Learning the Hard Way

By Nicola Baker <nicola@njbaker.freeserve.co.uk>

Rated: G

Submitted: November 2001

Summary: Lois has been kidnapped as bait for Superman, and the villains are waiting with modified Kryptonite. What's a human to do? A sequel to the author's "Flying Lessons" and "Landing Lessons."

This is a sequel to Flying Lessons and Landing Lessons. Thanks to Liz and Tricia, my Betas.

For those who came in late: Lois, Clark and Jimmy were touching a metal fence that acted as a conductor when Clark was struck by lightning. Consequently, Lois and Jimmy both have superpowers. UltraWoman still has hers. Unfortunately, Ace (as Jimmy is known) had a run-in with some Kryptonite, and lost his powers. They have not come back. Dr Klein believes that this is because Ace is still growing. Given that she is older Kryptonite should therefore not affect UltraWoman. And now, read on:


Lois was, unusually, walking home from work. Normally she drove or flew, but today Clark had taken the Jeep to Star Labs to meet with Dr Klein about their current story, and she just felt like keeping her feet on the ground.

"Perhaps the novelty of having superpowers is finally wearing off," she mused. "The media attention is starting to die down, and life is getting back to normal. Or what passes for normal around here. I almost wish something would happen."

A black van pulled out of the traffic and mounted the pavement beside her. As the back door opened and men poured out, Lois rolled her eyes towards the heavens and exclaimed,

"I said *almost*!"

She turned her attention to the five men surrounding her. Dressed all in black with guns and ski masks, they looked like stereotypical kidnappers.

"Five men with guns just to kidnap me? That's a little excessive, don't you think?"

One of the men, Lois thought he was the leader, chuckled.

"Your reputation precedes you, Ms Lane. I hear you are quite the martial arts expert. We wouldn't want you to escape, now would we?"

Rolling her eyes, Lois tried her best to sound exasperated, even though she was secretly flattered.

"No, wouldn't want that."

The leader gestured with his gun towards the back of the van. Lois briefly considered resisting, maybe yelling for her husband, but she decided that since it was a slow news week, she would find out what the master plan was. That would make a much better story.

"What harm can it do anyway?" Lois asked herself. It wasn't as if they could hurt her. Dr Klein had said that even Kryptonite would barely make her flinch. Lois decided that this was definitely a good thing, especially since they hadn't yet found the Kryptonite that had taken Jimmy's powers away.

She climbed into the van.


Across the street, in a sidewalk cafe, a young man pulled a pen from his pocket and scribbled a note on his napkin. Replacing the pen in his pocket, he stood up. He knew someone who would want this information.


The small office in the corner of the warehouse was cold, dark, and lined with lead. Only the last of these bothered Lois in the slightest, despite the fact that she was tied to a chair in a draughty spot. What annoyed her more was that her kidnappers didn't seem interested in revealing their entire plan to her. She had to tease it out of them bit by bit. It was like getting blood from a stone. For the past hour, Lois had felt like alternately screaming or banging her head against the wall in frustration.

But she was beginning to see the big picture. And she didn't like it.

"Let me see if I've got this right," she smiled sweetly. "You kidnapped me as bait for Superman." She paused. "Despite the fact that it's been done before, and failed miserably every time. What makes you think this attempt will be any different?"

The mysterious kidnapper grinned evilly.

"Because we have this," he said, reaching into his coat and pulling out a small lead box. He opened it, revealing the Kryptonite within. Lois stared at him incredulously.

"So did every other petty criminal who took it into his head to kidnap me as bait."

The man grew red at her words.

"I am *not* a *petty* criminal. I am the most feared and respected criminal mind this century! I am the head of." He caught himself.

Lois' mind was in overdrive, putting all the pieces together. The missing Kryptonite, the well organised kidnapping, the anti-Superman agenda.

"Intergang." There was no doubt in her voice.

The head of Intergang frowned.

"Very good, Ms Lane. Your reputation is well deserved, I see. It doesn't matter. Soon you and Superman will be dead, and you will take the knowledge to your grave. Feel free to scream for your hero while I'm gone." Chuckling to himself, he left the room, leaving the Kryptonite behind.

