By Mango <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: May 2002
Summary: Lex Luthor is convicted of his crimes, but he's determined to escape from prison and retake what he thinks is his — Metropolis…and Lois Lane.
All disclaimers apply.
This is dedicated to Becky, Rache and Julie, who helped me write this all those years ago, and for Jamie, for letting me have his computer so I could find it once again.
The Metropolis sun was burning through the early autumn mist and there was just the slightest breeze on Lois Lane's face to make her think that the day could turn out to be perfect after all.
Deep own, Lois was relieved that the day had finally arrived, even though she had awaited it with anticipation and a slight undercurrent of fear. As she walked through Metropolis with her fiance Clark Kent, she noticed a newspaper vending machine showing the reason for her anxiety. The Daily Planet headline with her's and Clark's byline read 'LUTHOR TRIAL OVER: VERDICT TODAY.'
Lex Luthor was not only the most brilliant criminal genius ever to roam Metropolis, but he was also the most ruthless and evil tyrant the world had ever seen. Looking back, Lois had found it hard to believe that her reporter instincts had failed to see through his clever facade, so much so that she had almost married him. Each time she thought of her previous engagement her stomach would churn. But that was in the past, and today Luthor would be found guilty and her mind could be put at rest. At least she hoped.
The street was a buzz with people, the majority of whom were journalists Lois recognized, and they were all heading in the same direction. She looked from the vending machine back towards Clark and sighed.
"You know, I can't believe today has finally arrived. The waiting's finally over."
Clark knew exactly what she meant, but tried to make light of the issue. "What? You mean you actually wanted to turn thirty?"
"Oh! You had to remind me! Like I could really forget!"
Clark smiled. "Sorry."
That was the other reason Lois had been reluctant about the days arrival. The whole month prior to her birthday, it was all Lois could think about when she was not thinking about the Luthor trial. She saw it as the start of the road to forty. People would start to call her ma'am as opposed to miss, and she would be a 'thirty-something.' Lois to had responded sarcastically, but only momentarily.
"I meant Luthor's verdict. It's taken forever. But you know, of course, it had to be today of all days that the verdict came in. At least it's all finally going to be over."
"I can't figure out why it took so long. We know he's guilty."
Lois' voice changed to a tone Clark recognised when Lois wanted something. "Clark, you know this isn't going to take all afternoon, so I was wondering…" Her lighthearted sentence trailed off.
"What were you wondering?"
"This isn't going to take all day, so I was thinking that later, perhaps, we should do something. I mean after all, this is my second twenty-ninth birthday."
Clark smiled. "Um, well, I've been thinking about that. I thought that maybe a pizza, a few beers…"
Lois slapped Clark with her free hand and soon regretted it. She cringed slightly with pain. "Trust me to try and hit the Man of Steel."
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Lois was still wincing slightly.
"Well, that's good because I don't want to have to cancel the romantic dinner for two that I've booked for tonight."
Lois looked at Clark with a mock look of horror. "What? You mean you made me nearly break my hand for nothing? You know I should just break off the engagement right now." Lois was trying hard not to laugh.
"But you won't."
"Don't be silly, of course I won't." Lois thought for a moment. "Georgios, eh? I like the sound of that."
"Well, it's fortunate that I made reservations then."
"I think you may have found my weakness."
"Of course. Their double chocolate cake."
Lois laughed. "Exactly."
When they looked up, they realised that they had reached the courthouse, an old, dark grey building with numerous steps leading up to the entrance. Gathered on the steps were dozens of reporters, some of whom who had started to enter.
Clark looked at his watch and then toward Lois. "It's ten of nine. The jury should be back with the verdict soon. We should get inside."
Lois swallowed as she looked up toward the building. "Okay. The sooner it's over, the better."
The busy courtroom was dimly lit, but there was just enough sunlight shining through the window, creating a shadow across Lex Luthor's face which made him look as evil as he actually was.
The bald-headed man in his early forties sat at the defense table with his young attorney, Louise Edwards. As they sat talking, they both looked calm.
"Don't worry Lex. Everything is going to go as planned."
Lex just stared at Louise. "It'd better. I'm counting on it."
While the jurors, consisting of seven women and five men, were entering, Lois and Clark took two seats near the front of the press area and Lois paused as she noticed Lex already sitting in the courtroom. A remote look of worry crossed her face.
"Clark, I have a bad feeling about this," Lois said as she sat down.
Clark looked at Lois, a little concerned as he detected the anxiety in her voice.
"I mean, what if he's found not guilty?"
Clark put his arm around her shoulders to comfort her. "Lois, that won't happen."
"I hope you're right."
The judge's chamber door opened and a middle-aged woman came out. One of the bailiffs walked over from the jurors to the front of the judge's bench.
"Court is in session; please stand for the Right Honourable Judge Gates."
Everyone in the courtroom stood as the Judge took her seat. "Has the jury reached its verdict?"
An old Chinese man rose from his chair. "We have, your Honour."
"How do you find the defendant?"
"We find the defendant…"
The man paused a moment and looked directly at Luthor, thus creating a tension within the room.
"Guilty, your Honour."
The courtroom instantly filled with noise. Journalists began running from the room, spectators began talking among themselves, and there were numerous gasps of shock, surprise, and relief. Yet as these words were spoken, Lex smiled and turned to face Lois, and a chill ran straight through her. She turned away, trying not to look uncomfortable. Clark, smiling, looked toward her.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Fine," she replied unconvincingly.
The judge stood and banged the gavel on the bench three times. "Quiet. Silence."
It took a few moments for the courtroom to respond.
"I will not tolerate that kind of disruption in my courtroom. Sentencing will be passed tomorrow morning at ten. Jury is dismissed."
The Bailiff approached the jurors and escorted them back through the door in which they entered.
"Bailiff, please remove the defendant."
The other bailiff, who had been standing in the courtroom throughout, approached Lex and handcuffed him.
"Court is adjourned." The judge banged the gavel on the bench once and began to leave.
"Come on Luthor," the bailiff ordered.
As they were about to leave, Luthor turned to face his attorney.
"Leave it to me Lex," Louise smiled. "Leave it to me."
On the other side of the courtroom, Lois and Clark stood. Lois smiled, a little more at ease than when she and Clark had entered a short time earlier
"That feels like a huge weight off my mind."
"Tell me about it," Clark agreed. "Come on, we'd better phone the story through to Perry."
"Phone it? Why? Where are we going?" Lois asked, intrigued.
"We're gonna go play hooky for a while."
As Lois and Clark left the courtroom, Louise followed out behind, and the instant she stepped into the hall, she was bombarded by reporters and television cameras were glaring in her face. The first thing Louise heard was a man's voice.
"What do you think of the verdict?" asked a reporter from WLEX TV.
Louise was definitely not in the mood for this kind of attention. "No comment."
A reporter from the Metropolis Star was next to be heard among the interrogating voices. "Will you go for an appeal?"
'I need to get out of here,' Louise thought to herself.
The questions continued fiercely as she walked down the hall, then out of the corner of her eye, she saw her salvation which appeared in the form of the ladies room. She thought that at least in there she would be able to get a little privacy.
"No comment," she snapped one last time before she pushed her way through the door.
There was no one else in the restroom but she checked the cubicles anyway, as she did not want anyone to hear what she was about to do. When she thought it was safe, she took out her mobile phone from her purse and dialed.
"Mrs Church, it's me."
At the other end of the line was Mindy Church. She had been the head on Intergang ever since she'd framed the original founders of the group, her husband and step-son for the attempted bombing of a crowded museum. Being in charge of a major criminal organisation took a vast amount of intelligence, and if Lex Luthor was a criminal genius, she could be regarded as his equal. And just like her predecessor, she was the Jekyll and Hyde of Metropolis, her dumb blonde facade working so well that even the top reporters in the city and a certain Man of steel were oblivious to her true nature.
Mindy church had been following the Luthor trial with some interest. "Has the verdict come in?" she asked from her antique-filled, designer office.
"Guilty. Just as expected. Everything's going to go according to plan."
"Good." Mindy smiled. "Because the sooner he's out of the picture, the better I'll feel."
"Don't worry, Mrs Church, because this time tomorrow, Lex Luthor will be just a memory."
After a quiet lunch, Lois and Clark headed back to the Daily Planet through the busy Metropolis streets. Lois was now more at ease and was certain that the day would be perfect.
"Well, Luthor's reign is finally over," Lois said, relieved.
Clark, on the other hand, was not entirely convinced. "I guess. But you know, even now, I still don't trust him. Someone like that is always up to something."
"Maybe," Lois began, "but don't you think it's ironic that a man comes back from the dead, just to spend the rest of his life in prison?"
"Usually, yeah, but I don't think that he was actually expecting to get caught. After everything he's done to the people of this city and to you, I think he's getting everything he deserves."
Clark Kent never made any secret of the fact that he hated Lex Luthor, even when he was the most respected man in Metropolis. But his opinions were justified when Luthor was caught and charged with arson, attempted murder, murder, kidnapping, bribery, conspiracy…and that was just the beginning. When Luthor had been arrested for these crimes, he escaped, but instead of choosing to spend the rest of his life in prison, he chose to end his life, and it worked to his advantage when his physician, Gretchen Kelly, managed to bring him back to life. But as with his previous crimes, it was his love for Lois Lane, which proved to be his downfall, and got him caught and finally put where he belonged.
Clark looked at his watch. He was stalling for time. He looked around for a valid excuse to delay their arrival at the Planet and spotted a vendor selling the afternoon edition. He walked over and, for a brief second, Lois continued walking before stopping to see what her fiance was doing.
"Daily Planet, please."
Lois walked up to Clark and the vendor exchanged the newspaper for some loose change. Lois was a little confused by what she had just witnessed.
"Why'd you just do that? We're heading back there anyway— unless you want to play hooky all day." Lois smiled at her suggestion.
"I wish. We should get back."
"That doesn't answer my question then."
Lois slipped her arm through Clark's and awaited his response. He stammered for an explanation.
"Ah, um, I wanted to see if Perry got the verdict in on time for the afternoon edition."
Lois' reporter instincts did not by it for a second. "What are you up to?"
"Nothing," Clark responded, trying to act innocent, but failing badly.
Lois gave Clark a stare that told him she wasn't convinced, but she didn't pursue it. "So did he?"
He opened up the newspaper and the front page showed a photograph of Luthor in his more respected days. The headline simply read, 'GUILTY.'
"I guess that's a yes. You know they should lock him up and throw away the key."
"Well, you know Clark, they had to give him as fair a trial as any."
Clark was taken aback by what he had just heard his fiance say. "I can't believe you said that!"
"Clark, we knew he was guilty, but we had to prove it to those who doubted it. And we did." Lois smiled and held his arm a little tighter. "All three of us."
Clark looked at Lois and smiled.
"Look," Lois said, relaxing, "for the last few weeks this is all we've been forced to think about. Can't we just change the subject?"
"With pleasure. So what do you want to talk about?"
Lois thought about it for a moment. "Um, oh, I know, how about my birthday present?"
"What present?" Clark replied very seriously.
"Lois, I have no idea what you're talking about. And you can't persuade me, either."
Clark had fallen for it, and Lois gloated victoriously. "Huh! So you did get me something."
"Look, I know everything there is to know about you, Clark Kent, and I know your weaknesses, so if I have to, I'll squirm it out of you. It's what I do for a living."
Clark laughed. As they continued walking, Clark realised that they had almost reached the Planet and he needed to slow them down. So, suddenly, without warning, he stopped dead on the sidewalk, turned to Lois, and kissed her passionately.
Lois was a little taken back, but pleasantly surprised. "What was that for?" she asked, a little out of breath.
"Do I need a reason?"
"Happy birthday, Lois." He kissed her on the cheek.
They carried on walking in a slower pace than before. As they entered the lobby of the Daily Planet, Clark stopped and began to pull away from Lois.
"You know what? I have a really important call to make. I forgot all about it. Wait here; I'll be right back."
As Clark disappeared around the corner, Lois was left standing there, baffled. She had not heard him sound so unconvincing since before she had found out he was Superman. 'Why would he start doing it again now?' she thought to herself. He only had to say he was going to save someone. However, she waited anyway. She could always ask him later.
"Okay, CK, I'll tell Perry, but you're a few minutes early." He paused for a moment. "All right, all right, I'll see you in a minute."
Jimmy Olsen, the Daily Planet's fledgling reporter, hung up the phone and rushed across the newsroom to his Editor In Chief Perry White. "Chief," Jimmy started.
Perry, who was talking to a young woman, looked up at the sound of Jimmy's voice.
"Chief, that was CK. They're on their way up."
It was now Perry's cue. "Okay everyone," he shouted. Everyone in the newsroom stopped to hear what their boss had to say. "Get ready! They're on their way up." Then he turned back to face the girl he was originally talking to. "Sarah, did you manage to pick up the cake for Clark?"
"Yeah, I'll go get it."
Sarah did not work at the Daily Planet, but when she wasn't studying, she liked to hang out there. She'd been Jimmy's on- off girlfriend ever since they had been the targets of a criminal experiment. She had then in turn become friends with both Lois and Clark.
All the members of the staff except for Perry and Jimmy headed over toward the foot of the stairs leading to the elevator and waited for the doors to open. The second that they did, they all yelled simultaneously.
And for Lois, it certainly was. "Oh my God."
She turned to face Clark, who had since rejoined her. He was grinning broadly.
"That's what you've been up to? The stalling outside, the dashing off?" Lois asked as they headed over to her desk.
Clark raised his hands in guilt. "You got me." He smiled.
"Well, in that case, you've been organising this party ever since I've known you." They both laughed.
As they reached Lois' desk, she noticed that it was covered in balloons and presents. She was really touched. "I can't believe you've done all this; this is so nice."
The staff returned to what they were doing originally, and Perry approached with a large bouquet of flowers. He passed them to her. "Happy birthday, Lois."
"Perry, they're beautiful." She smelled them as she took them from him. She especially enjoyed the fragrant aroma of the yellow roses. "They smell wonderful. They're beautiful. Thank you."
Lois gave Perry a thankful hug.
