By Raconteur27 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted December 1998
Summary: Tempus escapes and decides that the alternate world is a better target for his plans. When the alternate Clark is struck down by red Kryptonite, he loses the will to live. Only our Lois can keep him alive long enough for Clark and H.G. Wells to find the one thing that will make his life worth living.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of this stuff — the characters, the alternate universe, an inter-dimensional transport system, or the Congo River Basin. I'm just playing with them; hope no-one minds.
This is an old fanfic, and my first — recently brushed up, though, and, as all pieces of writing, it is forever a work in progress. Comments welcome; I'd love to hear what you think.
Dateline: March 22, 1993
The Congo River Basin, in the Alternate World
Lois Lane, star reporter for the Daily Planet, stood in a dark, muggy building that served as a police station in the outskirts of Brazzaville, cradling the receiver of an ancient telephone against her shoulder. She took a sip from a bottle of spring water, and pushed her brown hair out of her eyes. She had miraculously been able to get a connection to Metropolis using the local, government-run long distance service.
Miracle or not, the connection was terrible. Through the static, she heard someone pick up on the seventh ring. "Hello, Daily Planet."
"Yeah, hi, it's Lois Lane. Get me Perry White; tell him I've got important news."
"Perry White here," a gruff voice answered back, almost indistinguishably through the crackle and fuzz from the phone line.
"Perry, I'm in Brazzaville right now. This is *big*. Much bigger than we anticipated. I've traced the arms ring all the way to a ring of important Government officials. I don't know whom yet, but the story is about to break. Perry, a lot of important people are involved here. We'd hit the tip of the iceberg before. Now it looks like these guys smuggle arms to half the terrorists in Africa. Anyway, I've got a tip that the cartel heads are going to meet; something big is about to go down. Perry, this will get me that Pulitzer for sure. I gotta go. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Great shades of Elvis, Lois! Be careful. Don't jump into this thing blind; if you're right about this thing, these people you're investigating won't think twice about knocking off a reporter…"
"Sorry, Perry, I can't hear you. The connection's terrible… I gotta go…"
Dateline: Present Day Metropolis, Our Universe Metropolis
Home for the Criminally Insane
"Now, Tempus, why do you think that you are a time traveller from the future?" a slightly balding, middle-aged criminal psychologist asked the inmate in cell F-17 for the fortieth time during their two-hour session.
Tempus was tempted to reply, "Because I *am*, you twit! Duh!" for the fortieth time as well. However, something stopped him. It was as though a bolt of lightning had flashed across his diabolical mind. If they wanted a calm, appeasing, sycophantic Tempus, they could have one.
"Well, Doc, I guess that I believed that because I created an alternate fantasy world for myself so that I could escape the pain of reality. In fact, Doctor, I believe this all relates back to traumatic childhood issues that I've been suppressing. You know what, Doctor? I feel much better now. I no longer feel the hate and anger I used to feel. I feel love instead. Thank you, Doctor."
"Oh, my goodness! Tempus, we've finally broken through; you are making actual progress. Tempus, I think that we can finally take you out of that strait-jacket; in fact, pretty soon, we may be able to place you into a lower security area, and then you could walk around in the garden with the other patients. Would you like that, Tempus?"
Tempus sat through the Doctor's ramblings. And these primitive people thought *he* was mad. He tried hard to smile and look innocent while his stomach was churning with acid. This horrific display of niceness was killing him.
The shocked and amazed psychologist quickly left to report his incredible break-through to his colleagues. A few more days of these vile platitudes and these simpletons would truly believe that they had succeeded in reforming him. Tempus laughed at the foolhardy nature of psychologists. They were so confident in their abilities to bring out the goodness in people. They were so naive.
Tempus endured three more days of sessions with the idiot shrink and his babbling about the pretty birds and flowers before the psychologists decided to allow Tempus to be moved into a ward with non-hostile mental patients. They saw such great potential in Tempus. He was a revolutionary break-through case. Each member of the mental health team had already begun contemplating the great fame that awaited them; they had succeeded in rehabilitating Metropolis's most diabolical villain since Lex Luthor.
Dr Malcolm and Dr Rosencrantz were accompanying Tempus on one of his daily walks through the hospital's flower garden. It was another beautiful Metropolis morning. The sky was cloudless and the aroma of flowers filled the air. The tranquil peace was interrupted only by the boisterous calls of the birds that shared Metropolis with their human neighbors.
The two middle-aged doctors were discussing their golf game from the previous afternoon; they didn't realize that Tempus was walking a few paces behind them on the sidewalk, pretending to be completely enraptured by his surroundings. A pair of trowels in a flower bed caught Tempus's eye. He casually picked them up, making sure that no-one saw him, and continued following the doctors.
The doctors were walking towards a tall hedge that was adjacent to one of the exterior walls of the hospital grounds when they both felt a sharp pain radiating from a blow to the back of the skull. Both doctors fell to the ground, unconscious. Tempus dropped the hand shovels and dragged the doctors behind the hedge. He carefully removed Dr Rosencrantz's spectacles and his lab coat and put them on. Hey, if a pair of glasses and a suit could work for Superman, why not for him?
He then casually proceeded to leave the premises. None of the guards suspected anything; they just assumed that Tempus was another shrink.
Tempus strolled leisurely down the street, savoring the fresh air. He began contemplating his next plan. Despite the grandiose nature of his schemes, they all involved the same underlying premise: kill Superman, take over the world, plunge mankind into centuries of chaos and mayhem.
As Tempus was walking through downtown Metropolis, he realized that people were staring at him. They would obviously recognize him after his last plot to kill Superman. People generally remember a sociopath who brainwashed an entire nation and seized the presidency, and the average person was much better at holding a vindictive grudge than a shrink. His advantage in this world being lost, Tempus began pondering a plan to conquer the alternate Metropolis — a Metropolis without that meddling Lois Lane to foul up his plans to kill Superman. The idea had merit…
Clark found himself sitting across the dinner table from Lois, separated from her by a dozen cartons of Chinese take-out. He was picking at a carton of sweet and sour chicken, but he wasn't hungry. He put the carton down and fixed his gaze upon Lois. The last few months had been a roller-coaster ride, even for them, and now, she was having their baby. She had made his world complete, and now she was giving him the greatest gift of all. He had always wanted children, and when Dr Klein told him that it was an impossibility, his heart sank. He had done his best to be strong for Lois, through all those months, and her love sustained him in return. When she told him she was pregnant, that hardship disappeared. It all dissolved away, and he realized that with Lois, *nothing* was impossible. He smiled as he realized how truly blessed he was.
Lois looked up at him from her carton of noodles and grinned. "What are you looking at?" she asked him, playfully.
"You," he replied with love in his voice. "You've made me the happiest man in the world." He got out of his chair and walked around to her chair. He stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her. He softly kissed her neck and whispered, "I love you," in her ear. He then put his hands on her abdomen; she was finally starting to show. She put her hands on his, and he leaned over and whispered softly towards her stomach, "And I love you, too."
