By Tank Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Submitted: March 2002
Summary: An old enemy of Lois and Clark's plots a devastating means of bringing about the return of yet another enemy. Can Lois survive? (Another in the series of Tank and Wendy challenge fic)
Tank: I give up! Wait, I think I've said that before, but this time I mean it. I pushed the limits of Lois and Clark credibility to come up with a goofy, fun, yet still evil challenge for Wendy. I thought I might have had her this time. I thought that I had most of the easy solutions accounted for. I had hoped that she would have to rack her brains to be able to come up with a solution to the problem I set up. I even thought I had forced her into giving Lois a haircut! <g>. But, alas, once again I failed to even challenge her. She defused all my devious plot set-ups and resolved the situation without breaking a sweat. She even saved Lois' hair. I can't win, I give up.
Wendy: Without breaking a sweat?! Are you kidding?! This one was *not* easy. (And I confess that I ignored Lois's hair… read on to see what we mean. <g>) I sweated blood over this. Had nightmares. Sighed and tore my hair on IRC. And then — I confess. I cheated. This is not all my own work. Sarah, thank you for some excellent ideas, which I adapted and turned into this solution. See, Tank? There's no need at all to give in! Because, really, you won this time. You stumped me. <g> So, you see, you have no excuse to retire!
Oh, look for another surprise Tank Ending to this story, from another mystery guest writer… someone who claims not to be into writing evil scenarios. Well, see for yourself if s/he deserves the tag of Evil Writer! <g>
All rights in recognisable characters in this story belong to either DC Comics, Warner Bros, December 3 Productions or whoever owns them. No infringment of these rights is intended by their use in this work of fanfiction.
Gretchen Kelly rolled over in bed and groaned. She would never be without pain. But the daily agony caused by the electrical burn scars that criss-crossed her back was nothing compared to the suffering she continued to go through every time she remembered Lex's betrayal of her.
She had loved Lex, and she had brought him back to life. So how did he repay her? By tossing her against some high voltage cables so she couldn't keep him from trying to rescue that witch, Lois Lane, from the pit of rats she'd tossed her into.
Over a year spent in that prison hospital recovering from the burns suffered in her electrocution. She should have died but she hadn't. Her desire for revenge kept her alive. Now it was two years later and she was ready to act. She would see Lois Lane destroyed. A nasty smile crept over her face. Her plan to get back at Lane was particularly delicious. And the side benefits to the plan were particularly interesting… and ironic.
It was a risky plan, and one which the outcome was far from certain, but if it worked the payoff would be worth it. There was a hint of madness in Gretchen Kelley's look as her smile got bigger and an evil laugh escaped from her lips. Lois Lane's days were numbered. And with any luck, the number would be quite small.
Lois Lane was dragged out of bed by the smell of wonderful things coming from the kitchen. Throwing her robe over her nightgown, she flew down the stairs, zombie-like, and into the kitchen to be confronted by the smiling personage of her husband.
"I thought this might get you up." He laughed as he pointed to a chair at the table. A plateful of breakfast delights, and a steaming cup of coffee was already there. "I wanted to, at least, have breakfast with you since I won't see you again for two whole weeks!"
Lois took a long sip of her coffee, then turned and gave her husband a look of sympathy. "I know, it's going to be tough for me too, you know. But we discussed this and if I'm ever going to get that stupid novel finished, I have to lock myself away and just do it. Perry's cabin upstate will be just the place. It's quiet, and it's isolated. He doesn't even have a television set."
Clark gave Lois his best lost puppy dog look. "Yeah, but why do you have to shut yourself away? Why can't I come and visit once and a while? It's not like it would be any hardship for me." Clark came over and sat next to Lois.
Lois reached over and gently caressed his cheek. "I know, but it will destroy my concentration. All I'll be thinking about is your next visit. Besides," Lois giggled. "How can I write a romance novel filled with lover's angst and emotional travails if I'm a happily sated wife." Lois leaned in and kissed Clark on the nose. "The isolation and deprivation will keep me in the right frame of mind."
"Maybe… but I still think that I…"
Lois swatted Clark on the hand. "Oh stop it. You know one of the reasons we chose this time is because you have three charity appearances, two fund raising events for the Superman Foundation, and that thing you are doing with EPRAD coming up."
Clark smiled. "You mean the repair and realignment of the Hubble space telescope."
Lois waved her hand in the air. "Yeah, whatever." She gulped down a couple of bites of toast and took another sip of her coffee. "As busy as you are going to be over the next couple of weeks, we probably wouldn't see that much of each other anyway."
Clark sighed. "I guess, but I'm going to miss you."
