained perfectly still, trying to think of a way to escape. With a gun pushed into her temple, she didn't dare scream or even speak. She was dying to question her kidnapper, but she had a feeling she would find out what was going on with time.
As the junky car drove down the lonely streets, Lois carefully reached her hand over toward the car handle. She gripped it, assuming the driver hadn't seen her. She silently counted to three and pushed the handle in.
Much to her dismay, the door didn't open. Her kidnapper let out an amused chuckle.
"Sorry, babes. I'm not stupid enough to leave the door unlocked."
For the first time, Lois got a good look at her attacker. He looked to be in his late forties, and was very neat and clean. He didn't look like he could pin a fly, but she knew first hand how strong he was.
As usual, she let her anger get in front of her fear and turned to face the man. "Who are you?" She whispered, almost afraid to raise her voice to a normal level. She regretted speaking as soon as the words exited her mouth, but the man didn't look at all upset.
"Oh, you don't know me? Well, Lois, I suppose we haven't really been formally introduced. The name is Dr. Coro Wesley. I worked with Lex Luthor for years."
As Lois heard the words, her heart sank. Everytime Lex Luthor was mentioned, something horrible happened to her. And if this man had Lex's technical skills, the possibilities of what would happen were endless. Memories of the time Lex had made a clone of her seeped into her mind. She had thought Lex was finally gone from her life. He was dead, his body smashed beneath a pile of boulders. She thought she would have a Lex- free life with Clark, and live happily ever after…
"What do you want with me?" Lois finally asked, although she really didn't want to know.
"If you're concerned about your health, fear not. I'm not going to kill you." Lois immediately felt relieved, although she couldn't imagine what he was going to do with her, and something told her it would be worse than death. Then again, why should she believe that he wouldn't kill her? If there was one thing she had learned in her life, it was never to trust a villain.
"I know you probably have a lot of questions. That can be expected, considering your profession and your position. But all your questions will be answered soon, and you will understand why I have to do what I'm going to do." he smiled morbidly, knowing someone as ignorant as Lois Lane would never understand.
The rest of the ride was silent. Coro drove down a two- tack dirt road, pulling off in front of a huge oak tree.
"Why are we stopping?" Lois asked, afraid what the answer would be. Was he going to kill her and leave her body in the woods? Was he going to strap her to a tree and let the bears eat her alive?
Coro grinned. "Keep your eyes open. You'll like this part." He pushed a red button beside the steering wheel, and to Lois's surprise, the ground started to sink. Coro explained. "It's like a huge elevator. It takes us thirty stories down, to my secret laboratory and your new home." Lois looked at him with such a look of hatred, the smug smile melted off his face.
"You are a sick man. Sicker than Lex himself." She sputtered out, hardly able to put her anger and fear into words. Coro didn't respond, but he seemed slightly angry. Lois knew it wasn't smart to anger someone who just kidnapped you, but then, that never stopped her before.
The ground seemed to fall forever, until it finally stopped and an entry opened to the left. Coro drove the car down a dark tunnel to a small parking lot. He turned off the engine and removed the gun from Lois's head. From his pocket he pulled a hypodermic needle filled with a clear liquid.
"I really hate to do this, but it'll make things a bit more pleasant. I can't have you breaking free and wandering around the lab, now can I?"
Lois's gaze was fixed on the large needle. Coro reached for her arm, but Lois jerked it back automatically. Coro's voice harshened.
"Now, look. You can either get it in the arm or whatever part of your body is closest." Lois crunched down like an injured puppy, and Coro shrugged. "Your choice."
With that, he inserted the needle through her coat and into the back of her shoulder. He watched her go limp, her head dropping against the dashboard. Coro smiled a small smile.
"Poor baby." He said sarcastically. He opened the door and carried Lois to the small room he had prepared. He carefully locked her arms and legs to the chair and wrapped the gag around her mouth.
"Sleep sweet, my pretty." He said as he closed and locked the door.
Clark checked his watch for the third time. It was almost one thirty, and Lois was nowhere to be found. Where could she be? He was sure she knew where the little cafe was. If she had forgotten…
Clark pulled out his cellular phone and tapped in the Daily Planet's number, Lois's extension. After six or seven rings, Jimmy picked up the phone.
"Hello, Lois Lane's desk." Clark heard his friend say.
"Jimmy, it's Clark. Is Lois there?"
Jimmy paused. "I thought she was having lunch with you."
Clark sighed. "She never showed up."
"She hasn't been here since she left to talk to that guy." Jimmy said.
"Tell her to call me if she comes back." Clark hung up grimly. He was beginning to get worried. What if the guy who called Lois wasn't an informant after all? What if he was some crazy murderer who was after Lois?
Clark shook his head. He had to stop playing "what if". Lois would show up. She probably got some exclusive with someone and was solving that theft. Just then, the waiter approached Clark's table and interrupted his thoughts.
"More coffee, sir?"
Clark looked down at the cold cup of coffee in front of him. "Nah. Can I get my check?"
Clark paid for the coffee and headed to his car. Getting in, he tried to remember if Lois had said where she was going to meet the caller. He should have asked her, he said to himself. But, knowing Lois, she would probably just say he was being overprotective of her.
Clark drove up and down the streets, not really expecting to find her. She was probably doing an interview. Then, knowing she was too late for lunch, she would head back for the office. Clark could just picture her making fun of him for being worried. But he had good reason — he couldn't help but think of all the times Lois had put herself in dangerous situations for a story.
Back in her prison, Lois groggily looked around. The room was dimly lit, and she lifted her arms to rub her eyes. Or, at least, she tried to lift her arms. She looked down to see that they were strapped to the arms of the chair. She felt the gag around her mouth and began to shudder in fear.
Coro entered through a huge door behind her. He stood in front of her, looking her in the eyes.
"Just a little while longer, Lois. Then you'll know." He said huskily. He paused, then started to leave. "I have a small errand to run — I just have to destroy your life. Be right back!" He said cheerfully. Lois's eyes widened and her unanswered questions haunted her. Whatever was going on, she knew she was getting the rotten end of it.
By nightfall, Lois still hadn't returned. Clark was really getting worried as he sat at his desk. As Perry got ready to leave, he stopped by Clark's desk.
"Didn't Lois get back yet?" Perry said, sounding concerned. Clark shook his head.
"I'm really getting worried." Clark said. He didn't know what to do. He had spent an hour that afternoon as Superman, flying around looking for her. She was nowhere to be found.
Clark felt helpless. He didn't know where his wife was, and even Superman couldn't locate her. Looking at the clock, he realized it was almost nine o'clock.
"Jimmy?" Clark called to Jimmy as he was about to leave.
"Jimmy, are you busy?" Clark asked. He knew it was unlikely that an attractive young man like Jimmy wouldn't have a date on Friday night.
"Actually, no." Jimmy said, sounding slightly embarrassed. "Brenda dumped me."
Clark was too worried about Lois to feel sorry for Jimmy. "I need you to help me find Lois. She's not back yet, I have no idea where she is, and I think she's in trouble."
Jimmy put on his coat. "Okay, but shouldn't we call the cops or something?"
Clark shook his head. "They won't do anything until she's been missing 24 hours." Clark swallowed hard, hoping she wouldn't be missing that long. "Come on. I've got flashlights in the car."
From his experience as Superman, Clark usually stayed calm during emergencies. But he could feel the fear rising in his chest. He knew Lois was in trouble — he could feel it. And he knew he had to trust his instinct.
Clark grabbed the flashlights out of his trunk and tossed one to Jimmy. Jimmy was worried about Lois, but he wasn't sure forming a two-man search party was the best solution. Still, he knew better than to say anything to his best friend. Clark seemed to sense that Lois was in trouble. Ironically, it sure wouldn't be the first time.
