By Notrepooh <Notrepooh@aol.com>
Submitted June 1999
Summary: A deathfic with a twist ... and then another! This well-written story will have you on the edge of your seat.
This is my first attempt at fanfiction, so let me know what you think! The characters are not mine, but the story is! Thank you to those who maintain the archive. It has given me hours of reading enjoyment.
Clark Kent's world exploded around him, leaving him enveloped in a red haze of panic and pain. His own heartbeat thundered in his ears and nausea swept over him as he dropped the phone and stumbled blindly backwards. He was vaguely aware of a pair of arms steadying his descent onto the comfortable old couch in Perry's office. Through the haze he heard Perry's concerned voice but was unable to focus tear-filled eyes on his editor and friend. As if in answer to Perry's inquiry, Clark's mind replayed snippets of the phone conversation he had just had with Sergeant Zimack.
"… so sorry to have to tell you… a single bullet to the left temple… no pain… such a loss to Metropolis… if there's anything I can do…"
In his concern for Clark, Perry hadn't noticed the sound of the sergeant's voice still emanating from the phone. Now he reached down and retrieved the receiver.
"What in the name of Graceland is going on here?" he demanded.
"White, is that you?" responded the sergeant. And then, in slow and torturous detail, he recounted the story he had just told the young husband who sat grieving on the couch. Lois had kept her appointment with Dr. Alberson at 2:00 PM. as scheduled and had left the office, according to the doctor's receptionist, in an exceptionally happy mood. According to witnesses, she had pulled her cellular phone from her purse and placed a call as she walked down the sidewalk and turned toward the heart of the city. Perry reasoned that City Hall was her destination, as she had been scheduled to cover the mayor's address to city council at 3:30 PM. The sergeant's account of the rest of Lois's journey was sketchy, having been pieced together from preliminary information offered by witnesses who could give only vague recollections. Those recollections included a tall, slender man conspicuous in his trenchcoat on a balmy day, a sudden diversion into an alley, the sound of a gunshot, and the discovery of Lois's body by the local paperboy and a nearby street vendor. Zimack promised a thorough investigation and vowed that the murderer would be brought to justice.
Stunned, Perry deposited the receiver in its cradle and turned slowly to face Clark. He made a conscious effort to push his own pain down, to lock it away to be dealt with later, so that he could offer Clark the support he needed. Perry would face the loss of his star reporter and… daughter… later. Moving on legs that were suddenly made of lead, he stepped to the couch and sat facing Clark.
"Son… I don't know what to say. I can only imagine how you feel right now. It just doesn't make any sense. Why would… Who would…?" The questions hung between them as each man grappled with the magnitude of the tragedy.
"Perry," Clark finally broke the silence, choking back the sobs that threatened to escape. "How do I go on without her? She's my life. We were going to grow old together… raise a family… How can this have happened?"
"Clark, that is a question that Sergeant Zimack has promised an answer to, and he's always been a man of his word. For right now, though, you need to get out of here. I'm going to go talk to Jimmy for a minute and then have him drive you home." Perry rose to leave and was stopped by Clark's hand on his arm.
"No, Perry. I have to go down there. I have to see her. The police will need someone for an ID and… I have to see her."
"I told the sergeant that I would take care of that. You don't want to see her now, Son. Let me handle the ID." Perry's concern shone in eyes that had begun to glisten with tears. This terrible task was one burden that he could remove from Clark's shoulders. God knew the next week would be filled with enough heartbreaking tasks for the young husband.
"I have to go."
"All right. But not alone."
The gloomy chill and smell of formaldehyde permeating the room would have reminded Clark of the setting of a bad novel had it not been for the stark reality that awaited him there. With Perry at his side, he braced himself as the coroner's assistant pulled back the sheet shrouding the figure, still hoping against hope that a mistake had been made and it was not really Lois. The color drained from his face as hope drained from his heart. There was no question. His wife's body lay lifeless before him. Her left temple bore a small wound which belied the damage the bullet had done. She was gone.
"I'd like a moment alone with her." After a comforting pat on the back from Perry and a nod from the coroner's assistant, Clark found himself alone. He approached the table and reached to lower his glasses a bit. One last precaution. After all, they had been the victims of cloning and impostors before. A quick scan revealed the ankle broken on the ski trip before he met her. A glance at her left hand found her wedding ring. Her right hand bore a slight burn from the oven door - a souvenir of last night's attempt at domesticity. A ghost of a smile crossed Clark's lips as he remembered yet another batch of blackened lasagna… Bending down he reverently brushed her lips with his own and carefully replaced the sheet.
