By Chris Fawcett <cfawcett@neo.Irun.com>
Submitted September 1998
Summary: Does Lana really know Clark is Superman? Can a mysterious man actually make an army of Supermen? Read this follow-up to the fanfic "Kissing Booth" to find how Lois and Clark fight the bad guys.
By Chris Fawcett; additional plotting by Greg Wheeler
Continued from "Kissing Booth"
"That's what she said." Clark was sitting on the edge of Lois' desk at the Daily Planet, leaning over and speaking quietly so as not to be heard.
"That's impossible," Lois said. "How could Lana know you're — " She waved her hand in the air, a flying motion.
"I don't know," Clark said. "But then she did the strangest thing — she kissed me."
Lois smiled. She knew Clark was trying to be open with her. "Well, it's no secret that Ms. Lana Lang has the hots for one Clark Kent. And if she knows — "
"That's it!" Clark snapped his fingers. "The kiss."
"Lois, Lana has kissed me *many* times."
"Don't remind me."
"Then at the fair last week, she kissed Superman. She must have recognized the similarity. I'm surprised it took her this long."
"What? You mean she's kissed Superman before?"
"In Graceland, remember?"
"You said she was coming on to you, not that she kissed you!"
Clark winced. "Sorry, must have slipped my mind."
Lois frowned but was content to drop the subject. "I don't know, it wouldn't seem like she'd be able to figure it out just from a kiss," Lois said.
"Why? It makes sense."
"Clark, I kissed both you and Superman before I knew you were the same person and I never figured it out."
"But, you only kissed us — me a few times. Lana and I have a *long* history together."
Lois wrinkled her face. "Makes me ill just thinking about it," she said.
Jimmy came walking up and Clark said under his breath. "We'll finish this later."
"Hi CK. Lois, I got the information you wanted on Diversitech." Jimmy slapped a stack of papers down on Lois' desk. "Pretty typical stuff, really."
"Thanks Jimmy." Jimmy walked off as Lois began flipping through the pages.
"Anything interesting?" Clark asked.
"No, Jimmy was right, looks pretty typical. I'll go over it carefully though, just in case."
"Let me know what you find," Clark said. "Right now, I've got to get this story about the Iranian refugees done before Perry eats me alive."
Lois smiled but didn't look up, still indulged in studying Jimmy's research. Clark reached down and touched her hand to get her attention. "Lois." She looked up. "Be thinking about what we can do about Lana, OK? I'm really at a loss. Fortunately, she doesn't have any evidence to go public with, but you can bet she'll be looking."
Lois nodded, leaned forward, and kissed him. "We'll figure something out. We always do."
Lex Luthor held the blue cube carefully. He wasn't sure how fragile the computer core was, so he wasn't taking any chances. He pushed it slowly into a slot on the console in front of him.
"Power!" he said.
Ms. Arabella, standing across the room at a circuit box, flipped a switch and the system came to life.
Lex looked around at what he had built. In the lower level of his bunker, the geneticist had assembled her lab. The room appeared half computer center and half biology lab. There were monitors and test tubes, keyboards and vials, computer disks and microscopes. And in one corner, a long tube, human sized, and large enough for one patient.
The monitor in front of Lex came to life. "It works," he announced and began tapping away at the keyboard. Another man entered the room. "Samuel, just the person I needed." Lex waved over the young, dark-haired man.. "Do you have the program ready?"
Samuel pulled a CD-ROM, sans case, out of his breast pocket. "Right here. I finished up this morning."
"And you're sure it'll run on this computer?"
"Lex, I helped Diversitech *design* this computer. I'm pretty sure it'll run."
"It better." Lex popped the disk into a drive. Soon his screen came to life. The program's title graphic showed a DNA double helix chain. "Wonderful!"
Arabella was looking over their shoulders. "Should I get the blood?"
Lex spun in his chair. "Why not? No need to waste time." He smiled. His plan was finally coming into fruition.
Arabella, dressed in a stark white lab coat, crossed the room and opened a case. It contained a gridwork of very small vials, each about the size of a thumbnail. She pulled one of them out and swished around the dark liquid inside.
Lex moved his chair around the corner to get a better view of the lab. Arabella pulled the tiny cork off the vial and poured the contents into a device sitting on the table.
"Don't spill any," Lex warned. "Superman's blood is at a premium these days."
He smiled and Arabella scowled at him. She poured the sparse contents into the machine, closed the lid, and flicked a switch. Lex rolled his chair around the corner and back to the computer screen.
"It's not doing anything," he said.
Samuel leaned over and punched a button. The word ANALYZING came up on the screen, flashing. Then it was replaced as a chain of DNA started graphically building itself on the monitor.
"I was thinking," Lois said as she tied the sash of her robe about her waist. "Maybe Lana won't try to go public."
Clark reclined on the bed. "I doubt it. You don't know Lana as well as I do. She'll do everything she can to make a story out of this. She's a lot like you in that way." Lois flashed him a look. "Besides, she said something about the Kerth Awards. She's going to see this through."
Lois sat beside him. "OK. Then we have two basic choices. Number one, we make Lana think that she's wrong about the kiss — make her doubt her own thoughts. Or number two, we give her some evidence that shows you're not Superman — some fact that'll override her instincts."
"You've been thinking about this," Clark said, impressed.
"Well, I figured that you're always the one having to work through these problems. Usually it's with some bad guy, but this time it's Lana and being a women, I probably think more like her than you do. Even though I hate to admit it."
She sat staring at the ceiling, her finger tapping her chin. Then a thought came. "Or we could do both," she said.
"Choice one and two. We could give her a reason to not believe the kiss and give her some facts to support it!"
"And how do we do that?"
"Well, the first one's easy. You have to kiss her again."
"Kiss her again. But kiss really bad this time. Make her doubt her memories about how Clark used to kiss her. If she experiences Clark kissing badly, her ideas about him and Superman, the good kisser, may change."
"Lois, I don't think that's such a good idea."
Lois continued, not hearing Clark. "Yes. You have to kiss her *so* bad that she couldn't ever believe *you* were same person she kissed at the booth."
"But, Lois, just last week, you were flipping out because of the kissing booth. Are you sure you want me to kiss Lana? My old girlfriend?"
"Clark, I got over that. I was being childish. I know that you love me and that kissing all those women at the booth meant nothing to you. It was for a good cause. And this is for an even better cause, keeping your identity a secret. Besides, it might stop her from hitting on you all the time. If you give her what she wants, and she doesn't like it…"
"True," Clark said.
Lois sat back. "And I think I can forgive you for kissing her, if it'll get her off our backs for good."
"Forgive *me*? It was your idea."
"Yeah, but if you didn't kiss so good, we wouldn't be in this predicament."
She leaned over and kissed him, reminding herself of why Lana would remember.
Lex walked around the small gathering of men. There were five of them, all volunteers in a manner.
"Most of you know the risks involved," Lex said. "Of course, you all knew when we broke you out of prison. And that is your reward, your freedom. And if this works, much more. So, the only question left is: Who wants to go first?"