Clark and Jimmy spent the next four hours combing the streets. Jimmy's search soon became half-hearted, but he tagged along none the less. Clark continued to search every corner of the city, his eyes looking sadder every minute.
"Clark… I think we should turn in for the night. We're not going to find anything at one o'clock in the morning." Jimmy dared to say. He was exhausted, and the search was getting them nowhere.
Clark continued to walk with forceful steps. He knew in the back of his mind that Jimmy was right, but he couldn't give up. "Let's just check Maple Street and down by the beach." Jimmy relented, and they headed down the dark street that led to the Metropolis Public Beach.
As they reached the cold, deserted beach, Jimmy sat down in the sand. The battery in his flashlight was almost dead, and he felt ready to fall asleep. While Clark searched the boat house and the surrounding area, Jimmy walked toward the dock. Maybe a splash of cold water would wake him up, considering he had to walk ten blocks back to his car.
Jimmy was about five feet from the shoreline when he saw it. It was about a foot into the water, pressed face down into the mud.
It was a body.
Jimmy began to shake. He didn't have to touch the body to know who it was. He shone his flashlight on the gray coat, then on the short brown hair. Jimmy's knees collapsed underneath him, and he sank into the sand.
"Clark!" He managed to call. "Clark!" Clark came out of the boat house and headed toward Jimmy. He was too far away to see what Jimmy was looking at, but he could hear his sobs.
As Clark approached the shoreline, the world crashed down around him. A horrible moan escaped his mouth, so loud and inhuman it scared Jimmy more than anything. Clark sank down into the water beside the body, scooping her into her arms and cradling her like a baby.
Her once-beautiful eyes stared lifelessly up at Clark. She was a ghastly shade of white, and her lips were blue from the ice cold water. Mud filled her mouth and nose, and around her neck was a piece of binder twine, tightly shutting off her throat.
Lois was dead, strangled and thrown in the river. The realization hit Clark like a semi truck hitting a normal man. His whole world had just ended, he thought.
"No… please, no." Clark sobbed uncontrollably. He held Lois tightly, as if he could bring her back to life with his touch. His body heaved as he weeped, unable to gain control of himself.
Beside him, Jimmy couldn't take his eyes off Lois. Her brown hair was wet and muddy, and from the look on her face he knew she had died an incredibly painful death. It wasn't fair. Lois was a bright, funny, loving woman, and now she was dead.
Coro returned to his lab triumphantly. He had planted the body in plain sight of whoever happened to stroll along that beach next. Of course, the real Lois was fine, but no one had to know that. He knew that clone would come in handy sometime, and so far, his plan had gone without a hitch.
Stepping into check on Lois, Coro tried his hardest to wipe the smile off his face. After all, he was about to tell this woman that she was dead. Lois was staring into space, her cheeks streaked with tears.
"Lois, honey, you have no reason to cry." Coro said. Lois gave him an evil glare. Coro chuckled. "I suppose you deserve to be filled in." he cleared his throat and began the story. "Lois, I was very close to Lex. He taught me everything I know about technology and evil scheming. When he died, I inherited all of his contraptions." he paused. "Actually, I suppose you could say I stole them, considering I was the only living person who knew where they were. Anyway, Lex may have been a deceitful man, but he didn't deserve what you did to him." His voice raised a bit. "You shattered his heart. You pretended to love him, when all you cared about was his power and wealth. You were going to marry him, and you didn't even love or trust him! He lived his life for you. You were the one thing that brought a smile to a face and love to his eyes. And you slowly broke his heart. He suffered more than you'll ever know. In fact, you drove him to murder and theft. You did it to him!" Coro was almost yelling, as Lois stared at him through confused eyes. Coro calmed down a bit. "So it's time for you to suffer, Miss Lane. You and your family and friends. You'll find out what a real broken heart feels like. Do you remember the clone Lex created so that he could have you?" Lois nodded, remembering all too well. "Well, by accident I found the clone's dead body and preserved it using one of Lex's creations. I only know one way to say what I have to tell you, Lois." His eyes shined. "You are dead. Lois Lane is dead. Beaten, strangled, and thrown in the river. Tomorrow, the body will be found. The autopsy will prove it's Lois Lane, since the DNA and fingerprints match yours exactly. Lois Lane will be dead." Lois's eyes closed as the whole plot dawned on her. Coro's grin widened. "The clone's body looks as fresh as yesterday's bread. And, for added pleasure, I'm going to let you watch your funeral on TV, along with newscasts about your brutal murder. Oh, and I'm sure you'll be able to see how heartbroken your husband is. It's the most perfect revenge."
Lois's eyes moistened as she realized what would happen the next day. Her family, friends, and even Clark would believe she was dead. And she would have to watch every minute of their suffering.
It was the worst punishment, and Coro knew it.
Clark sat at the police station, crying silently. He and Jimmy had given the police their statements, but he didn't have anywhere to go. He couldn't go home to an empty house.
He couldn't wipe the memory out of his mind. The image of Lois's lifeless body, her blank eyes, the twine around her neck. His world was spinning out of control, and he couldn't do anything to stop it.
Clark felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, and looked up to see Perry standing beside him. Perry's face was worn and tired, and it was obvious that he had been crying.
"Clark…" Perry said. But he didn't have to say anything more. He sat down beside Clark and put his arm around the man who was like a son to him. Clark was shaking violently, unable to stop crying. It killed Perry to see Clark like this, knowing Clark and Jimmy had found the body.
Perry shivered as he remembered what Jimmy had said over the phone. Strangled, beaten, left face down in the mud like a piece of trash. How could anyone do this to another person? How could anyone do this to Lois? Sweet but sassy, smart but foolishly brave Lois?
Perry remembered how Lois often got herself into all sorts of scrapes for the sake of a story. She never gave up, and she never seemed to be afraid. It finally got her, though. She took off to talk to an informant, and…
"Clark, do you want to stay at my place?" Perry offered, knowing Clark wouldn't be able to go home. Clark nodded numbly. He wiped his eyes and allowed Perry to lead him away.
By that evening, every news program was running a story of the brutal murder of ace reporter Lois Lane. Coro taped each one and prepared to play them for his prisoner. He entered the small room where Lois sat, lost in thought.
Coro couldn't help but feel excited. The dirty work was finished, and the fun was about to begin. Lois Lane deserved this, and so did the friends and family members she loved so much. Lex would be pleased at Coro's brilliance, if Lois hadn't driven him to his death.
"Good news!" Coro exclaimed as he entered the room. "You're famous!" Lois gave him a questioning look. "All the news reports have covered your death. After all, it isn't everyday a young, beautiful, award-winning famous writer is murdered in Metropolis." With that, he pressed a button on the remote control and the screen clicked on.
Lois was appalled by Coro's obvious insanity. His crazy plan seemed as foolish as any scheme, but she knew it wouldn't take much to make it believable. She forced herself to watch the large TV screen as a news report came on.
A photo of Lois flashed across the screen as a newscaster spoke the most chilling words Lois ever heard. "A local Metropolis reporter was found dead this morning in Lake Esconic. Twenty-nine year old Lois Lane was found by her husband, Clark Kent, and co-worker, Jimmy Olsen." the screen switched to a picture of a grieving Clark. His face was tear streaked and looked tired. The shot was obviously candid, as it showed Perry escorting Clark to a car. The screen then skipped to a shot of the beach where "she" was found. "Lane was reportedly beaten, strangled, and left in the river. She was pronounced dead at the scene and a coroner's report is currently being produced. Lane was an award winning reporter and writer for the Daily Planet, and will be missed greatly but her family, friends, and admirers." The report ended.