"Time to get out of here, I think," Lois muttered. She had all the information she needed for her story, and if she stayed any longer Clark would start to worry, despite her invulnerability. She tugged at the ropes binding her wrists.

They didn't break.

Frowning, Lois tugged a little harder. No result. She used all her strength, but the ropes remained firm. Lois began to struggle, panicked.

"This isn't supposed to happen!" she thought frantically. "My powers are supposed to be permanent!" With dawning horror, she raised her eyes and looked at the Kryptonite. Dr Klein had been wrong. Kryptonite did affect her.

Lois opened her mouth to scream for her husband, and then clamped it shut. She couldn't call Clark, not with Kryptonite about. She was going to have to do this the hard way.


For the twelfth time in as many minutes, Clark glanced around the empty house. He couldn't put his finger on what was wrong, but somewhere, deep in his soul, he knew.



The young man from the sidewalk cafe stepped off the elevator and entered the newsroom. Looking around, his eyes found the man he was looking for, coming out of the supply closet. He was adjusting his clothes, as if he had just got changed. He quietly moved towards his target.

"Can I help you?" The reporter seemed agitated, in a hurry.

"Clark Kent?"

"Yes, that's me. Mr…?"

"Your wife was kidnapped." The young man handed over the napkin, and turned to leave.

"Wait, who are you?"

"I'm… a fan of your work." He ignored Clark's attempts to recapture his attention, and boarded the elevator.


Clark puzzled over the man's strange behaviour for a moment, but very quickly decided it didn't matter. Glancing at the napkin, he discovered a licence plate number and a description of a van. He jogged towards his desk, intent on phoning Inspector Henderson to get a trace on the licence plate. He knew Bill would give it to him without asking too many questions. Since Lois' invulnerability meant that she had to have gone voluntarily, he wanted to find out what the situation was before the police became involved.

"Clark? It's late. Why aren't you at home with that lovely wife of yours?" Clark considered ignoring his boss in favour of phoning Henderson, but he respected Perry too much for that.

"Lois was kidnapped, Perry."

"Judas Priest! Why aren't you phoning the police?"

"I was just about to. I just got a tip on the van that took her, and I was going to ask Bill to run it for me."

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Perry picked up Clark's phone and handed it to him. Worry for the woman he thought of as a daughter shone from his eyes.

Taking the phone, Clark dialled the station. Perry watched him anxiously. He wasn't supposed to have favourites among the reporters, but he did, and Lois was one of them. He listened as the other of his favourites talked into the phone.

"Inspector Henderson, please."

"Hi, Bill, it's Clark. Can you run a licence plate for me?"

"Of course it's important, Bill."

"It's a black van."

"What do you mean, was Lois kidnapped again? Why would you think that?"

"Oh. You're right, I suppose." There was a long pause. Then Clark began scribbling on a piece of paper.

"Thanks, Bill. I owe you one."

Clark put the phone down. He tore the paper off the pad and turned to leave. He hadn't moved more than a stride from his desk when Perry called out.

"I don't suppose I can persuade you to wait for Henderson, can I?" Clark turned around, and something in his eyes warned Perry. He sighed. "Be careful, Clark."

Clark nodded, and jogged towards the stairwell. If Perry thought it was odd that he was taking the stairs not the elevator, he didn't say anything about it. Neither of them saw the figure who slipped into the stairwell while they were talking.


Lois had found a sharp edge on the chair. Ever since her kidnapper had left, she had been rubbing the rope binding her wrists backwards and forwards along it. Testing the strength of the ropes, she felt them give a little. Her spirit soared. Gathering her strength, she pulled against her bonds as hard as she could. They snapped.

Quickly, she leant forwards and undid the ropes around her feet. Wincing, she rubbed her ankles. Her captors had almost cut off the circulation. When she felt a tingle in her toes, she got up.

Lois' first move was towards the Kryptonite. Fortunately, the head of Intergang had left the box behind, so all she had to do was close the lid, and the sickly green glow was cut off. Picking up the box, Lois crept towards the door.

Putting her ear to the door, Lois listened carefully. She didn't know who or what was behind it, and without her powers, she had no sure way of finding out. She couldn't hear anything, so she twisted the handle and slowly started to open the door.

