By Pam Jernigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted June 2005
Summary: Tempus has finally come up with the perfect scheme to destroy Utopia. What could possibly go wrong?
Lois felt a hand shove roughly at her shoulder, and she moaned. She didn't remember what had happened, but it was unlikely to have been good. Apart from a headache, though, she didn't seem to be hurt.
"Rise and shine, sunshine!" the voice said, but further away now. Lois heard a low-pitched groan and cautiously opened her eyes. Clark lay on the grass only a foot away from her — shaking his head and opening his eyes. For a moment, an expression of panic flashed across his face, until he swung his head to the side and saw her.
"I'm okay, Clark," she said softly. "How do you feel?"
"Like I've been… poisoned," he said carefully, guarding his words. He frowned. "My head is killing me. I don't feel *it* anymore, though, so hopefully I'll recover soon."
"Oh, yes, of course you will, Superman," came the cheerful taunt.
Lois squinted up against the bright sun. "Tempus."
"Oh, you recognize me this time!" He laughed. "Good for you, Lois; you must be taking a remedial course."
She closed her eyes again. This was getting tedious.
"Yes, lie still, Lois; you're probably still feeling the effects of my new time-travel technology. Isn't it wonderful what future generations can accomplish?"
"Tempus," her husband said firmly. "What are you up to? We've beaten you before and we'll beat you again."
Lois opened her eyes again, and pushed herself up into a sitting position, in case he needed her help. It only made her a little queasy. Clark was standing, and he helped her make it to her feet. A gesture which flowed smoothly into pulling her into a protective embrace.
"What," Tempus said mockingly, from several feet away. "You didn't think I'd be prepared?" From a pocket, he pulled open a small lead box, and opened it a crack.
Clark cringed and swayed, and Lois did her best to brace him.
Tempus clicked the box shut. "That's not the best part, though. The best part is those lovely new bracelets you two are wearing."
Lois looked down. On her left wrist — and on Clark's, as well — was an ugly metal tube of metal. The tube was at least two inches in diameter, and she just knew she wouldn't like finding out what was hidden inside.
"Aren't they charming, Lois? They'll go with everything. At least you'd better hope so, considering you won't be able to get them off."
"What are they?" Clark demanded.
"I was hoping you'd ask." Tempus beamed approvingly at them. From another pocket he pulled out a small device made of the same metal as the bracelets. "Those are how I'm going to destroy Utopia. Finally! It took some thinking to cover all the bases, you know, but I'm sure I haven't overlooked a thing."
"How?" Lois interrupted tersely.
"It's very simple, really. First, if you attempt to remove them, the bracelets will explode. Not only is there a powerful explosive in there, there's also a reserve of Kryptonite. Second, once I touch this button…" He backed up and pressed something on the gadget in his hand, and Lois felt a very slight tingling sensation emanate from the bracelet. "They're set up with proximity sensors. Come within five feet of me, and they go off."
Lois took an instinctive step backwards, and the tingle faded to nothing. Tempus nodded. "That's a girl. You should follow your wife's example, Superman. She may be galactically stupid, but she's still smarter than you."
Clark glared at Tempus, but took a reluctant step backwards.
"Very good! But the really fun part about these little trinkets is that once I push *this* little button, you won't be able to get back home. Any sort of time travel will set them off. Look around you!"
Lois gave her surroundings a quick glance — it looked like Centennial Park, although in much better condition than she'd ever seen it. The life-size Superman statue with full-color suit arrested her eye for a moment, but she dismissed it as irrelevant. She returned her attention to Tempus.
"Isn't it a lovely day? This, my children, is your future — the Utopia you so helpfully created. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping… the park's never looked so good, has it? In fact, it's Superman Day. A city-wide holiday — but don't worry. None of the parties will get rowdy; no one will get drunk and disorderly, or steal anything, or murder anyone. Disgusting, isn't it? At least, it *was* your future. I'm about to change all that."
Next to her, Clark was tense. She tightened her grip on his arm; they didn't have a lot of options right now, not before Clark's powers returned.
"I picked Superman Day on purpose, of course. The very day that these sheep celebrate the formation of their Utopia is the day that it ceases to exist. And you two — the beloved founders — get a front-row seat to its destruction. I love irony."
"How are you going to destroy it, though?" She almost hated to ask, but they needed to know.
"By stranding you two here, of course. That takes you out of history — and those little bracelets ensure that that blasted Wells won't be able to whisk you back in. If he tries, you die." He paused dramatically. "Time to push the button, and seal your fates." He held out the gadget and put his finger on it. "I'm not entirely sure how this will work, actually, but I just can't *wait* to find out."
"No!" Clark yelled, but Tempus merely smiled and pushed the button.
At first, it seemed as if nothing was happening, but then a wave of darkness and nausea crashed over Lois. She fought to stay on her feet. When the feeling had gone, she opened her eyes and looked around.
"Wow," she whispered, amazed and appalled at the changes. The formerly-pristine park was now overrun with weeds and trash. In the distance was something that looked like a tent city — and the smell was not nice. A haze of smog hung overhead.
Tempus was looking around in delight. "Yes! I've done it." He began walking around the park. "I see litter everywhere… homeless people… chaos and destruction. Oh, and look! The sign saying 'keep our park clean and safe' not only is covered by grafitti, it *also* has bullet holes in it! That's just too good."
Not too far away, there was a crack of gunfire. Tempus ignored it. "Well, boys and girls, have fun in your brave new world! I, however, must be going. Banks to rob, fortunes to plunder — busy busy busy, you know!" He laughed again.
Lois tuned him out, trying to make sense of the changes around them. "All this, just because we disappeared?"
"Superman deserted Earth, you see. Without Superman, they felt they had no hope," Tempus explained. "And they were right! Isn't it marvelous?" He held up the gadget. "Wave bye-bye to your freedom and your future."
Another gunshot rang out, much closer than before. Lois caught a glimpse of a speeding car, a gun barrel emerging from one window, before she was lying on the ground, with Clark huddled protectively on top of her. "Clark?"
He shifted, then rolled so that she could sit up next to him. The car was screeching away… and a few feet away Tempus was no more than a crumpled heap. Lois averted her eyes from the mess. "Are you okay, honey?" Clark asked.
"I'm fine," Lois replied, feeling just a little disassociated with the present. Nothing seemed to have splattered on them, thank God. "Think we can get that gizmo?"
"I'm not sure…"
"Allow me, dear boy." H. G. Wells hurried towards them. "My, my, what's happened?"
"Another plot," Lois said briskly. It was about time he showed up. "Can you get that gadget he was holding and disarm these stupid bracelets?"
Making a face, the author edged over towards the body and snatched the device. "Let me see, which button, which button…"
"Don't set them off!"
"No, no. This one must be it." He pressed it, and seconds later, the world shimmered again, and returned to its previous pristine condition. "Ah, yes. Lovely."
"Can we take these off now?" Lois asked.
"No, we'd better wait 'til we get home," Clark said. "We know some expert lockpicks."
"They will come off, my dear," Wells consoled. "Otherwise the future would not have been restored." He darted a quick glance at the corpse. "What, if I may ask, happened to him?"
"Drive-by shooting," Clark replied.
"In fact, you could say," Lois expanded, "He was killed by irony."