Lois could barely breathe. Coro had really gone through with it, and he had succeeded. She was dead. Well, at least dead according to the rest of the world. Lois told herself not to cry — it would just satisfy Coro. He wanted her to suffer, and he was getting what he wanted. Lois couldn't keep the tears in, and they began to flow out.
She couldn't begin to imagine how Clark must have felt when he found that body. Broken, bloody, lifeless… if only he knew that it wasn't her!
Coro watched with contentment as Lois fell apart. The revenge was beginning, for this was just the start of the pain Lois would be forced to encounter over the next few weeks. And she deserved every ounce of heartbreak for what she did to Lex and probably several other men. The stuck up snob had to learn that you can't treat men like toys, and this was the only way to teach her. This was one lesson she would never forget. After watching helplessly as her friends and family mourned for her, Lois would realize what she had done to Lex. She had killed him, Coro believed, or at least killed the humanity in him. The love inside that man had caused him to do some wrong things, Coro admitted, but it was only because he was blinded by his passion for Lois.
Coro paused the tape, giving his captive a sinister look. As their gazes locked, Coro could feel the hurt and hatred that flared in her heart. "I know you must think I'm insane- a mad-dog killer possessed by an unknown evil. But, dollface, you deserve it." His eyes glazed over as he imagined her several weeks from know, dehydrated from crying so hard, her heart dying, her hope lost, her dreams shattered. It was a splendid ending to a glum story.
Lois stared in disbelief at the man who had done this to her. How could anyone be so cruel? She had done nothing to Lex. Lex was the one who had kidnapped her, cloned her, tried to kill her husband, tried to kill her friends, tried to kill her… how could this Coro creep be so misguided? So insane?
A picture of Clark crept into her mind, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. She was dead. She was clinically and legally dead, dead to the world, dead to Clark. And she was forced to watch as the world tried to heal itself, trying to set her memory aside. It was the worst torture anyone could go through, the most painful by far. And Coro knew it.
"Clark…" Lois said softly as she gazed into his eyes. Clark stroked his wife's face with his large hands, knowing he was the luckiest man on earth.
"Lois, you're the most incredible woman I've ever met, and I'll love you forever." Clark spoke the words with every gram of love in his heart. Lois smiled her gentle smile, and Clark returned it. "But Lois… you're dead." He couldn't help reminding her.
Lois smiled and shook her head. "No, Clark, I'm alive. I'm dreaming of you, wishing for you. You've got to help me."
Clark sat up from nightmare, sweating. It had been so real, he could have sworn Lois had really spoken to him. He got off the couch and walked to the kitchen for something to drink.
Perry was seated at the table, staring into a cup of tea, lost in thought. He looked up slowly as Clark entered.
Perry was a strong man, but a gentle man at heart. Losing Lois was like losing his only daughter. More painful than words could describe. Everything about her was perfect- her sparkling personality, her undying ambition, her sensitivity toward the ones she loved, her boldness and fearlessness…
Clark was also lost in thought, thinking similar things. The nightmare had scared him and pulled him within himself. His life was over. The one thing he loved more than anything in the world was gone, and could never be brought back. Lois was more than just another lady — she was everything Clark had ever dreamed of and more. Beautiful, charming, bold, sensitive, smart, funny, honest, genuine, serious about her profession, loving, considerate … but what good had that done her? Someone had stolen her life away painfully and carelessly, forgetting that Lois was a loving and loved woman.
Clark couldn't take it anymore. He had to get away. He had to leave all the memories behind.
"I have to get out of here." Clark said, not realizing he had spoken the words out loud. Perry gave him a startled yet understanding look.
"Son, I know you feel like you have to get away from all the memories and the pain. But no matter where you go, Lois will be with you. She'll be with all of us."
Clark squeezed his eyes, shut, trying to shut out the tears and the pain. He knew Perry was right, that he could never forget Lois. He didn't want to. He just wanted to get away from the pain. And there was nowhere he could go to escape the heartache.
"I just …" Clark began, trying to put how he felt into words. "I just want Lois back." He whispered, unable to speak clearly. "I want things back to normal."
Perry's eyes misted over. "So do I." It was all he could say, although it couldn't make Clark feel any better. Nothing could.
"I haven't called my parents." Clark muttered distractedly. He needed something to do that would take his mind off his beautiful wife, something more than sitting around crying.
Perry nodded slightly, and Clark stood up. Perry cleared his voice. "You can use the phone in my room," he managed to say. Clark mutely headed toward Perry's bedroom.
Sitting on the bed, he realized that he was about to make Lois's death official. It was all too real, too much to handle. He needed someone to lean on, and he needed the agony to end. More than anything, he needed Lois back.
Numbly, Clark dialed his parents' phone number. His mother answered with her sweet, loving voice. Clark could hardly talk.
"Mom," he croaked out. "Mom…" He couldn't go on. he couldn't tell his mother that Lois was dead. He couldn't say the words that were more painful than anything in the world. The most painful words he would ever have to speak.
His mother waited at the other end. "Yes?" Clark had to say something. He couldn't just sit there, leaving his mother hanging. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.
"Mom… Lois-" His voice broke as he said her name. The tears welled in his eyes, threatening to spill over. He just had to say three simple words. Three words that meant the end of life as he knew it, and the beginning of a lot of pain. Three words… he had to say them. "Lois is dead."
The floodgates open and Clark began to sob. He couldn't believe what he had just said, even though it was true. His mother was silent.
Martha knew from the sound in Clark's voice and the pain in his sobs that this was no joke. Whatever had happened, she needed to be with her son.
"Clark?" Martha said. But her son was crying like a little boy who had lost his dog — sad, hopeless, broken hearted. Martha heard the dull click as Clark hung up the phone.
Much against Perry's wishes, Clark returned to work the next day. Like Lois would have done, Clark automatically buried himself in his work. A newspaper couldn't run without writers, and Clark couldn't let the Daily Planet die. A piece of Lois was with the newspaper, and always would be.
Clark sat down in Lois's chair, slowly looking over the assorted items that lay on her desk where she had left them two days ago. A framed photograph of herself and Clark on a picnic at the park, looking happy and in love. Several pens and pads of paper, all personalized. A stack of diskettes filled with Lois's news stories and private stories.
On impulse, Clark took one of the unmarked disks and slid it into the computer. A message appeared on the screen asking for the Private Password, and Clark immediately typed in the typical response- "Superman". It was, of course, correct.
Clark searched through Lois's files. Old news stories from days long forgotten, short novels Lois had written during her times of despair… Clark wasn't looking for anything in particular. Reading Lois's stories made him feel closer to her somehow.
He remembered the countless times Lois had sat in this very desk, typing the story she "just knew would win the Pulitzer." That was another dream lost. He thought about the times Lois had stared into the screen, trying to hide from her feelings by burying herself in her job. Now, that wouldn't be the only thing buried.
Clark stood up and walked into the conference room, where he and Lois had spent so much time discussing private matters and fighting. Yes, Lois was stubborn, but she was usually right. Clark looked up at the wall that displayed all the awards he and Lois had won. Metropolis Story of the Year, Writers of the Decade… he then switched his gaze to the newest addition.
A poster sized, framed portrait of Lois hung over the doorway. Lois's shining smile stretched across her face, and her lively brown hair bounced at her shoulders. Above the portrait was a caption printed in gold lettering — We Love You, Lois. Below that was the date of her birth and the date of her death. Reading the words for the first time, Clark's heart burned with mourning for Lois, hatred for her killer, and love for the memories they had shared.