A small crack was all she needed to see into the hallway. A typical warehouse, with packing crates stacked in neat rows. Lois couldn't see any of her kidnappers, so she eased the door open the rest of the way, praying that it wouldn't squeak.

The door opened silently, and Lois slipped out into the warehouse. Looking around, she tiptoed behind a stack of crates and started working her way around the warehouse, looking for the exit.

Rounding a corner, she came face to face with the most enormous rat she had ever seen. Lois couldn't completely suppress the instinctive scream. It came out as a sort of strangled squeak. She instantly froze.

For what felt like an hour, but was probably only a minute, she stood there, listening intently. Fortunately, no-one seemed to have heard. No voices were raised, no clatter of feet sounded to suggest that the crooks were rushing to discover who had made the sound.

More confident now, Lois started to creep forward again. She made her way around almost the entire building before she found a door.

"I should have started in the other direction," she complained silently. Taking a breath, she reached out and took hold of the handle. Twisting it slowly, she eased the door open.

She was staring into the barrel of a gun.


As he stepped into the stairwell, Clark was immediately aware of another presence. He could hear a heartbeat, and breathing, and he turned towards them. His eyebrows raised in surprise as he realised who his companion was.

"Jimmy! What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you. I heard you talking to Perry. I'm coming too." Jimmy looked determined, and he wasn't going to take no for an answer.

"It could be dangerous."

"There could be Kryptonite."

Jimmy had played the trump card, and Clark knew it. He grinned at his young friend. It surprised him to realise that he actually wanted Jimmy to come. He had come to trust Jimmy with his life, and knew that Lois felt the same way. The thought of Lois spurred him into action, and he took Jimmy's hand. They flew up the stairs and left from the roof.


Clark and Jimmy entered an apartment building overlooking Siegel Park. This was where the van was registered to, and the owner hadn't reported it stolen. Clark supposed it was possible that he just hadn't noticed yet, but this was a nicer area than Hobbs Bay, so that seemed unlikely. As they rode in the elevator to the fourth floor, Clark used his x-ray vision to check the apartment. Empty.

Checking the hallway quickly, Clark pulled out his set of lock picks. Lois had bought him a set of his own after he kept borrowing hers. Suppressing a flash of worry over his wife, Clark set to work on the lock. With x-ray vision, it was ridiculously easy to open the door. Glancing along the hallway once again, Clark stepped into the apartment.

It was a fairly ordinary apartment. There was a desk in one corner of the living room. While Jimmy searched the rest of the apartment, Clark rifled through the papers lying on it, and was not surprised to find several unsigned, typewritten notes. Notes very similar to ones that he had found at apartments of known Intergang employees. These particular notes outlined the plan for kidnapping Lois. As he read the last lines of one of the notes, Clark's eyes widened, and he began to chuckle. This was too easy. He read it out loud.

"Take Ms Lane to the old shoe warehouse in Hobbs Bay. Do not forget to burn this once you have memorised the instructions."

"I don't know, Clark, it seems too easy." Jimmy glanced up with a worried expression on his face.

"What have I told you about contaminating crime scenes, Clark?" Bill Henderson's voice sounded from behind the reporter. Clark grimaced. He had hoped to leave before Bill got here, so that they could fly to the warehouse. Now Bill would insist on coming, and they would have to travel in the car with him. That would slow them down considerably.

"I only touched one thing, Bill. Look." He showed the Inspector the note. After reading it, Bill looked directly into Clark's eyes.

"I suppose you want to come?" Clark simply looked at his friend. Bill sighed. "Come on, then."

The three investigators left the apartment, rejoined Bill's men in their cars, and sped off towards Hobbs Bay.


"I do wish you'd stop trying to escape, Ms Lane. You're not going to succeed."

Lois sighed. She had come so close this time. And the time before, and the time before that. She now sported a black eye and a swollen lip for her trouble. Actually, Lois was surprised that was all her kidnappers had done to her. For violent criminals who were planning on killing her anyway, they did seem to be very considerate of her feelings.