Only one man raised his hand. He'd been a lifer in prison and had nothing to loose. Lex walked up to him.
"Ahh, you'll make an excellent example." Lex looked him over. "You already have some strength, I see. Well soon my friend you'll have much more. What's your name?"
Lex led the man into the laboratory and motioned him to the table. Jack laid down and the tube slid into place over his body. A frost filled the chamber and the man was instantly frozen in suspended animation.
"Lex, what are you doing?" It was Arabella.
"Our first test run, dear."
"But Lex, I haven't finished sequencing the DNA chain. I've only discovered four Kryptonian genes."
"Are they programmed in?"
"What would happen if we ran the procedure with only those four?"
Arabella thought a moment. "I'm not sure. Maybe nothing, maybe something. Maybe he'll die. I just don't know."
"Well then, only one way to find out."
Lex tapped on the glass. "Time to fly."
He went to the computer and typed in some commands. The machines whirred to life and a bright glow poured out of the tube. It was so brilliant Lex and Arabella had to cover their eyes.
The light soon died down and they walked over to the tube which was now opening. Jack sat up weakly.
Lex rubbed his hands together. "Well?"
"How do you feel?"
"Kind of light-headed."
"Here let me help." Lex put Jack's arm around his shoulders and helped him stand. They walked a few steps and Jack seemed to get better by the second.
"You feel any different?" Lex asked.
"Not really. Should I?"
"Let's try a little experiment." Lex let go of Jack and he almost fell, grabbing onto a nearby table for support. Lex grabbed a steel bar off a lab counter and handed it to him.
"See if you can bend this," Lex said.
"Just humor me."
Jack took the bar and put all his strength into bending it., but he could not.
Lex frowned. "It didn't work."
"I told you I wasn't finished with the DNA analysis," Arabella said.
"But still, *something* should have happened. He's got to be different somehow!"
"If you would just let me finish my work before you get so anxious — "
"Fine. Fine." Lex lifted his hands up, annoyed, but knowing Arabella was right. "I've got some other things to take care of anyway. More *volunteers* to recruit." Lex looked at Jack. "You should come with me. I could use some muscle — even if it's not Super muscle."
Jack simply nodded.
The pair exited the building into the cool but sunny morning. A limo pulled up immediately and Lex motioned for Jack to get the door for him. Jack was confused for a moment, but then realized what Lex wanted.
He grabbed the door handle and pulled the entire door right off the car.
Lex stared. It *had* worked!
"But why — " he began. Then it hit him. "The sun. Superman gets his powers from the yellow sun! It must have activated the Kryptonian genes we planted in your body! Do you know what this means?"
Jack just stared.
Lex reined in his excitement. "Do you see the possibilities? An army of Supermen under my control!"
Lois tapped her pen on the desk. She'd gone over all her notes, but nothing had struck her reporter's intuition. She shuffled the papers and pictures around on her desk one last time, hoping something would hit. Nothing did.
Clark came up behind her and gave her a peck on the top of her head. "Any luck?"
"No. I still have one last thing to try." She reached into her handbag and pulled out the tape recorder. "Got any batteries?"
Clark moved to his desk, opening the top drawer and fumbling around. He pulled out his tape recorder and proceeded to empty it of the batteries. "Here you go." He handed Lois the batteries and she popped them into her recorder.
She hit the rewind button.
"Clark! Phone!" It was Jimmy, holding the receiver in his hand. Clark gave an annoyed look, but went to answer the call.
The tape recorder clicked at the end of the tape and Lois hit the play button. She had started it immediately at the beginning of Jeffrey Schultz's speech at the fair grounds.
She picked up a picture of Mr. Schultz and studied it while half-listening to the tape. She didn't really expect to find anything.
"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," the tape said.
Lois' instinct kicked on. Something important there. She hit the rewind button.
Clark came back. "That was Lana. She says she has a lead on the Luthor story and she wants to discuss it."
"Yeah, right. When has Lana ever shared information with us?" Lois scowled. "She's up to something Clark. Watch yourself. Remember she still thinks you're — " Lois mouthed the word 'Superman'.
"I know. That's one reason I took her up on the offer. I'm going to see what I can do about that." Lois looked up. Clark was unsure of what she had made of that statement, so he clarified. "Without kissing." He grabbed his coat. "I'll be back in a couple hours."
Lois turned her attention back to the tape recorder.
"…entire world's air traffic control, automated highway systems, and analyze a complete DNA chain…"
That was it. Genetics.
"Jimmy!" Lois yelled. Jimmy came quickly. "Get me everything you can on a Ms. Arabella. She's a geneticist."
"Sure, Lois. Have a breakthrough?"
"Have I ever *not* had a breakthrough — eventually?" Lois smiled smugly.
"I guess not. What'd you find?"
Good old Jimmy, always wanting to learn, always trying to be more like a reporter. "I listened to the tape I made of the seminar at the computer unveiling," Lois began. "Listen to this." She played back the section of tape for Jimmy.
"So?" He didn't understand.
"Analyze DNA. Ms. Arabella was a geneticist. Lex trapped me in *her* genetics lab. It all fits."
"OK, so what DNA are they going to analyze?"
Lois hadn't thought that far into the revelation, but the answer came to her instantly.
"Superman's blood!" Lois exclaimed. "Jimmy, get me those files. Right now!"
"I'll fill you in later. Go!" Jimmy turned to leave. "Never mind, I'm coming with you," she finished.
Clark knocked on the door labeled "Lana Lang, Senior Correspondent." He heard some shuffling in the room and then the door opened.
"Clark!" She pulled him inside. "I'm glad you could come."
Clark entered, not realizing until now how nervous this was making him. "Hi, Lana." He looked at the ground, wanting to avoid her eyes, but realized all that accomplished was making him see her legs. Lana was dressed as usual in a very short skirt. He looked back up.
"Come in, have a seat. Coffee? Tea?"
He lowered himself into a chair and as she sat on the edge of the desk. Legs again.
"Um, no." Clark stammered and pulled at his collar.
"What's wrong," Lana asked. "Too hot in here for the Man of Steel?" She rose and went to the thermostat.
"The what? The Man of Steel? Did you just call me the Man of Steel?"
"Oh, come now, Clarkie, don't play dumb. You and I both know it's the truth. Let me ask you something. Does Lois know?"
"About you and Superman." She reached over and played with his tie.
Clark stood, pulling the tie away. "There's nothing *to* know, Lana. I'm not Superman."
"Well, you can deny it for now." She moved towards him and rubbed her hands up his chest, leaning in close. "But soon I'll have proof — and the biggest news story to ever hit this town."
Lana leaned in to kiss him and, for a moment, Clark didn't pull away. Maybe Lois was right and he needed to get this over with. But it didn't *feel* right. He pulled back before their lips connected and found himself staring right into Lana's face. The memories came flooding back.
She had looked the same one night standing on her parents porch back in Smallville. The night air was cold, but Clark didn't notice. The yellowish porch light cast an amber glow about the wooden deck and tinted her green dress into a different hue.