The coroner met him as he stepped through the door. "Mr. Kent, I'd like to convey my deepest sympathy. I assure you that your wife's remains will be handled with the utmost care and respect. I'll need your signature on the autopsy forms…" He paused immediately when he saw Clark's pained reaction and hastened to explain. "It's standard procedure in the case of violent death and our findings may be instrumental in bringing her murderer to justice."
"Of course." Clark nodded his understanding.
"Once again, I can't tell you how sorry we all are for your loss. Miss Lane has been an asset to Metropolis in her work at the Daily Planet. And to lose both her and the child must make this doubly difficult for…" Once again, the look on Clark's face stopped the man's monologue.
Perry instinctively reached out to steady Clark as the young man's eyes closed and his breath caught in his chest. When he finally spoke, it was barely a whisper. "A baby, Perry… the trip to Dr. Alberson… I thought it was just routine… a baby… " Clark felt his heart would break at this added morsel of agony. How they had both longed for a child! And now to lose Lois and that child in the same senseless moment of violence…
The coroner, appalled at the effect of his words, silently left the room as Perry shepherded Clark to the door. Perry remained silent. There were no words of comfort equal to this moment.
Perry must have placed a call to Kansas after he dropped Clark off at home, for both Jonathan and Martha Kent were waiting for their son on the porch of their farmhouse when he landed. Wordlessly, they wrapped their arms around their boy and took him into the house. The healing he needed would take a long time, but the quiet warmth of the home where he grew up was a good place to start.
Two days later, hundreds of people gathered in the pouring rain to bid a final farewell to Lois. The ceremony had been more celebration than mourning, and Clark knew that she would have been pleased. He had remained stoic throughout, preferring to express his grief in private and only in the company of those who knew him well. And yet even the curious strangers amid the crowd were aware of the mixture of anguish and anger that shadowed his brow. As the field of umbrellas began to drift away from the gravesite, many found it impossible not to turn and look just one more time at the handsome, tormented young man who remained there, bidding a final farewell to his soulmate.
The brownstone on Hyperion Avenue, so often the scene of boisterous happiness, was a solemn place that evening. Perry and Jimmy were the last to leave after exacting a promise from Clark that he would call them if he needed anything, no matter the time of day or night. His folks had excused themselves and gone upstairs to rest and Clark was finally alone. Alone… the word and the feeling descended on him like a shroud.
The ringing of the doorbell brought him back to the moment. A messenger from his attorney's office delivered a small white envelope. In it, Clark found a single sheet of delicate white paper inscribed with a small golden "LL". Closing his eyes, he inhaled the scent of her which permeated the paper. Blinking back a new wave of tears, he read:
My Dearest Clark,
I have left this note with our attorney in the event of my untimely demise - an event that you and I both know would have occurred much earlier had you not repeatedly intervened. But now it seems that the odds have overtaken me. I record these thoughts in case I failed to voice them to you before my death. You're not the only one who gets tongue-tied!
Sweetheart, if my death was a violent one, please remember your frequent advice to me. Allow the police and courts to do their work. The memory of your warning to Tempus as John Doe lingers in my mind and I do not want the disappearance of your ethics to be a part of my legacy.
Clark, thank you for saving me. Before us, I was convinced that I would never find love, that I would live forever alone. But you, my darling, brought me a love that I never knew could exist.
Having narrowly escaped a life of loneliness myself, I am concerned that you will be alone after my death. I know what a chance you took when you opened your heart to me. Take that chance again, my dearest love, for you do my life the highest honor by continuing to live yours.
Consider, too, the fact that the world needs its Superman, both now and in the future. If fate has been kind, our children surround you now and that future is secure. If we have not been so blessed, it is all the more important that you allow yourself the joy of loving again.
Remember farmboy, that we are forever soulmates. I stand beside you always and love you into eternity.
With letter in hand, Clark slowly climbed the stairs. In the darkness of the room that had been theirs he lay his head down on her pillow and drank in her scent. And then the Man of Steel, mourning the loss of his wife and child, cried himself to sleep.
Clark bolted upright and glanced quickly at the clock. 2:30 AM! Still half asleep, he reached past the clock to answer the phone that had awakened him.
"Enjoying your newfound solitude, Kent?"
Suddenly alert, Clark felt the now-familiar rush of nausea and pain slice through him as it always did at a reminder of his loss. Shaking his head to clear it, he turned his attention back to his untimely caller. "What do you mean? Who… who is this?"
"Who am I? Well, Clark, or shall I just dispense with the charade and call you Kal-El? I am actually two people: your worst enemy and your best friend. I became your worst enemy three days ago when I put a bullet in Lois Lane's head. I plan to become your best friend when I give her back to you. Or perhaps 'sell' would be a more appropriate word. For now, simply ponder this question: How much would the Man of Steel be willing to pay to have Lois Lane in his bed once more? You'll be hearing from me soon." The line went dead before Clark could respond.