Lois looked up at him and said, "Thank you, Clark."
Clark looked into her eyes, smiled and asked, "For what?"
"For everything. You've made me happier than I ever thought possible. You will be such an incredible father."
She put her hand on his cheek and pulled him close. She kissed him softly, her fingers running through his hair. He picked her up in his arms and carried her upstairs. They could clean up tomorrow.
"Sorry, Mr Olsen. Let me get that for you."
"No problem, Kent. Say, don't you have to be at the dedication of that new hospital soon?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Clark Kent reached down and picked up the pile of papers on the floor, put them back in the folder, and handed them to James Olsen. But this wasn't the familiar Clark Kent. This Clark smiled a little more reluctantly, was a little more reserved and found himself alone far more often.
The Clark of the alternate world had no secret identity. Everyone knew who he was, so he found that he could limit his isolation by wearing the blue and red suit more than the tie and glasses. However, he couldn't help but pull the only picture of Lois Lane he had out of his wallet and stare at it for a minute or two, every once in a while.
It was a picture of her from the Society Page, taken at the Kerth awards before she disappeared in the Congo. He had found the picture in the archives a year ago, and had a copy made. He carried it with him everywhere. If anyone knew, they would have thought he was insane; he was in love with a woman he had never met, and he missed her desperately.
He had had a heck of a time explaining how she had suddenly appeared and disappeared around the time he became Superman, so he did his best without lying or telling the whole story, which would probably have resulted in his being committed. He had told Perry that she wasn't really Lois, but a sort of double who had known about his powers and had come to the Daily Planet to help Clark learn how to be Superman. After that, she vanished and went back to where she came from. The story wasn't technically a lie, and it held water, so the subject was dropped.
About this time, Tempus was building another dimension-jumping time machine in an abandoned building in Hob's Bay. He had robbed countless electronics supplies stores for the necessary parts. After hours of toiling over his latest creation, it was finally ready. He set it for the present time, but for Metropolis in the alternate universe.
He set the time machine to full power, began the start-up sequence, and then felt himself being whisked away through time and space, landing in downtown Metropolis, once again. He sighed despairingly as he looked around. This place had been a sewer hole before Blue Boy showed up; it had had such *potential*. Now it was a clean, lively city with little crime and no fun, thanks to that overgrown freak in tights.
"Ah, well," he muttered to himself. He still had his chance to destroy this world's Superman, and with him, its hope. All he needed to do was pick his weapon and develop his method of execution. He had "borrowed" a Dictaphone from a nearby electronics shop and decided to record all of his ideas. Hey, if it works for the evil masterminds in the movies…
"Memo: green kryptonite is too passe, too banal. Find a more creative method of destruction with similar capabilities… but of course! *Red* kryptonite: its effects are unpredictable, and infinitely more fun than the boring old green kind. But wait! A combination of the two could be most delightful: green to cause him excruciating physical pain, and red for those unexpected little surprises that make life worth living." He turned the Dictaphone off, then added for good measure, "Note: find a means to procure red kryptonite."
Tempus walked cheerfully down the street towards Metropolis's seamy underbelly. He had to get the word out that someone was willing to pay big bucks for red kryptonite. His plot began unfurling in his mind. This plan would be foolproof. This time there would be nothing to stop him from destroying Superman. With Lois out of the picture, it seemed as though fate had smiled on Tempus.
Lois and Clark were walking to work, a few minutes late, as usual. They stopped by their usual coffee vendor; Clark ordered the usual: double the chocolate, double the sugar and triple the fat. Lois opted for an orange juice instead and grabbed a blueberry muffin as well.
"Looks like you've developed an appetite after all," Clark said jokingly. He was glad to see his wife eating. She was so concerned with how she looked. He didn't understand why she couldn't see how beautiful she was when she was pregnant.
"I know," she replied. "I don't even like blueberries."
"Maybe he does," he replied, looking down at her abdomen.
"You mean maybe *she* does," she replied, smiling at her husband.
Clark smiled back. His right hand caressed her cheek. It was that touch that had given him away. When Superman had touched her the exact same way, she knew. That touch always seemed to assuage her worries and make the rest of the world just disappear.
His fingers traced the soft features of her face. He drew her near and kissed her tenderly. The busy streets around them seemed to melt away. Clark couldn't see anything except Lois. Both of them wished that the moment could last forever.
If Lois hadn't returned to reality, they probably would never have made it to work that day. She pulled away from him slowly and glanced at her watch. "Now we're *really* late; we'd better go before Perry loses it," she said.
"Huh," Clark replied. He was paying attention to Lois, just not what she was saying.
"Let's go!" Lois said, pretending to be mad at him. With that, she gave his tie a quick tug, jerking him back into this world.
They walked briskly into the Daily Planet, twenty minutes late for the staff meeting, yet again. "Where in the Sam Hill have you two been?" Perry asked. He seemed even more tense than usual; not a good sign.
"Well, uh, we were, uh…" Clark was looking for an explanation, but Perry didn't want to hear it.
"Look, it doesn't matter. Just get going! This is the biggest story of the year, and the Planet still doesn't have anyone covering it. I want you two to drop everything else. This story is priority one. Well, don't just stand there, get going!"
Lois and Clark exchanged confused looks.
"Judas Priest! You mean you haven't heard?!! Tempus has escaped!" Perry was now yelling emphatically. Though he had a good reason to do so — Tempus was the most sinister evil mastermind in any century, and now he was loose.
"How did this happen?" Clark asked. He could not hide the fear in his voice. Tempus knew no limits. He would stop at nothing to kill Superman, but that was not Clark's reason for worrying. Lois was in terrible danger and, Dear God… now their child was in danger. The mere thought of what Tempus was capable of, and what he would do, was too much. Clark shut his eyes and put his hand to his temple. His other hand was still holding Lois's, and he instinctively squeezed it a little tighter.
"I don't know! Some crackpot psychoanalysts were convinced that they had 'rehabilitated' him. They downgraded his security, and it seems like he just beat up a couple of doctors, stole their lab coats, and just walked outta the place!" Perry's anger was replaced by distress. "Just get started, you two, okay?"
Clark and Lois looked at each other; neither one could hide their fear from the other, but neither one was about to crumble. They had been through everything together, and, just like always, they would get each other through this. They didn't need to say anything. Their expressions told the entire story.
They quickly headed towards the elevator. They had a job to do.
Tempus had been in the alternate universe for six hours, and already he had robbed two banks and, to top it off, a gun dealership. Stealing green kryptonite from LexLabs had proved to be a simple task; now all he needed was the red. His sinister plot had quickly developed into a well-thought-out plan of attack. The destruction of Superman and the goody-goody future he created was almost ensured. All he had to do now was be patient.