Lana had moved close and he had pulled back, simply out of nervousness. He hadn't been as adept at the physical side of the relationship as Lana and she had always been the initiator. But then he relaxed and, eager as any high school boy, kissed her.
Lana sat in the seat next to Clark on the Ferris Wheel. It was getting dark out and the twilight sun burned the sky red to the west. Clark smiled, happy to be here with his girlfriend. The attendant lowered the bar and the Ferris Wheel began spinning. Up they went into the summer night.
Lana laughed as the wheel went around, three, four times. Then on the last trip, the wheel stopped at the top. Clark looked down. They were unloading passengers. Next in line was a young man in a wheel chair. Clark smiled, happy the boy would get his chance to fly.
"Looks like we're stuck here for a few minutes," Clark said. He stared out at the horizon as the sun relinquished it's last rays of the day. "It's beautiful."
"It certainly is." Their lips met.
He held Lana sitting in front of him. They stared into the bright fire and up into the starry night. It was a little chilly out, so he pulled her closer, keeping both of them warm with their own body heat. Around the fire sat other friends of theirs. Some with a significant other, some without. Clark felt sorry for those who didn't have or couldn't bring a loved one to share the wonderful night with.
The fire popped and spitted in the quiet night. Lana turned her head back to him. "I love you, Clark."
He snapped out of his trance, coming back to the present, Lana standing in front of him.
"Hello? Earth to Clark."
He shook his head. "Sorry, I just got lost in thought for a second there."
"I'm sure there's a lot of room to get lost in there," Lana quipped under her breath.
"Look, can we get to what I'm here for?" Clark asked.
Lana, her back to him, tapped her hand on the desk. She spun. "If that's what you want," she said demurely. She walked around the desk and sat down as Clark resumed his seat in the opposite chair.
"I have some information on your Ms. Arabella."
Lana's words sounded forced and Clark realized that she had asked him here with other motives, but now she was having to proceed with her deception.
"Up until three months ago she worked for a very interesting business — here in Metropolis." Clark's eyebrow lifted and Lana continued. "Ever hear of Metroplas?"
"The cosmetic surgery chain?"
"That's the one. Seems she was head of genetic research for their R&D division. She worked directly under the president a — " She glanced at her notes. "Mr. A. M. Thorley."
"And then a few months later," Clark finished. "She shows up as a sidekick for Lex Luthor who, when he first appeared, was wrapped in bandages."
"I don't think it's a coincidence. Maybe Lex messed up his face in that building that fell on him."
"But Arabella couldn't have done the surgery herself. She's a geneticist, not a surgeon."
Lana stood. "So that means this all must be connected to — "
"Metroplas," they said in unison.
Lana grabbed her coat and Clark opened the door for her. They had a visit to make.
Lana and Clark entered the Metroplas corporate office through the two large front doors. After inquiring at the main desk, they took an elevator to the seventh floor and stepped out. There was another receptionist, this one young and beautiful, at a desk attending to two people, a man and a woman. The woman turned.
"Lois?" Clark said.
"Clark?" said the man beside Lois.
"Lana!" Lois exclaimed.
"In the flesh."
"But what are *you* two doing here?" Jimmy said.
"What are you doing here?" Lana countered.
"Following a lead," Lois and Clark said in unison.
"Well, I guess we should join forces then," Jimmy said.
"Jimmy, fill Lana in," Lois said tugging on Clark's arm. "And see about that interview. I need to speak to Clark for a minute.
She pulled him aside. "What are you doing here with Lana?"
"You knew I was meeting with her. We made some revelations about the story. It led us here."
"And you didn't call me? Didn't tell me? Perry wouldn't like this Clark — consorting with the enemy and all."
"It was her lead," Clark said. "I couldn't just let her go off chasing it herself, we might have lost the story. What brought you here?"
"Jimmy and I had some revelations of our own," Lois said. "Well, I guess we just deal with this situation as best we can. But we should let Perry know as painlessly as we can, huh?"
Clark nodded. He began to rejoin the others when Lois grabbed his sleeve. "What about the other thing?" she asked and waved her hand in their personal gesture for Superman.
Clark just shook his head.
Lois started another sentence, but Jimmy interrupted. "Lois. We've got a problem here."
Lois rushed over to the receptionist desk. "What?"
"We can't see Mr. Thorley."
"Because he's been missing for two months."
"A test," Lex mused. "We need a test." He was sitting in his office, a posh little corner of his underground bunker. "Something to — to assure me of the success of the process."
Arabella uncrossed and recrossed her legs. "Well, I have finished the DNA sampling. I only found six more genes that seem to be Kryptonian in nature. So that means Jack received a little less than half the genes he needed."
"Yes, I've noticed he's missing all the vision stuff. No x-ray, no heat beam. But still, he can fly and break down brick walls with his bare hands. But is he really as powerful as Superman?"
"I don't know."
"And is this permanent or temporary?"
"It should be permanent, but again, I can't be sure."
There was a long moment of silence.
"Should I start the experiments of some of the other subjects?"
"No, no. Not yet. Let's make sure we have this right — that the experiment lived up to my — our expectations." Lex stood. "Which is precisely why we need a test." He smiled evilly. "Bring Jack in here. I think it's about time Metropolis begins to understand that there's a new power in town."
"Here you go," the secretary said as she opened the locked office door. A plaque on the door said 'Alex M. Thorley - President.' "Just don't disturb anything."
The foursome entered the room. It was a plush corner office suite, complete with a bar, restroom, and pool table.
"Well, it was nice enough for her to let us in here," Clark said.
"Yeah, but if it wasn't for Jimmy, we'd be outta luck." Lois said.
"You three owe me one."
Clark rolled his eyes. Jimmy had sweet-talked the secretary and done an amazingly good job of it.
The four immediately started looking around. Lois went for the desk, Lana the filing cabinet, and Jimmy a set of bookshelves on the side wall. Clark hung out in the middle of the room, glancing around at things and discreetly using his x-ray vision to survey the walls. Most of what he saw was directly into neighboring rooms, none of the walls having thickness enough to hide anything.
"Here's something," Lana said. She had a folder in her hand. "It appears Ms. Arabella is still getting paid."
"But they fired her a few months ago, right?" Jimmy said.
"According the official records, but it looks like Thorley was slipping her some cash on the side."
"This is getting deeper and deeper," Lois remarked.
Clark had finished the walls and found nothing of note. He turned his vision to the desk Lois was searching through. She popped up from behind it.
"Something else," Lois said. She lifted up a picture of Lex Luthor.
Jimmy grabbed it from her and took a closer look. "They must have been using this photo to reconstruct his face!" Jimmy said, happy he had figured it out first.
Lois pulled a few more sheets out of the folder the picture had come from. There was another picture. "Here's another one. The caption says this is Thorley." She held it up for all to see.
"He must have done the surgery on Lex himself," Lana said. "You know Lex, he wouldn't have trusted anyone but the best."