Martha and Jonathan were not surprised to find their son in the kitchen ahead of them the next morning. It was no secret to either of them that Clark was sleeping very little. From the guest room it was impossible not to hear him tossing and turning at night only to rise before the sun. Clark had maintained a strong facade throughout the days since Lois's death, but the day of the funeral had finally been too much for him to bear. His anguish of the previous night had brought both of his parents an equal measure of pain, uncertain whether to attempt to comfort him or to allow his grief to finally find expression. Martha and Jonathan had listened and prayed as he mourned his wife and child, finally lapsing into a fitful sleep.
Having braced herself to witness another day of her son's anguish, Martha was surprised at the sight that greeted her in the kitchen. Clark sat at the table surrounded by scraps of paper, maps of the city, his laptop computer, and open phone books. The look on his face could only be described as jubilant.
"Mom, Dad, Lois can't possibly be dead!"
Jonathan and Martha exchanged a look that verified their consensus that their son had lost his grip on reality. Treading lightly, Jonathan began, "Now Clark, your mother and I know you have suffered a terrible loss. You need some time to deal with Lois's murder. But denying the facts can't possibly be … "
"No, Dad. You don't understand." Clark patiently repeated the details of his late-night phone conversation and was shocked at the fury that he saw building on his father's face.
"That sick bastard! What kind of animal preys on a man who has just lost his family! Clark, you can't possibly believe this! Why would the murderer call and confess his crime, especially if he knew he was confessing to Superman?" Jonathan continued to fume and bluster but Martha had picked up on an even more disturbing aspect of the night's events.
As Clark's words began to sink in, her eyes became wide with fear. "Clark, he knows you're Superman! This madman knows you're Superman! Don't you understand what that means? You could be his next target. He might have Kryptonite. If he really did kill Lois, he might have some terrible vendetta against the two of you and come for you next!"
"Calm down, Mom. I can certainly defend myself. Anyway, I don't think my death is a part of his plan. Remember that he mentioned 'selling' Lois back to me. I think he wants something from me and faking Lois's death is somehow a part of his plan. I haven't worked all the details out yet, but… "
"But what, Clark?" his father asked. "You told us yourself that there was no doubt that the body was Lois's. You saw the healed fracture, the burn on her hand, her wedding ring… " Jonathan's voice trailed off as he saw Clark withdraw a delicate silver chain from beneath his shirt, gripping Lois's engagement and wedding rings as if to draw strength from them. When his son finally looked up again, the resolve in his eyes was unmistakable.
"I know what this must sound like to you two. You're afraid I've finally snapped. Gone around the bend. Lost the last of my marbles. Well, I have to admit that I've come close to losing it about a million times in the last four days. But this isn't grief talking. It's logic. I have been up since the phone call came and the pieces just slowly fell into place."
Martha sank into a chair and reached across the table to take Clark's hand gently in her own. "Clark, there's nothing I'd like more than to see you happy again with Lois at your side. But the fact that you're pinning your hopes on a few cryptic words delivered in the dead of night by a self-proclaimed murderer has disaster written all over it. I don't want to see you put yourself through this. You have to accept the fact that she's gone. It's the only way you can heal."
"NO!" Even Clark himself was shocked by the vehemence of his response. Martha drew back from him in surprise and he hastened to recapture her hand. "I'm sorry, Mom, but I can't do that. Please, just hear me out." He glanced up at his father who signaled his willingness to listen by taking a seat at the table.
"The question that has been echoing in my head since that call is 'Where is H.G.Wells?'." At his parents' looks of confusion, he hastened to continue. "When Tempus traveled back in time to kill me as an infant, H.G. Wells appeared in his time machine to help us stop Tempus. When Tempus became President-elect of the United States and banished me through the time portal, H.G. Wells re-emerged. He knew something was wrong because my disappearance had altered the future. When Lois and I were about to… well… on our wedding night, Wells appeared at our door to inform us of the curse and help us defeat Tempus." Encouraged by his parents' rapt attention, he took a deep breath and continued, "So if Lois really is dead, then the Utopian society created by our children will never exist. Surely such a dramatic change in future history would prompt another visit. He has helped us overcome every obstacle in order to preserve the future… Where is he now?"
Jonathan and Martha looked first at each other and then back to Clark. Frustration tinged his voice as he inquired, "Don't you see? He's not here because the future has not been altered. Our children will still establish Utopia. And if that is true, then Lois cannot really be dead. Somehow, this madman has faked her death to force me to cooperate with him in some way. He wants some kind of payoff for her return. He thinks he has found my Achilles' heel, my love for Lois, and has concocted this elaborate plan to use that love against me. He has no idea the magnitude of the mistake he has made." He finished with a flourish as if he was sure that he had presented an air-tight case. Before his parents could raise a question or point out a flaw in his reasoning, he bounded from his seat, gathered his computer and assorted papers into his briefcase at superspeed and headed for the door, pausing only long enough to tell them that he would be at the Planet if they needed him. Martha and Jonathan could only look wide-eyed at each other, too astonished to speak.