Next time, Lois decided, she wasn't even going to attempt to get out of the building. She was going to hide among the packing crates until they discovered that she was missing. Then, when they were spread thinly around the warehouse looking for her, she could slip out of the door. If she met one of them, she could probably take him out, but all five at the same time was too much even for her. That was what had gone wrong before.

The men tied her hands behind her back. They didn't bother with a chair this time, having discovered that all of the chairs in the warehouse had sharp edges. And there were lots of chairs in the warehouse. It was a furniture warehouse, after all. Instead, they left her in a corner of the room. And then they departed. The Kryptonite was once again exposed, in the opposite corner of the room to Lois.

Thanking her Tae Kwon Do instructor silently for all the training that had made her so supple, Lois looped her arms under her feet so that her hands were in front of her face. She started picking at the knots with her teeth.


Bill, Clark, and Jimmy looked at the shoe warehouse from across the street. It seemed deserted, but there was really no way of telling for certain. Clark, who was standing slightly behind his friends, pulled his glasses down his nose and squinted at the nearest wall. The bricks and mortar started to dissolve, but then his vision was blocked. Lead. Why did all of the warehouses in Hobbs Bay have to be lead-lined?

"Well, there's only one way to find out," he muttered, responding to the unspoken question which was going through all of their minds. He started to creep towards the warehouse.

"Clark!" Bill hissed. "What do you think you're doing? You have no idea who or what is in there."

"Bill, this is Lois we're talking about. I have to." Clark was determined, and no policeman, friend or otherwise, was going to stop him rescuing his wife. It had been two hours since Lois left work. If all was well, she should have been able to get the story and escape by now. She hadn't, which meant that something had gone wrong. Clark didn't like the sound of that 'something'. It had disaster written all over it.

Creeping towards the building, Clark reached out with his superhearing, listening for what was inside. Just because he couldn't see through the walls didn't mean he had to be unprepared.

Reaching the wall of the warehouse, he paused in confusion. He couldn't hear anything. Actually, he could, just not from inside the warehouse.

"Great," he muttered. "Lead-lined and sound-proofed. Just what I needed." Shrugging his shoulders, he moved towards the back of the warehouse, out of the line of sight of the police. As he had hoped, there was a back door to the warehouse, leading into an office. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the lock picks.

A glance at the door showed him that it, too, was made of lead. He sighed. It was going to take a lot longer to pick the lock if he couldn't see what he was doing. He considered simply breaking the door down, but decided that it would make too much noise. Lois' kidnappers might hear and do something to her. Just what they might do, Clark wasn't sure, and it was the uncertainty that gave him caution.

Thankfully, he was saved from the dubious pleasure of picking the lock by the arrival of Jimmy, who had followed his friend after reassuring Henderson that they would be fine. He had been able to persuade the Inspector to stay with the other police officers at the front of the building.

Clark cracked the door open a little and slipped into the building. He had barely taken a step inside when he was overcome by pain and nausea.


Something heavy crashed against the door and slammed it shut, and Jimmy knew that he had been right to come along. Pushing the door open was difficult, and when he stuck his head into the warehouse, he knew why. Clark was leaning against the door, almost unconscious. Muttering rude comments about his friend, and thinking wistfully of his lost superpowers, Jimmy pulled Clark to his feet.

Jimmy dragged his friend out into the sunshine. Before Clark regained his wits and told him not to, Jimmy slipped back into the warehouse. He paused for a moment to let his eyes adjust to the gloom, and then started searching for the Kryptonite.

The warehouse was almost completely empty. There were a few boxes of shoes in one corner, but no exits other than the front, and Henderson had that covered. There was no sign of the bad guys. Unless there was a hidden room somewhere, Lois wasn't being held here.

"I knew it seemed too easy," he griped to himself. "But no, Clark had to come and fall straight into the trap. If I hadn't been here, he might have died. I hope he realises that."

A subtle glow in one corner alerted him. Approaching warily, he found the Kryptonite. There was no box, but the rock was resting on a piece of paper. Fortunately, since he had discovered his friend's identity, Jimmy had started carrying some lead foil with him. Taking it out, he quickly wrapped the Kryptonite and put it in his pocket. Glancing at the paper, he saw that it was a note, and picked it up.

