By Chris Fawcett <cfawcett@neo.Irun.com>
Submitted September 1998
Summary: Superman gets recruited to man a kissing booth at the Metropolis Fair, and Lois is not happy about it. But could there be some dastardly plot behind the scenes that puts Lois and Superman in trouble? Could Lana Lang possibly figure out that Clark is Superman? Part one of a two-part story, which will be continued in the author's next fanfic, "Patching Things Up."
By Chris Fawcett with additional plotting by Greg Wheeler
It was two o'clock. Lois Lane walked back from a late lunch. It was cold out, but invigorating. Clark was out saving the world somewhere. She'd waited to eat the midday meal with her husband as long as her stomach had allowed her, but in the end her hunger had won out.
She picked up a Star from a paper box on the street corner. It was always good to be informed of what the competition was doing. She flipped through it waiting for the traffic light to turn.
Then an article caught her eye. A large picture accompanied it. She smiled looking at the man, content and happy with the fact that this was her husband. Then she glanced down to the story title: "Superman to Man Kissing Booth at Metropolis Fair."
She slammed the paper shut. An annoyed, angry look replaced the loving one that had been only a moment before. "Clark," she said gruffly.
The light turned and she stormed across the street and into the Daily Planet building.
"Clark Kent! Are you in trouble mister." Lois rushed across the room almost bowling over Jimmy who'd been carrying a stack of papers on his way to see Perry.
"Nice to see you too, dear," Clark responded quizzically.
Lois grabbed his tie near the knot and tugged him through the maze of desks and into the conference room. It was occupied.
"Now, what's going on here?" Perry asked.
"Looks like Clark did something pretty bad," Jimmy quipped.
"Can we use the conference room for a minute, Perry? Clark and I have something to discuss. In private."
Perry was taken aback. "Uh, OK, I guess so." He held up a finger. "But don't be too long. I've got a paper to run here. Come on, Jimmy."
Once they left, Lois slammed the door shut.
"What's this all about, Lois?"
"What's it all about? As if you don't know. When were you planning on telling me, Clark?"
"Telling you what?"
"About this." She pulled the paper out from under her arm and opened it to the page with the story.
Clark looked sheepish. "Oh, that."
"Yeah, 'oh, that'," she said. "What gives you the right to go off >kissing other women? Just because you're Superman doesn't mean you can have whatever you want."
"You don't understand, Lois."
"I don't understand? What's to understand? You're going to be in a kissing booth at the Metropolis Fair tomorrow, as Superman of course. But you're still married Clark, even if the world doesn't know it."
She paced the room and Clark sat. "Lois…"
"I'm not through," she snapped. "And to top it all off, we're supposed to cover the Fair tomorrow. How are you going to do that if you're off smooching with every girl who's got an extra buck in her pocket?"
She stopped and took in a deep breath. Then she looked at him.
"Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"
"I was going to tell you."
"When, tomorrow? 'Sorry honey, be right back. I've got to go kiss somebody. It's a real emergency'."
"No, I was going to tell you tonight." He motioned to the paper. "But I guess I waited a little too long." She started to say something, but he stood and stopped her with a finger. "Look, Lois. It's for charity. For every person that goes through that booth, Metropolis Children's Hospital will get $5 towards cancer research."
"But that doesn't give you any right — "
"Lois, it's for the kids. This money could literally save a child's life. Besides, there's only one person who I really *want* to kiss." He pulled her close. "And that's you."
She looked up at him, her face showed the struggle in her mind. She understood the good that Clark was trying to do, but still didn't approve of the method he had chosen to accomplish that goal. The charity won out for a moment and she relaxed in his embrace.
"Great. Why can't somebody else's husband fund cancer research?" She dropped her hand on his chest.
Clark laughed. "No one wants to kiss everyone else's husband," he said. "You should consider yourself lucky."
"You can kiss me whenever you want." His eyebrows moved up and down.
"Of all the arrogant — " She jammed her heal into his foot.
"Ow!" he said, faking injury out of habit.
"I'm not such a bad catch myself, Clark Kent. I'll have you know I still have people ask me out — knowing I'm married!" She went for the door.
"But Lois I was just — "
" — kidding."
Jimmy and Perry entered.
"You all right, CK?"
"Yeah, I'm OK," said Clark. It was lucky he had faked the injury, apparently Jimmy and Perry had been watching.
"You looked like you had it under control there for a minute, son. But then — " Perry made a whistling sound and dove his hand like a crashing airplane.
"I know, I know."
"Care to talk about it," Perry asked. "What's she so steamed about?"
"I — I can't say, Chief." Clark glanced down, not wanting to meet Perry's eyes. "I really can't say." Clark made for the exit.
"Wait," Perry called out. "You can't say — you don't know? Or you can't say — you don't want to say?"
But Clark didn't answer.
The fairground foreman met Jeffrey Schultz just moments after they had arrived. All three of the semis and the Blazer Jeffrey had been riding in had parked along the sides of the booths. Truth be told, they didn't really need that many semis, but the head honchos at Diversitech had insisted on the biggest display booth possible.
"Mr. Schultz?" the foreman asked
"Yes." Jeffrey extended his hand.
"I see that Sam at the back gate told you where to park." The foreman wasn't looking at Jeffrey, which unnerved him, but instead was fixated on the huge paintings of the sides of the trucks. Each was different, but all touted the Diversitech logo along with other computer related images.
"Um, yeah," Jeffrey said. "Is this good?"
"Certainly," said the foreman. "Your lot's right over there." He pointed to a vacant spot just across the walkway from where the trucks were parked. "You need any help unloading?"
"No, we've got a full crew."
"Ok, then. If you need anything, you call me on this." He handed Jeffrey a walkie-talkie.
The foreman left and Jeffrey turned back to his work. The ten men were already pulling down the ramps to the truck beds. He walked up into the back of the nearest one.
"I'll take care of this," he said, hoisting a largish suitcase out of the cargo area. He had strict instructions to let no one but himself handle this case. But even if he hadn't, he wouldn't have let anyone touch it.
He walked across the walkway to a small picnic table as the men began hauling equipment. He stroked the case across the Diversitech logo once before opening it. The inside was more padding than anything else. But in the center was a six inch square cube. He pulled it out and held it up to the light. It was slightly transparent and in addition to the logo on the side, it also read: "Neural Network Prototype 2C."
Jeffrey pulled another device from the suitcase, this one a hand-held machine with a small monitor. He plugged input jacks into the cube and soon numbers were coming up on the tiny display.
"Good, working perfectly," he said to no one.
"Come on Lois, let me in." Clark was banging on the door to the bathroom. She had been avoiding him ever since their conference room conversation earlier today.
"Why, Clark, so you can give me those puppy dog eyes and sweet talk me out of being mad?"