Lois leaned in again, and Clark captured her lips with his. It was a long, loving kiss. "I'm going to miss you too," she said, breathless.
Clark frowned and looked at his watch. "Speaking of missing you, I'd better get going. I'm due at the Planet for a staff meeting in about thirty seconds." Clark leaned in for another quick kiss. "Gotta go. Good luck with the book, and if you decide that you need a break give me a call. I'll be there in seconds. Love you."
Lois laughed. "I have no doubt. Bye, love you too."
Clark was gone in a gust of wind. Lois leaned back and leisurely finished her breakfast. She'd clean up the kitchen, then she had some packing to do. There was no denying that she was going to miss Clark, but a part of her was excited to get this project started. She'd been working on her novel in a hit and miss fashion for years. She finally decided that if it was ever going to happen, she would have to set aside some significant time to do nothing but concentrate on it, to see if there was any real promise there. She was under no delusion that she could finish it in that time, but by the end of this imposed exile she'd know if such a thing was possible for her.
With a last drink of her coffee, Lois got up and headed back up the stairs to the bedroom. Time to get dressed and get this show on the road she thought.
Gretchen took the phone call while going through yet another painful bout of rehabilitation exercises. Despite the pain, the call put a smile on her face. Who would have thought that the dedicated pursuer of truth, the most determined investigative reporter in the city, Lois Lane, would actually be taking a two week vacation. And alone, no less.
When Gretchen began to plan her vengeance, she thought it prudent to subvert a member of the Daily Planet staff. Some well spent money kept her informed as to the activities of the paper's fiercest reporter and her extrodinary husband and partner. Today the money had proved to be well spent. Things were looking up. It was time to spring the trap.
Lois took her last suitcase from the Jeep into the cabin. It was a cozy place. Not too big, just two small bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, and one great room that was a combination kitchen and living room. One end of the great room contained a small stove, a sink, and a few cupboards for storage. The other end was dominated by a large fireplace. Lois smiled when she saw the ample stack of wood piled next to hearth and a note taped to it. It was instructions from Perry as to how to light the fireplace and operate the flue for the proper air flow.
Lois, leaving her suitcases in the middle of the floor, walked over to the south wall which contained a sliding glass door that led out to a small porch which overlooked the picturesque lake and surrounding pine forest. Next to the door was a large, old fashioned, wooden desk. Lois rubbed her hand along the desktop. She could feel the years worth of impressions pressed into that wooden surface. Her smile was content as she set her laptop down next to the antique cup that Perry used as a pencil and pen holder. There were even a couple of blue pencils in the cup. Lois nodded to herself. This was going to work, she just knew it.
A knock at the front door broke into her musings. She was confused. Who would be calling on her here? She peeked out the window as she approached the door. She saw a 'Flowers 'R Us' van out front. She smiled as she reached for the front door knob. Clark must have sent them, she reasoned. What else could it be? She opened the door.
"Lois Lane?" A bored looking fellow stood at the door.
"Yes." Lois had a hard time holding back her grin.
The bored fellow pulled a small aerosol can from his pocket and gave Lois a faceful of some noxious fumes before she even realized what was happening. Within a few seconds she slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Clark looked up at the clock on the wall for the umpteenth time. It was still a couple of hours before he could reasonably excuse himself for the day, and it had been a long boring day without Lois around. Not that he was in any hurry to get home, since she wouldn't be there anyway. Clark figured his best bet would be a flight home to Smallville. Seeing his folks would help ease his missing of Lois.
Clark shook his head as he stared blankly at his computer screen. It had only been part of one day and already he missed her tremendously. He had to think that, more than the actual hours, it was the knowledge that he wouldn't see her for two weeks that depressed him so.
"Hey, CK, how are you doing? Now that you have some time away from Lois, you got any 'big' plans?" Jimmy used his fingers to make quotation marks when he said big.
Clark raised his brow at the young man. "I don't think I want to know what you mean by that, Jimmy. I'm just going to be a lonely husband, trying not to get too depressed while waiting for his wife to come home."
Jimmy grinned. "Well, I suppose you could always call her."
Clark shook his head. "No, I promised Lois I would leave her alone, completely. She really wants a chance to work on this novel, and I'm going to honor her wishes, no matter how hard it will be."
Jimmy laughed. "Boy, you really are married aren't you."
Clark gave the young man a knowing wink. "Someday, you'll understand Jimbo, someday."
Lois was slow coming back to consciousness. It was like trying to swim to the surface of a thick, dark liquid trying to pull you back under the whole time. Her head ached fiercely and, as much as she wished to, she wasn't able to rub her temples with her fingers.