Jimmy cautiously entered the room, his face tear streaked. "CK?" He asked tentatively. Clark looked at the young man, knowing he, too, was hurting. Jimmy stepped foreword, and the two men silently hugged each other. They needed each other's support, and they needed each other.
"Um…" Jimmy said, backing up. "Someone's here to see you. A detective." Jimmy lowered his eyes, not wanting to see any more of the pain in Clark's eyes. Clark wiped his face on his sleeve and walked out to the main newsroom.
Standing beside Clark's desk was an older man, dressed in an expensive looking suit. the man extended his hand, and Clark politely shook it.
"Mr. Kent, My name is Detective Rollins. I'll be handling your wife's case." The detective motioned for Clark to sit down, and he did. He couldn't bear to listen, but knew he had to.
The detective continued. "I understand you and…" he referred to one of the papers in his hands. "…James Olsen discovered the-" He stopped as he noticed Clark's tears. "I'm very sorry, Mr. Kent. I know how you feel."
Clark looked up at the gentle man, resentment in his eyes. "No you don't. My wife was beaten, strangled, and thrown into the lake. I found her lying face down in the mud, left like a rag doll. How could you possibly know how I feel?" Clark wrenched with sobs as he unleashed quite a bit of the emotion he had been holding inside. Detective Rollins put his hand on Clark's shoulder.
"Mr. Kent, with your help, I will find Lois's killer and bring them to justice. I've been a professional homicide detective for ten years, and I've solved a lot more cases than I haven't. I've seen countless families suffer the loss of a husband or wife or child, and to be honest, it really hurts. Everytime I hear about a murder, a little piece of my heart goes out to the families. I spend every second of the day racking my brain, trying to solve the case. And I promise I will do everything in my power to find your wife's murderer and bring them to the justice they so deserve. You have to look at me as more than a cop. You have to think of me as a friend, and you have to trust me."
Clark once again wiped his eyes. "Thank you." He said, looking at the detective's concerned face. "Thank you."
Lois sat in horror watching the television. Coro was proving true on his threats- he had continued to show her the same newsreports over and over and over again, to the point that she was near a maddened state. She had long ago stopped crying, and began to recall and savor each and every memory she had of Clark and her other friends.
She thought about the time she had been convicted of murder and sentenced to death. It seemed almost funny that the police could hunt down and convict an innocent person, but could let a real murderer run free. Clark had proved her innocence during that ordeal, but nothing could save her now. No one would be looking for her, because everyone thought she was found. It was a horrible feeling she had to face minute after minute, hour after hour.
As the third day being locked away approached, Lois knew she had to come up with a way to get a hold of Clark. Her gag was tightly bound and contained a drug that made her throat itch- and numbed her vocal chords. Screaming for help was out of the question, anyway, because Coro would catch her and kill her for real. Not that she expected him to let her live after a few weeks of torture, but she planned to prolong her true death as long as possible.
Her arms and legs were tightly bound to the chair by electric-chair style grips, and her muscles ached from being in one position for so long. Even when Coro escorted her to the tiny, windowless bathroom, her arms were still bound together and her ankles were loosely tied as well. Lois leaned foreword, arching her back, trying to ease some of the muscle tension.
At least Coro wasn't starving her, although she couldn't exactly say he was feeding her. Twice a day, he removed the gag and fed his prisoner bread and butter, milk, and a piece of fruit. The pains of hunger stabbed her stomach, begging for real food.
As Coro entered the room, Lois cringed. She hoped he wasn't coming to taunt her; it was simply too much for her to handle.
"How are you doing? Are you enjoying the television?" He teased sarcastically. She shifted in the chair, showing her discomfort. Coro mocked pity. "Aw, whatsa matter? Getting tired? Well, let's change the channel. I'm sure you'd love to know how your husband is handling this whole ordeal." He clicked a button on the remote. "Lex's little hidden cameras sure do come in handy when you want to spy on someone."
On the screen, Lois saw the Daily Planet newsroom. As normal, everyone was busy writing and working. She caught a glimpse of Jimmy carrying a stack of papers. Bags heaved under his eyes, and he was obviously distressed. Perry then walked across the screen, a look of anger and sorrow on his face. He, too, looked liked he hadn't slept in a while.
Finally, the camera reached Clark. Lois gasped under her gag at what she saw. His normally handsome, strong face was weary and tired. His eyes were dull and bloodshot, and tears streaked his cheeks. He was sitting forelonely at Lois's desk, staring into the framed photo of the two of them that sat beside her computer. He was silently sobbing, his shoulders shuddering slightly. He was the picture of turmoil and defeat, looking like a man whose world was just destroyed.
Then Lois remembered that it had.
Involuntarily, Lois began to cry. Not the lonely tears that she had been crying as she watched the news reports, but a hearty cry of despair and pain. With all of her heart, she wanted to be with Clark. To hold him, love him, stroke his hair… she needed to tell him what really happened. He was suffering, and there was nothing she could do.
Although the video was supposed to make Lois lose all hope, it gave her a spark of inspiration. She would free herself and find her way back to Clark's arms. She would get her life back. She would break free.
Sighing, she let part of the hope die. She was a prisoner, both literally and figuratively. She literally was being held captive, being emotionally tortured and physically strained. She was figuratively being held prisoner by her passionate emotions, as she couldn't think clearly enough to consider an escape plan due to the pain and longing and hatred and love that swarmed through her mind and her heart.
Coro quietly left the room, satisfied beyond belief at how perfectly his plan was working. Everything was going according to plan. Happily for Lois, after the funeral, she would be put out of her misery.
Clark sat on Perry's couch, staring forelonely at the picture of Lois he had carried in his wallet since they became engaged. Today was the day he had been dreading since he accepted Lois's death- the funeral.
Clark almost regretted refusing to take part in planning it. Almost. But he couldn't bare the thought of putting Lois into the ground. Lois's parents and Clark's parents had taken care of all the arrangements. All Clark planned to do was show up and say a few words- if he could handle it. He didn't know how he would make it. He hadn't even been back to the apartment since the day Lois disappeared. And now, six days later, he was going to bury his wife. It seemed unreal, like a nightmare that wouldn't end.
Perry came in the front door carrying two garment bags. "Clark… Clark, I know this is going to be really hard on you. It'll be hard on all of us." Perry handed Clark one of the garment bags. "I got you a tux… I know dressing up seems inappropriate, but… well…" He was at a loss for words. Clark silently took the bag and headed to the spare bedroom.
The funeral was held at the local parlor, and even though the ceremony was supposed to be private, the room was packed. Among the mourners was Coro, a camera hidden in his bow tie.
Clark entered the stuffy funeral parlor supported by Perry. It was the hardest thing he ever had to do. As he slowly walked toward the front of the room, his heart filled with emotions of heartache, pain, hatred toward whoever did this, and love that he knew would never die. But the incredible anguish of grief and loss overpowered all else. His beautiful wife loved all and was loved by all. How could it be her lying in the casket, surrounded by millions of flowers?
As Clark approached the casket, nausea washed over him. He looked down at Lois's once beautiful face, now pale and bony. She had been cleaned up, and pasty makeup had been applied. Clark looked past the thick makeup and imagined Lois's smiling face. He imagined her laughing and joking around with him at work, teasing him for being so over protective of her. He imagined her sitting at her desk, typing for hours on end, determined to get that Pulitzer.
Clark felt his knees go weak, and Perry helped him to a chair. "Please… no." He said as the tears began to roll down his face. It was all too real, but it couldn't be… he couldn't be a widower, Lois couldn't be dead. They were supposed to grow old together, raise a family together… and now she was gone.