Clark caught something in his x-ray vision as Lois started to close the door she had opened. "Wait!" Clark said. He reached into the drawer and up under the desk top. "There's a button in here."
"How'd you know that?" Lana asked.
"I saw a reflection in Lois' watch," he stammered, hoping Lana would buy it.
"Well, stop talking and push it!" Lois said.
A whirring sound crept up from the silence and a crack appeared on the carpet. A section of the carpet about five feet square began to rise out of the floor. The four went to it as it came to a full six feet tall.
"Oh my God." Lois staggered.
The floor section had revealed a display case — a collectors case of Lex Luthor items. There were pictures, newspaper clippings, a leather bound copy of Luthor's biography, and many other miscellaneous pieces.
"Is that — " Jimmy started.
"Luthor's hair." Clark finished, sickened by the display.
"That's — that's my engagement ring! To Luthor, I mean." Clark went around to Lois' side of the display. "How did he get that. I threw it away!"
"This guy is obviously a little off his rocker," Lana said. "Just a bit fanatical about Lex Luthor, don't you think?"
"Wait! I think you hit on something there." All eyes turned to Clark.
"Lex, the geneticist, the computer, Thorley, Superman's blood — "
"Superman's blood?" Lana had yet to hear that portion of the story.
"Don't you see," Clark continued. "Lex *is* Thorley!"
"What? I don't understand." Jimmy said. "You mean to tell me Lex has been hiding out here for the past two years?"
"No." Clark went over to the desk and picked up the two pictures. "Thorley *became* Lex. The bandaged man — Thorley, with enough surgery to make himself look like Lex Luthor."
"He was so infatuated with the man," Lois continued, catching on. "That he decided to *become* the man."
"And with Lex out of the way, a multimillion dollar company to support him, and the surgeons to remake his face, who was going to stop him?" Jimmy completed.
"And he didn't waste any time hatching a Luthoresque plan to take over Metropolis," Clark said. "He must be totally psychotic. It's amazing he made it to this position in life. I wonder what made him snap?"
Clark's superhearing kicked on and he heard a cry for help. He looked at Lois and she immediately knew what was going on.
"Clark, why don't you go phone this in and we'll finish looking around."
Clark nodded and was gone.
Lois, Jimmy, and Lana exited Thorley's office.
"So much for finding anything else," Lois said.
"I think we found enough," Jimmy replied.
Lana stopped in the door frame. "Huh. His real name *is* Lex. Alex." Lana pointed to the nameplate attached to the door. Jimmy and Lois looked for themselves.
The secretary walked by and Lois grabbed her. "Miss, mind if I ask you a few questions?"
She looked skeptical, but Jimmy gave her a beaming smile and she folded. "Oh, OK. But make it quick."
"Just one question. Alex Thorley — what was he like — the last time you saw him?"
The secretary shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Um, he wasn't right." Lois waved, urging her on. "He was a little crazy."
"Crazy. Crazy how?"
"He would talk to himself. Babbling really. Walking around staring at the ground. Then one day he just disappeared."
The secretary looked anxious so Lois thanked her and sent her on her way.
"A lunatic psycho with loads of money," Lana said.
"We'd better find Superman," Lois answered.
Lana raised her eyebrows. "Yes, we'd better find him."
Superman swooped over the city to the sound of the commotion. He could see long before he got there that a whole city block was torn to pieces. Cars were overturned, lightposts ripped out of the concrete, mailboxes torn open, the contents blowing in the wind.
Superman pulled up short, appraising the situation before rushing in. It appeared as if all the civilians had quickly left the area, so there was no immediate danger to life.
Then he saw a streak of black that zoomed up from below and struck him in the chest. He was knocked backwards and set spinning. What had hit him? Superman searched for the object and saw a lightpost falling from the sky. Someone had thrown a lightpost that hard?
Superman sped down to the pavement and saw his attacker.
"Who are you?"
"You can call me SuperJack." Jack lifted a small car and threw it in Superman's direction.
Superman grabbed it and set it back on it's wheels. By that time another piece of the torn up block was being hurled in his direction — a slab of concrete. He ducked and sped in toward Jack.
But Jack was quick. He leapt into the sky and Superman flew by underneath him. Jack laughed from above as Superman hit a fire hydrant, causing it to spew water into the air.
Superman spun around and Jack was rushing at him headlong. Superman barely had enough time to react. He took a step to the side and brought his fists down on Jack's back as he flew by. There was a sickening crunching sound. Jack flew into a nearby wall and smashed it into it's component bricks.
Superman rushed over. Jack lay on the pile of bricks in a very abnormal position. Clark reached down and felt for a pulse.
"He's dead," he said in horror. "I — I killed him."
"Clark, it wasn't your fault."
"You keep saying that and even though I know it's true, it doesn't change the way I feel." Clark slumped into the couch.
"He was attacking you! With super powers. How were you supposed to know that he wasn't also invulnerable like you are?"
"I know, Lois. It's just that I've never really killed anyone. Not with my own hands like that. I snapped his back in two."
Lois sat beside him, running her fingers through his hair. His glasses were off, so there was no obstruction. "Just remember, that man attacked you first. And he destroyed a whole city block. And he was a convict, Clark — a recently escaped convict."
"He still didn't deserve to die."
Clark was morbid and Lois didn't know how to snap him out of it. She tried changing the focus of the conversation. "Well, what about his powers? How do you think he got them?"
"I don't know. It was weird, like he had some of my powers, but not others. He could fly and had super strength, but he certainly wasn't invulnerable. This has all got to link back to Lex Luth — I mean Alex Thorley."
"They must be doing something with the DNA sample they got from you," Lois continued, happy that Clark was getting his mind off the situation, at least to some degree. "Cloning?"
"That sounds more likely," Lois said.
There was silence for a moment.
"What more did you and Lana find out at Metroplas after I left?
"Not much, just that Thorley was a loony. Speaking of Lana, though — "
Clark rolled his eyes and let his head fall to the back of the couch. "I'd forgotten about that. Can today get any worse?"
"Well, she's not just going to go away. You said so yourself."
"I tried to convince her," Clark started.
"And it didn't work." Lois got up from the couch and went to the kitchen. "I think you're going to have to go with our other plan."
Clark heard the microwave click on. "You mean your plan."
"My plan, your plan," Lois said from the doorway. "What difference does it make, you have to do it."
Clark closed his eyes. "I don't like the idea. Just last week you were angry with me about — "
"This is different, Clark." She came into the room carrying a cup of hot tea. "And I learned something from that experience." Clark took the cup and thanked her. "I learned that I need to be more understanding of the fact that you belong to me as Clark, but you belong to the world as Superman. And I should trust you enough to know that whatever you do for the world won't affect the love you have for me."
Clark smiled and stroked her cheek. Then his face lost it's happiness. "But I'll be doing this as Clark," he said.
"But, it's *for* Superman."