The light was blinding, but she finally managed to force them open enough to get a take on her situation. She was seated in a wheelchair in some sort of white room. Off to one side were tables full of what seemed to be medical equipment, and even what appeared to be an operating table. The reason she couldn't rub her aching head was because her hands were tied tightly to the arms of the chair and her legs secured to the footpads.
Suddenly a door only a few feet away from her opened and a woman entered the room. "You!" Lois gasped.
"Well, I'm glad you've finally decided to join us, Lois. I can call you Lois, can't I? After all, we're old friends."
"But, but," Lois sputtered. "You're dead. You were electrocuted."
Gretchen favored Lois with an evil grin. "Electrocuted, yes, but as for being dead, no. Fortunately, I survived." Gretchen's smile was replaced by a look of pure hatred. "No thanks to you."
"Me? It was Lex who threw you into those power cables." Lois struggled briefly against her bindings but they were too tight.
"Oh, Lex may have done the deed, but it was your fault." Gretchen's voice rose, taking on a slightly hysterical quality. "You bewitched him. He loved you, yet you betrayed him. Lex Luthor was a great man, but you destroyed him!"
Lois shook her head sadly. She almost felt sorry for the woman's delusions. "Lex was a psychopath. He was incapable of feeling anything but greed and ego."
Gretchen strode over and slapped Lois soundly in the face. "Don't talk like that." The predatory smile returned. "Besides, we don't want to be wasting time bickering. Not when there are much more important things to be attending to."
Lois frowned at her kidnapper. "And just what would that be?"
Gretchen's smile became downright scary. "Why, the resurrection of Lex Luthor, of course."
Lois stared in shocked incomprehension at the demented woman. Lois knew that Gretchen Kelly had been Lex's personal physician. She also knew that she had been behind the original theft of Luthor's body and had somehow managed to revive him from 'death' that first time years ago. But Lex had been crushed under the cave-in of an old abandoned subway tunnel. There was no way Gretchen could revive that crushed and broken body a second time, supposing she even had it. Lois wasn't one to be easily shaken by things, but staring into the eyes of Gretchen Kelly caused her to shudder.
"That's madness," Lois said, trying to keep her voice calm. "Lex's body was destroyed. There is no way you will be able to revive him this time. There's nothing left to revive."
Gretchen stepped close and patted Lois on the cheek. "Oh, but there is. Yes, it's true that his body was crushed in that cave-in, but his mind, or more accurately, his brain has survived." She gave Lois a mocking smile. "By some miraculous twist of fortune, Lex's head was pinned between a couple of large chunks of the fallen masonry and was protected in a manner that the rest of his body was not."
"But, but…" Lois could only shake her head in helpless wonderment.
"How did I end up with it?" Gretchen laughed. "Even given Lex's misguided obsession with you, when I was the one who really loved him, I kept track of him during my long stay in the hospital. Or, I should say, I had him kept track of." Gretchen shrugged. "When you betrayed him yet again, my man was there to pick up the pieces."
Lois was astounded. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. "So — what? Do you have Lex's brain in a jar somewhere?" Lois retorted snidely.
"No, actually, it's in a cryogenic container being kept alive by occasional, minute electrical charges to stimulate it. That is, it was. Now it's being carefully thawed out for the upcoming procedure." Gretchen returned Lois' snideness with a mock smile of her own.
Gretchen affected the look of an impatient teacher with an especially slow student. "Why, the transfer of Lex's brain into another body, of course."
Lois couldn't help herself, she burst out laughing. "Now I know you're insane. It's impossible! No one can transfer a living brain into another body. Medical science isn't that far advanced."
Gretchen put her hand to her chin to create an affected look of hard thinking. "Well, it's true that *conventional* medical science isn't up to such a procedure… but that doesn't mean *unconventional* science can't accomplish the *impossible*."
Lois just kept shaking her head in amazement. "You're insane, that's all there is to it."
Gretchen snorted. "Really, Lois, I'm surprised at you. Forgetting for the moment your intimate association with fully realized clones, aren't you the one who broke the Love Fortress scandal." Gretchen nodded as if remembering. "If I'm not mistaken, didn't a Dr. Piscato successfully perform transplants of complete heads from one body to another? Now I'll grant you that *I* don't have the particular expertise required to perform such an incredibly difficult transplant, but that doesn't mean that I haven't hooked up with someone who can."
Lois felt herself slipping from simple astonishment at Gretchen's madness to a chilling revulsion at the thought that such a thing might actually be possible. What Dr. Kelly said was true. Lois had seen some pretty incredible things over the last year or so. Things that she would never have believed possible had she not been an eye witness to it. But, really, a brain transplant?