Unknown to Clark, Lois watched his grieving in her prison. Coro had set up a live broadcasting system, so that Lois could "truly be there." Tears streaked her tired face as she saw the look on her husband's face. He had been through so much… so much grief, so much pain…
As the ceremony began, Lois got her first glimpse of her "body." The face, identical to her own, was pale and chalky. Her hair lay limp around the silk pillow, and her thin lips were tinted an odd shade of blue-gray. Watching one's own funeral was horrible, but seeing her dead body was even worse. She listened to her mother cry as she said her good-byes.
"Lois was… Lois was an incredible woman. She was the best daughter a mother could ask for. I just… I just wish I had raised her better. She didn't have… the best childhood, and it was my fault."
Lois stared stricken at her mother. It wasn't true, she tried to tell her mother through her mind. Her mother was wonderful, she just made some wrong choices.
One by one, Lois's family members and friends stepped up to say kind words about Lois. Lois couldn't listen — it was too agonizing. But as Clark rose to his feet, he had every bit of her attention.
Clark took a deep breath and looked at Lois's "body". "Lois was my world, my one and only love. She was more than my wife and partner, she was my best friend. Lois was smart, energetic, cunning, beautiful, funny, spunky, and fearless. She was everything a man could ever dream of and more. She loved her family, her friends, and the Daily Planet. She would do anything for a story. She loved the world, everything in it. Lois and I were as close as two people could get. She knew everything about me, as I did about her. And I know it is true when I say that Lois is watching all of us today, as we say goodbye to a wonderful, one of a kind woman." Clark shakily headed back to his seat.
Lois almost laughed through her tears. She was watching over them all right, but not from heaven. Hearing how much everyone loved her sent her a wave of determination to free herself.
She jerked on her wrists, but they were held tight. The locks required a key to open, Lois remembered as she felt the keyhole with her left hand. Coro kept the keys with him at all times, but any lock could be picked if you had a small object… like an earring…
As the funeral ceremony drew to a close and the people began to file out, Clark debated what he was going to do next. He couldn't stay with Perry, but he couldn't go back to the empty home filled with Lois's memory and presence. He felt trapped, having no idea which direction to go.
He sighed and stood up, unsure of what he was doing. He felt drawn to the casket, and he knelt beside his beautiful bride. She looked beautiful, even in death.
"Lois…" he began, not feeling the least bit silly about talking to a corpse. "I… I don't know what to say… you meant the world to me, and you're gone…" He gently stroked her hair. "Please… tell me you died quickly… they said you were beaten… strangled… You know I loved you, and I always will… I'll never forget you… you'll be on my mind every second of the day for the rest of my life… and I promise I'll find whoever did this to you, and they'll pay… I have to go now, Lois… I just want you to know… I will always love you, and I'll never, ever forget you."
In the back of the room, Martha and Jonathan Kent watched their son say good-bye to his one true love. The sight broke their hearts, but it was better that he get his feelings out rather than keep them bottled up inside.
Clark turned around, spotting his parents. Looking slightly embarrassed, he wiped his eyes and headed toward them.
"I… I have to go to work." He proclaimed hastily. Martha shook her head.
"Work? Clark, I don't think Perry expects you at the Planet today."
Clark hugged his mother. "I have no where else to go. My job is the only thing I have left." He said, his voice weighed with depression. Jonathan patted his son on the shoulder.
"Wrong, my boy. You always have us." Clark smiled at his father's loving words, and hugged him tightly.
"I still want to… I mean, go down and pack up… Lois's stuff, it's still there and… well, I guess I ought to be the one to… take care of it." He pushed past his parents and jogged out into the gray, drizzly weather. The skies matched his mood- gray and distressed. Nothing could bring sunshine back to his life. Lois was his sun; without her, he was in the dark, all alone.
Clark jogged down the streets toward the Daily Planet. The world seemed less meaningful without Lois. The flowers didn't seem as colorful, the nights seemed a lot longer and a lot darker. He was destined to a lonely life, as gray as the sky, as meaningless as the dull flowers.
The newsroom was almost empty, with the exception of a few stray writers. Most everyone had been at Lois's funeral, and had taken the rest of the day off. As Clark stepped out of the elevator, he could almost picture Lois walking beside him as she had done so countless times before. He could almost hear her chattering about a big story or complaining about lousy informants. He could almost imagine that she was there with him. Almost.
He walked gingerly toward Lois's desk, still as it had been since the sinister day Lois was killed. With a sigh, Clark began opening the drawers and piling papers into a cardboard box.
He stopped to read each one. Most were old notes from interviews she had performed ages ago, and even the sight of her neat handwriting made his heart ache. Clark reached to pull open the very bottom drawer, but surprisingly enough, found it locked. Without hesitation, he used his heat vision to break the lock. He stopped to realize that this was the first time he had used his super powers since Lois's disappearance.
In the drawer were piles of folder paper. Curious, Clark lifted one up and read it. A smile played on his lips as he recognized it — an old love letter he had sent Lois during their engagement. He went on to discover that the whole drawer was filled with love notes, including some that she had written and never sent.
One particular letter Lois had written caught Clark's attention more than the others. It was dated two years ago, before Lois had found out Clark's "big secret". Clark unknowingly read it out loud.
"Dear Clark, I just wanted you to know that last night was absolutely wonderful. Everything was perfect, dinner was wonderful, and I can't wait till our next date. Clark, you're the man I never thought I'd meet. You're my own personal Superman — strong and compassionate, sincere and funny… I've never met anyone like you. Love always, Lois."
The note was short and simple, written on a scrap of pink paper. It sparked tears in Clark's eyes, but he held them back. The time for crying was not now. He had to be strong… at least until he got Lois's desk cleared and could find a private place to let loose all the tears he had been holding in.
While Clark struggled to keep the tears in, Lois struggled to set herself free. She knew she didn't have much time before Coro returned, and she had to get out.
She was almost there… she had spent the last forty five minutes trying desperately to pick the tricky lock with her fish hook earring, and after poking and prodding, the lock finally clicked and her left hand was free.
With that free hand, she quickly picked the lock on the other hand. Thefeet restraints broke easily with the might of both her hands. Or, perhaps, she was stronger because of her desire to be set free.
By the time she had freed herself, almost an hour and a half had passed since her funeral. Hoping Coro wasn't in his laboratory, she pushed open the leaddoor he had left unlatched and entered the unknown territory of the Laboratory.
What she saw amazed and scared her. Every single one of Lex's creations stood before her, like a mad scientist's museum. Everything from the Life Preserver to the Clone Machine to the Alternate Universe Escape Machine was there, along with chemicals and charts and a full display of hidden cameras.
Coro was insane. He truly was.
Wandering through the huge lab, Lois searched for a telephone. Every scientist had to have an office, right? And in every office there had to be a phone. But as far as she could see, the room had no exits and no doorways whatsoever, with the exception of the door to her small cell.
From behind her, Lois heard a door opening. She dropped to the floor and crouched behind a huge machine, holding her breath.
Coro walked through the lab, whistling. He pulled a tiny camera out of his tie and set it on the table next to the others. He then proceeded to what appeared to be a blank wall and pushed. To Lois's amazement, the wall moved and a doorway appeared. A doorway to his office, Lois guessed. Lois pushed herself against the wall, praying he wouldn't see her. Moments later, Coro exited his office and walked right past Lois toward the doorway to her cell.
The second he entered the cell room, Lois bolted toward the office doorand slipped in as it closed. She let out a sigh of relief and looked around.
The entire back wall was made of file cabinets, and papers stacked the tiny desk. Lois searched frantically for a phone, finally discovering one under a stack of file folders on his desk. Finger shaking, she dialed the Daily Planet's number, figuring someone had to be there.