Word was out on the street. Every techno-crook and cat burglar from here to Gotham City would be trying to get hold of red kryptonite so they could sell it to him. He was prepared to reward them handsomely. After all, when one is planning total world conquest, one should spare no expense.
Tempus was walking through Metropolis's crowded streets when the afternoon newscast on a TV display in an appliance store caught his attention: "LNN is reporting that S.T.A.R. Labs has been broken into. The perpetrator apparently overrode the main security system and was able to break into S.T.A.R. Labs' highest security files. There is no official report on what was taken; however, the Metropolis Police are considering this robbery to be a serious risk to national security."
Tempus could not help but smile. A few more short hours and his plan would be complete. Then, with Superman out of the way, the world would fall into chaos and mayhem; it would be his for the taking.
Clark Kent found himself alone in his high rise apartment. He had just returned from the hospital dedication, and everything in Metropolis seemed quiet. A dreaded feeling of loneliness overcame him. He was usually able to fill that void with his work, but those random moments when the city was peaceful and he wasn't chasing some big story were like Hell.
He walked over to his fireplace and picked up the picture of his parents from the mantle. God, he missed them. He remembered visiting the other world, seeing Lois and the other Clark's parents. It was one of his most painful memories. It seemed as though the universe was teasing him, showing him these wonderful things that he could never have — reminding him that he was destined to be alone.
Frustrated and tired, he made his routine sweep of the city. It was an uneventful evening; he rescued a cat from a tree and broke up a fight between a couple of kids. No murders, no robberies, no muggings, and no natural disasters. He returned to his apartment and called the Planet to check in: nothing new.
He performed his routine, but not really necessary transformation back into Clark Kent. How did the other Clark manage to disguise himself with a pair of glasses, anyway? Everyone in this world knew who he was, which made his life a lot simpler, and saved him from having to make up a lot of lame excuses about where he kept running off to. He walked towards the couch and pulled out his wallet and started flipping through his pictures, lingering for a moment over Lois's picture. In frustration, he dropped his wallet on the coffee table.
"God, I gotta stop doing this to myself," he thought out loud. He poured himself a drink and then sat down on the couch. He finished the drink and wished that alcohol could have a greater affect on him. He leaned back against the couch cushions and stared at the ceiling until he fell asleep about an hour later.
"Clark, are you there?" a nervous voice asked. Clark's answering machine had picked up on the fourth ring. "Mr Kent, it's Dr Klein. Someone has broken into S.T.A.R. labs and has stolen the red kryptonite. We don't know how he did it, but please, be careful. We're still not sure what kind of effect that stuff will have on you."
The sound failed to wake Clark up. He never got the message Dr Klein left on his answering machine.
Lois and Clark decided to make a visit to the Metropolis Home for the Criminally Insane. They were interviewing Tempus's doctors in search of any kind of indication of what he may be planning. Instead, they found a bunch of sheepish doctors who were too embarrassed by their folly to be helpful.
"Honestly, Mr Kent, he seemed so rational. Everyone was convinced that we had finally broken through to him. No-one suspected that he was just plotting to escape. I guess we were just too excited about the possibility of rehabilitating a sociopath," a solemn Dr Rosencrantz told Lois and Clark.
"No-one's blaming you, Dr Rosencrantz," Lois replied. "We just want to know if you have any information that could help us determine what Tempus is planning to do."
"I really have no idea. He didn't seem to be plotting anything. He seemed to harbor no ill feelings to you two or Superman. I know that the three of you were responsible for capturing him, but he didn't seem angry or vindictive about it at all during the last week or so."
"Thank you for your time, Doctor," Clark replied. This was hopeless. The fact that these "doctors" had believed that Tempus could be magically "cured" of his sadistic, homicidal tendencies made his blood boil.
Lois and Clark left the center with no new information at all. Their investigation had failed to turn up a single clue. They had to simply sit and wait for Tempus to make his first move — a plan that neither one of them was happy with.
They began to walk back to the Daily Planet, dreading the fact that a psycho killer from the future was on the loose and out to get them. They were passing a deli when Lois realized that they hadn't had lunch, and she was starving. "Clark, you don't mind if we stop and get something to eat, do you?"
"Sure, honey," he replied. He had completely forgotten about lunch, and he was suddenly angry with himself for neglecting Lois. No matter how bad this was for him, it had to be much worse for her. She had to slow down and take better care of herself, and the baby.
They sat at a table on the deli's patio, among the lunch hour crowds. Lois was on her second pastrami sandwich and diet cream soda, while Clark just sat and stirred his Coke with the straw. She looked up at him and saw such pain in his eyes. "Clark, what's wrong?" she asked softly.
"Nothing," he replied. He didn't want her to have to worry about him now. He was supposed to be taking care of his wife and their baby. He couldn't let her see him like this.
"Clark," she said, reaching across the table and taking his hand in hers.
"Lois, it's just that I'm so worried about you. I mean, it's a lot more difficult now than it ever has been. Before, I worried about you all the time, but I knew that you loved your work, you would never give it up and I could never keep you out of all the hazards our life entails. I had to just do my best to protect you. But now, we have this… tiny little person to worry about, and the thought of putting him in danger for any reason is tearing me apart. Lois, I just want to take you up in my arms and fly away from all of this… from Tempus, from everything… and then I realize that I *can't*. No matter how much I want to, I can't leave this, and neither can you. It was a life that we accepted, knowing full well the possibilities, but this child… I mean how can I protect him from all of this?"
Lois saw how much this was tearing her husband apart. She wanted to comfort him, to assuage his fears and end his pain. He was the most caring soul she had ever known, and to see him in this agony was torture for her. "Clark, since you came into my life, I've been thrown from planes, shot at I don't know how many times, strapped to explosives, dropped off buildings, brainwashed and cloned, but I've never felt safer, because all along, I always knew that you would be there for me, and you have. And I know that you will be a wonderful father, and that you will always be there for our child. Clark, when you take me in your arms, nothing else matters; all the danger in the world vanishes and I know that I am completely safe. Clark, you have done so much for me and for this world; *please* believe me when I tell you that I know that you will do the same for our child."
"Lois, I have always tried to protect you, but then I realize that it is you who is protecting me. Lois, your love sustains me. I wouldn't be able to carry on without it. You have made me complete in every way, and I could never begin to tell you how much I love you," he said, his hand squeezing hers a little tighter.
"You don't need to tell me, Clark. You've shown me. Every time I look into your eyes, I see love like I never thought possible. We *will* get through this together, Clark. We always have. 'Being with you is stronger than me alone'."
His eyes lit up when she said that final sentence. Every time those words were spoken, he realized that there was no force more powerful than their love. They had overcome inconceivable odds together. Every hardship he'd ever faced, every time he doubted his own power; she had been there for him. She gave him strength and hope. He thought about every hardship they had faced, and realized that, together, nothing was impossible for them. Their love would survive any obstacles. A burden on Clark's shoulders was suddenly lifted. He was going to be there for Lois and their baby, and together, he and she would get through this.