Glancing round the rest of the warehouse quickly, he went back outside to check on his friend. Clark was sitting up, looking sheepish.

"Thank you, Jimmy. I'm glad you were here. Did you get it?"

Jimmy, slightly surprised that Clark wasn't telling him off for putting himself in danger, pulled the lead package out of his pocket. Clark grimaced in remembered pain.

"You know, that was unlike anything I've ever felt. Usually it takes a few minutes of exposure for me to get to the state that I was in. I think we should take that to Dr Klein, see what he thinks."

"There was a note." Jimmy's voice was grim, unamused. He handed over the piece of paper.

Clark glanced at the word typed in the centre of the paper. Jimmy knew that he had noticed the style; the same as the instruction letter they had found in the apartment. Crumpling the paper in his hand, Clark stood. If he had not already known by the way he was standing, one look in Clark's eyes would have convinced Jimmy that his friend was angry. Very angry.

Jimmy followed his friend as he stalked out to the front of the warehouse and rejoined the police. Bill Henderson took one look at Clark's face and came to the same conclusion Jimmy had. He took a guess at the reason.

"Not there?"

"Not there," Clark confirmed, his voice taut. Tossing the screwed up note to the Inspector, he stalked off. Bill called after him.

"Where are you going, Clark?"

"Star Labs. There was some Kryptonite in there. You coming, Jimmy?"

Jimmy hurried to catch up with Clark. Just before he reached the corner, he looked back. Bill Henderson was unfolding the note. Jimmy saw his jaw clench as he took in its contents. Although he could no longer see the word, Jimmy knew what was written there.

In typed letters, it said, very simply, "Idiot."


Hiding among the crates, Lois listened to the shouts of the men. They were getting closer. Hefting the Kryptonite box, she thought quickly. If she could get rid of the Kryptonite, make sure her kidnappers couldn't find it, she could call Clark. But where could she hide it?

The crates were packed tightly, but there was a small gap between two stacks. It was barely large enough for Lois to fit through, and she grinned. Her kidnappers were all big men. They would never fit in there. As quickly as she could, Lois wriggled sideways through the gap. She expected it to be a dead end, but as she neared the centre of the stack she discovered that the tiny passageway turned a corner.

Carefully poking her head out, she was confronted with another thin corridor, leading deeper into the stack of crates. Lois shrugged and wriggled around the corner. If she stayed here, she would be hidden from her kidnappers. However, her reporter's instincts took over, and she started to creep towards the other end of the passageway. Perhaps it went all of the way through to the other side of the stack.

It was a lot of effort wriggling through the small aisle, but her efforts were rewarded when she turned another corner and came in sight of the warehouse door. She couldn't see any guards, but that didn't mean anything. They could be at the side of the door, or behind it.

Lois considered her options. She could scream for her husband, or she could try to escape on her own. If there were guards, her chances of escape were slim, but if she called Clark, they would immediately know exactly where she was. And she still had the Kryptonite.

That was the first priority, she decided. Quickly moving to the middle of the thin corridor, she left the lead box on the floor. It couldn't be seen from either side of the stack of crates. The men would only know it was here if they saw her coming out at the end, and if she was lucky, they wouldn't see her. Risky as it was, Lois had decided to try once more to escape on her own. If she was caught this time, she would call for Clark, but she didn't want to take that chance. Hiding the Kryptonite would do no good if they had some more.

Lois crept carefully forwards until she could see the spaces on either side of the door. There was nobody there. Holding her breath, she eased out of her hiding place and stole towards the door. She reached out to turn the handle. Just about to turn it, her brain registered a small squeak behind her. She whirled around to find herself faced with one of her kidnappers. With a gun.


"Dr Klein, it's good to see you again."

"Clark! And Jimmy, how are you? I don't suppose this is a social call, is it?"

"Afraid not, Dr Klein, sorry. Lois was kidnapped." Clark proceeded to tell the story to the doctor, slightly altering the details to leave out the fact that the Kryptonite had affected him. Handing over the Kryptonite, still in it's lead wrapping, he explained how it had affected Superman.