It dawned on Clark on his way to work that he couldn't share his theory with Perry or Jimmy. After all, how could he possibly explain his assessment of the caller's motive? What power or influence could mild-mannered Clark Kent possess that would justify such an elaborate scheme? And how could Clark explain his question regarding H.G. Well's failure to appear? His friends would surely fear for his sanity if he shared that concern. So he made up his mind to go this one alone. Thoughts of work were inextricably intertwined with thoughts of his partner and the pain threatened to overtake him again. With stoic resolve, he pushed the loneliness down and away from his heart. He would need a clear head if he was to beat this madman at his own game and retrieve Lois.
Thankfully, Clark's co-workers seemed to be giving him a wide berth that day. After an initial flurry of concern and condolences, they were leaving him to his work. Clark used the time well. Convinced that the body he had seen in the morgue was not truly Lois, Clark developed a short list of genetics laboratory facilities in and around Metropolis. Digging through countless old Daily Planet articles that he and Lois had written, he composed a roster of scientists whose paths they had crossed, placing the geneticists at the top of the list.
The method that had reproduced Lois's body so perfectly was definitely new technology. And who better to consult about cutting-edge technology than Dr. Bernard Klein at Star Labs? Clark had just reached for the phone when the scientist seemed to materialize in front of him.
"Dr. Klein!" Clark exclaimed. "I was just getting ready to call you. I have a couple of questions to ask you about… " The reporter stopped short at the look of profound sadness in Dr. Klein's eyes. He was far more than a professional acquaintance to the Kents. Over the years, they had become close friends. The reason for Klein's sudden appearance at the Planet became clear as he spoke.
"Clark, I heard from your folks this morning and came to see if you could use a sympathetic ear." It dawned suddenly on Clark that here was someone with whom he could share his theories and plans, someone who knew of his dual persona and would understand the logic of Clark's conclusions. A glance at the good doctor's face, however, immediately revealed that Dr. Klein shared his parents' opinion that Clark was engaged in the worst sort of wishful thinking.
"Dr. Klein, before you conclude that I've gone around the bend, please hear me out. I think that my logic is solid."
Clark's explanation was interrupted as Jimmy Olson approached his desk. "C.K., here's the list of calls from Lois's cell phone that you asked me to get." Nodding in Dr. Klein's direction, Jimmy continued, "Clark, if there's anything else I can do to help, just say the word. There's nothing I'd like better than to be part of putting this guy away for the rest of his life."
As Jimmy walked away, Clark began to study the list in his hands. "I need to know who she called just before… Maybe the person on the other end of the phone heard something."
"It was me," Dr. Klein interjected. "Lois's last call was to me." Clark rose from his chair and ushered Dr. Klein into the privacy of the conference room before nodding to the good doctor to continue. "You see, Clark, Lois wanted desperately to give you the child you both dreamed of. She had developed a habit of calling me after each of your visits to Star Labs, hoping that I had found some new information during your examination that might improve your chances of conception. It was very difficult to deliver the disappointing news time after time. But finally, about two months ago, I was able to tell her something different."
"If you recall, you stopped in to see me immediately after returning from South America and the mud slides there. You explained that, at the end of an already exhausting day, you had saved that bus full of people from plunging off the road and over the cliff in the jungles of Columbia. Your tests from that day showed startling changes in your blood chemistry. I reasoned that they had been brought about by the exertion of the day. And then I began to think. Perhaps the exhaustive exercise of your super powers had caused a temporary change in your blood chemistry. And if that were the case, perhaps changes in… um… other body fluids had also occurred. I explained my theory to Lois and she assured me that she would be delighted to… er… test my conjecture." Dr. Klein blushed slightly at his reference to Lois and Clark's private life.
Clark did not notice the doctor's discomfort. Instead, his mind was replaying a number of instances in the last two months when Lois had seemed especially amorous at odd times. There was that morning when he had returned covered with soot from the refinery fire. And the afternoon when she had insisted they leave the Daily Planet early so that he could "recover" from saving the cars on the buckling suspension bridge. When they reached their brownstone it became obvious that Lois had a very specific form of "recovery" in mind and Clark had been only too happy to oblige. A hint of a smile crossed his lips as he admitted to himself that he had actually been more than happy…
Returning to the present, he prompted the doctor, "And the phone call four days ago?"