"No. I just want to talk."
She opened the door, a toothbrush was still in her mouth. "Right, talk. And puppy dog eyes." The door slammed shut again.
"Lois." He banged his head and let it rest on the door frame.
A moment later it opened. Lois came out dressed in a terrycloth robe. She held her hand at her brow, eyes on the floor. "I'm not going to have this conversation Clark," she said. "I don't care what it's for, I don't want you kissing other women." She paused. "What if you like it?"
Clark tried to get in front of her, stooping down to look into her eyes. Lois veered left into the bedroom.
"I won't like it," he said. "Lois, it's for charity."
"Charity schmarity, let someone else do it. How about the mayor, or that actor that's in town, oh, what's his name?"
"Dean Cain," answered Clark.
"Yeah, what about him? Everyone seems to think he's gorgeous."
Clark grabbed her arm. She stared at his feet, hand still over her eyes. "Lois, you know no one would make as much at that booth as I would."
"That's what bothers me," she said, pulling away. She walked to the dresser and he followed. To avoid him she walked across the bed and to the door again.
"Come on it's perfectly innocent."
She stopped in the hallway at the top of the stairs. She looked at him, fire in her eyes. "Clark, if I had wanted my husband to go around smacking lips with anyone besides me, I would have married that actor."
She looked into his eyes then. They were soft and warm. His bottom lip was just a little pouty. She almost fell for it. "No puppy eyes," she said poking him in the chest. She brushed past him.
"But what about the kids?"
She stopped at the door to the bedroom again. "Couldn't you think of any better way to raise that money?"
The door slammed.
"But, it wasn't… my… idea."
Clark turned his back to the door and slid down the frame, slouching to the floor. He reached up and turned the knob. It was locked.
The man sat in a dim room reading the paper under a light that originated far above in the ceiling. The paper was the Star. The page was opened to the article on Superman at the fairgrounds. Footsteps echoed across the hall. A woman approached the desk at which the man was sitting, his face still shrouded in darkness.
"Ahh, Ms. Arabella."
The slender woman walked up the dais steps to the desk. She pushed up the glasses on her attractive face.
"How are the preparations going?"
Ms. Arabella shifted her weight. "Right on schedule."
"Good, good. And the lab, it's ready too?" The man folded his hands.
"Yes. But that brings me to a question. Shouldn't we bring all the equipment here?"
The man chuckled lightly. "No, no, my dear. We can't possibly take that risk."
"Risk? I would think it's riskier leaving it all in my lab. It has much easier access than this — " She struggled for a word. "Bunker you've built."
A confused look crossed Ms. Arabella's face. "I don't understand."
"And neither do you need to at this stage."
He let her think on that a moment and then pulled open a desk drawer. He retrieved a cigar and flicked a lighter. In the dim glow, she could make out his bandaged face. But just as quickly as it had come, the flame was extinguished. The tip of the cigar glowed and the smoke curled around the man's head, drifting upwards.
"I must commend you on your good work," he said.
"Well, I have been working day and night to — "
"No, no. Not the lab. This." He picked up the paper and flipped it around so she could see. A smile crossed her face. "It wasn't easy."
"The best things in life never are." He took another puff of the cigar. "But," he leaned forward into the light hitting the desk, his gauze wrapped face leaving only his mouth and eyes visible. "Superman is the key to this whole venture." He pulled open another desk drawer. "And with your brains and my resources," he said, pulling a large chunk of glowing green rock out of the desk, "nothing can stop us."
Lois and Clark walked through the fairgrounds.
"How long are you going to stay mad at me, Lois?"
"Until you quit following me," she snipped.
"We're here for the paper. Can't we be professional about this."
"I am being professional. You're the one who has to run off, remember." They stopped at a vendor and Lois bought a large pink cotton candy.
"Like I told you, I didn't think you'd get this upset and if I could get out of it I would. But it's too late now."
"Well, if you would have told me sooner then maybe you could have gotten out of it."
"The coordinator only called two days ago and she was a fast talker. I didn't even have time to think before I heard myself saying 'yes'."
"You'd think by now you'd have gotten used to having people trying to take advantage of you."
"She didn't take advantage of me."
"Sure, Clark. Whatever." They walked on, turning a corner. There was a long line of people waiting for something. "What's this?" asked Lois.
They walked up the line. It wound around a corner and continued on.
"I don't know, but it must be something fantastic."
"You know," said Lois. "I just noticed something. All the people in this line are women." A look of understanding crossed her face. "Clark Kent, they're all in line for you!"
"Shhh. Not me, Superman."
Lois didn't seem to hear him. "They're all waiting in line to kiss you!" she said even louder. Heads turned. Clark tried to quiet her down. "I can't believe this! I thought the line would be large, but this is ridiculous!"
"Lois — "
"It's not even," she glanced at her watch, "ten o'clock yet. The booth doesn't open until twelve." Many of the women waiting in line started staring. Clark tried to stop Lois' rambling, but she kept on. "I mean, look at this! You're a good kisser, but not that good."
Clark turned to the women who were looking back puzzled. "I think she's a little confused," he said. Clark turned but Lois was gone. "Lois, wait."
He rushed after her.
The display tent was finally finished and none too soon. Jeffrey glanced at his watch — only an hour until opening. But there was one final thing to do. He shooed everyone out of the tent and then went behind the numerous consoles. He unlocked a safe and pulled out the suitcase. Placing it on the floor, he withdrew the cube.
It glowed ever so slightly in the dark area of the tent. He went to an access panel on the back of one of the consoles. The cube fit snugly into a slot and he slammed the door shut. The lights in the tent dimmed and it became almost black. They rose back up to normal levels quickly as Jeffrey moved back around to the front of the consoles. The screens were active now, flashing brilliantly, colors and pictures racing by, sounds bites screeching from the speakers.
The workers returned as Jeffrey waved them in. No one had seen this yet but him and he was too anxious to wait another hour, even if the moment would probably be lost on the hired muscle.
"Ladies and… um." He glanced around, realizing there were no ladies. "Gentlemen, I present Neural Net, the most advanced computer on the planet."
"She'll process one million terabits per second and has built in artificial intelligence."
"The advanced plasma core can process the entire world's air traffic control, automated highway systems, and analyze a complete DNA chain, all the while beating Fredek Gavril, world champion, in chess."
He saw a flicker of recognition at the word 'chess'. But still there was silence.
"Um, boss?" one worker spoke.
Jeffrey was excited, his first question. "Yes?"
"Go, just go."
"But are you — "
"I'll be fine Clark." Lois finished her sandwich with a final bite.
She had gotten a little less angry when Clark had pointed out to her that all the women in line only meant that much more money for the children's hospital. She still wasn't back to being his normal loving wife, but at least she was talking to him without that sarcastic bite in her tone.