"You're welcome, honey. I never know what to get you. Presents aren't my forte; they were always Alice's department."
"Perry, they're gorgeous," Lois reassured him.
A shout from Jimmy came across the newsroom from where he was standing outside Perry's office. "Chief, there's a call at your desk."
"Oh, excuse me," Perry said before returning to his office.
Suddenly, the lights dimmed to almost blackness. From the other side of the room, about thirty flickering candles could be seen and everyone broke into a chorus of 'Happy Birthday.' Sarah placed the cake on Lois' desk, and when the lights came back up, she could tell that Lois had been blushing slightly.
The cake was rectangular in shape and it had been designed in the form of a Daily Planet front page and it featured the headline, 'Happy Birthday Lois.' The candles were still lit around the edge.
"This is great, thirty candles," she teased, "how thoughtful."
"Make a wish."
Lois looked lovingly at Clark. She had her wish, but she blew out the candles anyway.
"I hope you like it," Clark said. "It's an ice cream cake. Jimmy suggested getting Rocky Road, but I got double chocolate. The right choice?"
Sarah had to turn away, trying not to laugh. Lois smiled.
"Clark, chocolate was definitely the right choice. Thank you," she said as she kissed him gently on the cheek.
Sarah looked away, smiling to herself. Then she handed Lois a knife to cut herself the first slice. As she took a mouthful, the ice cream melted slowly in her mouth and the sponge was light and airy. This was the best birthday cake Lois had ever tasted.
"Mmmm, this cake is to die for."
"I hope it doesn't come to that." Clark smiled.
Jimmy walked across the newsroom and gave Lois a birthday card along with a hug.
"Thanks Jimmy," she said.
"Ah, look, Lois, I'm really sorry, but I'm a bit strapped for cash at the moment. Um," he continued remorsefully, "could I get you your present on pay day?"
"Yeah, sure, Jimmy, don't worry about it."
"Thanks, Lois. It'll be a great present."
"I'm sure it will."
Lois took another bite of her birthday cake and closed her eyes, savouring each flavour and texture.
"Clark this cake is delicious. You'll have to tell me where you got it."
"Well, you know that…"
At that moment, Clark's telephone began to ring, so he excused himself so he could answer it.
"I'll find out," Lois said, smiling to herself as she took another final bite.
Perry White hung up the phone. He had just been given a major scoop and that did not happen very often. When it did, he loved it. Usually. This one was different, and he had to give the story to the one person he would not want to get within a hundred miles of it.
Perry approached Lois as she was finishing the remainder of her slice. "Lois?" Perry asked. "What are you doing in the morning?"
Her mouth was still half full. "Recovering from birthday cake overdose."
"Um," Lois continued, this time her mouth free of cake. "I have the Luthor sentencing at ten, then I'll come back here and finish the story. It's the usual stuff. Why?"
"Luthor's attorney just called."
"Here? What for?"
"Well, before he gets to spend infinity in jail, he wants to give one last interview. Now, all the major networks and the Metropolis Star are after one…"
Lois interrupted him before he had a chance to finish. "And he wants me to do it."
"Yeah. It's scheduled for nine. You'll have thirty minutes before he's transferred to the courthouse."
"Wait a minute," she asked, getting annoyed. "Perry, you didn't."
"Lois, you know I would never do anything to jeopardize your safety. You'll be in a safe place, with plenty of security guards around. Besides, you can't let your personal life—no matter what experiences you -interfere with your professional one. The public still wants to know about him. Lex Luthor is a headline, as much as I hate to admit it. This will sell newspapers, and that is our main objective."
Lois was still annoyed. "Perry, you should have asked me."
"What? Did he steal a piece of your birthday cake?" Clark intervened after finishing his phone call.
"If only," Lois responded seriously.
Clark sensed the tension between Lois and Perry. "What's going on?"
"Perry wants me to interview Lex Luthor before he's sentenced tomorrow," Lois explained.
"What?" Clark was less than impressed. "Chief, you know as well as we do that she can't do it. And why Lois?"
"He said her or no one."
"Well, it'll be no one, then."
Clark was now getting annoyed, where Lois was beginning to calm down, but only slightly.
"Hold on. Wait a second. Don't I get a say in this? I mean, it was me he asked for."
"Lois," Clark pleaded. "You're not considering it, are you?"
"Well, Clark, Perry does have a point. Luthor is the only headline at the moment, and I am a reporter. What harm could he possibly do from inside jail? With guards there?"
Just as Lois had done when Clark explained it, Clark did start to see some logic in what she was saying, but as with his colleagues, he did not understand why it had to her. "Could Lois and I discuss this privately for a moment please, Chief?"
"Sure, I'll leave you kids to it, but when you reach a decision, let me know." Perry headed back to his office.
"Lois, after everything you've been through with him, is it really worth it?"
Lois tried hard to convince herself, as well as try to convince Clark at the same time.
"I don't want to do it, Clark, believe me. But I'm a professional. We've always said that we'll never let our private lives interfere with that. We have covered this story since the word go, and no matter how much I don't want to interview him tomorrow, I feel I owe it to our readers."
"Lois, I'm not going to hide the fact that I really don't want you to do it, but I can't stop you. It's your decision."
"I appreciate that. Look, I was going to meet Lana for breakfast tomorrow. How about I cancel and come with you instead?"
"Lana? Lana Lang? She's coming to Metropolis?"
"Yeah, that was her on the phone. She was calling from somewhere in Georgia."
"Wow, I finally get to meet her. Do you think she'll like me?"
"Of course she will. Look, Lois, I could fly down to the state and try and find her."
"No, Clark, don't be silly. You haven't seen her for years. Besides, Perry's right. What possible harm could he do from inside a high security prison?"
"I still don't trust him."
"But you trust me."
"Lois, I trust you more than anyone on this earth," Clark said.
"I'll be fine," Lois said, still trying to convince herself.
Louise Edwards sat at the desk in her office. It was small and it only had a half decent view, but it was hers and she was proud of it. She'd be sorry to see it go. As she talked on the phone, Mindy Church entered the room and helped herself to a seat. As Louise could have predicted, Mrs Church was not impressed with her current surroundings.
"Okay, thank you, Mr. White. I'll let Mr Luthor know of her decision."
Louise hung up the phone, and the look on Mindy's face said the same question as if she had put it into words.
"Perry White. He just called to say that that Lane woman agreed to do the interview."
If truth be told, that was definitely not the answer either of them had been expecting. "She said yes?"
"Yeah, she said yes. I was surprised, too. I guess nothing can stand in her way of getting a story. I mean, would you interview a man you jilted at the altar?"
Mindy Church was not the right person to ask, considering how she arrived at her current status. Her response was just a subtle glare.
"Point taken," Louise said.
"You know, this could have worked out so perfectly. We could have orchestrated something that would have got rid of both of them at the same time, like blowing up a building or something. It would have tied up more than a few loose ends."
"Yes, but if you blow up a building, then people become suspicious. And besides, everything's already set. We can't change that now."
Louise became a little defensive, but fortunately for her, Mindy didn't notice.
"You're right. Everything is definitely set?"
"Look, Miss Edwards, I don't want the chance to arise for Luthor to escape, if what you tell me is true. Metropolis is mine now and there's no way on this earth that he is getting it back."
"Don't worry, he won't escape. I've seen to that, and no one will even suspect foul play."
"What'd you mean?" This had gained Mindy's full attention.
"It'll just look like an after effect from his, you know," Louise stumbled, trying to find the appropriate word, "resurrection."
"That could work." Mindy was impressed.
"It has to work. There's not a chance that it could fail. Lex trusts me. He says he plans to escape after the court appearance tomorrow."
"Well," Mindy said, leaning back in her chair, a large smile on her face, "that's not going to happen, and after tomorrow, I won't need to worry anymore about Lex Luthor."
Lois and Clark approached the Maitre'd in their favourite restaurant, Georgios. He recognised them both instantly.
"Miss Lane, Monsieur Kent, it's so nice to see you again," he began in an overwhelming French accent. "Would you like your usual table?"
"Ah, no" Clark started, "I think we'll take a table outside, for a change."
"Certainly, monsieur. Would you like to follow me please?"
The Maitre'd picked up some menus and led Lois and Clark through the crowded restaurant.
"I didn't know that Georgios had tables outside."
Clark just looked down at Lois and smiled.
A table for two had been especially prepared for them both, and what really topped it off was the view they had of the city's night skyline reflecting off the Hobbs River.
The Maitre'd pulled out the chair for Lois and she sat down, still taking in how wonderful everything was at that precise moment. Clark turned down the wine menus when they were offered and insisted on champagne, much to the Maitre'd's delight. He then left them alone to reenter the restaurant.
"Champagne?" Lois asked, impressed. "Clark, you're spoiling me."
"Are you complaining?"
"How can I complain? It's certainly been a day to remember. Maybe I'll turn thirty every year."
"I thought you were turning twenty-nine every year," Clark teased.
Lois smiled. "Hey, if you can live with that…" She laughed.
"I'm glad you've had a good day Lois."
"You've gone to so much trouble, Clark. I'm not used to it."
"Well, you know I don't have to."
"No, it's okay, though, because I never said I couldn't get used to it."
Clark laughed. "Well, that's alright then."
"Honestly, though, Clark, you really have gone to so much trouble. I mean this dinner, the party at the Planet…and that cake was just divine."
"…and the icing on everything was really when Luthor was found guilty."
Lois and Clark stared at each other and they both started to cringe. "That was dreadful wasn't it," Clark said, still cringing.
"Yes," Lois said flatly. "Most probably the worst cliche I've ever heard in my life."
"Well, I try. I'm glad you liked it," he said sarcastically.
Lois smiled, and then for a few moments, her mind drifted. Lost in thought, she laughed slightly.
"What?" Clark was curious.
"I was just thinking."
"Our first date."
After a month of trying to plan a simple evening together, their first date took place in similar surroundings to the ones they were in, but the evening had however ended somewhat abruptly.
"Yeah," Clark began, reminiscing, too. "That was really nice, until I got a close up of your front door!"
Lois turned a little red. Even though a few years had passed since then, she was still embarrassed that she had actually slammed the door in Clark's face.
"I can't believe I did that. I guess I got spooked."
"Yeah, Clark, that date was such a huge milestone in our relationship. It went so well I guess I got scared that if it didn't continue like that then it would ruin our friendship. I value that too much to jeopardize it."
"And now?" Clark asked.
"Now, so much has changed. I'm not so spooked anymore. I guess I'm still a little scared, but…" Lois stopped and just smiled.
Clark was a little shocked. "Scared of what?"
"That maybe I'll lose you, that ten years down the line you'll wake up one morning and realise that all of this was a big mistake."
Clark was in awe of this confession. "Lois, I can tell you now that I can never think that. I'm afraid you're stuck with me."
Lois smiled. "I'm glad."
The Maitre'd returned to their table with the champagne. He opened the bottle and the cork flew into the air, never to be seen again. Lois and Clark both laughed. The Maitre'd poured them both a glass and left them to decide on their meal.
Clark raised his glass in a toast. "Happy birthday."
Lois joined him. "To us."
At the Metropolis prison, Louise sat awaiting Lex in a grey, dingy visitor's room. She knew it was late but she had news which she knew Lex would appreciate and just this once, the authorities had agreed to let her through. The door opened with a creek so loud it should have been in a horror film. This inevitably made her start. The guard escorted Luthor into the room.
"Two minutes, Luthor," the guard told him before he left the room, but he made sure that his presence was felt through the glass on the window.
Luthor took the seat opposite Louise. He did not want to hear anything unless it was good news. "So? Did you do as I asked?" he inquired forcefully.
"Of course. I spoke to Perry White."
"And?" He was getting impatient. "Did you speak to Lois Lane?"
A blank expression fell across Luthor's face. However, he was not completely surprised. She knew she had convinced herself that she was in love with that reporter, and when he was free, he knew it would just be a matter of time before she was his again.
"No, I didn't speak to her, but White said that she agreed to do it."
Luthor was dumbfounded. Lois Lane had found a way to leave him speechless yet again. "What?"
"Yeah, but only with 'maximum security,'" she said, mocking her last two words.
Lex was taking it in. "She said yes?"
"She never ceased to amaze me." He laughed suddenly, satisfied, yet smug.
"What?" Louise asked.
"I find it slightly unusual that for once the story is going after the reporter, and not the other way around." Just as suddenly as his laughter rose, it stopped and the conversation changed to a very severe tone. "Is everything set?" he demanded.
"Just say the word, Lex, and it's all systems go."
"Excellent. But just out of curiosity, how did you manage to pull it off?"
"I haven't yet."
"But you will, unless you want to end up like my last attorney," he threatened.
Louise knew of Lex's participation of the murder of Sheldon Bender, his last Attorney. That was one of the many reasons why he was in prison, so she knew that it was wise to get to the point.
"I pulled a few strings. Your name still has some pull in this town, even with Intergang around."
"Ah yes, Intergang. I'm sure they didn't wait a second before moving in on my turf. No matter; that'll change after tomorrow. My main incentive now is to get out of this hole."
The door creaked open, startling Louise again. She had visited Lex numerous times and it still made her jump.
"Time's up, Luthor," the guard informed him.
Louise concluded their conversation. "Tomorrow, Lex. This time tomorrow."
Louise smiled at the guard and he smiled back. He then escorted Lex from the Room. He was still staring at Louise, but laughing as the door slammed shut.
The moon was now at its peak and it completed the view over the Hobbs River perfectly. Clark took a long sip of his steaming coffee as Lois placed the fork down on her plate, finishing the last bite of her chocolate cake. She leaned back in her chair, fulfilled.
"That is the best chocolate cake in Metropolis."
Clark laughed. "Should I ask the chef for the recipe?"
"No," Lois sighed, "I can't eat another thing. I think I'm going to explode. Besides, after today, I think I may have to go on a diet for a year." Lois looked briefly at her watch. "We'd better go. It's been a long day."
"In a moment," Clark said. He took a small box out of his pocket and handed it to Lois. "Happy Birthday."
"What's this?" After everything Clark had done for her, she was not expecting anything else.
"It's a present," he said sarcastically.