Dr. Klein's response was soft and infused with sorrow and compassion. "She called to tell me that Dr. Alberson had confirmed the conclusion that she and I had already reached together. Our theory had been correct. Lois was pregnant."
"I don't understand, Doctor. Why all the secrecy? Why didn't you and Lois just let me in on your theory?"
"Lois didn't want to get your hopes up if this was going to be just another failed idea. She said that she would not add even a morsel of pain to the load you already carry. Lois was always keenly aware of the weight of the world that depends on you. She was a remarkable woman, Clark." Dr. Klein rested a comforting hand on Clark's shoulder.
"Is a remarkable woman, Dr. Klein. Lois is not dead." Before his young friend even completed the statement, Bernard was shaking his head.
"Clark, your parents have already told me your theory and I have to admit that I find it far-fetched. I don't want to see you torturing yourself with imaginings."
"You might be right, Doctor. And if you are, I realize that I'll have to face the loss of Lois again. But if there's even the slightest chance that I'm right, I have to pursue this course. The problem is that this phone call has left me with more questions than answers." The two men made their way back to Clark's desk as Klein extended his hand.
"You know that I'll help you in any way I can, Clark. I'll begin by putting the word out that I am interested in hearing of new advances in genetics, cloning, etc. and that perhaps I have wealthy and influential friends who are interested as well. There's nothing like the hint of instant wealth to lure people from the shadows."
"Thank you, Dr. Klein. And… thank you for being such a good friend to Lois… for helping her find a way…" His voice trailed off as emotions well up. Dr. Klein nodded his understanding and headed up the ramp toward the elevator.
Clark dropped heavily into his desk chair, wondering what to do next. His eyes drifted, as they had a habit of doing, toward his wife's desk. It had been left respectfully untouched so far but Clark knew that he would soon have to face the task of boxing up her belongings. Amid Lois's characteristic clutter, Clark noticed a single red rose tied with an elaborate ribbon and sporting a small white envelope. Touched at the eloquent gesture on the part of one of his co-workers, Clark approached the desk and removed the card from the envelope.
Expecting to find words of comfort, he was shocked to read the message scrawled there. "Have you given due consideration to the value of one Lois Lane? I hope so. Meet me at the old chocolate factory on the edge of town at 3:00 PM." Clark crumpled the note in his hand. Perhaps he was about to get his answers.
The L & C Chocolate Factory had closed down a year before, putting several hundred Metropoleans out of work and causing serious withdrawal symptoms for Lois. The buildings bore the mark of months of neglect. Clark, as Superman, had made several emergency runs to the compound to stop vandals from breaking the windows and starting nuisance fires. Today, however, the place seemed truly deserted. As Superman circled overhead, he saw no signs of habitation. Perhaps Dr. Klein and his parents were right and this late-night caller was just a sadistic bastard finding pleasure in Clark's pain. Regardless, the caller knew that he was Superman. Clark had to find him.
Scanning the facility with X-ray vision revealed a lead lined chamber deep beneath the concrete floor of the factory's main building. Superman had just entered the building and begun to search for a stairway or other access to the hidden chamber when he spotted the surveillance camera mounted high in the corner of the room. He stepped into its field of vision and said simply, "I am here."
A nearby speaker burst to life. "Welcome, Superman. Behind the bookcase on the wall to your right, you will find a small doorway. Take the stairs to the basement."
Clark had no doubt that he was walking into some sort of trap, but the answers he needed awaited him in this place. Every nerve ending tingled with tightly controlled power as he prepared to react quickly to whatever awaited him in the room below.
In the room at the base of the stairs, surrounded by lab equipment and video monitors, stood a lone man in a white lab coat. Extending his hand in greeting, the man approached. Clark adopted his most intimidating Superman stance, arms folded resolutely across his broad chest.
"Very well, have it your way. But I see no reason for our association to be unpleasant," sniffed the scientist.
"Do we know each other?" demanded Clark.
"Well, I certainly know you. Kal-El, son of Jor-El and Lara late of the planet Krypton. Adopted son of Jonathan and Martha Kent of Kansas, planet Earth. Protector of the down-trodden of the world and, until recently, husband to the intrepid Lois Lane. Did I get it all right? As for whether you know me, you'll have to answer. We made our acquaintance only briefly and many years ago. Perhaps you will recall if I mention Lex Luthor and a certain replica of you that Lex and I grew in a vat. Ringing any bells?"
"I do remember. Dr. Leek, isn't it? I thought the court system had you locked away for the rest of your natural life."
"That was the original plan. But you see, interest in me waned with the untimely death of Mr. Luthor and I behaved myself as a model prisoner so the parole board took pity on me and here I am, a free man."