"Obviously, I'm not going to be able to talk you out of this, as much as it pains me to say it. And believe me, you don't want me here when that thing starts. You think I'm aggravated now. Just go and get it over with."
"Thanks Lois." Clark stood. "See you later?"
"Sure, I'll be covering the Diversitech tent. By myself," she added.
"Lois, I'm really — "
"Go, go." She waved a hand.
He leaned over to kiss her. She turned her head at the last second and the kiss landed on her cheek.
"I love you," he said.
"I love you, too," she replied half-heartedly.
At promptly noon Superman touched down behind the front of the booth with "Kiss Superman - $5" emblazoned across the top banner. There were cheers from the many women who had been waiting, some for several hours. One rather plump, middle-aged woman was waiting behind the booth to meet him.
"Superman," she said, extending her hand. "It's an honor to meet you."
"Ms. Bell?" he asked.
"No, no. I'm Ruby. Ms. Bell's not going to be able to make it until a little later, I'm afraid. She sent me here to make sure everything goes smoothly." Superman nodded. "And to collect the money, or course."
"For the hospital," Superman said, convincing himself of why he was here.
"For the hospital."
Jimmy came up to the side of the booth, camera in hand.
"Jimmy, what are you doing here?"
"Are you kidding? The Chief would never let me miss this! Front page stuff." He flashed a shot off.
Great, just what he needed. He pulled Jimmy close, so no one could hear. "Just do me a favor."
"Don't show these to anyone."
Superman knew the real reason — he didn't want Lois seeing this. She was upset with him enough as it was. But he couldn't tell Jimmy that, so he made up an excuse. "Remember what happened last time a photo of me kissing someone was shown to the public?"
Jimmy's eyes lit up with understanding. "The scandal with Lois!"
"Yes. And I don't want a repeat of that situation."
"But Perry is expecting me to have a front page photograph. What will I tell him?"
Superman thought a moment. "All right, then do this. Let Clark pick out the picture. I trust him to find one that's… harmless."
"No one sees these but Clark. Got it?"
"You bet Superman." Jimmy started snapping off shots again.
One potential disaster averted, Superman looked out at the line which stretched far off and around the corner out of view. He x-rayed through the tents and followed the line around the fair. It was extremely long. He turned back to Ruby.
"Do I have to kiss all of these people?" he began. "I was told — "
"Oh, no. You are only here for two hours. However many get through in that time is it."
"So let's get going already," came a cry from the crowd.
Superman glanced out and smiled. "OK, who's first?"
He turned to Ruby to get things started. She did by holding up her own five dollar bill.
The next half hour went very slowly. Mostly because of the repetitive nature of the job. At first it had been interesting, seeing all the people. They came in every shape, size, color, and age. He had kissed babies, children, the middle-aged,the elderly, everything. Some insisted on the lips, but whenever he could he'd give them a light tap on the cheek. The elderly and children usually said nothing. And a few people even paid their money and shook his hand instead, including a few men, all of which were more or less just contributing to the charity.
It was the twenty-somethings that gave him the most trouble. Many of them, unmarried of course, were trying to use the booth as their chance to show Superman what he was missing. They would often kiss him passionately instead of the grandmotherly kiss he thought was appropriate. Unfortunately for them, he already knew what he was missing and she was in the Diversitech tent.
Once on a short break, he used his x-ray vision to look past the canvas and into the area where Lois was busily taking notes for her — their article. She was beautiful. He smiled. This would all be over soon and he'd take her down to the hospital to cover the story when he presented the charity check.
"Mr. Superman," Ruby said, breaking his thoughts.
"Just Superman," he said, turning back to the line. But he couldn't believe who was next.
"It's this nice young lady's turn — "
He was unsure of what to do. What was Lana doing here? Did she have some other motive? Did she still want to get back together with him?
Then he caught himself. Lana was here to kiss Superman, not Clark. She had dated Clark. And, as odd as it seemed to him, she couldn't possibly have any other purpose for being here.
She waved her five collar bill in front of him, then shoved it into the overflowing jar Ruby was holding. "Come here, big guy."
She pulled him close by the top of his cape and kissed him long and hard. He was so stunned by her arrival, he didn't have time to figure out how to react. So he did what came naturally, he kissed her. After all, he'd done it many times before.
She pulled away, a perplexed look on her face.
"You kiss just like," she fumbled. "Like — "
He flinched. Maybe doing what came natural hadn't been the best choice of action.
"I can't place it," she finally blurted out. She wandered to the side, still thinking. Superman waved and smiled.
Lois had her tape recorder running and she was taking notes, too. Jeffrey Schultz was giving a fine presentation. Even though Lois was only moderately interested in computers and considered herself just an average user, she found it fascinating.
Jeffrey stood now on a small platform. It looked a little like a giant trackball, which amused Lois. Jeffrey had on head gear and a glove, both of which were wired into the computer. He walked around, the ball rolling under his feet, tracking his movements. The six foot screen showed what he was experiencing "on the inside."
He gave half the lecture that way, literally showing the audience the computer's capabilities from the inside — and it had incredible capabilities. Just the fact that it could run all the demonstration programs while still keeping up Jeffrey's virtual reality was a testament. And, if Mr. Schultz was not exaggerating too much, this computer had more power than all the computers in Metropolis combined.
Jeffrey pulled off the helmet as he finished the lecture portion.
"Now, he said. "I'll show you the brains of this little beauty." He walked to the side of the stage. "Unfortunately I have to shut her down to do that."
As if on cue, a voice came from the computer. "I wouldn't do that if I were you, Dave."
"Netty." He called the computer Netty. "It's me Jeffrey." Jeffrey smiled and looked toward the audience. They laughed.
"Oh, sorry Jeffrey, must be a glitch in my programming."
"Now, now, Netty. Let's not be giving these people any ideas that you might have programming glitches."
The audience laughed again as the computer messed up his name. It was obviously all intentional, done to amuse the crowd. Jeffrey smiled and proceeded behind the screen. The screen went blank and a moment later he returned holding a small box. It glowed faintly blue.
"This is the heart of the beast," he started. "The brains behind the system. It is my own brainchild if I may be so boastful."
Lois' tape recorder clicked off. She fiddled with it a second, but to no avail. Dead batteries. She hurriedly flipped the paper on her notepad and started writing more furiously.
"The design is totally unique to the computer world," Jeffrey continued. "A neural network made up of only electromagnetic gelatin." He held the cube over a lamp and shook it.
Lois could see the stuff flowing around inside the box. Amazing that a piece of Jello could do all that.
"This is the first working prototype, but we at Diversitech hope to have consumer models shipping within a year. "
"Which is way too long for me to wait," a voice came from the side of the stage.