Clark thought about what Lois was saying and started remembering the time in Lana's office just yesterday. It made him uneasy. "But Lois, I don't know if maybe — I mean, I don't think I would ever feel — "
Lois put a finger to his lips. "Shh. Let me just assure you." She leaned forward and kissed him. They fell back prone on the couch and their embrace continued.
"Dead!" Lex was upset. "How could he be dead!?"
"Calm down, Alex," Arabella began.
"And *don't* call me Alex. It's Lex, Lex Luthor."
Arabella continued. "I told you that the process wasn't complete when you tested it on Jack. One of the chromosomes he was missing must have been for invulnerability. He never had a chance."
Lex paced the area behind his desk. "But it is perfected now?"
"Yes. I've use the Diversitech computer to isolate all the Kryptonian genes. We can splice them into anyone now."
"A small price to pay then," Lex waved his hand. "One man."
"Get another volunteer," Lex said. "Meet me in the lab in ten minutes."
Arabella was already strapping in the next person when Lex entered the laboratory. He was a burly man with a dark black beard and deep set eyes.
"Ahh, good. I see you're almost ready to go." Lex approached the man on the table. "Ready — um?"
"Larry. Ready to become a Superman, Larry?"
The man simply smiled a wide, crooked-tooth grin.
"Good, good." Lex patted his chest and pulled the table straps so tight the man inhaled involuntarily. "Hold on tight."
Lex stepped away from the table. Arabella threw a switch and the process began. Frost floodded the chamber. Then the blinding light filled the room for a moment. The tube recessed away from the table. The man shook his head.
"That hurt a little."
Lex pulled a remote out of his pocket and pressed a button. In the corner a mirror turned and pure sunlight poured into the room. Larry blinked as his eyes adjusted.
"Get up," Lex commanded.
"But, the straps — "
Lex pulled a gun out of his jacket pocket and aimed it at Larry. "I said get up!"
Larry strained against his restraints and quickly broke them. He smiled as he stood, understanding better what his new power could do.
"First test passed," Lex said. "Here's your second." Lex pulled the trigger and a bullet shot straight at Larry's chest. The man flinched, but the bullet simply bounced off. Lex smiled now. "Good, Ms. Arabella. I see that problem is definitely fixed."
Lex smiled evilly. "Go get another candidate."
Lana entered the Daily Planet news floor from the elevator. She looked around for Clark, but didn't see him. So she headed for Lois Lane's desk.
"Lois, honey, where's Clark?"
Lois looked up from her computer screen, surprised to see Lana. "What do you need him for?"
"I've got some more information about that story."
"He's out, but you can give it to me."
Lana smirked. "Out, huh? Saving the world?"
Lois kept the alarm from working into her face. She would have to do some quick thinking here. "Well, as much as any reporter can save the world. The pen is mightier than the sword." Lois wagged her pencil in the air.
Lana was not amused. "Yes." She stopped, staring off into nowhere before continuing. "Lois, what do you know about Superman?"
Lois started sweating. "Superman?"
"Blue tights, cape, gorgeous, much like your husband." Lana slowed the last few words down, punctuating them with her tone.
Lois played dumb. "You know, the usual stuff. Everything I know has been published in the Planet at one point in time or another. Why?" She regretted the question the second it left her mouth.
"I'm working on a story — a Superman story. Do you know he has a secret identity?"
Lois was totally taken aback by the directness of the question. Lana was probing her for information, trying to get her to slip up.
"I'd guessed as much, but that's all I know."
Lana sat on the corner of Lois' desk. "Walking around among us, living a somewhat normal life."
"The guy next door," Lois continued.
"Disguised only as a normal human," Lana said. "Living in a normal apartment."
"Kind of makes him seem more real, doesn't it?" Lois said. "The man behind the suit."
"Or course, he'd have to wear the suit all the time," Lana continued. "Underneath his clothes." Then Lana's eyes lit up. She stood and started to say something more when Clark interrupted.
"Lana! What are you doing here?"
"Clark, just the person I need to see. Is there someplace we can talk?" Clark glanced at Lois. "Alone."
"Um, sure. We can use the conference room."
Clark looked back to his wife as he followed Lana. She said nothing but mouthed the words "Be careful."
Clark was glad the conference room was already empty. "What is it Lana?"
"I've got a hot tip on this Thorley guy," she said. "An informant is coming over tonight to give me the information."
"What is it?"
"I don't even know myself. Clark, I'm worried." She moved closer to him. "I think this guy may be dangerous, but I don't want to lose this opportunity."
"Why are you telling me all this?" Clark asked.
She traced her finger up his biceps. "Because I thought you could give me a little protection."
Clark saw where this was going and he promptly intercepted the conversation. "I'll come and look out for you if you really need me, but I'm no Superman. If they guy has a gun… or friends, I don't know how much help I'll be. Are you sure we shouldn't get the police involved?"
"No. No police. The man said the deal was off if he caught wind of the cops."
"Well, OK then. What time?"
"Eight o'clock. Sharp."
Lana strolled out of the room without so much as a good-bye, leaving Clark to puzzle through what she'd said. Lois entered the conference room.
"What was that all about?"
"Lana says she has a informant. She wants me to be there tonight when he drops by. But it seemed like there was something more to it than that."
"Before you got here, she was asking a lot of questions about Superman," Lois said.
"And that's why I'm really going," Clark said. "As me, not Superman. Maybe I can convince her this time."
Lois moved in closer to him. "Even if you have to kiss her?"
"Even if I have to kiss her," Clark relinquished. "But right now, we've got more important things to worry about." Clark led her out of the office.
"I've made an appointment with Doctor Klein. About the *other* super man."
"Yes, I've read the papers," Dr. Klein said. "I figured you or Superman would be here eventually, so I've already started thinking about the problem."
"Great!" Lois exclaimed.
"We have a pretty good idea how this has happened," Clark began. Dr. Klein's eyebrows raised — this part hadn't been in the papers. "Superman had some blood… stolen from him. And we're pretty sure whoever is doing this is somehow using the genetic make-up of his DNA."
Klein pulled a notepad out from his desk. "That just confirms what I came up with on my own," he began. "I think that someone is altering human DNA chains to make supermen of their own."
"How can they do that?" Lois asked.
"Genetic engineering." Klein moved to a board on the wall and pointed to a display of a DNA chain. "Superman's physiology is nearly identical to our own. If someone were to analyze his DNA, they might be able to find the differences between us and Superman. That knowledge could be used to splice into and alter a normal human's genetic patterns."
"You mean they could turn a human into a Kryptonian?" Lois was flabbergasted.
"In a sense. The Kryptonian genes would be more like a virus in the system. A certain section of the DNA chain would be replaced with the Kryptonian segments, mutating the human genes."
"And giving the human Superman's powers," Clark said.
"In theory, yes." Dr. Klein scratched his head. "But analyzing a complete DNA chain would take a *really* powerful computer."
"We know," Lois said. "I think these people have that end covered."
Klein's eyes lit up. "The theft at the fairgrounds!"
"That's our current theory," Clark said.
"And that brings us to the fight on 3rd Street yesterday," Lois said, guiding the conversation in the right direction.