"Clark, you've done so much already, you didn't have to do this," she said seriously. But soon her tone was replaced with curiosity.
"What is it?"
Lois unwrapped the shiny paper to reveal a small jeweler's box. She glanced briefly at Clark before opening it fully. The contents revealed a small diamond bracelet, the moonlight reflecting off of each individual stone. Lois took a long look at her gift and was breath taken.
"It's from Paris," Clark said. "Do you like it?"
"Like it? I love it. It's beautiful. I don't know what to say."
"Well, some people use 'thank you,'" he teased.
"Thank you, thank you." Lois took the bracelet from the box and tried to put it on.
Clark intervened. "Here, let me help you."
Clark fastened the catch and let the bracelet lay gently on her wrist, while Lois could not stop looking at it.
"Clark it's beautiful. Thank you."
Lois leaned across the table and kissed her fiance before sitting back in her chair. She sighed.
"What's wrong?" Clark asked.
"I don't want today to end, and I'm certain that I don't want tomorrow to arrive."
Clark knew exactly what she meant. "Lois, you know it's not too late to change your mind."
"No Clark, really, it's fine. After tomorrow I'll never have to see him again."
"Good. I can handle that. Come on, let's go walk off dinner."
Lois and Clark left the elevator and approached the entrance to her apartment. As she opened the door, she turned to face Clark. "You coming in for some coffee?"
"Yeah, sure," Clark smiled as they entered Lois' apartment. They headed straight for the dimly lit kitchen. Passing through, Lois threw her purse onto one of her two small couches and turned on a lamp. "Is decaf alright?"
Lois switched on her coffee machine, and just as she was about to remove two mugs from her cabinet, Clark turned Lois around and kissed her passionately.
"Twice in one day," Lois thought to herself, but she was very far from complaining. As their kiss became more heated, they managed to find their way over to one of the couches and fell onto it in an entangled heap, arms wrapped around each other. Clark stopped suddenly and looked over toward the window.
"What's wrong?" Lois asked, completely breathless.
"I heard something outside."
"I didn't hear anything."
Clark heard the high-pitched scream again. "Lois, I'm so sorry, but someone's in trouble."
He slowly raised himself off the couch and looked apologetically at Lois. More than anything he wanted to stay with her, but he knew deep down that he had to go. He was glad for the fact that it was the first time Superman had been needed all day, and he had been able to spend Lois' birthday with her.
"I'd better go."
Lois was disappointed, but she knew when Clark placed the engagement ring on her finger that her fiance had commitments to live up to.
"Okay," Lois smiled, sitting up on the couch. "Don't be too long."
Right in front of her eyes, the mild-mannered reporter transformed into a world famous Superhero. Lois, getting more used to witnessing the change, was still breath taken each time.
"I'll be right back." Superman gave Lois a short, pleasing kiss before dragging himself away to do yet another heroic deed.
"I'll be here."
"Get out of the car."
The man's voice echoed in the dark, littered alley. The young woman in the car screamed again as the man tried to force her from the vehicle. The woman spun around, locking all the doors to her car, but the man ran around to the passenger side and smashed the gun against the window. The glass shattered, crumbling into small pieces on the passenger seat. The woman screamed again.
Superman landed silently behind the potential thief, but the man did not mark his presence.
"I hope you're going to pay for that."
The man was not impressed by the newcomer's arrival. "Oh, yeah?"he began as he started to turn around. "Who's going to make me?" Realisation struck the man hard. "Superman," the man whispered, just before he began to run off.
He did not get very far before he ran into something very tall and very hard, then crashed, dazed, to the ground. Superman lifted him to his feet and, using some discarded wire, tied the man up. He judged that he looked too dizzy to get very far.
He approached the car and tapped on the woman's window. The woman looked to be in a state of shock and she took a moment to acknowledge him.
"Are you alright?"
"Ah, ah, yes Superman, thank you, I'm fine."
"Would you like me to escort you anywhere?"
"Ah, no," the woman started, "I just need a moment."
"Look," Superman said, "I'm going to take him to the police station. Do you feel up to driving there and making a statement?"
"In a moment, okay?"
"Sure, I understand." Superman turned to leave.
"Thank you, Superman. I hope I haven't bothered you."
"No," he smiled, "no bother at all."
For a Man of Steel, Superman landed as light as a feather onto Lois' windowsill before quietly entering her apartment. Soft, romantic music filled the room, and he noticed a bottle of champagne on the coffee table, but it was not until he reached the couch that he noticed the woman he loved was curled up, asleep with her arms around a small cushion. Superman looked down at Lois. She looked so peaceful, he wished he could just scoop her up in his arms and take her away and find a place where no one—especially Lex Luthor—could disturb them, and they could stay there forever.
He did not want to disturb her but knew she could not sleep on the small couch all night, so he carefully moved the cushion, then lifted Lois, trying not to wake her. He may be the strongest man in the world, but he could also be the most gentle. He lay Lois softly on the bed and removed her shoes before putting a blanket over her. He looked at her again for a moment before kissing her on the forehead.
"Happy Birthday, Lois," he whispered, before flying off into the night.
As the rain gently tapped against the window, Lois stirred slightly in her bed. Her mind was almost awake, but her eyes did not want to comply. Gradually they did, and as she slowly began arriving at full consciousness, she reached over to her bedside table to see what time her clock displayed.
The neon numbers flickered 8.47am.
Lois closed her eyes momentarily, wishing she could just go back to sleep. Then suddenly, realisation dawned. Her eyes shot open and she sat bolt upright with a start, grabbing the clock to double check. The numbers changed to 8.48am.
In her mind Lois cursed herself, but deep down she was relieved that she was late. It meant less time with Luthor, and if she was really lucky, she may not have to do it at all. But she did have a job to do and thought to herself that she should really get out of bed.
A well-dressed woman in her late twenties sat near the window in a crowded cafe and looked out at the rain falling down outside. She ran her fingers through her long, dark hair and began wondering where her companion had gone.
As if on cue, the cafe door swung open and Clark entered. He straightened his tie as he approached the table. As he did so, the woman smiled broadly, then stood as they greeted each other with a hug. As they parted, they took a long look at each other and then sat down.
"You never change, do you?"
"Hello, Lana. Sorry I'm late."
"Look at you," Lana commented. "You look great."
"So do you. How long has it been?"
Lana thought about it for a moment. "Years probably. A long time. Too long," she said with a hint of regret.
"Yeah, well, how've you been?"
"Wonderful, great. I saw your parents last week. I hadn't seen them for a long time. It seems like they're spending a lot more time in Metropolis lately."
"Well, I help them out a bit. It's not like I need the air fare."
"You're parents looked great. They never seem to change. But you, well, you look terrific—in both sets of work clothes, I might add. Pretty fancy stuff."
Lana Lang was one of Clark's oldest friends and was the first person, apart from Clark's parents, to know he had special powers. It was soon after Clark had discovered his ability to fly that he had entrusted his secret to her. Although they had never been anything more than friends, he knew he could trust her completely. She had been the one to share the burden of his secret and the frustration of not being able to use his powers, until he moved to Metropolis. But since he had become Superman, that burden had altered immensely.
"That costume's pretty fancy stuff. The first time I saw you in it at that space station, I couldn't believe it was you."
Clark was trying hard not to blush. "Yeah, well, I'm watching my calories. Anyway," Clark said, changing the subject, "what brings you all the way out here to Metropolis?"
"A few things. Business, shopping, an excuse to visit an old friend." She smiled.
"You don't need an excuse Lana." He returned the smile and a waitress approached the table.
"Are you ready to order?"
"You haven't had anything yet?" he asked Lana.
"No, I was waiting for you. I'll have a plain bagel with cream cheese and a freshly squeezed orange juice."
"I'll have the same, please."
As the waitress left, Lana looked at Clark, a surprised expression clearly visible on her face.
"You really have changed."
Clark was confused. "I don't follow."
"Bagel? You? Since when? From a kid who'd eat junk morning, noon, and night, and thought that healthy was a dirty word."
Clark thought about it for a moment and realised that in some respects he really had changed. "I guess maybe I've matured slightly. But rest assured, I still eat my fair share of junk," he said, defending his youth.
"Yeah, and you still fit into those tights; it's so unfair," Lana said, a little envious. Clark laughed.
"Martha told me she made them. That lady has many talents."
"She certainly has. She's an amazing lady and it's true, she did make them. I guess I couldn't exactly go into a tailors and ask," he joked.
"I guess not."
After a brief pause, Clark broke the silence with a more solemn tone to his voice. "Thank you, Lana."
Now Lana was confused. "For what?"
"For not exposing me. A lot of people would sell what you know for a fortune or for personal gain, but you've never told a soul."
Lana was touched. She had been honoured when Clark had told her of his Secret. She then became certain, however, that they would never be anything more than friends. But she was happy with that now and she would never do anything to jeopardise that. She knew what the repercussions would be on him and his family if his secret got out, and she loved them all too much to ever let that happen.
"I never will tell anyone, Clark. I've known you for as long as I can remember. I feel privileged that you told me and I honour that trust."
The waitress returned with their orders and Lana and Clark ate their breakfast as they continued their conversation.
"How's your engagement going? Lois, right?"
"Is it all over Smallville?"
"Hey, it's a small town and you're their celebrity. Not many world famous reporters come out of Smallville."
Clark looked a little worried, but Lana put his mind at rest. "Clark, I was just kidding. What's she like?"
Clark could never find the right words to describe his fiance or the way he felt about her, but he tried to narrow it down. "Incredible, beautiful, intelligent. I have never in my life felt like this about anyone. It took its time to develop, but I'm certain it's going to last."
Although she knew what kind of answer to expect, she still felt a pang of regret that they'd never become more than friends. "I'm so happy for you. Does she know?"
Lana was not sure if he was joking or being sincere. "Does she know she's found a Super guy?"
"I'll take that as a compliment."
"Yes, she does. She was a bit freaked out by it all at first, but now she's great about it, fortunately."
"I'm glad you've found someone, Clark."
Clark smiled. It meant a lot to him. As he looked at his watch, he realised that he was going to be late.
"Lana, I'm sorry," he finished off his last piece of bagel. "I have to get back to the Planet before going to the courthouse." He stood, preparing to leave.
"I understand. Look, we'll all have to go out on a double date."
"Sure. Are you seeing somebody?"
Lana stood. "Not exactly. I'm getting married."
"What? That's great."
They began walking over to the cash desk and got in line to pay.
"That's the other reason I'm in Metropolis. I wanted to tell you in person."
"I'm so glad you did." He was really surprised. "Wow."
Clark hugged his friend and his friend appreciated it. "Congratulations. So who's the lucky guy?"
"You remember Peter Ross?"
Clark did, vividly. "No! That's fantastic. You know, he always had a crush on you in high school. Look, are you doing anything this morning?"
"Not really, why?"
"Walk with me to the Planet. I'd love for you to meet Lois."
"Sure, why not?"
The traffic was at a complete stand still and the traffic lights seemed to have been stick on red for an eternity.
Lois took a sip of her coffee that she had bought with her, and for what felt like the one hundredth time that morning, she looked at her clock. It displayed 9.19am.
She was now almost positive that she was not going to make it, even though she was now only five minutes away. She reached for her car phone and dialed.
"Perry, it's Lois."
Perry sat in his large, leather chair in his office and knew that she had not arrived. He thought that she had probably backed out. "Lois? Where in the blazes are you?"
"Sorry, Chief. I overslept, I'm caught in traffic, and I think these lights are stuck. Look Chief, could you call Luthor's attorney and tell them I'm almost there? Well, if these lights ever change."
"Yeah, sure, why not."
As Lois put down the phone, the lights turned to green and she put her foot down.
Perry put his receiver down as Jimmy entered his office.
"Was that Lois?"
"Yes, why?" he asked as if it was none of Jimmy's business.
"Man, I can't believe she actually agreed to interview him. I mean, he is one weird guy."
"Jimmy, he was one of the most respected men in Metropolis for years. Because of that, he's a headline. That's why she's interviewing him."
"Well, rather her than no one, right?"
Perry thought out loud. "Rather anyone than Lois."
Jimmy was rather surprised that Perry had let his opinion slip. "If you thought that, Chief, why'd you let her go?"
"I guess it felt like a good idea at the time."
Out of the corner of his eye, Perry noticed Clark and Lana leaving the elevator and decided to leave to greet them before he opened up to Jimmy any more than he already had.
"Clark, please tell me you are on your way to the courthouse?"
"Yes, Chief. I just had to pick up a few things first. Oh Chief, I'd like you to meet a dear friend of mine. This is Lana Lang, Lana, this is Perry White."
"It's an honour, Mr. White. I've heard a lot about you."
"All good, I hope. And please, call me Perry."
Clark withdrew himself from Lana and Perry's conversation as his telephone rang.
"Let me give you a quick guided tour while Clark is on the phone."
"I'd like that, thank you."
Clark lifted the receiver and answered. "Clark Kent."
"Clark, it's Bobby."
"Bobby, I'm sorry, but I've already had my breakfast."
"That's okay. With the news I've got, you can treat me to lunch, dinner, and dessert."
"Sounds big. What've you got?" Bobby had gained Clark's full attention.
"You know Lex Luthor has his sentencing today?"
"Like anyone doesn't know? I've been counting the days." Clark was not joking.
"Well, from what I've heard he's planning to escape sometime after his court appearance. But that's not all. I hear that Intergang's got something to do with it."
Clark thought for a moment. It did not make sense. "Intergang? I thought they'd be the last people who'd want Luthor out of prison."
"Look, I'm just the messenger. I'm just telling you what I've heard. Luthor's attorney was seen leaving her office with Mindy Church last night."
"But Mindy Church isn't involved with Intergang. It was run by her husband and his son."
Bobby did not believe that. "Clark, I can't believe you're so naive."
"What makes you think he'll escape after the sentencing? Why not before?"
"I don't know, it's what I've been told. Look, trust me. Have I let you down before?"
"I guess not. Thanks, Bobby."
"I'll be at the deli on 9th Street at one o'clock. And by the way, I'm feeling particularly hungry today."