"Not for long!" Superman advanced at superspeed to collar the scientist and hoist him off the floor. "I intend to see to it that the parole board reconsiders that decision. I'm sure attempted blackmail will violate the terms of your parole. That's if I don't dispatch you myself, here and now." The smug expression disappeared from Dr. Leek's face as he struggled to draw breath. Fearful that he might have pushed the Man of Steel too far, the desperate man played his ace card.
"If you do, I can promise you that you'll never see her again."
After a moment of consideration, Clark dropped him unceremoniously to the floor. "On the phone, you admitted to murdering my wife and now you hint that I might see her again. My patience grows short. What game are you playing?"
"You are correct when you say that I dispatched Lois Lane to the afterlife. It was almost too easy. She wasn't paying any attention, just walking and laughing with someone on the phone. She didn't notice me when I fell in step behind her. She was too shocked to scream when I shoved her into the alley. If it comforts you at all, she died quickly and probably didn't feel a thing. After all, I have an agenda but I'm not heartless."
The man paused in his narrative as if waiting for Clark to comment. When Superman remained stoically silent, Dr. Leek continued. "So now, on to the purpose of our little gathering. You see, I have something that you want… someone, actually. And you have the power to perform a service that I cannot do without. We need each other, so to speak."
Superman took a menacing step forward, rage clearly visible on his face. "You have nothing to offer me, except perhaps the satisfaction of seeing you pay the price for your crimes."
"Don't make any hasty decisions, Clark. At least allow me to show you the merchandise." With that he produced a tiny remote control and pressed a sequence of numbers. To Clark's right, a tiny room was suddenly ablaze with light. Warily, he approached the large viewing window and looked inside. There, suspended in mid air, was the naked form of Lois Lane.
Bernard Klein removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. For hours he had been poring over reams of faxes which had arrived at Star Labs in response to his inquiry. Nothing. No one had information even remotely supportive of the scenario Clark had described to him. With a weary shake of his head, he surrendered to the inevitable. Picking up his jacket, he prepared to make the trip to Hyperion Avenue to convince Clark to abandon this useless and painful crusade. As his hand touched the doorknob, the fax machine beeped again and began to print. Although tempted to ignore what would surely be another dead end, Bernard found himself unable to abandon all hope.
The fax came from a friend who owned a medical supply house on the outskirts of Metropolis. He had received an unusual order a couple of weeks ago from a new customer. A copy of the order accompanied the fax and Dr. Klein was as puzzled by its contents as his friend had been. An EEG machine and resuscitation equipment shared the list with hospital gowns and slippers in women's size small. But it was the name on the bottom of the order that struck an ominous note with Dr. Klein: Dr. Fabian Leek. Clutching this new information, he once again headed for Hyperion Avenue, this time to deliver a message of hope.
When Dr. Klein arrived, Jonathan and Martha Kent were huddled in the living room with a very agitated Clark.
"Dr. Klein, please come in," invited Jonathan Kent. "Clark was about to tell us what he discovered today."
When they had all gathered, Clark began. "I met Lois's killer today. His name is Dr. Fabian Leek. Lois and I had a run-in with him a few years ago when he worked with Lex Luthor to create a replica of me. I think you all remember the incident." There were nods all around but no one spoke. "It seems that he has used his process again, but this time to replicate Lois."
Dr. Klein interrupted, "But the replica he created was fatally flawed. He could recreate the body but could not reproduce the spirit or character."
"Dr. Leek used his time in prison to improve his process. According to him, he can perform a sort of electro-magnetic scan of an individual which allows him to create a perfect replica. Identical down to the last beauty mark, the last individual hair… the last memory."
"So the body that was found in the alley?" Martha asked.
"Was my Lois," Clark responded in a whisper. "And now he wants to replace her with an identical replica, complete in every detail. He doubts that the replica will even be aware that she is not the original. All that remains is for him to activate the machinery that will animate the replica. If I give him what he wants." Clark lowered his head into his hands as his parents and friend began to grasp the depth of his dilemma.
"What does he want, Son?" Jonathan inquired.
"He wants my promise that I will not interfere as he resurrects Intergang in Metropolis. You see, he envisions a great future for this process. He believes that people will pay millions to replace loved ones that they cannot bear to lose. He thinks that he will eventually be able to scan an individual who has, say… a diseased heart… then correct that flaw by altering the scan with computer technology before completing the replication. Then the original will be gently eliminated and the replica will take his place in the world. No one will know the difference, because there will be no difference."
"If he is so sure that his process will bring him millions, why resurrect Intergang? Why not just begin to sell the process to the highest bidder?" Dr. Klein voiced the question.
"He still has a lot of work to do before he is ready to reveal his plan. Painstaking and expensive work that requires time and specialized equipment. Intergang will fund his work until he has perfected it."