"Yes, I have an idea about that too. If I had to guess, I'd say whoever is doing this tried the process out before the DNA chain was completely analyzed. So only some genes were turned into the Kryptonian genes."
"And the guinea pig Superman fought yesterday only had some of Superman's powers." Lois jotted this all down on her notepad.
"Right. Each gene would apply to a certain characteristic of Superman's. Most, as we know, are identical to ours. That's why Superman looks like us, eats like us, breathes the same air we do. But the genes that are different from ours are what gives him his special abilities."
A worried expression crossed Clark's face. "That means that if the DNA analysis were finished, you could make Kryptonians with all of Superman's powers."
Lois and Clark looked at each other. Each easily read the other's expression. This could only mean trouble
"In the hands of the wrong people, this could be a very dangerous technology." Clark said. "Dr. Klein, is there any way to change a person back, once they've been… converted?"
"I'm not sure. I'll have to do a little more research." Dr. Klein went to a bookshelf and pulled out half a dozen books. He started again, speaking more to himself than to Lois or Clark. "There must be a way to take advantage of the fact that the genes would be acting like a virus. Maybe if…"
He trailed off and it was obvious that he was already engrossed in the problem. They took their leave.
Clark knocked on Lana's door.
He heard rustling inside and a moment later it opened. As soon as he saw her, he knew that there would be no informant coming over tonight. She had on an emerald green dress that came down to just above her heels. Her auburn hair was pulled up on top of her head, away from the shoulders wrapped over with thin spaghetti straps.
"Come in," she said and elegantly turned. The back of the dress was open most of the way down her back and Clark couldn't help but think how beautiful she looked.
He followed her into the living room. There was a fire burning in the fireplace. Clark loosened his tie. It was getting warm.
"Nice place," he said.
She sat on the couch and patted the seat next to her. "Have a seat. Can I get you something to drink?"
"Um, water would be fine." Clark waited until she rose to sit himself.
She went into the kitchen, returning a few moment later carrying two long-stemmed glasses. "I'm all out of water," she said, a coniving glint in her eye. "I hope wine is OK."
Clark took the glass. "Yeah, sure."
She sat beside him, uncomfortably close. Even though he knew what he was here to do, he involuntarily moved away a little.
"So, the informant?"
Lana had forgotten her ploy. "What?"
"The man you were meeting tonight. The one you were afraid of?"
"Oh, him. He canceled."
Clark didn't know what to say. Normally he would have been out of there in a shot, but he had things he needed to do.
"A toast," Lana said.
Clark raised his glass. "To what?"
"To old times and new stories."
They clicked their glasses together and drank.
When they were done, Lana took Clark's glass from his hand and set it and hers on the coffee table between them and the fire. The lights seemed to dim a little and the firelight glimmered in Lana's eyes. Clark found himself back in time. But it was real.
She leaned in closer, the material of her dress brushing against his arm. "Clark?" He looked over at her. "Do you ever… miss me?"
Clark fumbled with his words. His emotions, feelings, and thoughts were all jumbled. They flashed from Lois to Lana, from the past to the present, from his desires to his duty here tonight.
"Sometimes," he managed.
"I miss you too." She leaned back in the sofa, resting her head on his shoulder. "Sometimes I wish I could just turn back the clock — go back to the fun times we had." She lifted her head, her eyes only inches from his.
In that moment, the yellowish firelight made Clark remember — a time on her parents porch, the same yellowish glow, the green dress, her beautiful face.
Lana wandered over to the fireplace, played with some knickknacks on the mantle. Clark made himself get up to follow her.
She picked up a picture frame as Clark peered over her shoulder. In it was a photograph of her parents. She opened the top and pulled the picture out. Underneath was another photo — of Clark and Lana, their senior year.
"I still keep this here," she said. "It's the same frame I used for this picture in my bedroom back in Smallville."
Clark took the picture from her and gazed at it. The fire popped and crackled. Clark heard the sounds as much in his memories as from the embers burning in the hearth. Lana reached behind her and pulled his arm around her waist. "We were so happy then," she said. She turned to look at his face and put her arms around his waist.
He had to do this. Something inside of him was screaming NO! But there was another part, a growing part, that was quietly whispering for him to relive those feelings from long ago.
He eased into her embrace.
She reached up and kissed him.
It was the most difficult thing he'd ever had to do — kiss her without passion, without love, without feeling. He remained as limp as he could. Whatever he did, he had to make this kiss different from the one she had shared with Superman. It was a test of willpower.
She broke the embrace and pulled him to the couch with his tie. He sat down first and she straddled his legs, starting to undo his tie. She moved in for another kiss and he willingly let her. It was even harder the second time. He heard her moan lightly as her hands moved up and down his chest.
Then Lana sat straight up. "Mmmm. You can't fool me. I know you kiss better than that, Clarkie. Or should I say Superman?"
She grabbed his shirt, sliding her fingers between the buttons, then ripped it open.
"Lana!" Clark pushed her off of him.
Lana stared, dumbfounded. "You're — you're not wearing the suit." She pointed to his bare chest underneath the button-up shirt.
"I'm wearing a lot less now thanks to you." He pulled at the tatters of his clothing.
"But — but you always wear the suit — "
"Lana, what suit?"
"The Superman suit."
"How many times do I have to tell you, I'm not Superman!"
Lana bit her bottom lip and raised her hand to her chin. She looked like she was about to cry. "But I was so sure — " Her lip quivered and Clark instinctively moved in to hold her. And then she erupted.
"Stay away from me, Clark Kent. You're married for God's sake!" She pushed him aside. Her anger was flowing now, an obvious mask for her truly troubled interior.
"Lana, don't take this out on me! It's not my fault I'm not Superman."
"That's irrelevant," Lana said. "You tried to seduce me tonight! How dare you? Men, you're all alike. Lois is beautiful, smart, caring! And you can't even be loyal to her."
Clark tried to speak, but Lana wouldn't let him get a word in. Her frustration was being projected onto him.
She walked to the door and opened it. "Get out!"
"Lana — "
"I said get out, Mr. Kent." He walked to the door. "You are the lowest piece of slime that has ever walked the earth. I don't know why I ever dated you. You probably cheated on me with every girl in school. You'll just be lucky if I don't tell Lois."
This was going too far — even if Lois already knew what was happening here tonight.
"Look, Lana. *You* asked me here. *You* made up the fake story of that informant. *You* wore the slinky dress, poured the wine, dimmed the lights. *You* kissed *me*!"
Her eyes narrowed in pure hatred. "You tricked me. I don't know how you did it. You had this all planned out before I ever talked to you at the Planet. You wanted to come over. You planted it in my head that *I* wanted you. You're not even a man, Clark Kent, let alone a Super Man."
And that was what he'd been waiting all night to hear. She pointed to the door. Clark exited and it slammed behind him.
"That wasn't so rough," he said to himself, rolling his eyes.