A man walked up on the podium. Lois glanced up from her pad and noticed his odd appearance. He was dressed in a long trench coat and a brimmed hat. But the oddest thing was his face — it was covered entirely in bandages.
"Excuse me, who are you?" Jeffrey asked. He flicked his wrist and three burly men came onto the stage — Diversitech security.
"Ah, ah, I wouldn't do that if I were you," the newcomer said.
Suddenly six men stood up from the crowd all brandishing machine guns. It only took a moment for the crowd to realize what was happening. Everyone in the building hit the ground, trying to duck under chairs. A light murmuring and whimpering floated through the tent. The six men spread out to all sides of the interior, two of them taking watch at the tent flap.
Lois crawled between the aisles. She was trying to make her way to the door. "Where are you, Clark?" she muttered. "Why couldn't you have been here?"
She reached the tent's side canvas and started pulling at it. If >she could just get underneath it. A foot stepped down on her hand. "Ow!" she yelped. "Get off." She pulled her damaged hand from under the boot. A large man dragged her to her feet.
"Who have we here?" said Bandage Man from the podium. "Trying to escape were we?"
The thug pushed Lois toward the stage. "*We* weren't doing anything," she said under her breath. "*I* almost made it though."
"What's that, my dear?" Bandage asked as they approached.
Lois just glared at him as she climbed the steps to the podium.
"Well, well. I can't believe my luck today. Lois Lane. What an unexpected turn of events."
"Let me go," Lois said, straining against the thug holding her "I'm sure Superman will be here any minute."
"Oh, I wouldn't count on that my dear." He stroked her cheek with one hand. "My, you are more lovely in person — truly."
Lois kicked him in the shin and struggled for freedom from Thug. "Superman!" she screamed.
Bandage rubbed his leg. "Now that wasn't very nice," he said. "Shut her up."
Thug hit Lois in the head with the butt of his gun. She fell unconscious to the floor.
Ms. Arabella was fifth in line. She glanced at her watch. The timing was perfect — she had bribed the right person for this place in line.
She pulled a tube of lipstick out of her purse. The tube was lead-lined and the lipstick glowed faintly green. She turned her head away >from the Man of Steel, still four people in front of her, and applied the lipstick. It was a trick her boss had learned reading up on Superman in what he called the Luthor Files. She wasn't sure yet exactly what the files were, but the lipstick idea itself seemed perfectly suited to their plans.
She looked at herself in a compact. The green shaded lipstick was so dark that it didn't stand out and it was bright enough outside that the glow coming off the thin layer wasn't very noticeable. It would work.
She became a bit nervous as she approached the front of the line. Her fingers twitched a little in anticipation. She pulled her wide brimmed hat down over her head and donned a pair of dark sunglasses. And then she was next.
"Hello miss," Superman said. He looked at her, questioningly. "Do I know you from somewhere?"
"Just in my dreams," she replied.
Superman half smiled. "What's your name?"
"My name doesn't matter. Just kiss me." Arabella shoved her five dollar bill into the jar the attendant was holding.
"But miss, I really like to know the names — " Superman started, but never finished.
Arabella pulled his head close to hers and kissed him long and hard. She moved her lips and pushed solidly to assure the transfer of the Kryptonite. He started to withdraw and she held on tighter. She milked it until Superman would have no more.
"That's enough. There are other people in line," he said, as he pulled her almost forcefully away.
Arabella walked away, trying to appear like she was wandering aimlessly, but all the while staying close to the booth. Superman made it easily through the next two people in line. And just as she thought the plan had failed, Superman stumbled. He put a hand to his head as if in pain. Arabella smiled.
She reached down into her purse and brought out a hypodermic needle. Time to get some blood.
"Superman are you OK?" It was Jimmy's voice that Superman picked out, but his statement was being echoed by a number of people who were now standing around him. He was on the ground.
"I'm… I'm all right," he fumbled. Superman tried to stand, but only made it to his knees before collapsing again.
"Superman, we'd better get you to a doctor," Jimmy said.
"No, not a doctor. Star Labs."
"Star Labs? But why? Never mind, I'll trust you."
"Ow!" Superman yelled.
Something had pierced his skin. It more surprised him than hurt. After all, not many things had managed to pierce his skin in the past. It had entered just above his kneecap. Superman looked that direction, but there were so many people crowded around that he couldn't see who had done it.
He used all the last of his strength and turned on his x-ray vision. And he saw her — the woman in the hat and glasses, tucking a syringe into her handbag. The one that had kissed him a long time. He turned the vision on her face to peer through the hat and glasses. But his strength failed him. His head fell and hit the dirt hard.
And then he heard the voice.
It was Lois! She was in trouble.
He struggled to get to his feet. He must help her.
But the strain was too much. He collapsed to the ground, unconscious.
Dr. Klein was out in front of Star Labs prepared to meet the ambulance as it pulled up in front of the building. Jimmy was the first out of the vehicle.
"He said to bring him here," Jimmy said frantically. "I almost couldn't convince the paramedics to do it."
The ambulance doors opened and two men pulled Superman out on a stretcher. He was unconscious.
Dr. Klein waved them on into the building. "What happened?" he asked Jimmy.
"I don't know. He was fine one minute and on the ground the next. I didn't see anything happen, everything seemed normal."
Superman was wheeled down a hallway and into a lab room.
"Put him under here," Dr. Klein said, indicating a long horizontal piece of scanner equipment mounted on a vertical arm.
"What do you think's wrong?" Jimmy asked, obviously worried.
"We'll find out in a moment." Dr. Klein pressed a button and the scanner began rotating around Superman's body, feeding data on every inch of his skin to the computer. Dr. Klein watched the screen intently and Jimmy, feeling helpless, paced back and forth behind him.
"What? What is it?"
"Yes, but not much. It's on his skin — here." Dr. Klein pointed to the virtual Superman on the computer screen, indicating his lips.
"But that means," Jimmy stammered, the possibilities working themselves out in his mind. "That means it must have been one of the women!"
"Women?" Dr. Klein asked.
"Yeah, Superman was at a kissing booth at the Metropolis Fair. Don't you read the papers?" Dr. Klein shook his head and Jimmy continued. "One of the women must have had Kryptonite in her lipstick."
Dr. Klein stood, urgent now. "Get Superman over to the radiation lab!" he shouted. Two lab assistants hurriedly took charge of the gurney and pushed Superman out the door.
"What? What did I say?"
"Kryptonite lipstick." Dr. Klein answered, the two of them following the assistants down the hall. "This has happened before. Superman came to me after the event and asked me to do a little research on the problem. The Kryptonite weakens Superman's steel hard skin. That coupled with the fact that the blood vessels are so close to the surface on the lips allows the Kryptonite to actually be absorbed by his body."