"So, you've managed to find someone who does brain transplants as what, a side job… a hobby?" Lois' voice betrayed her skepticism.
Gretchen's smile was mockingly patronizing. "Oh, I'm under no delusions as to this procedure. It's highly experimental, it's dangerous, and the chances for success are not the best. In all honesty, the procedure has never been tried on a human before." Gretchen sighed, and stared off to the side. "But I think the possible rewards are worth the risk." Gretchen turned her gaze back to Lois. "Don't you?"
Lois felt an icy finger of fear touch her soul. The idea of Lex Luthor being revived, no matter how unlikely, or how fantastically it would be achieved, was just too horrible to contemplate.
"So why am I here?" Lois asked, her voice conveying a contempt for the other woman. "Do you think it would be some sort of fitting punishment for me to see such an abomination of nature be attempted? Do you need an audience for your 'wondrous achievement'?" Lois grimaced in distaste. "Who's the poor sap that you've shanghaied to be your body donor? Some poor homeless man?"
Gretchen's smile was frightening. "Oh no, Lois, nothing so *common* as a homeless person." Gretchen walked over to an intercom located on the wall near the door. "Palmer, would you come in here and get Ms. Lane. It's time to prepare her for surgery."
Lois' eyes grew ever wider as the import of Gretchen's words sunk in. Gretchen walked over and patted Lois on the cheek once again. "Oh yes, Lois, don't you just love the irony. It was Lex's love for you that led to his downfall and his eventual death. It's only fair that you be the vehicle for his resurrection. You, Ms. Lane, will provide the host body for the miraculous rebirth of Lex Luthor!"
Lois was stunned into silence. Suddenly she felt her chair being pushed from behind. Enough was enough, she thought. Gretchen Kelly was obviously quite mad, but it was a madness that could get Lois killed. No more time to humor the woman to find out what she was up to. It was time to call in the cavalry.
Lois took a deep breath, ready to shout out for her personal superhero at the top of her lungs, when she felt the prick of a needle on her arm. Before she could say anything her thoughts became fuzzy, and she had a hard time focusing on what it was she had just planned to do.
"Just a little sedative to prepare you for the procedure, Lois." Gretchen turned to the large fellow who had the handles of Lois' wheelchair in his hands. "Oh, and Palmer, after prepping Ms. Lane for the surgery, save the hair. We'll use it to make a wig for Lex."
Pain! Crushing pain, and choking dust everywhere. Lex Luthor felt his life being painfully squeezed from his being. Thankfully the intense agony was short lived and the blackness of eternal oblivion soon overtook him.
But Lex was confused. Why was he feeling that pain again? No, not feeling it… remembering it? But he was dead. He remembered his injuries from the weapon that he'd secured to kill Superman, and the cave-in in the abandoned subway station. He hadn't escaped… had he?
Something strange had happened… was happening. He was breathing again. Breathing without the choking dust, or the impossible weight on his chest. Yet his breathing felt — wrong somehow. It fact, he felt… wrong. Warily he opened his eyes.
The brightness was a piercing pain stabbing into his eyes. He half-closed them again, and it was several moments until his eyes accustomed themselves to the light such that he could keep his eyes open enough to actually see. He was in a bright, white room. Obviously some kind of hospital, or laboratory. His gaze rested briefly on a man in medical dress, complete with face mask. Lex didn't recognize him. Shifting his gaze, his look alighted on a more familiar face. He couldn't stop his gasp of surprise. Gretchen Kelly was dead. He had accidentally killed her himself — hadn't he?
"Welcome back, Lex." Gretchen's voice was sweet, and sympathetic, yet couldn't hide a note of mocking, and bitterness.
With a great deal of effort Lex levered his body to a sitting position. It was then that the cover sheet slid down and he got the first good look at the body that felt so strange to him. His gasp was clearly audible as he ran the hands that obeyed his mental commands over the foreign body that clearly was now his own. But… he was a woman!
The astonished eyes searched out and locked onto those belonging to his former physician, Gretchen Kelly. "What have you done to me!"
He was still missing Lois. Desperately, in fact. Even a congenial evening spent with his parents hadn't managed to take Clark's mind off his wife — not for one second.
He couldn't really understand why he was missing her so much; they'd been apart before, so it wasn't as if he simply wasn't used to getting by without her. But the difference this time was that he wasn't allowed to see her or contact her in any way. That was the rule: no surprise visits, no phone calls, no emails — just complete peace and quiet to allow her to get her novel finished.
So, despite the temptation to fly up to Perry's cabin and persuade her to let him stay the night with her — or even just five minutes — he'd just have to go home to an empty house and a lonely bed.