"We'd better go," Clark said, breaking the minute-long silence. They stood up and Clark pulled out his wallet and paid for the food. They walked arm in arm back to the Planet, feeling safer and more secure than they had in a long time.
A tall figure appeared in the shadows in an alley in Hob's Bay. He approached another figure and said in a low, gruff voice, "I'm looking for a guy called T."
"Do you have the merchandise?" the second figure replied.
"Of course," he said, pulling out a lead case. He opened it, and a red glow radiated from inside.
"You got the cash?" the first figure asked nervously.
"Of course. I've got it right here." The figure pulled a silenced handgun out of his overcoat. 8 "Wait a minute— we had a deal, what are you doing? You gonna shoot me now?!" There was a hint of fear and panic in the man's voice.
"Duh." The gunman raised his weapon at the first figure and squeezed the trigger twice. The first man let out a groan and fell to the floor. The man placed his handgun back into his overcoat, picked up the case and walked away. All he had to do now was set up the trap.
Clark walked into the Planet the next morning with a terrible headache. He rubbed his eyes and poured himself a cup of coffee. Mr Olsen saw Clark out of the corner of his eye and walked over to him. "Kent, are you okay? You don't look so hot."
"Yeah, Mr Olsen. I'm just a little tired. I'll be fine."
Perry yelled out from the conference room, "Kent, get in here!"
"Right away, Chief," Clark replied. He was glad to go; he needed something to occupy his mind, regardless of what it was. He just needed some kind of story— anything, to keep himself busy. Clark entered the conference room where a dozen other reporters were sitting around the table.
"Kent, as you know, it's been a pretty slow news week…"
Just then, Clark picked up a police bulletin. "All available units, robbery in progress at the New Troy Mercantile Bank. Suspects are armed and dangerous. Approach with care."
"Uh, Chief, I gotta go," Clark said, loosening his tie.
"Okay, Kent," Perry replied. "Oh, and Clark — be careful, okay?"
Perry said that every time Clark ran off. It wasn't really necessary — after all, Clark was Superman, but ever since Lois had disappeared, Perry had become more overprotective of his reporters. He never forgave himself for losing his best reporter; Lois had been like a daughter to him.
Superman arrived at the New Troy Mercantile Bank just as the suspects came running out in ski masks, brandishing handguns. Clark didn't even know why they bothered. He landed just in front of the robbers and grabbed the guns out of their hands. He crushed the weapons like Styrofoam and dropped them to the ground. He grabbed the gunmen by their shirts and handed them over to the police.
Satisfied with his job, Clark lingered for a moment, musing over his handiwork. He heard a gunshot, and instinctively moved into the line of fire to protect the innocent bystanders. To his amazement, the bullet didn't deflect off him. Instead, it passed straight through his shoulder, dropping him to the ground. Gripped by pain, he looked at his left shoulder and saw a bloodstain spreading over his suit. On the ground next to him were small, glowing red and green fragments.
A pair of police officers lifted Clark up and helped him to a squad car. "Mr Kent, are you all right?" one of them asked. He was just a kid, Clark thought, probably a rookie.
"Please, get me to S.T.A.R. Labs," Clark replied, gritting his teeth through the pain.
The squad car raced to S.T.A.R. Labs, sirens wailing. On the 32nd floor of a building across from the bank, a man began to disassemble his rifle. He neatly replaced the gun in its case and nonchalantly left the building. He pulled a Dictaphone out of his coat pocket and recorded a message. "So simply and beautifully executed. Now, it's time for the fun part… watching Clark lose complete control. His entire world will fall apart, and he won't have any power to stop it."
He turned his Dictaphone off, smiled and walked away.
"Clark, the other doctors and I were able to remove most of the remaining fragments from your body. It's just what we feared… the red kryptonite. Apparently someone formed a bullet out of red kryptonite. The bullet's tip was formed from the green kind, which allowed it to enter your body. We think that we got all of the green kryptonite from the slug out of your body. As for the red, we've run some preliminary tests, and it seems as though it doesn't have any permanent physical effects. Your body completely healed, but we're totally uncertain of any physiological or mental effects that it may have.
"We never really got a chance to test this stuff thoroughly; we just don't know enough about it at this time. However, we do know that your body has undergone a very traumatic ordeal. Your strength has been drained — there is nothing really physically wrong with you, but the other doctors and I just want to make sure that there is something else that we haven't found yet. We want you to stay here for observation for a while."
Clark squinted at him. Everything seemed like a giant blur, and he had a terrible headache. "Okay, Dr Klein," he replied feebly. "How did this happen?" he asked.
"Didn't you get my message?" Dr Klein responded, puzzled.
"What message?" Clark asked. He looked at his shoulder; it had completely healed. His body felt all right, but something was definitely wrong. He was dizzy and his head was throbbing. Was he sick?
"The message I left on your machine. Someone broke into the lab and stole our red kryptonite sample. Apparently they made a bullet out of it and shot you."
"Great," Clark replied. He couldn't take it any more. The room started spinning and he lost consciousness
Lois and Clark were busy pulling up all their files on Tempus. They'd had Jimmy tap into the medical files at the Metropolis Home for the Criminally Insane. After a few hours of 'hacking,' Jimmy pulled up all of Tempus's old files from his last two years of 'treatment.'
"How is it that he hasn't turned up yet, Clark? I mean, Tempus wouldn't just break out and disappear. Generally these diabolical criminals with grudges break out, come after us, plan to destroy the world — you know, the usual. Tempus has been out for over 24 hours and no-one has even seen him. It's as though he just vanished."
"I know. I don't understand this. I can't find anything here," Clark replied. He was searching through their files on Tempus, and had turned up nothing. They still had no leads.
"CK, Lois!" Jimmy shouted, waving a stack of papers. "It seems as though Tempus's shrinks were trying some new treatment methods on him. They were recording his behavior from each of his sessions; apparently they were trying to see how he responded to different situations.
"Up until a few months ago, he was still bent on breaking out and killing Superman. He was diagnosed with schizophrenic delusional megalomania, or something like that. According to the records, Tempus believed that he was a time traveller from the future, and he was obsessed with the idea of taking over the world.
"Then, last week, it all stopped. He dropped his whole story, and started responding to therapy. The shrinks reported that he 'no longer harbored any hatred for Superman, Clark Kent or Lois Lane, and was beginning to realize what had caused him to create this fantasy world in which he existed. His progress towards resolving painful childhood issues was very promising.' And apparently, his doctors unanimously agreed to downgrade his security level. Pretty insane, huh?"
"Yeah, Jimmy, thanks. Look, Lois and I are going to talk to Bobby Bigmouth; maybe he knows something," Clark said. With that, he and Lois headed for the elevator. The doors opened, and the two found themselves face to face with an old friend.
"Mr Kent, Mrs Kent, thank God I've found you!" the familiar man in an old-fashioned black suit exclaimed.