"So what do we do?"
"Radiation." They had reached the radiation lab. Dr. Klein handed Jimmy a pair of dark goggles. "Put these on?"
Jimmy did as he was told and immediately after a bright green light flooded the room. Jimmy looked through a thick glass plate to see Superman on the other side. An intense beam of energy was pounding against his chest. As soon as it had started, it was over.
But Superman was lying still.
"Is he — "
"He should be fine," Dr. Klein said. "Just give his body a moment to recover."
As he spoke the words, Superman's hand moved, then his head, and finally his eyes fluttered open. He stood in the green glow of the room. Dr. Klein pressed a button on the wall marked "Decontam" and a whitish gas filled the room obscuring everything from sight. Soon after a ventilation system kicked in and sucked it all back out.
Dr. Klein popped open the door. "Superman. Feeling better?"
"Much. Thank you Dr. Klein. And you Jimmy."
"Hey, what are friends for?" Jimmy replied. "I think I know what happened, Superman."
"Kryptonite lipstick," Superman interjected. "It's happened before."
"But there was really not as much danger this time as last," Dr. Klein broke in. "The Kryptonite content was very low. It simply knocked you out cold, but it wouldn't have killed you for quite some time."
"But if they weren't trying to kill you — " Jimmy started confused.
"There was another motive," Superman finished. "Jimmy, where's Lois." He was suddenly very concerned.
"I don't know, Superman. Last I saw her she was covering the computer unveiling at the Diversitech tent." A look of horror crossed Jimmy's face. "Wait a minute. I overheard one of the paramedics talking about more ambulances at the fairgrounds. They were taking a few people to the hospital for gunshot wounds. You don't think — "
The concern on Superman's face deepened. Then without notice he streaked off in a blue and red blur.
Jimmy was leaving the building when a woman called out his name. "Sir? Sir!" Jimmy turned. "Is this your camera?"
The woman was holding up his Daily Planet camera bag. He must have dropped it on the way in. "Yeah, that's mine thanks. I can't believe I almost forgot it." And then an idea hit him. He grabbed the bag and rushed out the door on his way to the Daily Planet dark room.
Lois awoke in a cell. They had knocked her out. Her head throbbed and she felt a knot where she'd been struck. Carefully sitting up she tried to take in her surroundings. The room spun for a moment and her eyes narrowed to tunnel vision.
When her vision cleared, she saw she was in the center of the room in a cage. The place was moderately lit and she could tell they were in the basement. The cinder block walls were cracked with age and cobwebs occupied every corner. The area around her cell however was clean and neat, indicating to her investigative skills that the cell had been constructed rather recently.
She tried the door, but it was locked with a thick padlock on the outside. Then she attempted to squeeze through the bars even though the idea was simply an act of desperation.
She turned her attention to the only other thing nearby: the box in the cell with her. It was solid steel construction and about four feet square and three high. There was only one opening anywhere on it and that was on the top. She looked down in, but it was too dark to see anything. The hole was too small for her hand and her fingers felt nothing in the small depth they could probe.
"Well," she said to herself. "I guess I've been in worse places before — although none quite so boring." She glanced around at the blank walls again. "Boy, aren't you going to be sorry," she said raising her voice. "Superman's probably out looking for me right now!"
"Oh, I certainly hope so, my dear."
She had not been expecting an answer and the voice startled her. "Who's there?"
"Just me." A figure walked out of the gloom from one corner of the room. Lois heard a door shut behind him.
The figure came into the dim light and Lois recognized the bandaged face from the fair. "Ah ah. We mustn't spoil any of the surprises to come. You can just call me Mr. Bad Guy for now."
Lois approached as close to him as she could confined in the cell. "What do you want?"
"What every major villain wants, or course, money, power, WORLD DOMINATION!" His tone peaked at the last two words, but quickly died again. "You know, the typical stuff."
"Then why am I here? I can't give you any of that."
"Oh, but you can — in a roundabout way." The man began pacing around her cell. "You see, you are one of the keys! I know from my research. Yes, Lois, you don't even realize the power you have."
"If you're trying to get to Superman, you may as well forget it. He eats loonies like you for breakfast."
"Oh contraire, I'm not looking for Superman — at least not right now. In fact, even if you yelled out for him, he couldn't hear you." A worried expression crossed Lois face. Her trump card was being negated — if he was telling the truth. "Go ahead, scream your lungs out. We're in a hermetically sealed chamber. No sound gets in — or out."
"We'll just see about that."
Lois started screaming at the top of her lungs for Superman. She did it partly to test the man in the room with her and partly because she was beginning to be afraid. But Superman never came.
"See," the man said. "Surely he'd be here by now. How long does it take him to cross town? Four seconds?"
The first clue to her whereabouts, they were still in or very near Metropolis.
"But, don't fret my dear. All my research indicates that Superman will find you. He'll be here, eventually."
"Then why the hectically sealed chamber?"
"Hermetically sealed. And the answer to that, of course, is because that is how it is done. I capture you, try my best to outwit the Man of Steel, but he eventually does find me out. At least that's my theory. And you, my sweet, are the guinea pig."
Lois was totally confused now. The man was making little sense. It was almost as if he wanted to be caught. "When he gets here you'll be in trouble."
"Oh no, I'll be making my exit."
"And what makes you so sure Superman will let you make an exit?"
The man pulled out a remote and punched a button. A green force field popped up all around the cage. Lois could see through it, but it tainted the world in a verdant haze.
"You see, he'll be too busy rescuing you! But it won't be easy. He may have a little trouble with that Kryptonite force field." The man sounded a maniacal laugh and walked out the door.
Lois put her hands on the bars. "Oh, Superman. I hope you can get me out of this one," she said quietly as the worry enveloped her face.
Superman finished at the fair grounds quickly. Scanning the Diversitech tent, the grounds, and much of the surrounding countryside. He found very little. All tire tracks from the area disappeared once they hit the paved roads.
He went on to the police station, asking the men who had responded to the terrorist attack, getting the names of some of the witnesses, finding out all he could from the reports. The only piece of evidence worth the time was the odd presence of a man with bandages wrapped around his face. At least it was something, though not much.
Superman then checked with a few of the eye witnesses. They all had the same story with no new information and he soon grew frustrated. He was getting nowhere. And Lois' life may be in the balance. So he went to where he could think best: The Planet.
"Clark!" Jimmy rushed up just as Clark exited the elevator. "Where have you been? No one's seen you since the attack at the fairgrounds!"
"I've been helping Superman," Clark said, thinking quickly. "I've talked to the police and they say Lois was taken by the terrorists."
"Is Superman rescuing her?"
"Well, that's just it," Clark said, slumping into his chair. "Neither of us knows where she's at. Superman has been all over the city talking to witnesses, checking out the fair grounds. And nothing."