Clark smiled. "Figures. Bye." Clark replaced the receiver and turned to face Lana, who was just returning from an in-depth Elvis story in Perry White's office. "Sorry about that."
"Not a problem." Lana looked at Clark. He was looking worried. "Clark? What's the matter?"
"My informant just told me that he heard Luthor is planning to escape." Clark continued as he leaned against his desk, "He thinks he's going to escape after the sentencing this morning."
"Well, you'd better make sure Superman escorts him back to the prison."
Perry left his office and approached Clark. "Clark? You okay?"
"Uh, yes, Chief."
"Good, then get down to the courthouse. Excuse me, Miss Lang, I've got to call Luthor's attorney. Do you think she'll be at the courthouse yet?"
"What are you phoning her for?" Clark hoped that Lois had changed her mind.
"Lois just called. She overslept. Did you two have a late night last night?"
"A little. Chief, when did Lois call?"
"About five minutes ago. She should be arriving about now."
Clark looked at his watch. "She's thirty minutes late. They won't let her do it now, would they?"
"I hope not. They may have already left by the time she gets there anyway. And they won't let her do it en route."
"Well, personally, I hope they have left. Look, Lana and I are gonna go wait for her at the courthouse, so if she calls, could you let her know?"
Perry sighed as Lana and Clark headed toward the elevators. "Sure." He returned to his office, mumbling to himself. "Editor in Chief, that's what it says on my door. Editor in Chief, not personal secretary to Lois and Clark!"
Lois parked her jeep in a nearby car park and looked out at the rain. She had half a mind to turn around but she chose against it. She was not going to let Luthor affect her professionalism. Instead, she grabbed her briefcase and jacket, then made a run for it.
When she reached the entrance to the jail, she was soaked through, even though she had been using her briefcase as an umbrella. She was also extremely late. The guard stood in the entrance to his small office and took a curious look at her.
"Can I help you, ma'am?"
Lois ran up to the guard and stopped just in front of him. He stood in the doorway and did not let her in. Lois paused to try and catch her breath.
"I, whew, I'm Lois Lane, I'm here to interview Lex Luthor."
The guard entered his office and looked into what Lois assumed was a diary. He looked at it, then toward Lois and back at the diary to double check. The guard picked up the phone and dialed. Lois tried to listen to what he was saying, but he closed the door when he realised that she had been trying to eavesdrop. After a moment, the door reopened.
"Don't tell me. I should have been here at nine, he's left already, and I'm too late."
"No, actually," the guard informed her, "he's just about to be transported to the court. He's being loaded into the van."
"So I am too late. I can't do it en route."
"Actually, you can."
Lois was a little suspicious. "What? Since when? I thought that wasn't allowed."
"I just informed the Warden of your arrival and he said that in this one instance he would allow it. It seems that he's a big fan of yours."
Lois tried hard to sound impressed but she did not think that she was at all convincing. "Really? I'm flattered, but I'd like to check with him first."
"Well, Miss Lane, you're in luck because he's on his way over."
He pointed in to the courtyard and a middle-aged Hispanic man was walking over to them at a very fast pace. He was carrying a large black umbrella. Lois was a little reluctant about doing the interview en route. She would just tell him no. She did not know what she was doing here in the first place. She only agreed to the prison interview because of the security, but anything could happen on the road. She debated over her opinions for a while, but somehow the reporter in her finally won through.
"Good morning, Miss Lane. Good to see you again. Beautiful day isn't it?"
"Yes, I love it," Lois said sarcastically.
They crossed the courtyard at a steady pace, the Warden holding the umbrella over them.
"Warden, this isn't policy, is it? Are you sure this is okay?"
"Miss Lane, you surprise me. I thought that you would do anything to get a good story."
"Within reason, Warden. I would, but considering this story's track record and this situation, I think that my doubts are justified."
"You're right, Miss Lane. Look, you have nothing to worry about. You will be travelling with three of our most qualified and experienced staff, two will be in the back, the other in the front with the driver. Plus you will have a police escort, and I'm positive that Superman will be watching closely."
"I'm sure of that, too."
"And you have nothing to worry about in respect to whether it is allowed or not. I have given my consent. That's all you need to know."
Lois waited on the other side of the van while the Warden approached one of the guards. Tony, one of the guards, noticed the Warden coming toward them.
"Hey, what's going on?" he asked.
"Lois Lane's just turned up. She's gonna go with you guys."
"She's actually here? I didn't think she'd show. Nice to see she's punctual, although her timing's perfect."
"Look, you'd better get moving. Keep everything on schedule."
They walked over to Lois, who was again trying to keep herself from getting wet. She was glad her briefcase was waterproof.
The Warden introduced Lois to Tony. "Miss Lane, this is Tony. He'll be sitting in the back with you. Luthor and Richie are already in the back."
Tony reached out his hand. "Miss Lane, I've heard a lot about you."
Lois shook his hand but reply was not polite, possibly snide. "What? >From Luthor?"
Tony ignored the tone in her voice. "Among others. If you'd like to accompany me to the van, we really should get going. Like you, Miss Lane, we're running late. And I don't want to stand out here in the rain any longer than I have to."
As they turned to enter the van, the Warden grabbed Lois' arm and she turned, startled.
"Miss Lane, I'm sorry, but you're going to have to leave your briefcase here. Just take out what you need. Security."
"Oh, I understand."
She took out her dictaphone and decided against her note book and pen. She was not in the mood for shorthand. She handed the briefcase to the Warden, who smiled and walked away.
On the other side of the city, Louise was rushing about her office. There were cardboard boxes everywhere and she looked as if she had had an hour's sleep, at the most. She was throwing some files into her briefcase when her phone rang. She grabbed it and placed it under her chin so she could continue what she was doing. On the other end was Mindy Church and she sounded in a very good mood.
"It's Church. Well?"
"No worries. It should be kicking in before he gets anywhere near the courthouse. You know, it's amazing what a little blackmail and persuasion can accomplish."
"You're catching on. There may be hope for you as a lawyer yet. Shame about this case though."
"Granted. It was a stale mate situation."
"Well, maybe the spotlight will be taken off you when news of his death breaks. Keep me posted."
"Sure." Louise smiled before hanging up the phone.
Lana and Clark walked quickly through Metropolis, each holding an umbrella, even though the rain was beginning to ease slightly.
"Lana, I've been thinking."
"The sentencing. I need for you to do me a favour."
"Sure, name it."
"I'm going to go fly over to the prison and make sure nothing happens on the way to the court. I've got this feeling. I don't know."
"Well, what do you want me to do?"
"Take my notebook, and if, by any chance, I get there late, take notes for me. You know shorthand, right?"
"Yeah," Lana said as Clark handed her his notebook. "I'm just surprised that you have one. I wouldn't have though you needed it."
"I don't, but it keeps Perry and everyone at the Planet amused and it's kind of become habit now."
"That's what I assumed." Lana laughed.
Clark was just about to say goodbye to Lana when he stopped and looked away.
"What is it?" Lana asked, knowing that Clark had heard something undetectable to human ears.
"An explosion. I'm not sure where."
With that, Clark disappeared into a nearby alley and flew off in to the greying sky.
Just as Lois and Tony were about to enter the van, she grabbed his arm and he stopped and turned away from the vehicle.
"Look, Tony," she whispered, assuming Luthor was in hearing distance, "I'm not sure about this. Maybe we should reschedule until after the sentencing. It'll still be in the afternoon edition."
"Miss Lane, people went to a lot of trouble to arrange this interview for you and it's not our fault that you turned up late. Besides, do you think that your editor would appreciate it?"
Lois was surprised by Tony's blunt and angry response. "Luthor's lawyer called asking for me. In my opinion, I think that he is the scum of the earth, but for some unknown reason, I've been informed that he is a story, so the fact that I am here at all is doing him the favour."
Richie, the other guard who was already in the van, stood in the entrance to the van and called their attention.
"Hey, come on, we'd better get this show on the road. I don't want my butt kicked for showing up late."
Tony and Lois entered the van. Luthor was already there, sitting in an expensive Armani suit, with his hands and feet cuffed together. Lex looked at Lois and smiled sincerely. Lois tried her best not to show him that she was cringing severely.
"Hey, Mick," Tony said as he tapped the adjoining window, "we're ready when you are."
Tony sat down and the van pulled out of the courtyard. For a few moments it was deathly quiet. Lex broke the silence with his laughter.
"I don't know what you're laughing at, Lex, unless the idea of spending the rest of your life in prison appeals to you that much."
"Lois, you have no idea what you're talking about."
"Don't patronize me. You're not in the position."
"Maybe." He took a long look at her. Lois sat there and tried not to acknowledge it. "You never fail to surprise me."
"What do you mean?" Lois asked.
"You. You get more beautiful every time I see you."
"Please. I look like a drowned rat."
"No Lois, you put yourself down. No one I have met could ever compare, and you came back to me."
Lois began to feel very angry. "Please, don't make me vomit! You may have asked for this interview, but I came here because you are headline news. And as for still caring for you, you're more insane than I thought."
"Excuse me," Tony interrupted. "Miss Lane, I do not see this conversation as being in the interest of the public. And as you're on a limited schedule, you had better get this interview underway."
Lois took the dictaphone out from her briefcase and pressed record. She continued. "So, how does spending the rest of your life in prison appeal to you?"
Lex laughed again.
"Lex I was serious."
"So was I. It does seem a bit pathetic, don't you think?"
"I think it's fair."
"Maybe in an ideal world, but fortunately for me this one isn't."
"Well, there's nothing you can do to stop it. You can't change what's already been done."
"And you call me insane? Lois, my dear, the chances of me spending the rest of my life in prison is as likely as me standing by and letting you walk down the aisle with Clark Kent."
Lois was seriously angry now. He had crossed the line. "Lex, you have no right going there. I will marry Clark and there is nothing you can do to stop that."
"Yes. You're right, of course. You always are. Maybe it's because you were too perfect that I fell in love with you. But you cannot tame me and I refuse to be tamed. Look, I know I can't change what I've done or the way I am, but I can amend what I've done."
"Lex, you're talking nonsense. I've heard it all before."
"This time I mean it."
"I've heard that, too."
Lex began to get annoyed. He was going to make her believe him. "Lois, everything I have ever done has been because of you. If you don't believe what I…"
Lex stopped dead in his sentence as a piercing cry came from his mouth. He doubled over, clutching his chest…
Lois watched as Tony and Richie tried to find out what was happening.
"Lex," Richie said. "What's wrong? What is it?"
"Can't, can't breathe…" Lex said, barely in a whisper. Lex began to wheeze heavily.
Tony tapped on the adjoining window and the guard in the passenger seat acknowledged him.
"We've got an emergency back here. We'd better get to Metropolis General as fast as possible."
Richie and Tony continued trying to help him, but he fell to the floor, close to unconsciousness.
"A heart attack?" Lois whispered as she watched on helplessly.
Perry White was sitting at his desk, looking through the layouts for the afternoon edition. He looked up when a knock at the door startled him.
Jimmy entered the room. He was a little excited. "Chief, you won't believe what just came over the scanner."
"You're right, I won't, so you'll have to tell me."
"Okay, well, I was sitting at my desk and I felt like some coffee so…"
Perry interrupted him. "Jimmy, cut to the chase, please."
"Yeah, sure, sorry. Anyway, I was walking up to the coffee machine when I heard one of the police vehicles—one that's escorting Luthor—saying that they've been diverted and are going to Metropolis General."
"Really? Did they say why?"
"No. Do you want me down there?"
"No. Is Lois back yet? Get her to go."
"Well, that's my other news."
"What do you mean?" Perry asked.
"I called the prison to see whether she had left yet, but apparently she did get there too late to interview him before they left."
"Is she on her way back here? Try her cell phone."
"Chief, she's with Luthor."
Perry was a little stunned. "They let her go? What was she thinking? Okay, at least we'll have an on-the-spot report. This could make a better headline than the interview itself."
"What about Clark?"
"You're right. Call Clark. Get him to go to the hospital as soon as possible. There's no point in him being at the courthouse now."
Lana sat at the front of the viewing area in the crowded court. She was startled when Clark suddenly sat down beside her.
"Hi. What happened?"
"Oh, something caught fire down on the South Side. It's weird though, I couldn't see how it started."
"I'm not sure. I haven't seen anything like it before. What's been happening here? Have I missed it?" he asked.
"Nothing. No one's shown up."
"But it should have started by now." He paused, looking around the room at the lack of journalists compared to the day before.
"Something's wrong. Something's happened. It should have started ten minutes ago and Lois should be here."
"Look, Clark, she's probably stuck in traffic."
"No, not if she got there late. It doesn't take that long to get back here even with the traffic. Something isn't right. I'm gonna go investigate."
Just as Clark stood and was about to leave, he turned and almost walked straight into Jimmy. He stood in front of Clark and bent over, holding his stomach and trying to catch his breath.
"Jimmy, are you okay?"
He stood up straight and was almost composed. "Perry sent me. We tried calling you. Is your phone working?"
Clark knew the reason why Jimmy couldn't get through, but he could not exactly say that it was difficult to carry a mobile phone when dressed as Superman. He covered successfully. "The battery must be dead. What's wrong?"
"Okay, I was walking past the coffee machine and I heard the scanner go off, right…"
"And, suddenly, a message came through saying that they had to get to Metropolis General as quickly as they could."
Lana said what Clark was thinking. "Where's Lois?"
"That's my other news."
Concern arose in Clark's voice and anxiety grew in the pit of his stomach. "I thought Lois got to the prison too late to interview him."
"She did," Jimmy said.
"Thank God." Clark felt momentarily relieved. "Ao where is she?"
"She's with Luthor."
Now Clark was really worried. "What?"
"She was interviewing him when the van got diverted."
Clark ran past Jimmy and around to the back of the courthouse. He donned his famous identity, but just as he was about to head to the hospital, he heard a fearful cry coming from the other side of the city. He was momentarily indecisive as to where to head first, but he decided that the latter should take priority as there would be plenty of security surrounding Luthor. He arrived in the financial district of Metropolis to discover that a small charter plane had lost control, it was still in the air, but slowly losing altitude. He grabbed the bottom of the plane and managed to land it on the heliport of a nearby building. Superman assumed, as he entered the cockpit, that the pilot had suffered a heart attack and the passenger had taken control. He was about to leave when he heard another person in danger. He sighed. Luthor would have to wait. The police would have to do without him for the time being.