Miraculously, Clark answered the phone. Hearing his voice, Lois almost forgot about the predicament she was in.
"Clark!" She exclaimed softly, never so glad to speak that name. All the anguish she had felt, all the emotional torture she had gone through sped out of her mind. All she could concentrate on was the sound of Clark's voice.
"Lois?" Clark said, sounding astonished and disbelieving.
"Clark, I have to hurry. I'm alive! The body they found was a clone and I'm underground in some kind of prison!" She whispered as fast as she could.
Clark didn't know if he was imagining this or not, but at that point he didn't care. "Who has you?" He asked urgently, his anxiety rising.
His wife's voice sounded urgent and frightened. "His name is— AAAUUUGGGGHHH!" An ear piercing scream shot through to Clark's ear asthe line went dead. Clark pounded on the phone, angry and overjoyed at the same time! Lois was alive!
He calmed himself down and tried to think logically. How could it be? Lois had said the body they found was a clone, but the autopsy showed it to be Lois, right down to the DNA. Whatever the reason, Clark was suddenly filled with hope and determination to find his wife.
At that moment, Perry stepped off the elevator. Martha and Jonathan Kent had requested that he try to talk some sense into their son and get him to go home. Perry entered the almost-empty newsroom expecting to see Clark slumped over Lois's desk as he had been for the past couple days. Instead, Clark bounced up to him with all the energy of a man who had just won the lottery.
"Perry! Lois is alive!" Clark exclaimed. There was a look of happiness and surprise in his eyes that Perry mistook as insanity. He sadly placed his hand on Clark's shoulder.
"Now, son, I know you loved Lois, and you'll keep her memory alive.But Lois is-"
Clark cut him off. "No, no, no! Don't you see? Lois was never dead! Lois is alive! She called me! Perry, she called me, but we got cut off. I think she's in trouble. But she's alive!" Clark ran from the room, bursting with happiness and excitement. Perry shook his head, dejected. Clark had lost it. The stress and the pain was too much for him to handle, and he was beginning to imagine things.
Clark had lived a sheltered life; he never really experienced extensive trauma. This was a shock to his mind and body, and he had to learn to deal with it day by day. Perry sighed and finished packing up the papers Clark had left stacked on Lois's desk. His eyes filled with tears as he thought about hiring a new reporter. No one could ever replace Lois, not in the newsroom and not in Clark's heart. The unfairness of it was overwhelming.
Meanwhile, Clark ran happily down the street, unable to decipher what had just happened. It was impossible, he knew. Lois couldn't be alive- he was just at her funeral. But Clark trusted his instinct, and his instinct was telling him the phone call was not a hoax or his imagination. He just had to prove it — prove it to the others and to himself. Part of his mind didn't really believe the phonecall had taken place, but the other half did. As the war in his mind battled between what had really happened at what hadn't, Clark found himself at the hotel his parents were staying in. He knocked on the door, and a worn and tired Jonathan reluctantly answered the door.
"Clark!" Jonathan said, surprised to see a big smile on his son'sface. It had only been two and a half hours since he had cried beside Lois's casket, ensuring a lifetime of sadness.
"Dad, Lois is alive!" Clark exclaimed, unable to contain his excitement. Martha strode over briskly.
"Clark, do you know what you're saying?" She helped Clark to the couch to sit down, but he shook her off and paced the room.
"Mom, I know it sounds crazy. I even think it sounds crazy. But Lois called me! She said something about the body being a clone of her, that she's really alive! I think she's being held hostage. Or maybe-"
Jonathan interrupted his son's babbling. "Clark, your mother and I know how hard this has been. And the hurt isn't going to go away for a long, long time. But you'll get on with your life. Pretending Lois is alive isn't going tomake her come back. Nothing will. Lois is dead." Clark opened his mouth to protest, but thought better of it.
"I don't know if the call was real or not." He finally admitted. His emotions were swirling around him, drowning him. Feelings of desperate hope that Lois was alive, the depression of knowing she couldn't be. The world was spinning around him at an incredible speed, with all of his thoughts raging in a whirl wind. For the first time, he honestly questioned his own sanity.
Martha spoke softly. "The call was real to you, Clark. Whether or notit really happened, you felt it was real. Your father and I have been discussing this, and… well, we think it might be best if you saw a psychiatrist."
The feelings of doubt flew out of his mind. "No." he said forcefully. "I don't need to see a shrink." He took a deep breath and let his heart talk. "I know Lois is alive. I can feel it."
Jonathan's eyes saddened. "My boy, I really wish you would considerso counseling. Just to help you handle your emotions and begin to get on with your life."
Clark shook his head. "I will get on with my life. Just as soon as I bring Lois back home." With that, he stormed out of the room, filled with purpose. Martha looked at her husband and fell into his arms.
"Poor Clark." She said tearfully. Everything had built up around him, and he was lost. As a mother, she wanted to help him more than anything, and there was no way to reach him. He was on the brink of derangement, spiraling out of control. What could they do?
Lois felt a cold hand tightly wrap around her neck, squeezing a scream out of her. She let the phone drop to the floor, and Coro hastily hung it up. He snarled at her and held her in a tight hold, paralyzing her movement.
"Didn't I tell you to stay put?" He growled into her ear. He jerked her around so that she was facing him. "Huh?" He asked again, louder and more roughly. Lois, trying to pry his hands off her neck, nodded as best she could.
"Yes…" she squeaked out. Coro's grip tightened.
"You know what I do with little girls who don't mind, now don't you?" He asked evilly. Lois shook her head, not wanting to know.
"You'll find out." He pushed her toward a glowing tank and jerked open the door. "Get in."
Clark headed to the Daily Planet once again, trying to analyze the situation. There was only one way to find out if Lois was alive- if she really had called him, or if it had been his imagination.
In the Daily Planet's main computer system, every incoming phone call was traced. Clark didn't know why he hadn't thought of this before! All he had to do was get into the main circuit, check all the calls the Planet had received in the last hour, and start checking them out.
The main computer was located on the top floor, protected by several passwords. Passwords were no problem — he could go through every word in the English language in about two minutes. The problem was getting up to the computer.
Looking inconspicuous, Clark rode the elevator to the top floor, the Publisher's floor. Sticking his head out, he was relieved to see that the room was almost empty, with the exception of two or three people typing and designing a layout.
Clark silently made his way to the leading computer, which was conveniently located near the elevator. He eased into the chair and clicked on the "Incoming Call Identification" option, and began trying passwords. Moments later,a list of phone calls flashed onto the screen, listing phone calls from as long as two weeks ago.
Not knowing the exact time of the call, Clark scrolled through the day's listings, estimating that the call had come in between 3:00 and 5:00. That is, if the call had actually taken place. Clark was beginning to doubt himself, but he couldn't turn back.
Several calls had come in during that time period, and Clark proceeded to write each number down. Slipping the piece of paper into his coat pocket, he returned to the main menu and headed downstairs.
Reaching the newsroom, Clark was pleased to see Jimmy getting ready to leave. "Jimmy!" Clark said, hurrying over to him.
Jimmy stared at the ground as his friend approached. Perry had told himabout Clark's insane outburst earlier that afternoon, babbling that Lois had called him. It was hard enough losing Lois and watching Clark mourn — watching Clark slowly lose his sanity would be even harder.
"Jimmy, I know you're Lois's assistant-"
Jimmy looked up. "Was her assistant." he corrected Clark.
"I need you to look up these numbers, find out where they were dialed from. Get a list for me as soon as possible. It's life or death!" He handed Jimmy the slip of paper, with six numbers hastily scribbled on it.
"CK, Perry told me that-" Jimmy began.