"I think I might be able to help." Clark looked up and Jimmy was beaming. Then, realizing the severity and urgency of the situation, the smile left his face. "Look at this."
Jimmy put a set of photographs down on the table. Clark flipped through them.
"See there," Jimmy said pointing to a woman in hat and glasses. "And there," he exclaimed as Clark flipped to another picture — same woman, no glasses. "And here's the best." Jimmy pulled out a final photo from behind his back.
On it was a very clean picture of a woman putting a glowing green lipstick on her lips. And Clark recognized her. "This is the woman who set up the kissing booth!"
"She was in charge of the whole thing. She asked me to — " He fumbled over the words. "Ask Superman to be in the booth."
"Well, I think she had other motives than fund raising."
"Wait," Clark said. He shuffled around on his desk. "I've got a phone number here somewhere."
"Clark, why would she use her real phone number to contact you. It's probably a pay phone or something."
"But, she never expected me to see her, remember. The glasses, the hat, the thick make-up."
"Oh, yeah. Smart thinking."
"Here it is."
Jimmy picked up the phone readying his fingers over the buttons. Clark pushed the phone back down over the hook. "We're not going to call, we're going to visit."
Jimmy grabbed his coat.
"I mean *I'm* going to visit." Jimmy started to disagree, but Clark continued. It would be too dangerous for Jimmy, so Clark needed something to keep him busy. "I need you to see if you can find Superman."
"All right, CK. I guess Superman would be a better person to have around than me."
Clark patted him on the back and rushed from the Planet office.
The night was pitch black in the outskirts of town. His phone trace had brought him to a small office complex that sat low to the ground. Superman went around to the back of the building and entered through the door he found there.
Inside he was immediately confronted with a choice. The hallway stretched left and right. He scanned with his x-ray vision and soon found a secret door in the wall down the hall to the right. This seemed too easy.
Lois was sleeping when a familiar whoosh startled her out of her dream. At first she thought she must still be dreaming. "Superman?"
"I'm here Lois." She peered out through the green haze and saw him standing near the edge of the cage. "Stand back and I'll break down this field."
"No! Superman, it's Kryptonite!"
He was puzzled. "Kryptonite? But I don't feel anything."
"That's right Superman, Kryptonite." The voice came from the other side of the room.
Superman turned to see a man coming through a door. With him was the woman from the kissing booth.
"Ms. Bell," Superman said. "If that's you're real name."
"Close enough," came the woman's reply.
"But you, I don't know."
"Ahh, but you do. In a way. But that's not important right now." The man pulled a cigar out of his breast pocket and lit it.
"Who is this joker?" Superman ask Lois.
"I don't know. He told me to call him Mr. Bad Guy," Lois answered with disdain.
The man approached closer. "You'll find out soon enough, Superman, Ms. Lane." He stopped and turned to Lois. "See I'd told you he'd come, it's the way things are — the way they have to be."
"So, what does that prove?" Lois quipped.
"Prove?" The villain thought a moment. "Nothing I guess. It just makes it that much harder for me. But simply knowing will help me to succeed where he did not."
"He who?" asked Lois, bewildered.
"Hmm, yes." The man was lost in thought, staring into nothing.
"I've had enough of this," Superman said. He supersped over to the man and lifted him off his feet. "Turn off the force field."
"The force field? Oh, yes, the force field. Well, you see I can't exactly do that. How would I escape then?"
"I don't think escape is something you have to worry about," Superman threatened.
"But it is, it is. I can't continue on my glorious mission locked up in a prison cell."
"Well, that's where you're headed." Superman turned to Lois. "Sit tight. I'm going to take these two down to the police station and then I'll be right back for you."
"I wouldn't do that if I were you." Mr. Bad Guy held up a remote, waving it in Superman's face.
"What's that?" Superman asked.
"Just the means of Lois' death." The eyes peered through the slits at Superman. "Now, set me down please. I don't want to use this before it is absolutely necessary."
Superman put the man's feet back on the floor. He kept hold of the jacket, but Mr. Bad Guy pushed his hand away and began circling the cell that held Lois.
"You see," he began, "Kryptonite force field — cage inside. Lois can't get out, you can't get in."
With that Superman started spinning very fast. He bored into the ground making quite a racket and eventually came up through the floor on the other side of the cage.
"I thought of that one, Superman. The field goes underneath the cage too. Give me a little credit." He paused staring at the floor for a long moment, then suddenly began again. "As I was saying, the field is a plasma, but not an ordinary plasma, it has tiny pieces of Kryptonite floating around in it." He made a gesture with his hands indicating a floating motion.
Superman used his enhanced vision to look into the plasma. Sure enough, there were tiny shards of Kryptonite weightless in the substance.
"And the generator for the field? Inside!"
Lois stood from her position on the steel box. A generator. So that's what it was.
"But even if you could get the field down, Superman, I wouldn't recommend it. You see, the plasma is keeping that Kryptonite in check. You won't actually be hurt unless you touch the field. But if the field were to go down — " He made a sweeping downward motion with his hands. "Then all the Kryptonite would fall to the ground." He moved his fingers, simulating something falling. He laughed. Arabella smiled.
"The truck, Ms. Arabella."
Arabella went to a side wall and pushed on one of the bricks. The wall slid up to reveal a tunnel in which was parked a large moving van.
"Now, we will take our leave," Mr. Bad Guy said. "I don't think so," Superman whisked in front of the pair. "You still haven't explained this." He pulled the remote from the villain's hand, then crushed it.
"Ah, but I have many more where that came from." And with that the bandaged man pulled another remote from his pocket. "Both here and with my people in other locations — all watching on by remote camera, of course. Believe me, Superman, you won't be able to find them all in time."
"So far, you haven't even said what it does." Superman crossed his arms. "And until then, I'll assume you're bluffing." With that, Superman lifted the pair into the air.
"Fine, fine," the Bad Guy choked. "See for yourself." He pressed the button.
For a few seconds nothing happened. Then Lois started to cough. A thin white mist enveloped the cage.
"Poison gas. There, are you satisfied I wasn't bluffing now?"
Superman dropped the two and rushed over to the cage.
"Superman, I — " She hacked again, harder. The mist burned in her lungs. She tried not to breath, but her throat constricted and forced her to cough again. Panic filled her. "Superman, get me out of here!"
Superman turned, but the evil pair was already in the van. He had to make a decision.
Lois fell to her knees, trying unsuccessfully not to breath. Her eyes watered as the poison burned them. "Superman. It — it hurts."
Lois coughed again and collapsed on the floor.
Time was up.
The thoughts raced through Superman's head. How could he save Lois? There was only one thought that entered his mind, but it would be dangerous for him as well — possibly lethal.