At the side entrance to the hospital, Lex was placed onto a gurney which had been awaiting them. The two guards that were in the back of the van accompanied Lex into the hospital along with an entourage of eight uniformed police officers. Two nurses and a doctor pushed the guards back as they tried to make their diagnoses.
"Is he going to be alright?" Lois asked. She did not like the man, but she was still the tiniest bit concerned.
The doctor was the first to reply. "It's not looking good. Nurse Jones, go and page Doctor James. I think we need a cardiologist down here."
"Yes, Doctor," she replied before dashing off down the corridor.
"I think we should wait in the waiting room; there's too many people here," Lois commented. Lex slowly reached out and grabbed her wrist. He was on the brink of losing consciousness.
"Stay," Lex whispered. Lois could barely hear him.
The doctor placed a breathing mask over his face. One of the officers was the first to respond to Lois comment.
"She should stay here. She shouldn't have been back there anyway," the police officer protested.
"Look," Tony said, getting a little frustrated, "this man could be dying. You don't want to refuse a dying man what could be his last wish do you?"
"Officer," the doctor began, "this really could affect the status of his condition. It would be greatly appreciated if you would allow it."
The police officer gave in reluctantly. Lois did also, but under great protest. She wished that she was anywhere else except here. She wanted to be with Clark.
At the end of the corridor, they approached the elevators. The remaining nurse pressed the button and when the doors opened, she and the doctor pushed him inside.
"Look, you can't all fit in here; you'll have to use the other elevator."
The policeman intervened. "Look, doctor, I've allowed for Luthor to be accompanied by an unauthorized person, but he is not going anywhere without an escort."
"You're quite right. You come with us, and the guards that bought him in can join us, but that's it. No one else will fit. Tell your colleagues that we'll be on the eighth floor."
They gathered into the small elevator. "Three, please, nurse."
Lois and the police officer looked at the doctor. "You just told them the eighth floor," Lois said.
Tony took out a gun and placed it in Lois' side. Richie did the same with the police officer and removed the gun from his holder.
"What's a little detail?" Tony asked
The elevator doors opened and they all hurried down the hall to an end room. When they were in the room, Lois pulled away from Tony slightly, but he just reached out and grabbed her arm.
"Nurse, go and see where the cardiologist has gone."
The nurse knew that the doctor did not really want to see the cardiologist, so she just smiled and left the room. The doctor locked the door behind her.
"What's going on?" Lois asked.
Lex sat up on the gurney and took out a gun from underneath the mattress and shot the police officer.
"Silencers were such a wonderful invention. Lois, my dear, you're in over your pretty head now. Anyway, we can't sit here and chat all day. The police will be back soon. I'll explain it all to you on the way."
Richie began to look a little nervous and looked at Luthor. "Ah, Mr Luthor sir, are you sure this really is a good idea?"
Lex looked at him as he climbed down from the gurney. "You know, you're right." Lex raised the gun and shot Richie in the chest. "This is not a good idea—it's a great idea, the best I've had in a long time."
"Boss, watch her a second," Tony said as he walked over to Lex to untie his shackles.
"With the utmost pleasure."
"You won't shoot me." Lois turned and ran to the door, but just as she reached for the handle, she felt the barrel of a gun in the small of her back.
"He might not," the doctor said, "but I'll have no hesitation."
Lois turned back into the room. Lex was smiling and shaking his head.
"Lois, don't be silly. Come on, we have to go."
Tony went back to Lois' side, his gun still pointed toward her, and he was holding her arm tighter than before.
"Where are we going?" she asked, even though she was not sure she really cared what the answer was going to be.
"Paradise." Lex laughed, before making his way over to the window and climbing out onto the builder's scaffolding that was there.
"You know, I'm so happy to see that Luthor industries still has a contract carrying out the maintenance with this hospital."
The doctor called out to him. "Mr Luthor, sir, you said that if I helped you, it wouldn't be traced back to me. I'll lose my job. I can't have anyone suspecting me."
"You're quite right."
Lex raised the gun. He had no intention of killing the man; he had been a huge help in his escape. But a minor flesh wound wouldn't hurt. He was free and enjoying himself. He fired and watched the doctor fall to the ground before making his way to the ground. The doctor fell on to a medical trolley and passed out. Tony forced Lois out onto the window ledge, the gun still aimed toward her.
The policemen arrived outside and tried to open the door. They tried forcing it open and after a few moments, the door finally swung inwards. The officer's body was lying behind the door and Richie was lying next to the gurney. Three of the officers attended to the victims, the rest to the window. Lex, Tony, and Lois had already reached the ground. The officers aimed their guns toward them, but the scaffolding was blocking a clear shot.
Down in the alley, Lois was being forced into a van, but an officer called out, "Stop or we'll shoot!"
Tony called back, "I wouldn't recommend that unless you want a dead reporter on your hands! By the way, if you follow us, or if we see the slightest glimpse of Superman, she dies."
They entered the van and drove off at high speed. A few minutes after the van left the alley, Superman entered the room.
"He's escaped," the police officer said with shame.
"What? Where's Lois?"
"Who? The hostage? They said they had a reporter hostage; is that who she is? Lois Lane?"
Superman was about to fly out of the window when the officer stopped him.
"You can't go after them."
"What? What are you talking about?"
"They said if they see a glimpse of you, or us, they'll kill her."
"Okay, look…I want you to get an undercover car to follow them."
"What are you going to do?"
Superman sighed. "I'm not sure."
Tony looked out of the back window to make sure that their instructions not to be followed were being carried out. The last thing he or Lex really wanted was to have the whole of Metropolis' police force after them, so as much as he hated to admit it, he was glad Lois had been there. The only question that crossed his mind now was, 'what were they going to do with her'?
Lois, however, was feeling sick. She was a reporter with impeccable instincts, most of the time, so she could not believe how naive she had been, again. If only she had turned up on time, or not at all, this would not have happened. She felt like a pawn in a stupid game, but the worst thing about it was that she was now on Luthors' territory.
"Now what?" Lois asked. She hated this.
"Now we wait and see. I told you you'd stand by me. Your just being here is a superb start."
"I didn't have much choice, Lex. This thug beside me has a gun stuck in my side. What did you expect me to do?"
"You know, Lex, I think she likes me," Tony replied sarcastically.
"Yes, but you weren't forced into doing the initial interview, were you? If you despise me as much as you claim you do, you would not have been there to begin with and would have stayed with your mild-mannered reporter. You know what I think? I don't think you love him at all and you were just rebounding from me. Well, you can forget that facade now, Lois. I'm a free man, and I'm yours and yours alone."
>From the driver's seat Louise tried her best not to give in to her emotions. Like many before her, she had unwittingly succumbed to his lethal charms and Luthor had promised her the world if she helped him escape. Now, however, she was being forced to listen to his undying devotion to Lois Lane.
"Tony, tie her up." Louise hesitated. "We don't want her trying anything." Her emotions adequately disguised, Louise turned around and it began to dawn on Lois what was really going on.
"You?" Lois was surprised to see Louise sitting there. "Lex, you always had the knack for choosing the most crooked lawyers."
"Absolutely. I'd have been nothing without them. May most of them rest in peace."
"So how did you do it, Lex, really?"
"Intergang? I'd have thought you'd have been the last person they'd want out of prison. They took over from you once. They wouldn't want you as a potential threat."
"I don't follow." 'Maybe this isn't quite as simple after all,' Lois thought.
"Your dear friend Mindy Church paid Louise here to have me killed. Poisoned by someone within the jail. That is part of the reason why you witnessed my acting skills this morning."
"So Mindy thought that Louise was double crossing you, when in fact it was her she was using."
"Her and her money."
Although she thought it would be impossible, Lois was beginning to feel as sick to her stomach as was humanly possible.
"You know, Lois, I really have been doing my homework while I've been inside. I discovered from your very own reporting that Superman cannot see through lead."
Tony finished tying the knot in the wire around Lois wrists.
"What's that got to do with Intergang?"
"Nothing whatsoever, except that it paid for my dear friend Louise here to make sure that this van was appropriately lined with lead."
"Don't you think that this van would be easier to find? There aren't many vans in Metropolis lined with lead."
"You have a point."
Tony placed some tape across Lois' mouth to act as a gag. As with Louise, he was getting tired of Lex telling Lois everything about his escape, as well as hearing him constantly going on about how wonderful she is.
"Yes, Miss Lane, but Superman isn't following us, is he? Not if he truly values your safety," Tony said. The sooner she was out of the way, the happier he would be.
Superman froze, staring aimlessly out the hospital window. It was the shouting of the police detective that made his feet hit the ground again.
"Superman? Superman! You've gotta stop him. You have to do something."
Superman knew that, but for the first time he could recall, he couldn't pursue the villains and he couldn't see a clear way out of his predicament. Lex had said if he saw Superman he would kill Lois. Lex had, on numerous occasions, pronounced how much in love with Lois he was, but Superman also knew that Lex was completely evil. He just wished he knew what drove him more. He hated to admit it, but in this one instant, he hoped that it would be Lex's love for Lois that would get her through this safely.
"Superman, we have an undercover car following them. Do you want to know where they are? Can't you follow them at all without them seeing you?"
Suddenly, the lightheadedness of a man concerned for the woman he loved was replaced by the firm and controlled frame of mind of a Superhero about to bring back order to his home city.
Superman rushed out of the room and out through the entrance to the emergency room. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Lana and Jimmy arriving in Jimmy's car behind a large gathering of reporters. Superman discretely managed to gain Lana's attention and was able to talk to her quickly while Jimmy parked the car.
"Lex has Lois. I have to go and find them."
"What are you going to do?" Lana asked, worried.
"I'm gonna get as near as I can without them seeing me, then I'm going to change and continue the chase?"
"Change?" Lana was not exactly sure what he meant.
"Yes. The last thing they'd be expecting would be a chase from Clark Kent. They never mentioned him."
"Cla— I mean, Superman, that's dangerous. You can't let your secret out."
"Hopefully, it won't come to that, Lana. There's nothing else I can do. If my secret is let out, I think she's worth it. Look, I really have to go."
Before Lana even had a chance to blink, all that was left before her where Superman had stood was a pale blue haze, and that had almost faded.
Jimmy finally managed to get to where Lana was standing after having to literally force his way through the reporters that were outside the entrance. "Let me guess. I've missed him right? You know, that happens every time. I didn't realise you knew Superman."
"Oh, I don't really. Clark introduced us."
"You know, I can't believe I missed him. I really wanted to get an exclusive for Perry."
"Don't worry, Jimmy," Lana smiled, "I have exactly what you need."
Using his Superhearing, Superman was able to hear the undercover police car communicating with the control room. The 'suspect' was heading towards Hobbs Bay in a white transit van. 'Suspect,' Superman thought to himself. Lex Luthor had just gone through months of trial, and only the very day before, had been found guilty of numerous crimes. Now he was being referred to as a suspect. If it had been anyone else, Superman would have smiled at the irony.
Superman headed toward Hobbs River as fast as he could, staying out of sight of the getaway vehicle. Just as he managed to get them into the sight of his Supervision, he heard a distress call go out over the police radio.
"Please, help! I know I shouldn't be on this frequency, but quick, send someone! We're gonna fall!"
"Sir," a voice from the other end said, "where are you?"
"We're hanging off the bridge crossing the freeway. I've got twenty-three kids on board. We're not gonna be able to hold on much longer. Please, send someone!"
It only took Superman a split second to decide where his priorities laid. Lois was his life, but these kids needed him, and he had the small reassurance that the undercover car was pursuing them. He headed toward the freeway as fast as he could. The sooner he got there, the sooner he could get back to Lois and put Luthor back behind bars.
"One down, one to go." Louise smiled.
Lois noticed that she had a small remote controlled device of some kind next to the steering wheel. She had a vague inclination about what it exactly was but she prayed to God that she was wrong.
"Lex, we'll be arriving soon. Shall I complete task two?" Louise asked.
"How long do you think it'll take him?"
"Are you kidding?" Tony snapped. "He's probably already following us again."
Superman had arrived at the scene of the accident to see that a school bus had crashed through the barriers of the bridge, and if it fell, it would fall onto the freeway beneath them. The results would have created numerous fatalities. After he had ensured that the bus and each of the passengers had been placed securely on terra ferma, he asked the driver what had happened. As he told Superman that one of the tires had blown, Superman thought that he had better check it out, and to his surprise, had noticed that not just one tire had gone, but two.
One tire, he would have given the benefit of the doubt. Two was suspicious. When he looked more closely, he noticed that two small explosive devices had been placed behind the hubb caps of the wheels. Someone had tried to hurt these kids on purpose.
The idea of that made Superman feel ill, yet extremely angry at the same time. He assumed that someone had deliberately set off the explosions to go off at the specific time and he had no hesitation in pointing the blame at the man who currently held his fiance captive.
As he approached the opposite end of the Hobbs River for the second time in a matter of minutes, the alarm system at Star Labs went off. Through the years it was a sound he heard quite frequently in Metropolis. He thought that Lex Luthor was behind it and he hesitated a moment before heading over there, but as he hesitated, the sound of the alarm was replaced by an explosion and the sounds of people panicking.
"He's behind this and he's doing this on purpose," he thought to himself.
Superman flew into the building he commonly frequented and ran into his friend, Doctor Bernard Klein.
"What's going on?"
"Superman, thank God," Dr Klein said, relieved that his friend had arrived. "I don't know what happened. All the power has crashed."
"What about the backup generator?"
"That's gone, too. It's been sabotaged. Look, Superman, we need power to preserve everything. The chemicals we've got, the experiments we're undertaking—if they don't remain at a specific temperature…"
Superman interrupted. He did not have time for details. He needed to get to the root of the problem and solve it so he can return to his other priority. "Dr. Klein, do you know where the explosion occurred and where the backup generator is? I'll see what I can do."
"Well, the back up generators in the basement."