"Mr Wells, Tempus has escaped!" Clark explained. He and Lois stepped into the elevator and waited for the doors to close.
"Yes, I know. That's why I'm here," H.G. Wells replied.
"Well, do you have any idea of what he's going to do?" Lois asked.
"It's not what he's going to do, Lois," Wells replied, uneasily. "It's what he has done."
"What do you mean?" Clark asked, gravely.
"I was visiting the future in the alternate universe, when suddenly their world was transformed. Apparently, Tempus has decided that it would be more worthwhile to attack that world. Now, the other Clark is in grave danger, and I'm in desperate need of your help. I'll explain the rest of it on the way."
The three left the Planet and walked quickly to the alley where Wells had hidden the time machine. He set the timer for the same date, time, location, but the other dimension.
"Clark. Clark!" Dr Klein was trying to wake Superman up. He'd been unconscious for hours and, during that time, his vital signs had begun to fluctuate greatly. Clark was burning up, and the doctors had no idea of what to do.
Clark finally began to respond. He didn't open his eyes, or fully wake up. Instead, he began tossing from one side to the other, as though he was having a nightmare, then he began moaning in his sleep, something like Lewis, or Lois. Dr Klein had no idea what that may have meant. Clark's heart rate began to vary wildly: it would nearly stop, and then it would become so rapid that the EKG couldn't keep up with it. Dear God, Dr Klein thought, he was watching Superman battle for his life and there was nothing he, or anyone else could do to help.
Clark's vital signs finally stabilized themselves, but they were significantly different from his normal readings. The tossing and turning lessened, but Clark continued to cry out, "Lois, Lois… Lois, I need you!"
"God, I hope this Lois person shows up," Dr Klein muttered to himself.
An hour later, Clark finally woke up. "Where… where am I?" he asked, still a bit dazed.
"You're in S.T.A.R. Labs, Superman," Dr Klein replied. "The police brought you here after you were hit with the red kryptonite. You've been in and out of consciousness for a few hours now. You were saying something about someone named Lois in your sleep… can you tell me who that is?"
The mere mention of her name caused Clark terrible pain. "Oh God, Lois!" he cried out. "Lois. come back, I need you! Lois… Lois…" His voice trailed off, but he kept repeating her name. His vital signs began to drop as well. Beads of sweat began to collect on Clark's brow as he shuddered in pain.
"Clark! Snap out of it!" Dr Klein yelled. He shook Clark, but couldn't get him to come to his senses. "Clark, stop it! Just relax; you need your rest."
He sat up suddenly, still dazed. "Don't you see?" Clark asked frantically, "I need her! I can't keep going! I can't keep living like this without her. I'm tired of being alone. I need her… Lois, I need you…"
Clark was gasping for air now. With each breath, he repeated her name: "Lois… Lois… Lois…"
Lois, Clark and Mr Wells arrived in Centennial Park, moments after they left their universe. Their sudden appearance caused a nearby homeless man to faint in disbelief. Clark looked around; it seemed an awful lot like his own world, and there was still no sign of Tempus.
"Now can you tell us what's going on, Mr Wells?" Clark asked.
"Yes, yes, of course. The Clark Kent of this universe had never been exposed to red kryptonite before. Apparently, S.T.A.R. Labs had a sample of it, but they hadn't finished analyzing it. Tempus stole it and used it to create a bullet which he used to shoot Superman. He tipped the bullet with green kryptonite so it was
able to penetrate the skin. The scientists at S.T.A.R. Labs were able to remove the green and most of the red from his system, so there are no obvious lasting physical effects, but the red has affected him psychologically and, in some way, physiologically. You understand, don't you, Mr Kent?"
"Yeah. The green affects the body; the red, the mind."
"Exactly. Do you remember what happened to you the first time you were exposed to red kryptonite?"
"Yeah. I was overcome with apathy, and I couldn't do anything about it," Clark replied.
"Precisely. You were overpowered by an emotion that you had been ignoring and submerging. Well, the same thing has happened to this Clark, except, well… you see, visiting your world must have been too much for him. Seeing your parents, and Lois, and… well, everything he couldn't have, caused him great depression. It was a feeling that he kept to himself; he was very lonely, and he tried to bury his feelings in his work, but the red kryptonite has caused him to succumb to that depression."
"You're a time traveller — can't you just go back and stop Tempus?" Clark asked.
"That is possible. However, it would only be a temporary solution to a very long-term problem. Clark's condition wouldn't disappear, the feelings would only be submerged again. His future, right now, is nothing like yours. He's done great things for the world, but he stands to spend his entire life alone, never really fitting in anywhere. That can be changed, and that's why we are here," Wells replied.
"What can we do to help, Mr Wells?" Lois asked.
"Well, Clark is presently very ill; he's fighting for his life, in fact. These overwhelmingly painful emotions are killing his will to live. Mrs Kent, he's been calling your name out for hours. He needs his Lois Lane."
"But she was lost in the Congo on assignment. What can we do?" Lois asked. She was determined to do what she could to help this Clark. He had saved their world before; she was determined to repay the favor.
"I need you to go to him and comfort him. Mr Kent and I will take the time machine and try to locate the other Lois. Apparently this Clark has done some pretty thorough research on her disappearance, and I'm sure that we'll be able to find her. Until then, he needs to know that he isn't alone in this world."
With that, Lois headed to S.T.A.R. Labs while Clark and H.G. Wells went to the Planet to dig up anything that would help them find Lois.
Lois walked up to the reception desk in the lobby of S.T.A.R. Labs. Usually, she just went straight into Dr Klein's office, but she figured that he wouldn't recognize her — the Lois in this world died before she ever met Dr Klein. "My name is Lois Lane. I'm here to see Dr Klein, it's urgent," she told the woman behind the desk.
"Thank God. Dr Klein told me to let anyone named Lois right in. He said it was an emergency," she replied.
Lois walked into the lab and saw the other Clark lying in a bed. His chest was bare and covered with monitoring sensors. His vital signs were being recorded on a dozen machines. Lois was taken aback; she wasn't used to seeing Clark helpless like this. It reminded her of the time that he'd mysteriously become ill. She'd nearly lost him then. The gravity of the situation fully hit her at that moment.
She cautiously approached Dr Klein who had gotten up to greet her. "Hello, Dr Klein. My name is Lois," she said. "I'm here to see Clark."
"Thank God," was Dr Klein's response. "I don't know what's going on. There shouldn't be anything physically wrong with him. The Kryptonite is gone, but he is still struggling. He seems to be getting better one minute, and then he relapses the next. I don't know what to do for him."
She walked over to the bed and sat down in a chair next to it. She took Clark's hand in hers, and softly called his name. It was uncanny how alike he and her Clark were. She had to keep reminding herself that this was *not* her husband lying in this bed, fighting for his life.
"Clark, I'm here. Clark, it's me, Lois," she said softly.
"Lois, is it really you? You came for me… I knew that I would find you someday, Lois," he responded, his voice barely a whisper.