Plasma was a high energy gas. High energy meant heat. If he could cool the field down, it would slow down the plasma, dropping the gas back to it's normal state. But then there was the Kryptonite —
Lois hacked again.
He had no time to think about it. Superman took flight, whirling around the plasma field, focusing his super breath on the plasma. He could visibly see the field weakening as he circled.
But he didn't see the effect his plan was having. Inside the cage, the generator for the plasma field ramped into overdrive. The regulators told it that the field was weakening and it kicked up the power to compensate. With Superman's breath constantly cooling, the machine kept jacking up its output. Until it went critical.
The explosion was mostly contained in the metal box. The plasma field exploded outward, surprising Superman and throwing him against the wall. The Kryptonite dropped out of the field and tiny bits of it littered the ground in a ring around the cage. Superman felt the effects instantly.
Still, he had to save Lois.
He tried to get to his feet, but with his head pounding, he only made it to his knees. He crawled as best he could toward the cage. His balance left him several times as he grew weaker by the second. He reached for the steel bars. He still had to open the cage or Lois couldn't escape.
But every inch closer to the to cage and the Kryptonite that surrounded it took it's toll.
"Lois," he cried in agony. Then he fainted.
Lois woke to her name being called. At least she thought she'd heard her name.
She coughed several more times, her body attempting to clear the gas out of her lungs. She pushed herself up to her knees.
"Superman?" she said groggily.
She looked around the room, trying to peer through the smoke and haze. The first thing she noticed was the lack of green tint to the world around her. She realized instantly that the force field was down. The next thing she noticed was the ring of Kryptonite powder on the floor.
"Superman?!" she said with more urgency.
She rose to her feet or at least she attempted to. Her head spun and she nearly lost her balance. She put her weight down on one foot to catch herself and the ankle buckled under her.
She hit the ground with her hands and then turned to examine the injury. Probing with her fingers, she could tell her ankle wasn't broken. Probably sprained badly but hopefully not a torn ligament. She gritted her teeth and pulled herself up the cage bars.
The smoke had cleared a little and she spotted Superman. He was lying face down at the other side of the cage. She hopped over, using the bars for support.
"Clark." She realized now that they were alone and her concern overwhelmed her carefulness. "Clark, wake up. You've got to get out of here."
But her husband didn't move. She reached through the bars to try to touch him, but she couldn't reach. This was probably a blessing though, because had he been any closer, Clark would have been lying in the band of Kryptonite that had falled to the floor. Lois stopped trying to reach him physically or mentally. If they were going to get out of this, she had to take action.
She stood and hobbled over to the cage door. The lock was still secure. She pulled on it to no avail. Then she looked around for something to pry it with, or something to pick the lock. The only things in the cell were shredded pieces of the generator and it's housing. She hopped over to the box and started looking through the wreckage.
Then she noticed the bars of the cage. Behind the box, the explosion had ripped open some of the steel beams. She squeezed in between the remains of the box and the cage bars. Three of the bars were severed at the base and one was completely missing for about a foot of it's length.
But the hole wasn't big enough for her to get through.
She pushed on the bars. They wouldn't budge. She looked around for something to use as a lever. There was a piece of twisted metal lying not far away and she grabbed it and jammed it between the bars. Her arms weren't strong enough though, even with the lever, to move the thick metal tubes.
Then she had another idea. She squeezed her knees up to her chest and put her back to the side of the box. Her feet on one bar, she used all her back and leg strength to push. And the bar moved! Pain shot up her leg as she strained the injured ankle beyond it's already dimished limits.
She pushed harder and gradually the bar weakened. She did the same to the other two loose bars and soon had a much larger hole in the cage than she did before.
Turning around, she examined her work. It would be big enough. It had to be. She went head first, pulling her shoulders through by twisting between the remains of the bars above her. She dragged her torso through and then got to the tough part, the hips. They didn't fit. She found solid metal to push against with her feet and put all her effort into getting through the hole. The sharp metal bars dug into her sides and she felt a small trickle of blood run down her leg.
She pushed harder and suddenly she was through!
"Clark, I'm coming," she said, ignoring the pain in her sides and ankle and rushing around to the other side of the cage.
She fell to the ground beside him, lifting his head into her lap. The first thing that came to her mind was how bad she had treated him the last two days. "Oh, Clark. I'm so sorry." A tear fell down her cheek.
But there were more important things now. She had to get him out of here or she'd never have a chance to make amends. Lois stood and grabbed both of Superman's arms. She pulled and started to drag him across the floor. He was heavy!
She managed to reach the stairwell. Her ankle was throbbing. There was no way she was going to make it up the stairs. But she had to try. Lois pushed open the door and dragged Superman up the first step. She took them one at a time, leaning heavily on the handrail to take the weight off her injured ankle. She managed the first five steps and rested against the wall for a second.
"Come on, Lois," she said to herself. "You've got to be strong." She'd thought that before, but it was always in reference to her mental state, not physical.
She pulled Superman up one more step and the door at the bottom of >the stairs broke free from his legs and slammed shut. It surprised her so much she let go of Superman's arms and he fell down the short progress she had made.
She slumped to the floor. "I can't do it," she cried, her hands going to her face.
"Lois?" came a faint breath of sound.
She snapped to attention. "Clark?"
His eyes were open. His breathing was very labored, coming in short quick gasps. She leapt down the stairs, hugging him around the shoulders. He moved into an upright position.
"What happened?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," she said. "I woke up and you were lying in the middle of the floor." A tear welled up in her eye. "I thought you were going to die. I thought I wasn't strong enough."
Clark pulled her close. "But you were, Lois. You saved me."
"No," she sobbed. "I don't know what happened. I was still dragging you up the stairs, then the door slammed shut and I lost my grip and — "
Superman looked back at the door. "That's it, Lois, the door. It must be lead-lined." She looked up at him, her face wet. He wiped away the moisture. "See you did save me."
The tears stopped. "I did," she said.
She stared into his eyes. It was more meaningful somehow than the last time and Lois couldn't understand why last night she'd wanted to avoid them. The tears almost began again.
"Where's Arabella and her boss?"
"I don't know. When I woke up they were gone."
Superman stood, his strength returning already. There was nothing more they could do here — at least until the Kryptonite was cleared from the room beyond. "Are you ready to go home?" he asked. "We've both had quite a weekend."
"Yeah." Her eyes looked down at the ground. Superman started to lift her into his arms, but she put a hand on his chest to stop him. "Clark, I have something to say first." She paused. "I want to apologize for the way I acted earlier. About the kissing booth."
"Lois, you don't need — "
"Let me finish. I acted foolish. I mean, the booth was for charity. You were doing it for a good reason." He started to talk, but she held up her hand. "And what it showed me is that I need to be more secure in our relationship. I need to — trust you more.