"Clark, have you thought about the implications of all this? The power to replicate human life… to alter the natural course of life and death… euthanasia… An unscrupulous man could… the power he would possess over others would be terrifying. Not to mention the havoc Intergang would bring to the city if you were powerless to intervene."
"That's why I came home, Mom. I need the three of you to help me think this through. Examine the rights and wrongs of it. Because when I stood there and looked at her… when he told me that she could be with me again if I would just say the word, I knew that I would agree to anything to have her back. Help me, please." These last words were delivered in a desperate whisper.
It was 4:00 AM when the four of them finally put the issue to rest. The decision Clark faced was a metaphysical nightmare. Did he give in to Leek's demands and accept this replica as Lois? Did he refuse the offer and live with the fact that he had robbed his beloved of a chance to live again? How could he live with himself if he allowed Intergang to rule Metropolis? And if he changed his mind and brought Intergang's operations to a halt, would Leek make good on his threat to reveal Superman's identity?
As Doctor Klein pointed out, the most logical answer seemed simple. Allow Dr. Leek to complete his replication of Lois then simply eliminate the bastard, research, equipment and all. When he voiced his conclusion, the three Kents fell silent and stared at him with identical expressions of disbelief. Bernard hastened to agree with them that, no matter what conclusion they reached, it would not involve Superman's committing murder!
Finally, Martha spoke in a voice laden with sadness, "Son, we're all dancing around the real issue here. How can you… how can we allow this unscrupulous man to possess this kind of power? If he can buy you with this process, then who will have the resolve to stand against him? What price would any of us be willing to pay on that day when we face the loss of someone precious to us, someone we cannot bear to lose? He will rule the world. And we will have allowed him to do so. We will have allowed the heartless bastard who put a bullet in dear Lois's head to wield the ultimate power on the planet - the power over life and death."
Dr. Klein joined the conversation again, "And what is to stop him from producing replicas to serve as slaves… or soldiers… whole armies of disposable people made available to any tyrant who can pay his price."
"I think we all know what must be done. I wish I knew where you'll find the strength to do it." Feeling suddenly old, Martha lowered her face to her hands and allowed her tears to flow.
With a look of resolve, Clark arose from the couch. A moment later, he stood before them as Superman.
Jonathan spoke, "Son, don't go back to that place. Let me call the police. This is all too hard. No man should have to bear such a burden. Let the authorities deal with this madman."
"No, Dad. I have to go. If the police arrest him, his research notes and equipment will be collected as evidence. They can't be allowed to exist. And the replica of Lois. If news of its existence gets out, the circumstances of her death will become a media sensation. I don't think I could bear that. I have to do this myself."
After planting a quick kiss on his mother's cheek, he headed for the door. He turned back briefly to murmur his thanks and then was gone.
The sun was just beginning to rise over Metropolis as Superman left Hyperion Avenue. Several hours remained before his scheduled meeting with Dr. Leek, so he turned to the north and sought solitude. In a few moments he sat on the edge of a great crevasse of an Alaskan glacier, the depth of the chasm matching the depth of his renewed grief. In his mind, he knew that the replica of Lois was not really the woman he loved. Her soul had been released at the moment of her death and was irretrievable. No, this copy was not Lois and Clark must not allow himself to forget that fact or his task would be impossible.
In his heart, however, conflict raged. His thoughts returned again to his original question: Why had H.G. Wells not reappeared to repair the timeline? Was future history depending on Clark himself to repair the damage by accepting Dr. Leek's offer? And if he allowed Leek to animate his creation, might she *be* his Lois? A difference which *made* no difference *was* no difference. Clark felt himself descending again into the metaphysical dilemma, his loneliness threatening to overcome his resolve. In desperation, he flung himself skyward and streaked toward the sun.
Dr. Leek awaited Superman in the laboratory where they had spoken the day before. So certain was he of Superman's choice that he had taken the liberty of dressing his creation in preparation for her animation and departure. When Superman arrived, all was in readiness.
"Ah, right on time. I trust you have come to a decision?" Leek was too smug and Clark felt anger rise up. There was no disguising the antipathy in his voice as he spoke.
"Yes, Dr. Leek. I have reached a decision… the only decision possible… the only decision that Lois would have respected." Wasting no time, Superman emptied the contents of the file cabinets into a pile on the floor and ignited them. "I have decided that you have to be stopped." He reduced the computers and disks to small balls of metal and plastic. "I have decided that if you can coerce me into your trap, then no one is safe from the grief you create."
"But Superman, do you truly realize the implications of your choice?" Pointing his small remote in the direction of the darkened room, he brought up the lights to reveal the replica of Lois, still suspended on a cushion of air. "This time, her demise is on your conscience. It is you who denies her the chance to live."