"So, how'd it go?" Lois asked as they walked down the street toward Star Labs. Clark had stopped by the Planet after leaving Lana's only to find Lois on her way out. Dr. Klein had called. He'd had a breakthrough.
"Well, the good news is that Lana doesn't think I'm Superman anymore."
"And the bad news?"
"She thinks I'm lower than a sewer rat."
Lois smiled a little, but Clark didn't notice. "Oh, really. Well, I'd call that good news on both parts."
"Thanks for you're support. It's good to know that my wife also thinks I'm lower than a sewer rat."
Lois hit his arm playfully. "You know that's not what I meant. I meant that if that's Lana's opinion, maybe she'll stop hitting on you."
"Don't bet on it," Clark said. "I have a feeling she was more angry at herself for being wrong. She was just taking it out on me."
They turned the corner. The Star Labs sign hung a few block ahead.
"You saved my cover suggesting I not wear the suit to Lana's," Clark continued. "What made you think of that?"
"Woman's intuition," she answered. Clark raised his eyebrows in question. "And a few things Lana may have said to me at the Planet," Lois confessed.
"Well, whatever it was, it was a stroke of genius."
They passed under the Star Labs sign and into the building.
"Clark! Lois!" Dr. Klein greeted them at the door to his lab, which had been locked for the evening.
"Superman couldn't make it," Clark said.
"Ah, yes. Come in, come in."
They entered the crowded lab, dodging carts and trays, desks and tables.
"I have come up with something. The idea hit me tonight while I was getting ready for bed. I was putting on my slippers when — "
"Dr. Klein," Lois interrupted.
"Oh, sorry. Anyway, here's my idea. I explained yesterday how this gene manipulation is more like a virus than anything else." The pair nodded. "The humans are not actually changed into Kryptonians, it's just that their DNA is tricked into taking in Krytponian genes. So I figured if this thing acts like a virus, maybe it could be killed like a virus."
"How do you mean?" Lois asked.
"How would you kill something Kryptonian?"
"Kryptonite?" they asked in unison.
"But won't that kill them?" Clark asked, the lines on his face showing he still hadn't gotten over killing the first genetic superman a day earlier.
"No, no." Dr. Klein continued. "It won't affect the human genes at all. Just as Kryptonite wouldn't kill you Clark, or you Lois, neither will it kill these humans. It'll only affect the Kryptonian genes."
"So in essence, Kryptonite will simply take away their powers!" Lois said.
"With enough exposure, yes."
Clark held up a finger. "Wait. There's just one more problem. How can Superman fight them with Kryptonite? It'll kill *him*."
Dr. Klein smiled. "I had already anticipated that problem. Come over here."
He led them to the far side of the laboratory where there was a glass fronted case. Inside were circular glowing green circles, very flat — obviously some form of Kryptonite. Klein opened the case and Clark shied away. But nothing happened.
"What is that?" he asked.
"Kryptonite patches. See?" Dr. Klein lifted one out of the case. "I managed to grind up some of the Kryptonite we have in storage here and work it into a gel. It won't hurt Superman as long as he doesn't touch it. But if it contacts skin, the Kryptonite will have it's normal effect. Here look."
Dr. Klein handed one to Lois and picked up another for Clark. Clark waved him off. "That's OK, Dr. Klein. I don't need to hold one."
"So all Superman has to do is put these patches on the genetic supermen?" Lois asked.
"Yes. I've even applied an adhesive to make them stick and a tiny bit of nerve killer." When he got confused looks, he explained further.
"To neutralize the nerves under the patch. They won't feel it attached to their skin."
Dr. Klein turned to another table and produced a set of gloves. "Have Superman wear these. They'll protect his skin from the Kryptonite in the patches. And tell him to make sure he applies the patches to naked skin — they won't work otherwise."
Lois handed the patch back and the Doctor put it into the case. "Thanks again, Dr. Klein. From us and Superman."
Clark's head tilted to the side. Lois noticed. Something was happening somewhere in the city.
"We've got to go, honey," he said, then turned to Dr. Klein. "I'm sure Superman will be by to pick these up very soon."
Dr. Klein bid them farewell and then turned back to his work. Before he could even remove a slide from a microscope there was a giant whoosh of wind. Dr. Klein looked up, not surprised to see the Man of Steel.
Lex Luthor hovered over the WGBS building. It was dark out, but the cityscape was well lit with the lights from the buildings. Lex was reveling in his new abilities. Flying was more grand than he had ever imagined and it showed on his face.
Four of his genetic supermen were busy at work dismantling the WGBS transmitting tower just for his amusement. Lex fired a burst of heat vision at the tower's base, weakening the structure. The apparatus squealed one last time and tore away from the rooftop.
"What do you want to do with this?" Larry yelled to Lex.
"Give it to me," Lex waved his hand and the man threw the gigantic tower to him. Lex caught it with one hand. He had an idea. "Go get me the Daily Planet Globe."
Two of the four whisked away to return carrying the large globe that had only a moment ago hung overhead the entrance to the Daily Planet. Lex hefted the tower over his shoulder.
"Throw me one," he said.
Larry, the first true success of Lex's experiment, flew up higher into the air and threw the globe at Lex. Lex took a swing at it and connected. The globe went rocketing off into space.
"Home run," Lex said. "I should play for the Cleveland Indians."
"The only place you'll be playing is the Metropolis Penitentiary."
The five men tracked in on the voice.
"Superman! I wondered when you'd show up."
"I'm here, Luthor — or should I say Alex Thorley?"
Lex's face wrinkled in anger. "Don't *ever* call me that name!" He pounded his chest. "I *am* Lex Luthor, like it or not."
"What you are is a psychopath infatuated with who and what Lex Luthor was. You'll never be him. In fact the only thing you'll ever really have in common is that face — and that you'll never beat me."
Lex was enraged. "Get him!!"
The four genetic supermen rushed at Clark. They may have been as strong as him, but he'd been using his powers for much longer and was more adept. He dodged to the side and they flew by, two crashing into and through a nearby building. Superman winced. He'd have to be more careful. He took the battle skyward.
One genetic creation decided to take another route and use his heat vision. Clark turned his on too and intercepted the beams. But soon the others caught on and added their strengths to the beam. Clark realized that it was a battle he couldn't win as their heat vision kept gaining ground on his. He leapt to the side, using all his speed to duck behind a nearby building.
Lana Lang rushed to the rooftop, cameraman in tow. She wasn't sure, with the antenna down, how far the broadcast would be heard, but she had to try. There were two other antennas on opposite corners of Metropolis, so hopefully they could cover the viewing area.
She burst out onto the roof to see Superman engaged in a heat vision battle with four other flying entities.
"Get this on film!" she screamed into the blowing wind. The cameraman aimed and Lana stood just in front of him, getting on screen, but not blocking the action.
"This is Lana Lang, WGBS, reporting live from the rooftop of the WGBS studios in downtown Metropolis where a gang of super humans has begun a battle with our local hero, Superman."
Lana glanced back over her shoulder to see what was happening just in time to see Superman give up the current battle and speed away.