Clark gave him a stern look. "No time for talk. Just find the source of each call." Clark headed toward his desk, leaving Jimmy standing, helpless. If he looked up the numbers for Clark, he would be encouraging this maniacal behavior. But then, who was he to mess with a crazy man? Jimmy shrugged and headed off to do what Clark had asked.
Lois slammed against the hard glass tank as Coro slammed her into it, her arms flying up to protect herself. She spun around and faced the deranged man as he held the door open a crack.
He smirked. "I call this my "Superman-proof" tank. It's soundproof, even to his Superhearing, and it's lined with a layer of a newly found Kryptonite, Krypto2. Krypto2 is an electricity-run, invisible, gas form of Kryptonite, than can be mixed into an product and is twice as deadly as green Kryptonite. SuperDweeb won't even know what's going on, if he comes, as it has a ten square foot radius. Scream all you want, he won't hear you." He started to close the door, then opened it again. "In case you are wondering, I'm only keeping you here until I can think of a painful way to kill you." With that, he closed and locked the door.
Jimmy returned to Clark's desk half and hour later, carrying the list he had compiled. Clark was sitting, staring into space, obviously deep in thought.
"Yo, CK, wake up. I got that list you wanted." He spoke with a hintof sadness in his voice, not knowing what Clark was up to, but knowing it wasn't healthy nor productive. Clark eagerly took the list and thanked Jimmy.
Clark anxiously read the list. Two calls from the police department, one call from a rival newspaper, one call from the bank, one call from another reporter's cellular phone, one call from a place named as "Wesley, Incorporated."
Clark read the last listing twice. The name sounded oddly familiar … he just couldn't remember where he had heard it.
He faced his computer and logged on to the Business Directory Browser. Not finding any "Wesley, Inc.," he searched under the Out-Of-Business Directory.
"Bingo." Clark muttered as he located it near the bottom of the list. "Wesley, Inc. … medical/technical laboratory… shut down by the Better Business Bureau last year for illegal practice… owned and operated by Coro James Wesley."
Coro Wesley! Now Clark remembered where he had heard of the company! Coro Wesley was Lex's apprentice and follower for years, and although he never was to blamed for Lex's deeds, he was almost always involved in some way or another. After what Lex must have said about Lois and Clark, it would be no wonderthat he preyed for revenge!
But what exactly had his plan been? What had happened? There was only one way to find out and, hopefully, find Lois. He would have to pay Coro a friendly' visit.
Lois slouched to the floor of the tank, unable to see through the foggy glass. Clark would find a way to save her… right? He had never failed before, but then, she had never been clinically dead before either.
But there was hope. He knew she was alive- she had called him. But whatif he had been so depressed that he thought it was a crazy prank his mind was pulling on him? What if he never even looked for her, knowing she had to be dead?
Lois tried to clear her head. She had to stop playing "what if" with herself and start concentrating on … what was left to think about? If her Super husband didn't save her soon, she would be toast. She savored each second of her life, each birthday party as a child, each school dance as a teenager, each life-and-death situation as a young woman, and every doggone moment she spent with Clark.
The chamber tank was about three feet wide and two feet long, and about six feet tall. A buzz rang in her ears, but the rest of the world was silent. She lowered her head into her arms and stared into the opaque walls, wishing for Clark's x-ray vision so she could keep her eye on Coro. Then again, why waste her wish on that when she could wish to breathe real air again and be back to her normal life?
"Clark, where are you?" She mumbled. "Well, wherever you are … I love you." She spoke the words as if they were her last, knowing very well they just might be.
Superman flew over the city, searching for the last- known location of Wesley, Incorporated. The address he had found back at the Planet led him to an open forest near a lonely two-track dirt road.
As Clark walked along the dirt road, he felt Lois's presence. His heart always raced a little bit when she was around, and he felt warm all over. This sensation swept over him now, and he knew he was in the right place.
Examining the ground via SuperVision, Clark hunted for any clues to hiswife's whereabouts. The search concluded with the discovery of nothing more than cigarette butts and dead animals. Feeling frustrated, he leaned against a large tree and rubbed his tired eyes.
Because of Clark's superpowers, he had always been surrounded by a field of magnetism that often caused certain forms of remote-controlled electrical mechanisms to go haywire. As he stood directly between the secret elevator and the remote control located thirty stories into the ground, an electrical current passed through him and the elevator began to sink. Clark watched in amazement as the chunk lowered into the earth, and he hastily jumped onto the platform. Luck was with him that day, and he knew it.
Clark waited impatiently while the ground fell. When it finally halted,Clark cautiously proceeded down the long, dark tunnel.
Water dripped around him, echoing eerily through the tunnel. At last, he saw a light at the end of the tunnel. Realizing how cliched that sounded, Clark couldn't help but grin. And why shouldn't he grin? His dead wife was alive!
Still in his blue tights and cape, Clark found the end of the twisting tunnel and was greeted by the glowing gleam of what seemed to be huge fish tanks. He recognized them immediately as Lex Luthor's inventions. Lex had a way of making all of his inventions look virtually identical, causing great difficulty for anyone but himself to operate them.
He explored the room, nearly forgetting his purpose. Chemicals sat out on lab tables, and a blinding light glared from one of the glass tanks.
Clark looked twice at the brightly lit tank, noticing a very faint silhouette inside. Could it be Lois? He strode toward the cubical, but a voice from behind stopped him.
"Well if it isn't Miss Lane's hero himself." The elderly man commented. Clark vaguely recognized him from his experiences with Lex Luthor. He gripped him by the collar and lifted him into the air.
"What have you done with Lois?" Clark said in his typical, strong, untouched Superman voice. Coro pretended he didn't know what the Superhero was talking about.
"Why, Superman, I do believe she passed away." He said, faking innocence. Clark smiled through his anger.
"I don't believe, Dr. Wesley. You don't have me fooled." He didn't mention that for six days, he had painfully mourned the "death" of Lois, completely unaware of the sinister scheme. Coro hid a smile and pretended to be offended.
"Search my lab all you want. If you think I murdered Miss Lane … well, you're SuperCrazy!" Clark let Coro go and proceeded toward the glowing tank. He was hardly ten feet from it when a horrible headache pounced on him.
He held his head in his hands, letting out a cry of pain. The pain was similar to what he felt when directly exposed to Kryptonite, but he didn't see any around. He stepped back, confused and pained. Setting his shoulders forward, Clark dived toward the tank. Searing pain shot through his body, as if he had been struck by lightning. The pain was excruciating, like he was being burned alive. He struck the tank with all his might, howling inhumanely. The glass shattered and floated to the ground like snow.
Coro stood back, watching the event unfold before his eyes. A nag of guilt nipped at him as he remembered something his mother had once said.
"Son, whatever you do, whenever you do it, ask yourself why. What is your purpose? What do you get out of it? And is what you're doing productive and helping the rest of society?" Coro considered the question asked by hislate mother.
Laughing, he shrugged. "It's good TV. Fun for the whole family!" He shrieked with delight. His mother always was the sweet, naive, stupid type.
As Clark collapsed the ground in the most physical pain he had ever been in, Lois ducked down to protect herself from the shattering glass. Unsure of what was going on, she threw herself out of the tank's frame and found herself beside Clark.
Her hero, her husband, lay on the ground, wincing. He was near the point of unconsciousness as Lois realized what had happened. She took his hand andtried to pull him to a sitting position.
"Come on… sit up…you can do it…" she said encouragingly. Herfear subsided as the shock of happiness cleansed her. She thought she would never see him again… that would teach her to give up on Superman.