Clark sighed, shifting to a slow cruising speed as he drew closer to New Troy. What was the point in hurrying home when there was no Lois there to welcome him?
The cabin lay north of his current position.
If he flew past; if he hovered overhead for a few minutes and just watched her, drew some comfort from being able to see her, that would be okay, wouldn't it? After all, Lois would never know, not if he didn't let her see him.
A few seconds later, he was flying over the cabin. But, as he searched the place with his Super-vision, Clark realised that the building was empty. His first thought was that maybe she'd gone for a walk — but it was eleven o'clock at night and it was dark. Lois would never go out alone in an unfamiliar area — especially in the middle of nowhere — after dark. Not unless it was a life-and-death situation, or she was on the trail of a story, he thought ruefully.
Coming down to land so that he could check out the situation, Clark noticed tyre-tracks outside the cabin. Not from Lois's Jeep, he realised at once. The cabin door was standing open. And… a bouquet of flowers lay abandoned on the threshold.
Curiouser and curiouser… or perhaps downright worrying, he accepted, walking over to take a closer look. Then he sniffed… and recognised a faint trace of a knockout gas.
Lois had been abducted! That was the only possible explanation. But who by?
He took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself down so that he could think clearly. Who might she have annoyed this time? Who knew where she was?
There wasn't a great deal to go on. But Clark didn't intend to let anything stand in his way. He would find Lois, and if she was harmed in any way, then heaven help the person who'd hurt her.
Lex paced up and down in front of the mirror, her rage increasing by the second. "Gretchen, what the *hell* did you think you were doing?" she demanded, the high-pitched voice which emerged from her body making him shudder.
"Lex, darling, I thought you'd be grateful to be alive — " she began, but Lex wouldn't allow her to finish.
"Alive? You call this being alive? I'm… I'm a freakin' *woman*!" she exclaimed, Lex Luthor's old habitual coolness deserting her completely.
"You're Lois Lane, Lex," Gretchen pointed out. "As I understand it, you've always admired her —"
"I *wanted* Lois. I didn't want to *be* her!" Lex thundered, though the effect was rather lacking given the limits of Lois's voice. She winced at the pathetic result.
"Oh, quit griping, Lex! You're alive. Now, make the most of it! You should also note that I've ensured that you have a body which is about twenty years younger than your own was, so your life expectancy has been enhanced too. I'd think you might want to express some gratitude for all that I've done…"
"Gratitude?!" Lex glared at Gretchen. "You're fortunate that I don't have you killed!"
"Don't forget that I'm the only one who can prove who you are," Gretchen said, a warning, even threatening, note in her voice which would not have been there had she been talking to the old Lex Luthor.
"That might not be such a point in your favour," Lex commented dryly. After all, if no-one knew, then she could simply assume Lois Lane's life… well, except for that husband of hers, of course. The thought of having to endure Clark Kent's kisses — or even worse — made Lex nauseous. And yet, unless she was going to reveal the secret of who she really was, she might have to tolerate the idiot's company, at least as for long as it took to arrange a divorce —
But then, there was something Lex knew about Clark Kent…
"I can't think what possessed you to choose Lois's body for this," she repeated angrily. "Why not that husband of hers?" The thought that she could so easily have had Superman's body… Lex Luthor's genius combined with Superman's physique and powers — now that would have been an unbeatable combination! But, of course, Gretchen had failed to think of the possibility.
"Clark Kent?" Gretchen looked cautious.
"Yes, Kent! You do know who he is?" Lex demanded.
Gretchen made a flying movement with her hand.
Lex nodded. "And it didn't occur to you that he would have been a far better choice?"
"And how do you propose that I should have kidnapped him, let alone allowed Palmer to do the surgery?"
"You *have* heard of Kryptonite?" Lex asked dryly.
Gretchen was about to respond when suddenly Lex halted in her pacing, grimaced, and almost doubled over. She clutched onto the edge of a chair, then sank into it, her expression contorted and one hand pressed against her lower abdomen. "What the…? Gretchen, you did something wrong! I'm dying!"
"My stomach! The pain… it's excruciating! Do something!"
Gretchen frowned momentarily, and Lex glared furiously at her. The woman wasn't taking her predicament seriously at all! "I'm dying here, Gretchen! Do something!"
Gretchen gave her a look which, to Lex's astonishment, seemed to verge on contempt. "Is it a kind of cramping sensation?"
"Yes, something like that," Lex gasped.
To Lex's fury, Gretchen turned away and started rummaging through what looked like Lois's purse. "Hey! Leave that stuff alone! I told you, I need help!"