"Dr Klein, could you excuse us for a moment?" Lois asked. Dr Klein simply nodded and left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Lois, I love…"
"Clark, wait. I'm not your Lois…"
"What?! What's going on? How can you do this to me? Why do you keep teasing me like this? Don't you see, I *need* her, and seeing you here is like torture!" His eyes were red and he blinked back the tears. He could no longer pretend to be all right. The loneliness was killing him and he didn't care if she knew. His energy spent, he slumped back down in the bed. He could barely whisper now.
"Clark, I didn't come here to cause you pain. Mr Wells and my Clark are going to find your Lois and bring her back here."
"I hope you're right, Lois," Clark said softly. "I'm sorry for yelling at you. I didn't mean it, I should have known you were here to help me… it's just that I've been alone for so long, and it's been eating me up all this time. I need her, Lois; I thought that I could just bury this feeling and keep working. For a while, it worked, but lately, it's been so terrible. I can't keep doing this, Lois. I can't keep pretending that everything is all right, and that I'm going to be fine. I can't keep living my life totally alone."
He looked and sounded so much like her Clark. Even his words, his mannerisms, were just like his. She felt a tear run down her cheek. She couldn't imagine the pain he was going through. She thought about what life would be like if she had met Clark and known him just long enough to fall in love with him, and then had to spend the rest of her life without him. The thought sent a chill down her spine. She wouldn't have been able to make it. Life without Clark would be empty and meaningless.
He blinked and tried to focus on her. Everything looked blurry to him. He squinted his eyes and said, "There's something different about you, Lois… I can't put my finger on it, but… I'm sure of it, something's changed."
"I'm going to have a baby, Clark," she said. She felt terrible. Her life had been filled with so much joy, and telling him seemed almost like rubbing salt in his wounds.
"That's great, Lois. I'm so happy for you and Clark. I just hope that one day, I can have that same kind of joy in my life," he said, smiling weakly. "I always wanted a family, Lois…"
He suddenly lost consciousness again. His breathing became labored, and his pulse was irregular. He started calling out her name again. "Lois, I need you. Please, Lois, come back…" She could see that he was fighting for his life. His heart was broken, and his will to live was being drained.
"Clark, you have to come back. Clark, come on, come on, Clark!" she coaxed him. If she could just keep him conscious, he'd be able to pull through. "Dr Klein!" she yelled.
He returned to the room. "Dr Klein, we need to keep him conscious," she told him. "If he stays awake, we can keep him stable. When he loses consciousness, he loses control. The red kryptonite is overpowering his will to live and it is causing him to succumb to his depression. Red kryptonite attacks the mind and emotions the way the green attacks his body. It can be fought off, but he *has* to regain control."
"How do you know about this? We've had this stuff for months and we haven't been able to figure it out," Dr Klein asked.
"Let's just say that I've had some experience with this stuff," Lois responded
Lois and Dr Klein struggled to revive Clark. He continued to slip in and out of consciousness for the next several hours. The fight for his soul continued, and Lois still wasn't sure if he would win.
Clark and Mr Wells rushed to the Daily Planet. The alternate Clark apparently had done a great deal of searching for Lois, and his files were all in the Planet's archives. Clark wasn't surprised that the other him had tried so hard to find Lois; no doubt he would have done the same.
He and Mr Wells were sifting through the papers when Perry noticed him in the newsroom. "Clark, are you all right?" Perry asked, startled.
"Yeah, Chief, I'm fine," Clark replied, a little confused. Then he remembered that the people of this world knew about his secret, and that Perry had obviously heard about the attack. He remembered Mr Wells, and quickly introduced him and Perry. "Perry, this is Mr… uh, Weld. He's an anthropologist specializing in Eastern African tribes and cultures," Clark said. So he lied; the truth would have been more complicated and far more difficult to believe.
"Nice to meet you, Mr Weld." The man looked awfully familiar, but Perry couldn't think of where he'd seen him before.
"And you, Mr White. You should be very proud of your paper, and your reporters," Mr "Weld" replied.
"Believe me, I am. Clark, Dr Klein called and said that you were hit with some kind of red kryptonite; are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah. The red isn't quite like the green, Perry. I'll be fine," Clark assured him. "Perry, I was wondering how I could get the investigation evidence from Lois's disappearance."
"What for, Clark?" Perry asked.
"Well, I've got reason to believe that Lois may not have died on that assignment. One of my sources says that she somehow escaped and has been living with a remote tribe in the Congo. Apparently, a research team on assignment in the region was telling stories of a woman fitting Lois's description who's been living with one of the tribes in the basin."
"Great shades of Elvis!"
"I know, Chief. Could you reassign my stories? I really want to look into this."
"Consider it done, Clark. Now, what exactly do you need."
"Well, what can you tell me about the last time you heard from Lois?"
"Everything. You never forget the last conversation you ever had with someone like Lois," Perry replied. He was very deliberate in his mannerisms and word choice. The notion that Lois may still be alive was incredibly exciting, but what if Clark was wrong? It would be almost like losing his star reporter, and a woman he loved like a daughter, all over again.
"Could you tell me the details?" Clark asked. He pulled out his tape recorder; he didn't want to miss a word.
"Yeah… uh, well the last time we talked was when she called in from Brazzaville. Let's see… the date was March 22, of the same year that you started working here, so it would have been 1993. She was following a story on a major arms smuggling cartel and had discovered some evidence that would have implicated many important government figures in numerous countries of smuggling arms to half the terrorists in the world. She said that she that the heads of the cartel were going to be meeting in secret and she was going to find out what she could about it. God, that woman knew no fear, Clark.
"That was the last time I heard from her. We were pretty worried the next day; she was really good about calling every day to update us. We were all sitting here for the next couple of days, jumping every time the phone rang, but we never received any more information. We sent a handful of teams in after her. Mr Olsen pulled a few strings with the NIA and managed to get a team of agents to help us out, but we couldn't find much. Lois had arranged to meet a guide at a small landing on the Congo, somewhere north of Brazzaville, but the guide said she never showed up. The guide was stabbed to death in a bar fight before anyone could question him further.
"We searched for weeks, with no luck. No-one wanted to give up searching, but it seemed so hopeless; we didn't have a single clue or lead to follow. It was as though she just disappeared. I'll do whatever I can to help you, Clark. We all hope and pray that Lois is still alive, but please don't tell anyone about this. Let's not get our hopes up till we can get some concrete information."
"Thanks, Chief. I'll be in the Congo. I'll call you as soon as I find something."
Clark and Wells quickly left the Planet and returned to where the time machine was hidden. Mr Wells set the timer for March 22, 1993, Brazzaville, Congo, 1:30 p.m. local time.
Lois held Clark's hand tightly in between both of hers. He was struggling so hard, but he couldn't regain control. He would slip in and out of consciousness., struggling to stay awake and fight off the effects of the red kryptonite. He was calling out Lois's name again. It was so hard for her to sit there and listen to him call out like that when she could do nothing to help.