"Superman said it felt stronger, more intensely painful than normal Kryptonite. Maybe you could do some tests on it, see what's different about it?"

The scientist nodded knowingly.

"You're worried that somebody made this, aren't you? A synthetic Kryptonite that is more powerful than the original." He shuddered. "A terrifying thought."

Jimmy had a sudden thought.

"Dr Klein, do you still have that tissue sample from UltraWoman?"

"Yes, I do. I'll check to see what effect it has on her cells. If it's as strong as Superman said, it might be dangerous to her."

Dr Klein wandered off, already muttering to himself about the different tests he was planning. Quietly, Clark pulled Jimmy out of the lab.

"Let's go, before he decides to unwrap it."


Instinctively, Lois kicked out at the gun in the man's hand. Before the kidnapper had time to shout, she had disarmed him and was throwing him over her hip to land with a thud on the concrete floor of the warehouse. He didn't get up.

Lois didn't feel very sympathetic towards the man. He was the one who had given her a black eye. He groaned softly, and Lois quickly hit him over the head. He subsided back into unconsciousness, hopefully giving Lois enough time to escape before he raised the alarm. Grabbing the gun by the barrel, she slipped out of the door and started running.

Surprisingly, no-one shot at her as she ran to the nearest corner. Just before she turned into the next street, she glanced back and saw that the warehouse had no windows on this side, and the door had swung shut. There was no way for the members of Intergang to see her, which explained the lack of bullets.

Lois didn't relax until she was a couple of blocks away. Leaning against the wall of another warehouse, she caught her breath for a moment, and then decided to get hold of her husband the quickest way she knew.

"Help! Superman!"


Clark and Jimmy were in the Jeep on the way back to the Planet. Clark had been surprised to find that the Jeep was at Star Labs, but then he remembered that he had left it there the previous day. He had gone on a rescue, and had forgotten to go back for it once Lois had been kidnapped. He and Jimmy were both worried about Lois, but were trying not to show it. Instead, they were discussing superpowers.

"I know I only had them for a short time, but I feel almost bereft without them. I can't imagine what you feel like every time you lose yours."

"It's hard. It's not just the energy, it's the need to help." Clark wondered if his friend really understood what he meant. Jimmy didn't have the same wonderful parents that he had, but he was a good person. The experience with the superpowers had matured him considerably. He had seen things in that week that many people never imagined. If anyone except Lois really understood, it would be Jimmy.

Jimmy nodded soberly. "When I think of all those rescues I could be doing, it makes me feel… I don't know. I wish I had them back."

"I wish you did, too, Jimmy."

Suddenly, Clark's head snapped round, and he abruptly pulled the car over to the side of the road. Jimmy barely had time to register that they had changed course before he had disappeared in a rush of wind.

Shrugging, Jimmy changed seats and resumed the journey to the Planet. Whatever was the matter, Clark would probably meet him there.


Clark swooped down and landed next to Lois. The first thing he noticed was her split lip and black eye.

"Lois! What happened? Are you alright?"

Lois brushed him off.

"I'm fine, Clark, it's just a bruise. We need to go to the Planet and write the story." She glanced at the gun in her hands. "Oh, and drop this off at the police station so that they can run the fingerprints on it." Clark, well used to Lois wanting to write the story before she had time to rest, took her in his arms and launched himself into the sky.

"So what happened?"

"Do you want the short version or the long version?" Lois had a wry smile on her lips.

"Why don't you start with the short version?" suggested Clark, amused. He fully expected the long version anyway. His wife surprised him by telling the entire story in four short phrases.

"Intergang kidnapped me, they had Kryptonite, it took my powers away, I escaped."

"Don't you think we ought to go and catch them?"

"No. Clark, there is no way I am going to tell you where they held me. You would go and confront them, and they would pull out some Kryptonite, and that would be it. No, as soon as we get back to the Planet, we'll tell Bill, and he'll go."

Marriage to Lois had taught Clark a lot, so he didn't argue. They flew the rest of the way in silence.


Perry was relieved to have Lois back. He tried to find out exactly what had happened, but she practically ignored him.