Gretchen turned and tossed a small packet, which she'd taken out of Lois's purse, in Lex's direction. "Pamprin. That'll sort you out."
"You're not dying, Lex. You've got your period," Gretchen said sarcastically.
Lex stared at Gretchen, disbelief mingled with loathing. She'd always known that women tended to make a song and dance about menstruation, but they exaggerated; of course they did. There was no way that any normal bodily function could be as unpleasant and painful as women claimed; they only made it sound worse than it was so they could take time off work or evade their conjugal obligations.
This… this was torture!
Clark swooped down low over the building. She was there! With her, he noted with chilling fury, was a woman he'd thought dead.
Well, however it was that she'd survived, she'd be facing a long spell in prison if he had any say in the matter. Especially considering the way Lois looked. She was slumped over in a chair, arms wrapped around her midriff, and she appeared completely miserable. Knowing Lois, she had to be in a lot of pain; his Lois would be doing her utmost to fight her way out of captivity, otherwise.
She wasn't restrained in any way, he noted, and that surprised him. Why hadn't she called for him? Lois knew his abilities well enough to be aware that he'd be there in seconds. She knew how attuned he was to her — he'd hear her calling from many miles away.
He'd have to ask her that later. For now, he had a rescue mission to undertake.
In the blink of an eye, he had crashed through the roof of the low building. Standing on the floor below, his body placed between his Lois and that of the Kelly woman, he favoured the doctor with an ice-cold glare.
"I don't even begin to know why you kidnapped Ms Lane, Dr Kelly, but you've gone too far once again. I'm taking you into custody." Glancing around, Clark noticed the medical equipment and, resting on what appeared to be an operating table, some straps, clearly for tying a patient down. At Super-speed, he used the ties to restrain Kelly.
Then he was able to go to Lois. Clark had been taken aback that she hadn't flown into his arms as soon as he'd crashed into the room, but she was probably being circumspect, he told himself. After all, he was here as Superman and not as her husband. Still, there was nothing wrong with Superman embracing a friend, he decided firmly, turning to take her into his arms.
And she resisted. To his shock, she pushed hard at his chest, shoving him away.
"Get *away* from me!" she shouted. Clark stared at her in disbelief.
"Lois? What's wrong?" She didn't answer, instead giving him a look of thorough dislike.
In the background, Gretchen Kelly laughed manically. "Oh, Superman — or may I call you Clark? — you really have no idea, do you?"
She knew who he was. But how — ?
"I don't know what you're talking about," Clark said coldly. "Clark is Lois's husband. I'm just a friend of theirs."
"You can stop pretending, Clark," Kelly said, laughing still. "We know the truth — don't we, Lex?"
"Lex?" Clark spun around, half-expecting to see his greatest nightmare — Lex Luthor — come through the doorway. But there was no-one there. Using his X-ray vision, he could see that there was a man in theatre scrubs in the next room, but that was all.
"Yes, Lex. Oh, but please let me introduce you," Gretchen continued. "Lex's body didn't survive the tunnel collapse, Clark, but his brain did. And, given the latest advances in transplant surgery, I was able to give him a new body. Your wife's."
Clark felt his entire world collapse about him.
His wife — Lois — was now Lex Luthor?
No — she had Luthor's brain. But she was still Lois, wasn't she?
But with his brain… what was there of Lois left? Lois wasn't just a body. She was a person; a human being with a brain; a living, walking, speaking, thinking person who loved him. But if the brain in her body was no longer hers — if, instead, it was Lex Luthor's, then did the person standing in front of him and looking at him with undisguised loathing have anything at all in common with his beloved Lois?
No. No, this wasn't Lois.
Which meant… Clark buried his head in his hands. It meant that Lois was dead.
But, what was even worse than that, her body was still alive. He couldn't even bear to look at the Lois-lookalike in front of him, knowing that this wasn't his wife any more. The shell was her, but everything that was Lois was gone — dead. Instead, the shell was inhabited by the one man he hated; a man he'd thought had no power to harm either of them any more.
Lex Luthor had killed Lois, and had taken her body for himself, in the cruellest act that anyone could ever do to another person.
A tear slowly rolled down the Man of Steel's face as he sank to his knees in despair.
"You shouldn't have told him!" Lex exclaimed angrily. "If I'm to have any kind of a life, it has to be as Lois Lane! That meant having Clark Kent's co-operation, at least until I could divorce him. Now he'll tell everyone that I'm not Lois!"
"And what exactly is he going to tell them?" Gretchen demanded sardonically. "Who'd believe him?"
She had a point, Lex conceded reluctantly. "He can still make things very difficult for me," she said sulkily.