"And the exact location of the explosion? There's too much lead surrounding the second floor to pinpoint the area."
"Well, the reason why the second floor is lined with lead is because…" Dr Klein was not quite sure how he was going to tell Superman what he had to say. "Superman, the explosion happened in the Kryptonite vault."
"What?" This was the last thing that he needed to hear. He had to stay as focused as he could. If he had interaction with Kryptonite, it would slow him down immensely.
"Look, I'll have to take you with me. I'll try my best to put out the fire with it in the room, but as soon as it is out, you're going to have to take it and get it as far away from me as possible."
"Very well, Superman, but there is one minor detail."
"Dr. Klein, I don't mean to be rude, but while we're standing here, the fire is getting worse and I do have another priority. What is it?"
"Look, we still haven't been able to figure out all we can about the Kryptonite yet, but if the fire has affected it and you inhale the smoke and the residue from the room, the effects could be lethal."
Lex has planned this down to the finest detail, Superman thought to himself, and he was angry. "He's doing this on purpose."
"Nothing. Come on, we have to go."
The car skidded around the corner as the rain poured down heavily.
"Are we there yet? It feels like it's taking forever," Tony mentioned impatiently from the back seat.
"It's just coming up around the corner." Louise smiled.
"Hey, Louise, I think we should complete the last one."
"What are you two drivelling about? What last one? What haven't you told me?" Lex was annoyed that he was not informed of every minor detail.
"Just one more job for Superman to count on. We figure that the explosion at Starlabs will keep him occupied for a while, but this will just make sure that he is kept entertained. You don't want him putting you back behind bars, do you?"
"No, I just need to be informed. You better remember that."
"Lex," Louise snapped. "Tony, just do it. We don't have any more time."
Tony moved to the side of the van and slid open the side door. He was going to enjoy this, he thought to himself. He grabbed Lois' arm, and the look of fear was visible in her eyes. She was petrified. Tony showed no remorse. Lex also had figured out what was about to happen. Lois' eyes pleaded with Lex for help as it dawned on them both what was about to happen.
"What are you doing?"
Lois continued to look at Lex as Tony forced her out of the door. As Louise drove maniacally around the next corner, Tony pushed Lois from the vehicle and she hit the ground hard, then rolled across the road until she hit the curb. The last thing she saw was the concern in Lex Luthors face as she lost consciousness at the side of the road.
As he entered the vault, the flames and smoke from the explosion made it impossible, even with Supervision, to see exactly where the Kryptonite was.
Doctor Klein had made Superman wear a radiation suit and take an oxygen mask in with him. Although Superman was able to last without oxygen for many minutes, the effects of the Kryptonite would reduce this ability dramatically.
The fire was much worse than he had first anticipated. Dr Klein was waiting outside and Superman just wanted to get the fire out. He took a long breath of air from the oxygen mask, and as he did so his head started to get light, the Kryptonite starting to affect him. He tried his best to stay focused and think of the priorities he had. He exhaled as hard as could. It was not to his usual capacity but it worked adequately, and as the smoke and fumes began to die down, Superman crashed down on the floor in agony. Doctor Klein sent an assistant in to remove the rock, which had not been damaged. The Doctor helped Superman to his feet. He was starting to feel like himself again, almost. As he went outside the room, Superman was relieved to be out of that room, able to breath the nontoxic air and without the mask.
"Are you all right, Superman?"
"Yes, I'm fine. Look, I'm sorry but I really have to…"
As he spoke those words, the determination showing in his face for the task of rescuing Lois from Luthor's evil clutches, a wave came over him like nothing he had ever experienced. He had to lean on the wall for support.
"I guess the Kryptonite had more of an effect on you than you first thought. Do you want me to check you out?"
"No, it can't be the Kryptonite. I've never had symptoms like this. I don't…"
He stared at Dr Klein, his eyes widening as the reality of the situation dawned on him. "Lois," he cried as he flew away from the scene of the explosion.
"My God, what have you done? Stop the van!" Lex cried as he grabbed Louise's arm, his grip making it hurt.
"Look, Mr Luthor, I did what we had to do. If Superman's concern for Lois Lane is what you say, then he'll be much more interested in her than in pursuing you. It's all part of the game plan."
"He should have saved her. I'll never forgive him if she dies."
"Maybe he should have saved her, but look at it this way—if he had saved her, then he would also have you a prisoner again."
"Tony, you should not have done that. Trust me, you will live to regret it."
Tony smiled. "I don't think so. You hired Louise and myself to help you escape no matter what the consequences. I'm afraid Miss Lane was an unfortunate consequence, but at least you no longer have Superman on your tail. What would you have done? Taken her with us and use her as your ticket to return to prison? You may not see it yet but it is better this way. You do want to remain a free man, don't you?"
Lex would never admit it to him, but Tony did have a point, no matter how much it hurt him to think of Lois lying unconscious back in the gutter. The woman he loved had been hurt, and if he could rectify the situation, he would, but being free was his main priority. He would check up on Lois later after he had established his safe haven. Then he would have her back.
The bond between Superman and Lois was like nothing he had ever experienced in his entire life. They knew each other's thoughts and emotions; it was almost psychic, which is how he knew, flying down to the Hobbs River, that something had happened. He just hoped that in this one instance he was wrong.
Everything was going according to plan and Mindy Church was feeling on top of the world. She was working out in her personal gym with just a bodyguard for company. The television was on in the background when a news bulletin interrupted the talk show she was watching. At first she did not pay any notice to it, but the mention of Lex Luthor gained her full attention.
"Fallen businessman Lex Luthor is at large this morning after escaping from Metropolis General Hospital…"
Horror crossed Mindy's face. This was not how she had planned it. "He should be dead by now."
The news report continued. "Mr Luthor was taken there about thirty minutes ago with a suspected heart attack which was later revealed to be a hoax. The police have withheld an obvious pursuit of the vehicle as they have take Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane hostage and have threatened to kill her if they are followed by the authorities. Miss Lane was once engaged to Mr Luthor, but recently testified against him in his trial. We'll keep you updated as more news comes in, but until then, we'll return you to your regularly scheduled program."
Anger flowed right through Mindy's body. If she ever found Louise Edwards, she would not live to see another sunset. Mindy was furious. She could trust no one. Louise must have learned well, she thought. It was a pity she was playing for the wrong team, and that will bring her serious repercussions. Mindy raised the dumbbell that she was holding into the air and, in a moment of weakness, threw the object across the room at the television screen, smashing it into thousands of tiny pieces.
As Superman approached the Hobbs River again, he noticed a small commotion at the side of the road, where his worst fears were confirmed. A car was speeding away from the scene of the incident and a man was crouching down next to a body. Lois' body. As Superman landed next to them, the man was removing some masking tape from across Lois' mouth. Superman lifted the man up into the air, holding him by his lapels. He wanted an explanation.
"What did you do to her?"
"Luthor pushed her from the van. I was in the car following them. I'm Lieutenant Rubecki."
Superman put the man down and crouched down beside Lois. His heart was in his stomach as he looked down and saw the full extent of what happened.
"Lois," he whispered, gently untying the wire from around her wrists. As he threw it to one side, he noticed that her wrists were all red and bruised, and one had started to bleed.
"How long's she been like this?"
"A few minutes?"
Superman stood and, using his Xray vision, scanned Lois to determine whether or not there were any broken bones. He was not a doctor, but he knew that if her spine was damaged, he couldn't move her. As he looked, the only visible breakage was one in her arm. But she was unconscious and that was tearing him apart.
He crouched back down again next to her. "What have I done?" he whispered as he moved some matted hair from across her face.
The rain continued to fall fiercely around them and thunder started to roll in the near distance, but even with Superhearing, Superman was completely oblivious to it.
"I have to get a grip on myself," he thought. "I've wasted too much time."
He scooped Lois up in his arms, gently resting her broken arm across her chest, and wrapped his cape around her. Then, in a flash, they had both disappeared into the dark, grey sky.
Superman forced his way through the entrance to the emergency room at Metropolis General, rushing straight to the reception desk. He did this so fast that the people in the waiting room only saw a blue haze go by and felt a strong breeze brush past them.
"Please, you have to help her, quickly."
The nurse was used to frantic cries for help from individuals and looked up, expecting to see a regular, every day Joe standing in front of her. She was a little surprised to see Superman there instead.
"She has a broken arm, some obvious bruising, and I think she has a concussion. I don't know…I'm not exactly sure how long she's been unconscious, possibly five, ten minutes."
"Sure, Superman," the nurse said, standing up from her desk and starting to walk down the corridor. "Please, follow me."
The nurse showed Superman to a private room. The walls were decorated with hideous pink wallpaper, but it was not as if it was there for people to take notice of. He placed her gently down on the bed.
"I'm not medically trained, but I couldn't see any fractures to her skull," Superman said, keeping his eyes focused on Lois. Then, in a guilt-ridden whisper, he said, "This is all my fault."
"Superman? Are you all right?"
He could not exactly tell the nurse that the woman lying on the bed was the woman he intended to marry. "Yeah, she's just a really good friend of mine."
By this time, two doctors had entered the room and started to examine Lois, making up a chart and talking in a language that Superman would normally comprehend, but at the moment, he was not sure he would understand anything.
"Superman," the nurse repeated for the third time. She only then gained his attention after having to gently tap his arm.
"Ah, yes, I'm sorry." He had to change; he was desperate to let his emotions out, but as Superman he could not let people see his vulnerability.
"What's her name?"
"Her name?" he asked, then hesitated. His eyes still focused on her unconscious body. "It's Lois Lane."
Superman could tell that the nurse obviously knew who she was by the look of surprise on her face.
"Look, nurse, I'm going to see if her fiance's outside. He's a reporter, and I think he's covering Luthor's escape."
"Yeah." Superman was a little embarrassed by the fame of his alter ego. Being one celebrity was more than enough, but having to cope with becoming just as famous as Clark Kent was meaning even less privacy. However, he could dwell on the meanings of his double celebrity status later. At the moment, he had to get Clark to the emergency room as soon as possible.
The newsroom was deathly quiet. Luthor was still at large and no other news had come through since hearing of Lois' kidnap. Usually, when this sort of thing happened, Superman would have the situation resolved almost immediately. But since they had heard nothing for over an hour, they were all starting to get concerned.
Perry was feeling sick with guilt. He had an impeccable instinct for predicting trouble, and in hindsight, he knew that he should not have let Lois go. At the time he'd been more concerned with the Planet's front page. Not anymore. Lois and Clark had not only become very good friends of his, but he treated them as if they were his own children. He just prayed that she was all right.
He walked over to Lana, who was sitting at Clark's desk. Perry handed her a steaming cup of coffee, for which Lana was extremely grateful. The events from the day and the exhaustion from driving for almost twenty-four hours had struck her big time and when she least needed it.
"Thanks, Mr White. Have you heard anything else yet?"
"No, I'm sorry. I guess you picked a really bad time to visit Metropolis."
Lana smiled to be polite, but she was not in the mood for trying to be Humorous. Neither was Perry. He was just trying to keep his mind occupied.
"Everything will be all right, I'm sure of it."
"Look, Lana, you don't have to stay here, you know, although you are more than welcome."
"If you really don't mind, I would like to stay. If anything has happened, you're going to hear about it here first. It's bad enough having to wait like this now, but I don't want to be the last to know."
Jimmy rushed over to the pair waving two sheets of paper in his hands.
"Chief, news just came through. About thirty minutes ago, Superman saved a bus full of school kids from crashing down onto the freeway. Two tires had blown."
"Two tires had blown? That doesn't sound right."
"Exactly. The police are treating it as deliberate, as Superman also found remote controlled explosives behind the two wheels."
Lana looked at Jimmy in complete disgust. "Someone did it on purpose? That's sick."
"That's not all…"
"It doesn't rain, it pours."
"I think today's more like a torrential thunderstorm," Lana said.
"Is this about Luthor or Lois, Jimmy?"
"No, Chief, I'm sorry. There was an explosion at Starlabs just after the incident on the bus."
"Judas Priest," exclaimed Perry.
"The police seem to think that something fishy is going on because apparently Superman couldn't stop it right away, but he put it out eventually."
"This is fair enough, but what about Lois? Doesn't he know she's in trouble? I thought she was a friend of his."
"Mr White, with all due respect, I know for a fact that Superman will do everything in his power to ensure that nothing happens to her. He cares more for her…" Lana had to cover herself. She realised she might have let too much slip. "…and for Clark than I think you realise."
"You know Superman?"
"Kind of. Trust me, I'm a good judge of character."
Clark's telephone rang, and Perry reached across to answer it. "Daily Planet, this is Perry White."
"Chief, this is Clark." His voice was shaky. He was upset, and although he was trying his best not to show it, he was failing badly.
"Clark, what's wrong? Are you okay? Is it Lois?"
Lana looked up at Perry. The last sentence had gained her full attention. "What's going on? Can I speak to him?"
"Chief, is that Lana? Can I speak to her?"
"Yeah, sure son." Perry handed Lana the receiver. "He wants to speak to you."
"Clark, what's going?"
"I was too late. It's my fault."
"Where are you? Where's Lois?"
"They're operating on her. She had internal bleeding from the accident."
"Oh my God," Lana started as she slowly sat at Clark's desk.
Perry and Jimmy looked at each other. Something had definitely happened and they hated not knowing.
"He threw her from the van. He tried to kill her."
Lana looked shocked. She tried to find words of comfort for her oldest friend, but just did not know what to say.
"Clark, I'm on my way over. What floor are you on?"
"I don't know, I didn't look."
"Look Clark, I'll ask the nurse at reception. See you soon."
Lana hung up the phone and stood, dazed from the news she'd just heard. She had never met Lois Lane, but she cared for her well being for the simple fact that she was not sure Clark would cope without her.
"Lana, what's happened?"
She was trying not to cry; her eyes were welling up. "Uh, Lois is at Metropolis General. Clark's there, as well."
"What happened?" Perry wanted to know every detail—not for the paper, but, he hoped, to ease the worry.
"Luthor pushed Lois out of the van they were in. From what Clark said, they must have been traveling at some speed."
"She's all right though, yeah?"