The Man of Steel winced as the doctor voiced Superman's own nagging thought. "Doctor Leek, in her last communication to me, Lois told me that she did not want the disappearance of my ethics to be a part of her legacy. I'm sure she had no idea how sorely I would be tempted to throw those ethics away. But I honor her requests in death just as I honored them in life. And now you," Superman grasped the scientist firmly by the neck, "are going back to prison."
"Wait, Superman." Desperation was evident in the doctor's voice. "What's to keep me from revealing your secret identity to the world?"
Leek had touched on the Clark's worst fear. He knew that by allowing the doctor to live he was taking the chance that his identity would be revealed. Would he be able to again fend off the allegations that Clark Kent and Superman were one and the same? Clark knew it was a risk he would have to take. No other option was possible without betraying Lois's faith in him and sacrificing the beliefs that he held sacred. He made light of the doctor's threat, hoping that the words he spoke would prove to be true.
"Tell the world that I'm Clark Kent? Go right ahead. That theory has been refuted so often before that the world considers it a bad joke. No doctor, you have no hold over me. All that remains is for you to pay the price for the crimes you have committed."
As Superman became airborne with Leek in his grasp, the doctor hissed, "You think that you have the better of me? Well, the last laugh is mine!"
The chocolate factory was still deserted when Superman returned, but he knew it would soon be crawling with Metropolis police looking for evidence. Superman gently cradled that last bit of evidence in his arms and once again turned to the North. In the ice of the glacier, he entombed the body which might have become Lois. In his mind echoed the words she had left him… "Remember farmboy, that we are forever soulmates. I stand beside you always and love you into eternity." He rose solemnly into the air and turned towards home.
Back at the chocolate factory, all was quiet again. The police had arrived, gathered what evidence they could, although little remained, and departed after encircling the laboratory with yellow crime scene tape.
In a small chamber beneath the floor of the laboratory, she was beginning to panic. Thanks to the monitors that encircled her prison, she had been witness to the events of the past few days. She had watched as "her" body was retrieved from the alley by the ambulance crew. Her heart had broken as she watched her husband bid "her" farewell at the cemetery. She had listened in as Leek tempted Clark with his treacherous offer and had felt her heart swell with pride as her tortured husband made a choice no man should be asked to make.
But now she was terrified. The police had come and gone without discovering her prison, although she had screamed until she was hoarse. Clark had surely scanned the building and had failed to find her. The only person who knew she was imprisoned at the chocolate factory was Fabian Leek, and he would surely allow her to die there as a final act of revenge against Superman. For the thousandth time, she began to search her prison for a way out.
Later that night, Clark stood gazing at the stars from the balcony of the brownstone. His parents had been taken home, Superman Express, and Clark was happy for the solitude. He had a great deal of thinking to do. Many questions remained unanswered, but those would have to wait. Tonight he was just going to remember her. And so, he turned his gaze to the stars and his heart reached out to her as it had once before when he traveled with Zara and Ching to New Krypton. He didn't expect a reply.
Imagine his surprise when he received one! Not a reply, exactly, but a sort of fragile connection. At first, he attributed the odd sensation to his fatigue and loneliness. But the feeling persisted and seemed to acquire a direction. Confused and skeptical, he spun into the suit and began to follow the gossamer thread.
Lois looked up in surprise as the metal door to her cell gave way and was suddenly thrown aside. In the doorway, tears streaming down his face, stood her husband. He crossed the room in two quick strides, lifted her effortlessly into his arms and, without a word, rose into the air and away from her prison.
Several hours later, they still floated above the clouds of Metropolis, Lois wrapped securely in the fabric of his cape. Tears of happiness had been shed, vows of love renewed. Clark could not get enough of looking at her, drinking in the scent of her… touching her. As their immediate need to just be together was satisfied, Clark gave voice to one of his many questions.
"So Lois, the body in the alley was another replica? He never intended to kill you?"
"I think he did plan to kill me, Clark. I think it was the baby that stopped him."
"The baby? Why the baby?" Clark gently caressed her abdomen and kissed her cheek.
"Believe me, I came up with every reason I could think of to convince him that killing me was a bad idea, but he wasn't buying any of them until I asked him to spare our child. Maybe he was swayed by the baby's innocence. You and I were his enemies, after all, not our baby."
"Whatever the reason, I have been given my life back. Lois, I couldn't imagine going on without you. And now you and I have a new life to care for." He lowered his lips to hers for a soul-searching kiss.
"I have just one question for you, farmboy." His inquisitive glance encouraged her to go on. "How long does a girl have to wait for a more… thorough welcome home?" More than willing to oblige, Clark took them home.