Clark's eyes opened again and he focused his gaze upon her. His pulse and breathing stabilized as he sighed drained of his strength. "Thank you, Lois," he said in a soft whisper.
"For what, Clark?" she asked.
"For being here, so that I don't have to go through this alone." It was something her Clark would say.
His words brought tears to her eyes. She quickly dabbed them away; he needed her to be strong, and to give him hope. She remembered what this Clark had said to her when Tempus had trapped her Clark in that time window. "Clark, you once told me that 'love is the only thing that keeps people going sometimes; it's that strong.' You told me to 'grab hold of that strength' because it would get me through anything. You were right. Clark, I know that you've lived most of your life alone, but I know that your heart is full of love and hope. You need to cling to that hope and have faith. Clark and Mr Wells are going to find your Lois. You need to believe me, and hang on until then. This world needs you, Clark," Lois told him. She silently prayed that Clark and H.G. Wells would return soon; she wasn't sure how much longer Clark could hold on.
"You know, Lois, I was completely right about your Clark… he's the luckiest man alive," Clark said. She could see the pain in his expression, but his eyes were full of hope.
Clark and H.G. Wells landed in a dirty, run-down city near the Congo River Basin. Their arrival frightened away some local children who were playing in the street. Perry said that this was where Lois called him from before disappearing.
They had to find a public phone that she could have called from. "I'll scan the area for her," Clark said. He remembered that Superman didn't yet exist in this world, so he was very cautious.
In two minutes, he landed back in the street next to Mr Wells. "I found her. She's in a police station," Clark said. "It looks like she just got off the phone. Let's go."
They headed towards the police station. The heat and humidity were barely tolerable; Clark didn't really notice, but Mr Wells found the climate to be horrendous. They arrived a few minutes later just as Lois was leaving the station. Clark started to run after her, but Wells stopped him.
"Let's just follow her and see where she goes. Then we can finally find out what really happened to her. It would also be easier if we were a little less out in the open. It's not easy to tell someone that you're a time traveller and that they should listen to you, or else they'll die."
Clark agreed to go along with Mr Wells' plan. They followed Lois to a bar where she met a native, who was apparently a guide. The two of them got into a jeep and headed north along the Congo River. Clark and Wells continued to follow them. Finally, the jeep driver stopped near a small landing on the river and Lois got out. The driver turned around and sped off back towards Brazzaville.
Lois crept softly towards the small wooden building behind the dock. She disappeared around the back of the building, and, as she did so, a pair of small motor boats approached the dock from down river. Several armed bodyguards stepped off each boat and onto the tiny dock, followed by men in business suits.
Some of the bodyguards walked towards the building to examine the grounds. Clark became increasingly nervous; Lois was on the other side of the building, and she would most certainly be killed if she were discovered.
Two more boats arrived and similar groups of men stepped onto the landing. Clark picked up their conversations. The bodyguards were talking to each other in a tribal language, but the others were speaking in French — or, rather, a local dialect of it, oddly pronounced and heavily laden with regional patois.
Clark strained to understand the conversations. His French was excellent, but he was a little shaky in trying to work out what these guys were saying. He could tell, though, that they were talking about a major deal or sale of some kind.
Clark scanned the building and discovered Lois's hiding place. She had somehow entered the back of the building and was obviously planning on taping the meeting.
Then he heard something fall inside. Apparently, one of the bodyguards did too, because he walked into the building. Clark became tenser, then decided to make his move. He moved to the rear of the building, where he found the ground level window Lois must have used to get in. He entered the building, which was some sort of loading warehouse, and hid behind a stack of crates. He waited until the bodyguard started to approach Lois's hiding place.
Clark could hear Lois's shallow breathing and her rapid pulse. The bodyguard was getting closer and closer to Lois, when Clark finally moved. As the guard located Lois and raised his Uzi at her, Clark lunged at him, pushing him into a stack of crates and knocking him to the ground. The guard had been knocked out and Clark quickly crushed his gun. He returned to Lois and led her out of the building, the commotion had attracted the others and he wanted to get out of there before things became ugly.
The entire time, Lois was too stunned to speak but, as soon as they were out of harm's way, she turned to Clark and said, "Look, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but who are you?"
"There's no time to explain right now; if we don't start moving, they'll find us." Clark led Lois back into the jungle towards where he'd left Mr Wells. They caught up with Wells and continued walking away from the landing. When Clark was positive that they had put enough distance between themselves and their pursuers he stopped to try to answer Lois's questions.
"First of all, my name is Clark Kent, and this is H.G. Wells."
"The writer?!" Lois asked, completely stunned.
"Yes, quite right," Mr Wells replied. He couldn't help but be impressed by his own notoriety.
"Aren't you… well…" Lois was searching for a tactfully way to ask this man, who'd been dead for decades, what he was doing here.
"Dead?" Mr Wells finished for her. "Only sometimes. My friend Mr Kent here and I are here to help you. We knew about the grave danger you would be in and we came to find you. Perhaps you'd better sit down for this…"
"Wait! How did you know that I would be in trouble?" Lois demanded.
"Well…" Clark explained, "Mr Wells, the papers please." Wells handed Clark the papers dated March 26, 1993 and April 29, 1993, whose headlines read "Lois Lane Missing in Congo" and "Searchers Give Up Hope of Finding Reporter Alive."
Lois was taken aback by what she saw. These papers were pronouncing her dead, and they shouldn't even be *written* yet. "How… what…" Lois was stumbling to find something to say.
"I know this is hard to believe, Lois — I barely believe it myself. Mr Wells and I are time travellers. In fact, we're not even from this dimension. I'm from the future — the year 1998 exactly, and well, you already know that Mr Wells is from the past. We came here to save your world in 1998 and we need your help," Clark tried to explain. He knew that if, five years ago, someone was trying to tell him all this, he certainly wouldn't have believed it.
"I don't really believe this, but, for the sake of argument, let's just say that you two really are time travellers: I still don't understand why you need *me*," Lois questioned.
Clark knew that it would be a challenge to convince her of all of this. "Lois, I'm not from this world, but I do have a sort of double here, and this double needs your help," Clark said.
"Okay, so how does helping this "double" friend of yours translate to saving my world five years in the future?"
"Well, you see, Mr Kent here, isn't from this world, Miss Lane," Mr Wells tried to explain.
"Yeah, we've already been through this. You two are from an alternate universe…"
"No, Miss Lane. What I mean is, he's not from *Earth*. Clark Kent is really from the planet Krypton, sent here as a little baby when his planet exploded. His molecular composition is much different to that of an Earth human, which allows him to do
incredible things… I can see that you don't believe me. Mr Kent, could you please demonstrate?"
Clark began to hover a few feet above the ground. He quickly swooped down to catch Lois when she fainted and fell backwards. She awoke almost instantly to find herself in the arms of a man who was somehow flying. She nearly fainted again.