"Uh, no, Jimmy, she's not. Apparently, she's got some internal bleeding and they've had to operate. She's in there now. Look, I'm going down there. I'll keep you posted."
"I'm going, too." Jimmy turned to go and get his jacket, but Perry took his arm and stopped him.
"We'll go later."
"Jimmy, let them have some time alone. There's nothing we can do, anyway. I'll drive you down there myself later."
"I just hope she's going to be alright."
"So do I Jimmy. So do I."
Luthor was a free man and he intended on staying that way. Louise had found a vacant warehouse about thirty miles out of Metropolis in an area that had been abandoned for years. Lex was standing on an upper floor, staring out of a shattered window against the rain. He was lost in thought.
Louise walked up to him and put her arm through his. "She will be all right."
Louise did not know if it was true and did not mean the concern she portrayed when she said the words, but she knew Lex Luthor, so she said what she knew he wanted to hear.
"I hope so. It was not supposed to turn out like this."
"Lex, you're a free man. It just happened to be an unfortunate necessity."
"No, we were so close to the second vehicle that I think we should have made it. If she doesn't survive this, Tony's a dead man."
"Really?" Tony said, walking up the steps behind them. "Mr. Luthor, at the moment you need me, so unless you are one hundred percent certain about what you are saying, I wouldn't say anything."
"Are you threatening me?" He was not going to be talked to like this. He still had connections and he did not need anyone— except Lois.
"No, I'm just stating a fact. You can't exactly go anywhere. You're a wanted fugitive."
"Really, Tony? Well, you're an accessory to a crime, which makes you and my dear friend Louise here wanted criminals as well. So I think that we're pretty much equal in that respect."
"We can't stay here for long. It's too obvious," Louise said.
"What? What are you talking about? I thought you said that no one ever comes here."
"They don't. That's what's making it an obvious location. We need somewhere more subtle. his place will do for a few days, though."
"Very well. You have a few days. If we are caught or you don't find anywhere else within that time, ou're out of the game completely, if you catch my meaning."
"Absolutely. Trust me. I got you this far, didn't I?"
"Louise, I trust no one, and no one should trust me. Disobey me, however, and you will regret it."
Louise knew Lex and what he was capable of, and although he himself had just said not to trust him, she knew he would not hurt her.
"I wouldn't dream of it."
"Good. Tony, give me your mobile phone."
Tony looked unhappy at the idea, but reached into his pocket and handed him the phone anyway. "Is that such a good idea? They could run a trace."
"Shut up. I have to know if she's all right."
"Then I'll drive you to a pay phone. You have to tread carefully, Mr Luthor."
"Very well, in this one instance. But I don't think that I'm the one that needs to tread carefully. You push me too far and I'll won't hesitate to dispose of you."
"Mr Luthor, sir, you're too tense. You need to lighten up a little."
"You're right. Now, where's the nearest pay phone?"
Clark was sitting in the hallway outside the operating room, his head leaning back on the wall, his eyes closed, thinking of happier times. He was thinking of the meal they had had just the night before. They both had had such a great day. Everything had gone so wonderfully, but yet, to Clark, the day seemed like it had taken place years before and he was now a part of a horrific nightmare.
Lana sat down next to him and passed him a cup of coffee. "You look like you need this."
Clark opened his eyes and looked at Lana. He was so relieved to see her. He hugged her, needing the comfort. "How could I let all this happen?"
Lana pulled back, staring at Clark as he took the cup of coffee. "What? This is not your fault! You can't think that. If anyone is to blame, it's Lex Luthor."
Clark looked at Lana in horror. He could not believe he let his arch enemy get away. "Oh, God, I've been so concerned about Lois I forgot all about him. How could I let this happen? He's probably long gone by now. I should have just gone with her from the start. What was I thinking?"
"Clark, don't torture yourself. I'd have done the same thing if Peter was in that position. Besides, you saved those school kids and the employees at Starlabs. You did what you had to."
"And look at the cost. Lois is in here and Luthor is at large. I should've got there sooner and I definitely should not have let her do the interview. What if she doesn't pull through? I just should have gone after them straight from the hospital."
"And then they would have shot her. Look, Clark, you can say it a thousand times, but that's not going to change anything, is it? You need to stay focused. You can't go around feeling sorry for yourself."
Clark continued talking. He was thinking out loud, his conversation not really directed anywhere. "When I saw her laying there, there was nothing I could do. What's the point in having these Super powers when I can't use them to help the people I care for?"
Lana sighed and slapped Clark on the face. Clark felt a small twinge across his cheek.
"Snap out of it!"
Lana held her hand in pain. She did not think she had broken it. If she had, though, she was in the right place.
"Ouch, that really hurt. Look, you bought her here as fast as any ambulance could. The time that you saved could have cost her her life. Look, I have this really strong feeling that everything is going to be just fine. Besides, how many times have you saved her before?"
"I've lost count."
"Clark, you may not be able to see it because she got hurt this time, but you did save her life no matter how you look at it. She's a strong woman. She'll pull through this."
"Thank you, Lana. I'm glad you're here. I don't know if it's Lois or the Kryptonite that's making me feel like this, but I can't help but think that in some way this is my fault."
"Kryptonite? Who had Kryptonite?"
"They blew up the vault where the Kryptonite is at Starlabs. They even made sure the back up generator was down to keep me occupied."
Clark turned around to explain his theory to Lana. "I think that it was all a set up. There had been rumours that Luthor was planning to escape after the sentencing, so they had to ensure that once he got to court, the security was at its highest. No one figured that he might do it before hand, and that he'd bought out the prison guards and had inside help. As for his lawyer, I think that she definitely helped orchestrate the whole thing. I think that they set the tires to go and the explosion at Starlabs to go off once they were on the road so that I kept away from them as long as possible."
"So Lois was a decoy?"
"Yes. I tried to convince myself that I would be all right combating the other two crises since he would not do anything to hurt her. I was foolish; that's why I blame myself."
"But how did Luthor know that Lois was going to be late this morning?"
"I don't think he did. I think that the interview was genuine, but when she turned up late, a hostage situation was an added bonus. Throwing her from the truck was their insurance that I would not go after them. And it worked."
"Clark, you have to get this story to Perry. You can easily make the afternoon edition?"
"Afternoon edition? What? What time is it?"
Lana looked at her watch. Her body was telling her it was the early hours of the morning although, in reality, it was only lunchtime.
"Is that all? It feels like it should be a lot later than that."
"Tell me about it. Look, are you going to do the story? You can't let anyone beat you to it."
"I can't leave, Lana."
"That's not a problem. I saw a gift shop on my way in. I'll get you a notebook and we can ask at reception if they can fax the piece through to Perry."
Clark looked at Lana and sighed. "I don't know."
"Clark, you need to keep your mind occupied for a while. They're not going to be done in there for a while and it will make the time go quicker."
"I'll try anything for that to happen."
"Good. I'll see you in a few minutes then."
Lana stood and turned to leave when Clark gained her attention.
She turned, and Clark stood up and hugged her. They stood in each other's arms for a few moments, each needing the other's comfort.
"Thank you. I'm sorry about your hand."
Lana smiled. It still hurt, but she knew there would be no lasting damage. "You're welcome. And don't worry about it," she said before heading back down the hall.
Everyone was sitting at their desks. Some people were finishing their copies for the afternoon edition, and those that had not were waiting around to hear news from the hospital.
Perry and Jimmy were still there. They had to put the paper to bed, but there really wasn't much that needed doing. The headline and feature articles were writing themselves and Perry hoped that they could leave early and see Lois before they had to start the next edition.
Perry decided that he could not sit at his desk a moment longer. Everything was running smoothly, and in a way, he hated that as it meant that there was nothing for him to do. It made him feel redundant. Maybe, he thought to himself, no one would really notice if he did sneak away early. Besides, he was the boss; he could do what he liked.
As he walked across the newsroom, Jimmy approached his boss and friend. "Chief, we haven't heard anything for nearly three hours now. Do you think she's going to be all right?"
"Now Jimmy, I don't want you talking like that. Our Lois is a fighter. She'll pull through this and will be back at work in no time. You mark my words." He hoped what he was saying was true. The Planet would not be the same without her.
"I hope so Chief. If anything happened…" Jimmy could not finish the sentence. He was trying not to cry. Lois and Clark were two of the best friends he'd ever had, and he could not bare to think of losing either one of them.
A middle-aged man approached Perry and tapped him on the shoulder. "Perry White?"
"Lieutenant Zymeck? What can I do for you?"
"Excuse me." Jimmy left the two alone. He knew that this was not meant for him.
"I just thought that I would come and tell you that the charges against Lois Lane have been dropped."
Perry was in shock. He had no idea what the Lieutenant was talking about. "Now, just hold your horses. What charges?"
"Well, considering she managed to board the transportation vehicle carrying Lex Luthor, it was believed that she helped him escape."
"You're kidding me, right? I don't believe it."
"Neither did I. I know they're both a little headstrong, but Lois and Clark are good kids. Considering what's happened, I think that it's safe to say she was not an accomplice."
"Look, Mr White. I have her personal belongings and her jeep back at the station in case she was wondering…" He realised what he was saying by the look of confusion on Perry's face. "I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking. Have you heard anything yet?"
"Nothing else yet. Last we heard, she was still in the operating room. But if I know Lois, she'll come out of it."
Jimmy was standing by the fax machine, waiting for the third and final piece of paper to come through.
"Chief," he shouted across the room, "come see this."
"Excuse me," Perry said, and then walked across the room to where Jimmy was standing.
"What is it, Jimmy?"
Jimmy handed his boss the sheets of paper. "It's a fax from Clark. He's linked the two incidents with Superman this morning to Luthor's escape. He said Superman stopped by again to see how Lois was and told him everything."
"I have to hand it to him, that guy has dedication," Lieutenant Zymeck said.
"He probably did it to keep his mind occupied."
"I'm glad he did," Perry said, reading the article. "This is first rate; it's definitely the front page."
Louise decided to stay behind at the warehouse while Tony and Lex went to the nearest gas station to use the pay phone. Louise was not sure whether that would be more dangerous than risking using Tony's mobile and having them run a trace. She was beginning to doubt her involvement with Luthor. She thought that maybe she should get out while she still could.
To Luthor, it felt like they had been driving for hours. Although he was a free man, he knew he was going to have to get used to living the life of a fugitive, but he had to know that Lois was all right and that her stability would get them both through this.
Tony finally found an old, run down garage not that far from the warehouse. Lex wrapped a scarf around his face. He could not afford to be recognised. Lex walked over to the phone and dialed while Tony filled up the van.
"Metropolis General, how may I help you?"
"Hi, I'm calling to find out about Lois Lane?"
"Are you a relative?"
"Ah, yes I'm her brother."
"Okay, one moment, Mr Lane, I'll check for you."
The nurse put him on hold. He hoped that they weren't checking up on him. He needed to know how she was. Tony filled up the car and went inside to pay.
"Why's your friend got a scarf around his face? He's not planning to rob the joint is he?" the old man said, half heartily.
"No, old man, don't worry about him. He just had some sort of freak accident and never goes anywhere without the mask on. He's harmless."
"That's a relief. That'll be twenty bucks, please, sir."
Tony threw the twenty dollars onto the counter, and from the corner of his eye, he noticed that this was the only chance he would get. He went to the back of the store and took out his mobile phone and dialed.
"You were right about Louise," Tony said. "You were lucky you got me."
"How right you are," Mindy Church said from the other end of the phone. "You'll receive your bonus at the end of the week."
"Good. Then can I treat you to dinner?"
"Don't push your luck. Where is he?"
"The old clothing factory just off route thirty-eight north."
"Now, you're not lying to me are you?"
"For the price you're paying me I wouldn't dream of it. What shall I do about the lawyer?"
"Kill her," Mindy said and then hung up the phone.
Lois had managed to get through surgery with flying colours, but she had still not regained consciousness and that had made everyone concerned. The doctors came out of her room after finishing their consultation and had asked for Clark to go in. He walked over to the door. He took a deep breath as he entered the room and another as he saw Lois hooked up to various tubes and monitors. He thought seeing Lois lying at the side of the road was an horrific sight, but this was far worse. This sight actually made the seriousness of her condition more visible.
"Mr Kent, all we can do is wait now. The anesthetic should have worn off by now. All we can do is sit and wait for her to come around by herself."
"Thank you, doctor. I appreciate everything you're doing for her."
"You're welcome. Look, I'll come back and talk to you later."
A nurse entered the room just as the doctor was leaving. "Im sorry to bother you, Mr Kent, but Miss Lane's brother just phoned and said he'd like to apologise that he could not be here in person," the nurse told him.
"Her brother?" Clark was suspicious.
"Yes, that's what he said."
"She doesn't have a brother. When did he phone?"
"A few minutes ago."
"I don't suppose you have caller ID do you?"
"No," Doctor Gomez said. "We're fighting for it, though, for the number of prank calls we get."
"Nurse, if he calls again, could you get me please?"
"Sure. I'm sorry, I should have checked his credentials before saying anything. I'm sorry."
"Come on, nurse, let's leave Mr. Kent alone for a while."
They both left he room, and as Clark walked over to Lois' bed, he felt physically exhausted. He sat down next to Lois' bed. He took Lois' hand in his and looked at her, staring, emotions running through him, some of which he had never felt before.
"You have to get through this Lois, I need you," he said as he put his head down and cried.
Lana sat down in a seat outside of Lois' room. Se saw the nurse and doctor leave the room and thought that Clark needed some time alone with Lois. She was fighting to stay awake but the sound of a pair of footsteps walking down the hall caught her attention.
"Lana," Jimmy called out as he and Perry approached her.
"Mr White, Jimmy."
They walked over and sat down in the two chairs next to her. "Hi, Lana. Is CK with Lois?"
"Yeah, the doctor's only just left. I'm just giving him a little time alone with her."
"Has anything changed since Clark phoned earlier?"
"Well, she got through the surgery okay, which is something, but they're a little concerned that she still hasn't regained consciousness yet. Did you get Clark's story?"