"And? You're still Lex Luthor, woman's body or not! You're twice the brain he is! Now, are you going to untie me, or are you just going to stay there and complain?"
Lex sighed and dragged herself to her feet, giving the crumpled form of Superman a sideways kick as she walked past. The knots he'd tied proved to be very difficult to undo, and she broke several nails in the process. Cursing, she gave one of the straps a sharp tug.
"Ow!" Gretchen yelled angrily.
"Keep your hair on!" Lex said coldly. "I'm trying to untie you!"
"You don't have to act like you're enjoying it so much!"
"Keep still and shut up!" Lex demanded.
"Don't talk to me like that!" Gretchen bent and head-butted Lex, sending the other woman flying across the room. Hopping awkwardly within the confines of her binds, she followed Lex over and rammed the smaller woman with her body.
"I always hated you, did you know that?" she spat.
"You loved me!" Lex sneered. "You could never accept that I didn't want you!"
"You betrayed me!" Gretchen ranted. "First it was that Ariana woman, and then Lois Lane. Oh, how sick I got of hearing about how wonderful Lois Lane was! Why do you think I had your brain transplanted into her body, Lex? I thought that if you were so obsessed with her you might as well *be* her!"
"You bit — " Lex began, but was cut off by Gretchen kicking out at her. The smaller woman went thudding into one of the tables, sending it and its contents tumbling down on top of the two women.
There was a loud, keening cry, and then silence.
It couldn't be too late, Clark told himself, desperately clutching at straws. If it was possible to transplant Lex Luthor's brain into Lois's body, then it had to be possible to reverse the operation and put Lois's brain back. Unless it had been destroyed… but surely they wouldn't have? Clearly the operation hadn't been all that long ago anyway — they were still in what looked like an operating theatre!
That was it; he'd *make* Kelly operate again and give him back Lois!
He dragged himself to his feet, intending to grab Kelly and tell her exactly what she was going to do. But then he became aware of a crashing noise from the other side of the room. Seeing the two women half-buried under a pile of heavy medical equipment, he rushed over and began to lift the pieces off them. Gretchen Kelly was dead, he realised very quickly; stabbed in the heart by a long piece of shattered glass.
Then he halted, aghast, as he saw Lois — no, Lex Luthor — lying there, staring vacantly upwards, blood smeared all over her face. Something very heavy had fallen on her head, and it wasn't a pretty sight. Clark knew without needing to use his special vision that her skull was smashed.
She was dead.
There would be no reverse brain transplant. That was obvious; there was too little of the top of Lois's head left for anything like that to be possible. And, he knew, the fact that her heart had also stopped beating meant that her body was less likely to be viable, even without the damage to her skull.
Lois was lost to him for ever.
Choking back tears, Clark dropped to his knees beside the body of the woman he loved, and lifted her battered, bleeding body onto his lap as he mourned.
A tentative voice from the doorway made Clark look up. "What do you want?" he barked icily, wanting to be left alone in his grief.
"My name's Palmer," the man, who was dressed in scrubs, said. "I performed the surgery for Dr Kelly."
Clark got to his feet, a red mist of anger coming over him. "*You* destroyed my wife?!" he thundered.
"No!" the surgeon squeaked. "Dr Kelly wanted me to. But I… Superman, I've always admired Ms Lane's work. I was delighted when she and her partner, Clark Kent, kept on exposing what Lex Luthor did after his fall from grace. You see, I hated Lex Luthor… really, really hated him. He killed my girlfriend. Or, at least, someone working for him killed her. She knew too much."
Confused, Clark could only stare at the man. "Why are you telling me this?" he choked out at last. "I don't…"
"That's not Lois Lane!" the surgeon exclaimed, pointing to the battered body on the floor.
"I know," Clark bit out. "It's Lex Luthor."
"That's not what I mean! I didn't perform the surgery on Ms Lane! I couldn't do that — no matter what Dr Kelly told me. That — " he pointed to the body again " — is another of Luthor's clones. I found the vial and Dr Mamba's notes, and grew the clone myself. A Type B, too — it wouldn't have lived more than two weeks anyway. I thought that even if I was powerless to stop Luthor getting a new body, at least I could prevent someone I admired being killed as a result."
Barely able to believe what the doctor was telling him, Clark gasped, "So… where's Lois?"
"She's in there," the doctor explained. "I had to keep her sedated or else Dr Kelly would have found out. But she's perfectly all right… Superman?"
But Clark had already flown through the door. As Dr Palmer had said, Lois lay on a table inside the room. She was sound asleep, but breathing perfectly normally. She was untouched; unharmed in any way, as far as he could see.