"Chief, you can read the story when I send it to you for editing. If we don't start now, we won't get it written in time for the morning edition." She immediately went over to her computer and sat down. Clark followed, shrugging apologetically at his boss.

Soon, the story was written. Jimmy had been back to the newsroom and left again. Clark had phoned Bill Henderson, who had gone to the warehouse. As expected, by the time he got there Intergang had left, and the place was deserted. After sending the story to Perry, Lois asked Clark to take her back to the warehouse.

"Why, Lois? Bill's men already went over it and didn't find anything."

She smiled mysteriously.

"I know somewhere they didn't check." They headed for the stairwell.


At the warehouse, all was quiet. The police had gone, leaving only reams of yellow tape to show that they had been there at all. Lois slipped under the tape and into the building. Clark followed, but he wasn't fast enough, and when he looked around for his wife, he couldn't see her.

"Lois?" he called, concerned. He was just about to use his x-ray vision when he heard her voice.

"Over here, Clark." He made his way towards her voice, and was puzzled to see her squeezing out from between two stacks of packing crates. When he saw the lead box that she was carrying, all became clear.

"Have I ever told you how much I love you?"

Lois was prevented from replying to that by the ringing of her cell phone. It was Bill Henderson. He had tried to contact them at the Planet, but had missed them. They told him about the Kryptonite that Lois had hidden, and he told them what progress he had made in the investigation. The fingerprints from the gun matched a known criminal, who had unfortunately disappeared. The other men that Lois had described had also disappeared.

The investigation was still continuing, but there was not much hope that it would ever be solved.


The two superheroes flew to Star Labs to give the Kryptonite to Dr Klein. Or rather, Clark flew. Lois' powers were still missing. When they made their way into Dr Klein's office, he seemed subdued.

"I've been doing some tests with that modified Kryptonite you brought me, Clark. I've had some… interesting results. Could you get a hold of Superman and UltraWoman? I think it would be better to discuss this with them."

Clark was not surprised by this. Dr Klein was always very good at matters of doctor-patient confidentiality. He handed the lead box to his doctor, and they left to get changed.

Ten minutes later, Lois and Clark were back in the doctor's office, dressed in spandex. Clark had flown in carrying his wife, to be greeted by a sigh from Dr Klein.

"I was afraid of that," he said. "You encountered the modified Kryptonite, didn't you?" He wondered if UltraWoman's encounter with the deadly rock was related to Lois' kidnapping earlier that day. Shrugging it off, he continued to speak. "The tests which I performed on this new form of the rock were conclusive."

As the doctor explained his experiments to the two superheroes, he watched their expressions change. They started politely interested, and slowly became confused, and then upset. But through it all, there was a ray of hope in their eyes.



Clark and Jimmy were on the roof of the Daily Planet. They went there to talk about superhero things sometimes, and tonight was no different. Clark had been excited when he came back from his meeting with Dr Klein, and had almost immediately brought Jimmy up here. It was obvious to Jimmy that his friend wanted to tell him something important.

Clark began to speak.

Jimmy's heart leapt as he listened to Clark's voice. He could barely comprehend what his friend was telling him. Dr Klein had been wrong. His powers hadn't failed because he was growing. Dr Klein had assumed that because Ace was younger than the other two superheroes, his age must have had something to do with the degeneration of his cells. It didn't.

All this time, he could have had the powers back. He could have been helping.

It was so simple.

The Kryptonite that he and Clark had found in the warehouse had been modified. Dr Klein's tests had shown that it would take away UltraWoman's powers, permanently. Even with a minute of exposure, once the Kryptonite was removed her cells would degenerate spontaneously. Just like his cells had done.

Lois and Clark had taken the scenic route from Star Labs to the Planet, through a storm. UltraWoman was already back.

Silence caused Jimmy to look at his friend. He realised that Clark was waiting for an answer, but he had missed the question.


"I said, I hear there's an electrical storm over Cleveland. Do you want to…?"

Jimmy simply held out his hand. Clark took it, and together they stepped off the roof.


Epilogue 2

The head of Intergang looked around the secret lab with satisfaction. There was no way to trace him here. He was safe, and so was the equipment. As he left, he turned out the lights, and looked at the soft green glow which bathed the room. He smiled.