"The events are still unfurling here, but it appears these Superhumans have won the first round. Can our beloved benefactor triumph against *four* with the same powers as he? Only time will tell, but we all pray that he will live up to the challenge."
Superman zoomed around the building at superspeed, donning the gloves Dr. Klein had given him and pulling two patches out of a pocket in his cape. He hoped to take the four by surprise.
He rounded the last corner and saw they were facing away, still staring at the place he had just left. He flew up behind them and, using both hands, slapped a patch on the two nearest foes.
He barreled into a third, knocking him hard enough to send him soaring away at high speed. That would take care of him for a few moments. Superman turned and saw two of the villains slowly floating downward. Their powers were failing already. Dr. Klien had underestimated how long the Kryptonite would take to work. Finally a surprise in his favor.
The remaining person, a big burly man with dark black hair and beard, screamed at the top of his lungs and charged. Superman grabbed him and they locked hands, both struggling to gain control. The battle worked back and forth, but the burly man seemed to be gaining ground. He was much larger than Clark to begin with, so his enhanced strength exceeded Clark's super strength.
Suddenly, the man swung his head and knocked his forehead into Clark's skull. Superman fell away, his head pounding. It was like someone had exploded a bomb in his brain.
He quickly tried to shake it off. The man was coming back to him. Clark reached into his cape and pulled out two more patches.
The superhuman Clark had flung away picked this moment to return to the battle. The two villains dove in at Clark and he let them catch him. They grabbed both arms and prepared to pull him apart. He slapped the patches on their wrists as they began pulling, trying to rip him in two.
At first the pain was excruciating. It felt as though his molecules were coming apart. But soon, the effects of the patches began to take over. The pain grew less, the pressure on his limbs fading. The threesome began to sink in the air until Superman gained his strength back.
He grabbed them both by the collar. "I think I've had about enough of you two." He flew them over to the WGBS building and alighted on the roof, twisting a piece of scrap antenna around them.
Lana immediately rushed over, microphone in hand. "Superman, can we have a word?"
"Not now," he said. "Thorley is still out here somewhere."
There was a whoosh of air and Lex suddenly appeared behind Lana.
"I'm right here, Superman." He grabbed Lana in a chokehold and she screamed.
"Lex, no!" Clark screamed.
"That was a nice trick you pulled Superman. I don't know how you did it, but it seems you've found a way to beat my genetically engineered supermen." He tightened his grip as Superman inched forward.
Clark had an idea. "I beat them with this." He pulled one of the last patches from his cape and held it up for Lex to see. It glowed green in the night.
"Ahh, I assume that has a bit of Kryptonite in it."
"You assume correctly." Superman flicked his wrist and sent the disk spinning like a Frisbee. It hit Lex in the cheek and stuck there.
Lex immediately dropped Lana and began clawing at his face. Superman dashed in and swept Lana away, landing her on the far corner of the rooftop. Then he turned his attention back to Lex.
Lex had pulled the patch off his face and was now holding it in his hand. He tried to ignite his heat vision and burn the patch, but the beam sputtered and went out. "No!" he screamed.
Superman walked over, ready to take Thorley into custody. "You're plan failed Alex. There's only one Superman."
Lex glared at him. "Not for long. Soon there'll be none." Lex reached out and slapped the patch on Superman's face. "Bye bye, Superman." Lex raced for the stairs and Superman tried to follow, but collapsed.
Lana saw what had happened and was soon at his side. "Superman!" She peeled the patch off and flung it away. "Superman, are you OK?"
Superman sat up, his strength very weak even though he hadn't been exposed for that long. He'd have to tell Dr. Klein just how potent this Kryptonite gel was.
He looked around the roof. "Lex?"
"He got away," Lana said. Superman tried to get up but didn't quite make it. "No." Lana pushed him back to the floor. "There'll be another time. Don't exert yourself. Looks like those little Kryptonite thingies had a worse effect on you than those other bozos."
She looked into his eyes and for a second he was afraid she still thought her theory about Superman and Clark was right.
"Look, I'm sorry about the other night." Lana said. "Here on the roof. I shouldn't have lured you in like that."
"That's OK," Superman said. "You're a reporter, I can understand that. You were just trying to get a story."
She brushed his face with her hand. "I know now that I was wrong. How I could ever have thought you were Clark Kent is beyond me. You're much more of a man than he is." A tear welled up in her eye.
"As long as you know the truth."
"I still don't know the truth," she said. "I just know what the truth isn't."
She kissed him. This time Clark didn't have to fight it, he let his emotions take over. For a moment it felt good. But gradually something rose inside of him. This wasn't right. It didn't feel right. He broke away.
"Lana, I can't do this." She stared at him as he rose to his feet. "There's — someone else."
Her bottom lip quivered.
"I'm sorry. It's just that — " And as he looked into her face, he couldn't bring himself to say it. As much as he loved Lois and as much as she was the only woman he wanted to be with, he still cared for Lana. He cared for her as a friend and as someone with whom he had spent one of the best parts of his life with. And he didn't know what to say. So he leapt into the sky and was gone.
The sad expression on her face drained away and an evil grin replaced it. "So, Superman has a girlfriend. That'll make a great story." She spun on her heel and walked toward the elevator. "Now where did that cameraman get off to? What a chicken."
Lois and Clark were in Perry's office.
"Great job you two. I think this morning's edition is going to be one of our best sellers."
"Thanks, Chief." Lois said.
"It's just too bad that Superman couldn't catch that Thorley guy. I bet we haven't seen the last of him."
"Probably not," Clark answered. "He was so hung up on Lex Luthor, I'll bet he tries to emulate some of Lex's antics again."
"Well if he does, I want you two right on top of it." Perry stood, giving them their cue to leave.
"So I take it things with Lana are back to normal again?" Lois asked as they left the office.
"As normal as things get with Lana." Lois sat at her desk and Clark perched on it's edge. "It was really weird, though. Seeing her in that type of situation again."
"I mean, it kept bringing up old memories. Things we'd done together, places we'd been."
"Clark, you're not saying you still have feelings for her are you?" Lois was half joking, but also half *very* serious.
"I wasn't sure at first," Clark said. "But the deeper I got into this mess, the more I realized that it isn't Lana that I had feelings for. It was my memories. I have to admit, we had some good times together.
"But that last kiss she gave me on the rooftop made me realize…" He took her hand and brought Lois up to his level. "I'll always have my memories. But memories can't hold you at night; memories can't talk you through a bad day at work; memories can't need you as much as you need them. Memories can't love."
Lois' face softened with each remark. She threw her arms around his neck and drew him in. She kissed him softly and gently and it was so much more powerful than any memory that at that moment, Clark wouldn't have remembered Lana's name.
Lois pulled away. "I love you," she said.
"And I love you," Clark responded. "Every day."
They simply stood and stared into each others eyes.
"Aw, come on you two!" Perry yelled across the floor. "How many times do I have to tell you to stop that mushy stuff in the office. It makes me sick."
Lois and Clark laughed.