She was alive!
Sobbing tears of relief and joy, Clark fell to his knees beside his wife.
"Finished!" Lois exclaimed gleefully, spinning in her chair to grin at her husband. "See? I just typed 'The End'!"
"So you did," Clark said, laughing as he came to look over her shoulder. Tugging her to her feet, he wrapped his arms around her and held her close. "So, do we get to go together to hand it in to your agent tomorrow, then?"
"Well, seeing as how you've refused to let me out of your sight over the past couple of weeks, I'd say there's a pretty good chance of that," she told him, softening the words with a wink.
She felt Clark shudder in her arms. "I don't think I'll ever want to let you out of my sight again," he said shakily. "When I think what could have happened…"
"It was pretty scary," she agreed. "But we survived it together, Clark. I'm fine. Nothing happened to me, beyond being terrified out of my wits," she confessed wryly. "But waking up to see your face and feel you holding my hands made it all worth it. I missed you more than I could imagine, even just for those few hours."
Clark turned her around to face him. "I love you. I can't imagine what my life would be without you."
"And I hope you'll never have to come that close to finding out again, honey," Lois told him softly, knowing her husband's capacity for obsessing.
"Yeah, well…" he said, smiling ruefully, which told her that he was beginning to get over the experience — which was just as well, since, much as she loved Clark, he couldn't play watchdog twenty-four hours a day! "You'll just have to put up with me X-raying your brain every once in a while — particularly when you do something out of character," he finished with a grin."
"Out of character?" she questioned, indignant.
"Yeah. Like not yelling at me for coming to check up on you, even though we agreed that I wouldn't," he pointed out, a teasing note definitely present in his voice.
"And you thought I believed you when you said you wouldn't?" she threw back at him, grinning. "I knew you wouldn't be able to keep away."
"Oh yeah. In fact, I even packed your favourite negligee," she pointed out.
"Oh?" Now his smile was even wider. "Want to show me which one? Upstairs?"
"Race you!" Lois shouted, pulling away from him and flinging herself towards the stairwell. Clark followed behind, laughing.
And a Tank Ending by a special mystery guest writer, Paul- Gabriel Weiner <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Clark looked up from his desk. He had the strangest feeling that something was going on with Lois. He told himself that he was just missing her, his mind making up excuses to go check on her. Check on her… there was a thought. Lois had said that she didn't want to be distracted. If he was to peek in on her with his x-ray vision, though, she wouldn't see him. So, no distraction. It would be tough seeing her without being able to get closer, to touch her. Still, it was better than nothing.
The decision made, Clark flew out to the cabin. It didn't take him long to realize that Lois had been kidnapped. Again. Clark sighed and looked around for clues. The tire tracks. He could see them clearly in the dirt, and when they hit pavement, he'd be able to follow the trail of dirt along the road. Reflecting once again on the usefulness of super-senses, Clark began following the tracks.
Lex stared at Gretchen. "What happened? Why? How?" The questions poured out as… Alexandra tried to make sense of the situation.
"I brought you back, Lex. Your body was crushed, but I found a new one for you! I know how much you liked it before…"
Lex continued to stare at her.
"And now, you're a woman! And since constantly moving from one mate to the next is a man's trait, I'm sure you'll never leave me again!"
"Have you gone insane???"
Before Gretchen could answer that question, however, Superman crashed through the walls of the laboratory.
"You're too late, Superman! I've already put Lex's brain into Lois's body, and now he's all mine! … I mean, now she's all mine!"
Superman stood there, stunned. "Lex?"
"She put your brain in Lois's body?"
"What?!" exclaimed Gretchen.
"Lex, I've been strangely attracted to you ever since we met in Smallville. It always confused me because you were a man. Now… now, you're a woman, and we can be truly happy!"
"What about Lois?"
"Oh, I just fixated on her because she had your initials and a very sexy body."
"And I was fixated on her because I was jealous of the attention you were giving her!"
"Yes! I remember now! Your rejection was the whole reason I became so bitter and power-hungry in the first place! It was so traumatic that I repressed all memory of ever being in Smallville."
"Oh, Lex. I'm so sorry."
"Well, it's okay now! You like me in this body, and we're even married already!"
Clark and Alexandra embraced each other, then flew off into the night sky.
"Well," said Gretchen, "that was completely unexpected. I guess it's just you and me now, huh?"
The container holding Lois's brain beeped loudly in response.
"Fine, Lois. Be that way. Hmm… I wonder if I can find someone to make me a good clone…"
Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Wendy Richards <email@example.com>
Paul-Gabriel Weiner <firstname.lastname@example.org>