"I don't know what I thought was going to happen. I knew you weren't going to run off with some bimbo from the fair. I guess I was just afraid you'd like it too much."
"Lois, there's only one person I want to kiss."
They kissed. Not long, not hard, just lovingly. A make-up kiss.
"Ready to go?" he said and picked her up.
"There's just one other thing," she said.
She smiled. "Next time, *tell* me about these things. I hate learning about you from the newspapers. I mean the first two years I knew you that was all I had, but it got old. I mean what kind of relationship is that? If I needed to — "
He flew up the stairs into the night sky as she kept talking.
The next day at the Planet was a typical Monday.
"Where's that story?" Perry barked from his office door.
Lois looked over at Clark, sitting at his desk. "We've only been in for an hour," she said quietly to him.
"I know. What's he expect?"
They were both working on the story from the fairground, Lois writing the main article from her point of view and Clark doing a sidebar Superman interview about the incident.
Jimmy came up to Clark's desk. "Here are the photos for the Superman story," he said, plopping a stack down on the table top.
"Um, thanks Jimmy," Clark said and quickly tried to shuffle the pictures into his top desk drawer.
"Not so fast." Clark saw the hand on the drawer and looked up to find Lois at the arm's other end.
Clark chuckled. "You don't want to see these. Just pictures of >Superman." He tried to make is sound like Superman was the most uninteresting thing in Metropolis.
But Lois was undeterred.
"Don't you have a story to do? You know what Perry's like on Mondays."
"I just finished," Lois answered, pulling the photos from the half-closed drawer and bending a few in the process.
Clark relinquished. Lois began flipping through the pictures.
"Oh, this is a nice one." She turned a photo around of a very large middle-aged lady with more than enough make-up and a gaudy flower dress. Clark grimaced.
"Aww, how cute." Another picture, this one of a very elderly lady kissing Superman on the cheek.
"She gave an extra five dollars," Clark countered.
"Oooh, here's a nice one." She turned the picture around and made a sexy face like the gorgeous girl in the photo was wearing. Lois leaned in to Clark so no one would hear. "I bet you liked that one," she whispered.
"Lois — " Clark's face turned red.
Suddenly Lois stopped. Her face grew long and serious. "Now what's this?" she asked with an edge in her voice.
"What?" Clark took the picture from her. It was of Lana.
"Of all the rotten — " Lois stormed off, yelling. "I can't believe you would do such a thing!"
"Lois, wait." Clark chased after her. "Come on I thought you weren't going to get upset any — "
Lois spun, a very angry expression on her face. "Clark, I have only one thing to say to you — " She lifted a finger to him. The angry expression bled away to be replaced by a smile. "Gotcha."
"Wha — "
"Jimmy showed me those pictures earlier."
Clark turned and glared at Jimmy, who was walking by. "She bribed me," he said. "A home cooked meal."
"Believe me," Clark said. "That wasn't a bribe — more like a threat."
Lois hit Clark on the chest for the insult to her cooking.
"I know Superman asked me not to show them to anyone but you," Jimmy continued. "But I figured what would it hurt? You two work so close together you may as well be the same person." He wandered off.
"So I decided to have a little fun." Lois smiled and Clark couldn't help but laugh at himself.
"So, you're not mad?"
"About Lana? No. Just don't let it happen again."
"It felt strange enough that first time."
"Lois! Clark!" It was Perry. "Stop fooling around and get that article done."
"Finished," Lois said.
"How about you Clark?" Perry asked.
"I'm done too, Chief." He wasn't, but he knew he could finish quickly using superspeed.
"Get in here then, I want the lowdown." Perry returned to his office with his two star reporters on his heels.
"Now, if I understand this right, the bad guy got away, right?" Perry started, lowering into his chair.
"Right, Chief," Clark answered.
"We don't think he was really after Superman," Lois continued.
"Seemed a pretty elaborate setup if he wasn't after Superman."
Clark took over. "We think that was just a diversion. He knew Superman would find him and he needed a distraction so he could get away."
"Some distraction," Perry said. "Lois, you were almost killed! And so was Superman. So you think this — bandaged man was just in it for the computer chip."
"That's the theory," Clark answered. "And we think it has something to do with genetics. His sidekick was a geneticist."
Lois looked at Clark. They had decided earlier not to reveal the blood sample Arabella had taken from Superman — not yet.
"There's only one thing I don't understand," said Perry.
"What's that?" Lois tapped her pencil on her notepad.
"Why kidnap you? Wouldn't that just get Superman more riled up?"
"That's the only thing we can't figure out." Clark said.
"We'll find out sooner or later, I guess," Lois finished.
Suddenly there was a screeching sound. They looked around and located the source as coming from the many televisions strewn about the Planet. The sound died soon enough and the screens all went blank. The three rushed out into the newsroom.
Everyone was watching the monitors as a dark figure appeared, the head of the man shrouded in darkness.
"Citizens of Metropolis," the voice began. "I have a very important announcement to make."
Clark crossed his arms instinctively at the presence of what was obviously a criminal.
"Soon, the whole city will be under my control. Soon, I will command the police force, the banks, the businesses, and the media of Metropolis."
"Yeah, right," Lois said under her breath. "Not with Superman around."
"Even the mighty Superman will be of little consequence to me." The man paused, letting his words sink in to the minds of the citizens of Metropolis. "You may be wondering why I'm telling you all this. The answer is two-fold. First to give all the citizens of Metropolis the chance to enjoy their last few days of freedom to the fullest. And secondly, as a challenge. A challenge to Superman."
The man in the picture leaned forward into the light his face wrapped in bandages. He started to remove them, unwinding the gauze around and around his head. The bandages dropped away and everyone in the room gasped.
"Just try to stop me."
Lois and Clark stared at each other in disbelief.
"It can't be," said Lois.
"He's dead," they both echoed.
On the video screen Lex Luthor laughed.
He heard the cry as he flew over the east part of the city. A cry for help, his job to do so. He veered off, a blue streak in the sky, changing his direction and heading for the west side.
He heard the cry again and zeroed in on the source. The WGBS building — rooftop. He zoomed in.
"Hello, Superman," she said as he alighted next to her on the windy roof. She leaned against the antenna tower that broadcast WGBS all across Metropolis.
"What do you want, Lana?" Obviously she wasn't in any kind of trouble. She'd just called out to lure him here and that annoyed him.
"Oh, not much," said Lana. "How about a Kerth Award for TV journalism?"
Superman was confused. "I'm sorry," he began. "I don't think I can really help much with that."
Lana sashayed over to him, placed a hand on his arm. "Oh, but you can." Her eye moved up and down his form. "Clark Kent."
And with that, she kissed him.
To Be Continued in the author's story "Patching Things Up"