Clark thought he heard Lois's voice, but he couldn't be sure. He tried to open his eyes, but an unseen force held them shut. His whole body was shutting down, like someone had pulled the plug. Nothing would function. He regretfully realized that whatever was attacking him was stronger than him, stronger than Kryptonite. Accepting that he was at the door to death, he forced his eyes open and took in what he saw.
Lois's brown eyes stared into his, pleading with him. What was she asking? What was she telling him? She was trying to get him to stand up, to go somewhere. Where? Where, Lois? His brain wouldn't listen- the hearing center was shut down. All he could hear was a resounding buzz, deafening him, making his horrible headache worse.
He begged for answers, to know what had happened and what was happening. He was dying; that was the only thing he understood. The pain was over bearing, and he felt himself go limp.
Lois squeezed Clark's hand, begging him to stay strong. As his head dropped back and his trembling hand ceased movement, she knew she had very little to no time left.
With incredible strength, driven by love, she pulled Clark as far away from the source of the Krypto2 as she could. He had to be at least ten feet away from it to even have a chance.
"Clark?" She whispered pleadingly into his ear. Why wasn't he regaining strength? Coro said the Krypto2 only had a ten foot radius, and she had exceeded that. She squinted as the blinding light from the broken tank glared into her eyes, and it suddenly dawned on her.
The Superman-proof glass was embedded with Krypto2. If the glass had been shattered, all the Krypto2 would have escaped and would float around, making it virtually impossible to escape without leaving the laboratory- and that was impossible.
Clark was drifting in and out of consciousness, mumbling and groaning. Lois held his hand tight, talking to him as she racked her brain for an idea.
Coro approached the two. "Well, well, well. Looks like someone couldn't stand the Krypto2, could he? Thought he could unleash my plan, unravel my threads … how much he underestimated my intelligence. As did Lex Luthor, I have thought of every possible flaw that could ever occur.
As the solution hit Lois like a boxer's punch, she stood up and smirked at Coro.
"You forgot one tiny detail. You said yourself that Krypto2 is electricity-powered. Meaning that if I unplug the machine, the Krypto2 will be disarmed, and Superman will return to his Super Strong self." Lois dashed to the bright machine, searching for a power cord.
Coro, comprehending his slip, lunged for Lois as she gripped the thick black cord. As the prongs exited the outlet, sparks shot into the air and the blinding light deadened to blackness. The sound of electrocution resounded in the air, and a stench of burning flesh filtered into Clark's nose.
At the execution of the Krypto2, Clark's strength immediately returned. He sat up to silence and darkness, terrified for a moment that he was blinded and deafened.
"Lois?" He called. Footsteps approached, and two slender hands helped him to his feet. The lights, with perfect timing, flickered on. Clark found himself in the arms of the most beautiful woman in the world.
Their hearts simultaneously filled with love, relief, exhaustion, and hysteria. Neither could believe what they had gone through. Clark turned around andlooked at Coro, who lay dead on the ground, electrocuted. Clark's eyes briefly clouded over with confusion.
"But … how?"
Lois grinned. "You know me, always acting on impulse. Well, I knew if I pulled the plug on such a powerful piece of machinery while it was operating on full force, I'd get an incredible shock."
"Right." Clark waited for her to continue.
"So, as soon as he grabbed the wire, I shoved him backward. He yanked the cord out of the outlet, so he was the one who got the… "tiny" shock." Clark scooped Lois into his arms and, in the blink of the eye, they soared up to the clouds.
Engulfed in the most passionate of kisses a married couple could share while flying through space, both were energized with relief and love that had been put through more than many people would say it was worth.
As their lips separated, Lois gave Clark a playful smile. "So… what took you so long?"
Playing along, Clark pretending to ponder the question. "Oh, just the fact that I thought you were dead!" Lois mocked surprise.
"Now, whatever gave you that idea?" They both laughed.
That moment may not have been the right time, but Clark had to ask whathe had been asking himself for the past week. "Lois … what happened?"
Lois relayed Coro's plan of revenge to Clark, shuddering as she thought about his success.
"Well, he didn't really succeed." Clark said when Lois told him what she had been feeling. "He wanted you to die a slow, painful death, your heart slowly breaking."
"Are you saying you don't think it hurt me to watch my own funeral?" Lois exclaimed. Clark looked a bit flustered.
"Don't let all that great stuff everyone said about you go to your head." Clark warned. Lois pretended to be offended.
"And just why not? Every word of it was true." Lois kissed Clark, persuading him to agree with her.
"True… but I'll bet you got a couple of laughs out of it, too."
Lois recalled the loneliness and emptiness she felt as she sat strappedto a chair, being mentally tortured. She shook her head.
"No… I didn't laugh. the only thing that made me smile was breaking out of that cell and calling you."
Clark chuckled at the recollection of his crazy behavior after he got off the phone with Lois. "Everyone thought I have gone off the deep end. Jimmy, Perry,my parents… boy, are they going to be surprised to see you!"
Lois looked at him with the look that meant she was thinking up a scheme. "I think we could play his up pretty good. After all, it's not everyday a girl comes back from the dead!" EPILOGUE
Clark entered the Daily Planet the next day alone, trying to contain his excitement. Perry advanced toward him, a stern look on his lined face. "Clark, son, I need to talk to you about your little … outburst yesterday afternoon. Now, I know you've been through more than a man should ever have to guy through this past week, but you've got to understand. Lois is dead. Gone."
Jimmy stood behind Clark, anxious to get his word of advice in. "Yeah, CK. You have to start putting Lois behind you." Clark with held a smile.
"Jimmy, Perry. You guys have been great friends through this whole thing. But you have to understand that I don't have to put Lois behind me. I never will, and I really don't see any purpose in it."
Perry began to interrupt when from around the corner, Lois appeared. "What he means is, how can he put his wife behind him?" Lois said innocently, as if she hadn't missed a beat of her life.
Perry and Jimmy's jaws dropped six inches. Jimmy shook his head, unbelieving. "Man, I'm losing it, too." He said to no one in particular. Lois giggled.
"Whatsamatter, Jimmy? Never seen anyone rise from her grave?"
That night, the whole gang "partied down" at Lois and Clark's apartment. Jimmy, Perry, Martha, Jonathan, Lois's parents, several co-workers, and tons of people Lois and Clark didn't even know had shown up for Lois's "Welcome Back From The Dead" party.
After telling her story for the thousandth time, Lois and Clark finally snuck into the bedroom for some time alone.
"Wow." Clark said.
"I know." Lois replied. Clark took a deep breath.
"Lois… when I thought you were… you know, gone… I felt like my whole world was gone. I couldn't eat, I couldn't concentrate… I was lost. I wasn't even a person anymore. I was a wandering body, looking for its soulmate. But its soulmate was dead and buried, gone forever. I have never felt so much pain, so much anguish, in my entire life. All the Kryptonite in the world couldn't cause the pain that this ordeal did. Lois… I love you so much more than words can describe. Whatever happens, we'll get through it as long as we're together. Just… why don't you take it easy with the stories for awhile, huh? No more crazy investigating and going off to meet secret informants in secluded areas. You gotta admit, that's asking for it."
Lois smiled. "Deal. First, however, I have to write this story. It'll be a front pager for sure." Clark laughed.
"No one will ever believe it." Clark said softly, kissing his wife with all of his love.
They stood up, hand-in-hand. Lois looked out at the crowd. "I'm going to get some soda." She said, letting go of Clark's strong grip.
Clark stepped into the hallway to follow her "I'll come with you."
Lois let out an exasperated sigh and spoke melodramatically. "Oh, Clark, do you always have to be so overprotective?" She spun on her heel and headed toward the kitchen, leaving Clark standing with a foolish grin on his face.
"It never fails."