Perry reached into his raincoat pocket and pulled out a copy of the latest edition. The headline read: BRING LUTHOR BACK TO JUSTICE. Lana continued reading Clark's report that she had persuaded him to compile and she was glad she did. He hadn't wanted her to read it when he'd first finished it. He'd said that it always looks better in print. Maybe he was right. She would never know. Lana also noticed that Perry had written a very powerful editorial about the appalling way that they had let Lois in the van in the first place and the lack of security surrounding Luthor's transportation. He speculated that the reason why it was so easy was that they had been bought out. Perry knew that the Chief of Police would not appreciate his article, but also probably knew that he was right.
"Perry, your piece is excellent. I completely agree with everything it says. Did you manage to speak to Warden Alejo yet?"
"No," Perry said, "but I'm sure I'll get a phone call once he's read my piece."
"It needed to be said. I think the authorities handled the whole situation appallingly. They should have at least used assistance from the FBI. I mean, I don't mean to criticise Metropolis, but without Superman, they're useless against people like Lex Luthor."
"Maybe that's part of the problem," Jimmy commented.
Perry was intrigued. "What do you mean?"
"Maybe they're so used to having Superman around that they have forgotten how to handle themselves in a crisis."
"But they don't normally have to do that much. Superman has reduced the crime rate in this town to the lowest it's ever been."
"Yes, but Mr White," Lana contributed to the conversation, "Superman cannot be everywhere at the same time as we saw today. Lex had it all planned out. If anything, blame Lex. Everyone today has been passing the blame from one person to another and missing what is right before their eyes. Lex Luthor is to blame and he's the one who needs to be made an example of."
Lex drove the car back from the garage. He had been used to chauffeur-driven limousines, but being able to drive himself gave him a minor feeling of control.
"I don't think the guy in the gas station recognised you. He asked why you had the mask on; he thought you were going to rob the place. I told him you had had a freak accident."
"Freak accident?" Lex snapped. "Freak accident?"
"Luthor, calm down."
Lex pulled out a gun from his pocket. "You're the freak accident."
He pointed the gun at Tony, who went to go for his own gun, but it was pushed against his side.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Lex growled. "Wait, I'm sorry, you're not a freak accident. You cause them, like the one this morning. You realise Lois hasn't regained consciousness yet and that they had to operate? She could have died."
"Lex I'm sorry, I did what we had to do. Superman would have caught us if we didn't do it."
"That's not what I heard. He didn't show for another five minutes after the incident. The Kryptonite slowed him down immensely. We would have escaped easily, but you had to go and hurt the one person that means everything to me."
Lex tried to stay focused on the road, the gun still aimed at Tony's side.
"I'm sorry. Louise was in on it as well."
"Yes, well, I'll deal with her later. In the mean time, lets see how you like it."
Lex shot Tony in his side and he doubled over in pain. Lex slowed down the car and opened the passenger door. As he approached the end of the road, he forced Tony from the vehicle.
"He didn't listen to me. I said that he would live to regret it. That'll teach you not to listen. Let's just say what goes around comes around."
Lex laughed as he drove off back to the warehouse.
There was blood all over the passenger seat. How was he going to explain this? What was he thinking? He was Lex Luthor. He did not have to justify himself to anybody. He preferred it that way. As for Louise, he did not know how to handle her. He did need an ally, but she made him nervous. She was an amateur. He should not have chosen someone so young and unconfident. He would handle it, though; he always did.
He entered the warehouse. It was starting to get dark outside, so Louise had already started lighting some candles. Inside, it was filthy. Lex was not going to stay here a moment longer than he had to. He just had to establish a plan of where he was heading to next and how he was going to carry it through.
"Louise!" Lex shouted. The way she had been following him around since their arrival, he thought that she would have welcomed him home with open arms.
Something was wrong. He could not see any movement. He climbed up to the second floor, hoping she had not backed down and ran to the authorities. That was not what he needed.
As he arrived on the second floor, he noticed that Louise had been tied up to a chair and a gag had been placed around her mouth. He turned and started to run down the stairs. Someone was here and he did not want to wait to find out who.
"Going somewhere, Luthor?"
At the bottom of the stairs was a young blonde woman, her arms folded, and she looked angry.
"Mindy Church? You know, you're so much more attractive in the flesh."
"I'll take that as a compliment. Tell me what you want." Mindy took a gun from her small purse. She was not going to let Luthor escape. He was supposed to be dead.
Mindy fired a warning shot inches away from Luthor's foot. "Mr Luthor, I admire you, I think you're a genius, but when it comes to hiring staff you just don't seem to have the knack."
"You hired Louise. If it wasn't for your money, I would not be here now. I am very grateful, however."
"I may have hired Louise, but it was Tony that told me your whereabouts. You see, this is how it's going to work. I'm going to find you holding poor Louise here captive. We can't have her name tarnished, now, can we? Then, however, tragedy strikes. You shoot poor Louise and then you turn the gun on me as I have witnessed you commit a murder. But alas, I fire my gun before you do and then there is yet another dramatic downfall of Lex Luthor."
"It is very dramatic. You thought that all up by yourself?"
"Don't patronise me."
"I apologise, but don't you think that the authorities are going to wonder what you were doing all the way out here? They'll think you were in on it too."
"For what it's worth, I have already thought of that minor detail, and when you both are dead, there'll be no-one to back your story."
Lex was curious. He cursed himself for having left his gun in the van. How could he have been so stupid? He wanted to stall for time. He was about to ask what her story was going to be, when a car horn started to sound just outside the warehouse. Mindy momentarily turned around, giving Lex the opportunity to run and hide.
Mindy cursed herself as she turned back and realised he was gone. Lex could not have gone outside, she thought, not without getting past her. She rushed over to the door to see what the commotion was outside when she saw Tony slumped in the drivers seat. That's where he had gone. She was having even more dmiration for Lex Luthor. He did not realise it, but he was doing all her dirty work for her.
She looked around the warehouse. It was very dark inside and some of the candles had burned themselves out. She climbed to the second floor which she noticed was where they had established their base. However, a rustling sound came from above her. It was too loud to be rats so she cautiously made her way to a second flight of stairs. A gunshot came down from above her, rebounding off of a banister. She crouched down out of shot and waited as she thought out her next move.
Clark had fallen asleep in the chair, his hand still in Lois', and his head resting on his arm on the side of her bed. Rain was falling outside, but she could barely hear it. Her head hurt, her stomach hurt, her arm felt heavy, and she wasn't sure whether or not she had enough strength in her to open her eyes. Someone was holding her hand.
'Clark. Clark's here. Where's here?' she thought. She slowly opened her eyes and was grateful that the room was dimly lit and there were no bright lights. She turned her head just enough so she could see Clark. She thought that if she turned her head any more she was going to throw up. She gently raised the hand Clark was not holding. It had plaster on it. 'What happened to me? I can't remember.' She moved her arm down and started to gently stroke Clark's hair.
Clark was having a very peaceful sleep. He was back in Smallville with his folks and Lois was there, too. It was carnival time and everything was as it was when he was a kid, perfect. He was walking past the ferris wheel, hand in hand with Lois when a slight breeze started to brush though his hair. Suddenly, the fair around him started to disappear, then his parents, but he could still feel Lois holding his hand. Suddenly, she squeezed his hand with compassion and his eyes shot open.
He looked up, his head still laying on the bed. Lois was looking down at him. She was smiling and stroking his hair, but she looked pale and exhausted. Clark had to close his eyes and open them again to ensure that he was not still dreaming.
He looked at her, relieved. "You had us scared for a while there," he said, taking her hand and gently kissing the back of it.
"What happened?" she asked in barely a whisper. She was still weak.
"I'll tell you later when you're a bit more up to it. You're going to be just fine. You had a close call. They had to take you up to surgery."
"You had some internal bleeding. They had to operate to stop it."
"Are you okay?"
Clark laughed at her concern. Here she was, lying in a hospital bed in serious condition and she was asking about him. He thought for a moment that he was going to cry with relief.
"I am now. Perry and Jimmy are waiting outside to find out how you are and my friend Lana can't wait to see you. I'll tell them to come back later. I think we should get the doctor first and then you should get some sleep."
Clark raised his head up off Lois' bed and stood to press the call button. He gently kissed Lois on the forehead and she smiled up at him.
"I'm sorry," she said.
"Don't be. You're going to be fine. That's all that matters to me."
He sat back down on the chair and was surprised when he could faintly hear the sound of gunfire. He was not sure whether it was the fact that Lois was now wake or that the Kryptonite wearing off, but for the first time in hours, his senses were going back to normal. He thought that he was able to be Superman again. Lois noticed the look of attention on Clark's face. She had seen it a thousand times before, but it had only been recently that she'd figured out what that look entailed.
"Go, I don't mind."
"Lois, I don't want to leave you." He looked up again as two more shots were fired.
"It's okay, really. If you want, you can send Perry and Jimmy in. I am in the best place. Go."
"I'm sorry. I'll be back in no time."
He kissed her again on the forehead and then made the transformation. He looked about the room and then made his exit through the window, double checking that it was open first.
The nurse and the doctor came rushing in, expecting to find the worst. Lana, Jimmy, and Perry pushed their way through behind them. They smiled when they realised she was awake, but could not figure out where Clark had gone.
"Where's CK?" Jimmy asked as he looked about the room.
Lois just looked at them and gave them the best smile her strength could muster.
Superman looked down and heard the gunshots coming from the vacant warehouse. It had to be Luthor. This place had not been used for years. It was such an obvious location, he was ashamed of himself for not thinking of it sooner. But then he had been preoccupied all day. He noticed two cars parked out front. He went down to investigate and noticed blood in the front of both of them, but no one was around. He made his way into the building where he heard shouting coming from an upper floor.
"I said you would regret it! I should have double checked that you were dead. Oh well, I'll guess I'll get my second shot, once I find you. But I have to find that pretty little blonde and dispose of her first."
"And what pretty little blonde would that be Luthor?" Superman asked as he pulled Luthor up off the ground by the collar of his jacket.
"Can't you just keep your nose out of anyone's business for once?"
"Luthor, escaping from prison made it my business…putting Lois Lane in the hospital made it personal. You know, Luthor, I have so much anger aimed toward you at this very second that you'd better thank the Lord that I'm not going to do anything that I shouldn't, because I very seriously thought of disposing of you once and for all."
"Wait a minute. That thug down there was the one who pushed Lois from the truck! I begged for him not to do it, but he wouldn't listen."
"I don't believe you. But hey, you're going back to prison for the rest of your life, so you can tell yourself that until you are blue in the face. No one's going to be there to listen to you. That's the wonder of solitary confinement."
He flew Luthor down to the van and a small army of police cars pulled up utside.
"Superman, we got a tip that Luthor was hiding out here. Guess it was right. We'll take him from here."
"Who made the tip off?" he asked. He was curious. If Lex had planned it all so thoroughly, who would turn him in to the authorities?
"I did," Louise said. She had been untied and Mindy was helping her out. Mindy had threatened to kill her unless she backed her story. An alibi was more useful than a dirty conscience.
"Mindy Church? What are you doing here? You were in on this?"
"No, of course not Superman. You see, I was visiting my little old Uncle who owns the gas station down the road when he told me that these two strange guys had just come in to buy some gas. I thought that I would follow them to see who the were. I had no idea it would be this horrible man, Lex Luthor."
"That's a lie! She tried to kill me! She shot at me."
"Me, Superman? How could I shoot at him? I don't even have a gun. When I got back here, he had already shot Tony, and had Louise here tied up and was about to kill her, too."
"Why's there blood in your car then?"
"I picked him up from the side of the road. I couldn't leave him there, could I?"
Superman escorted Tony and Louise into the back of one of the police vehicles. He had no reason not to believe Mindy Church's story. Luthor was the only one not backing it up, but the best news was that Luthor was back behind bars and he was going to ensure with every power within him that that was where he was going to stay.
Lana and Lois were talking as the nurse took Lois' pulse. Clark was asleep in the corner and the sun outside had finally broken through all the rain.
"I'm glad you were here for him, Lana. From what he was telling me, I don't think he would have coped if you weren't here."
"I think I could say the same for you. You mean everything to him."
"Well, the feeling's mutual."
The nurse wrote a number down on the chart and left the room without saying a word.
"Boy, she was chatty." Lana laughed. "The service in this place is wonderful."
"Yeah, but wait until you try the food. It's worse than airline meals."
They laughed. They had become friends. They were glad because neither of them wanted to dislike the other for Clark's sake, but there was no chance of that happening.
"Okay, that does it," Lana said matter-of-factly.
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm going out and I'm going to sneak in a decent meal for you."
"Oh, you're a lifesaver. They call it a hospital, but I'm surprised the patients don't die from malnutrition!"
"What do you want?"
Lana stood and pulled her coat off the back of her chair and out it on. "See you in a bit."
"Thank you Lana. For everything."
Lana left the room, and as the door closed, Clark startled himself awake.
"Hey, sleepy head." Lois smiled.
"Hey." Clark moved across the room and sat down where Lana had been sitting. "Who just left?"
"Lana. I really like her; she's a great person. It's just a shame that we had to meet each other in these circumstances."
"Lois, why did you go with him? In the van from the prison?"
"I was kind of pressured into it. I just wanted to prove to him that he had no hold over me any more."
"Lois, you don't have to prove yourself to anyone, let alone Lex Luthor."
Those words sent a shiver through Lois. She knew she had been foolish, and words could not express exactly how much she regretted going. "I know that now. I was naive, but I can't change what happened as much as I want to. I'm just relieved he's back behind bars."
"You and me both. He's staying there now and there is no way on earth he is going to escape."
Lois sighed. "Clark…"
"If this is what it's like being thirty, I'm definitely staying twenty-nine forever."
The white room had been made one of the securest jail cells in the country and no one had ever been able to escape, no matter how many different attempts they gave it.
Lex Luthor sat in the corner of the room writing on the wall. He would let his thoughts be known and he would carry them out if it was the last thing he ever did.
"Never take anything for granted, and trust no one," he wrote. "I vowed never to get back here, but my confinement is just a temporary situation. Soon, I will be free again. I will witness the downfall of Intergang, and Metropolis and Lois Lane will be mine once more."