"Okay," she said weakly. She had obviously received quite a shock from the entire experience. "Let's just say that I believe you now, so could you please finish explaining this?"
Clark put Lois gently back on the ground. "Well, this other Clark and myself are both… well, I guess you could say 'super- heroes.' He spun into the suit as Lois stared, still in disbelief. "Most people know us as 'Superman'. We're both nearly indestructible, but we're also both vulnerable to a substance called kryptonite, and the other Clark has been exposed to the red variety of it. It attacks his control over his own mind and emotions, and right now Clark is dying. A homicidal sociopath named Tempus, from the distant future, is trying to kill Clark and take over your world. By killing Clark, he will be able to significantly alter the future, plunging the world into centuries of mayhem and darkness. The only person that can help Clark now is you."
Lois was still more confused than ever. Clark couldn't blame her; he still didn't understand all of this himself. "But how am *I* connected to all of this? Why does he need *me?* I don't even know him."
"That's true. Clark began working at the Daily Planet a while after you disappeared. But he's met my Lois, and he's visited my world. In fact, this Clark didn't become Superman until my Lois, the Lois Lane from my universe, helped him defeat Tempus once, a few years ago. Clark has been trying to find you ever since then."
"So you're saying this Clark guy has a thing for this other Lois Lane, and since she's from another universe, he's been looking for me?" Lois was still a little skeptical.
"It's a lot more complicated than that." Clark pulled out his wallet and showed Lois a wedding photo of him and Lois. "My Lois and I are married. We were destined to be together. My life and Clark's are completely different. I've always had a loving and supportive family — and Lois, of course, and now, we're expecting a baby, but Clark has lived his entire life alone. His adoptive parents, the Kents, died when he was a little boy. It's this incredible loneliness that is killing him. Right now, he's fighting for his life, and he needs someone to be there for him."
"I want to help you, but just answer this for me: I was supposed to die today, wasn't I? So what's going to happen next?"
"It's hard to say, exactly. However, the space-time continuum would most likely be significantly and unpredictably altered if you were to travel to the future, alter it, and return to your present and continue living. In order to preserve some semblance of order in time, we're asking you to go to the future and live there. You'll be giving up a few years, but you'll be getting a chance to live, and you'll be helping us save your world."
She thought about the implications of what he was saying. If all of this were true, and by the incredible evidence before her she had to assume that it was, she would be giving up years of her life for a man and a future she knew nothing about.
"Please, Miss Lane. We need to hurry. Clark needs us," Wells said.
"Okay, let's go," Lois said deliberately. She didn't know what else to do. Her entire world had just come crashing down. Everything concrete in her life seemed to have just melted away. She didn't know why, but she trusted these men.
Clark flew them back to Brazzaville in moments. Mr Wells reset
the time machine and, instantaneously, they were back in Metropolis. Lois noticed that not much had changed here in five years. They hid the time machine and headed for S.T.A.R. Labs. They decided that Mr Wells should go in and tell Lois that they'd made it. It would seem really weird if Superman or Lois should happen to enter the building while they were already inside.
"Excuse me," Mr Wells said to the receptionist. "A woman named Lois came in here a while ago to see Mr Kent. Could I speak to her, please."
"Just a moment," the receptionist responded. She paged Lois, who sprinted out to meet Wells.
"Did you find her?" she asked, out of breath.
"Yes, we did. She's here with us," Wells replied.
"Thank God," Lois said softly.
Lois ran back to Klein's office to get his approval to bring her associates in to see Superman, and she asked him to pull up everything S.T.A.R. Labs had on red kryptonite. That would buy them some time. Klein gave the authorization and went to the archives. The others met Lois in the lobby and followed her to Clark's room.
"Clark, they made it. She's *here*," Lois said excitedly to Clark, who was just waking up.
"What… Lois, what's going on?" Clark asked, still disoriented.
The other Lois walked up to Clark's bed slowly. Lois noticed how much this woman looked like her. The likeness was as good, if not better than the clone and the double. The two women stared at each other in disbelief for a moment. The new Lois sat down next to Clark's bed, and the other Lois walked over to her husband, who put his arm around her and drew her in close. "Come on, let's leave them alone," he whispered into her ear. He and Lois headed for the door, and Wells followed.
Clark stretched his hand out to Lois. He couldn't believe she was really here. All that searching he'd done over the past two years… now finally, he'd found her. She took his hand between both of hers and quietly said, "Hello, Clark."
Clark smiled at her and responded, "I knew you'd come."
Everything was starting to hit home, and it was beginning to frighten her. That simple little sentence startled her. Everyone was expecting so much of her. She had never believed in destiny before, and now, these strange people were telling her that this man lying here was her soul mate, her destiny. What if it didn't work out? How could she be sure that this was right? "Your friends saved my life today," she said.
"I know," he said, barely whispering. "They saved me, too. This whole experience must have been very difficult for you."
"When Clark told me about you, I knew I had to come. I couldn't believe half of the things he said, but something about him just made me believe he was telling the truth. He told me about everything you've done for the world, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help. You should probably rest now. You need your strength."
Clark smiled at her and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep. He no longer called out her name in agony; he simply slept.
He woke up a few hours later, and the first thing he saw was Lois, still sitting beside him, still holding his hand. She had been there for him, chasing away the demons that had haunted him. The pain was gone. His heart began to soar, and he could feel his strength coming back to him. He had won the fight.
"Thank you," he said, smiling.
She smiled back at him. Everything still seemed surreal to her. She wondered if she was just dreaming all of this, but then thought that it was too bizarre to even be a dream. She looked at the clock and realized that it was past three a.m. Not that that meant much; she had just travelled through five years in a single day.
"Clark, I need some coffee. Can I get you anything?" she asked, standing up from her chair.
"No, I'm fine, thanks," Clark replied. He sat up, feeling recharged, and marvelled at the changes that had occurred in his life in the past day.
Lois walked out to the lounge, where she saw Clark and Lois sitting on the couch, drinking coffee. Lois was leaning against Clark, who had his arm around her. They looked so happy. Lois wondered if the man in the next room was really the person she would grow old with, and… she remembered what this Clark had said about them expecting a baby. She'd never given much thought to settling down, and now… Was she expected to just stop everything and marry this guy?
"Hi," she said quietly. The other Lois could tell something was wrong.
"Hi," Lois and Clark said at the same time. "Clark, could you give us a few minutes?" Lois asked her husband.
"Sure," he replied. He kissed her gently and walked out into the hallway.
"Is something wrong?" Lois asked her double.
"No… it's just that so much has happened. I don't even know what to think," she replied.
"Lois, I know this isn't easy for you, having all of this happen at once. I had years to figure all of it out, and it was still a difficult thing to believe, and all of it has just kind of been thrown at you at once."
"This is such a shock. One minute I'm on assignment in Africa, the next thing I know, here I am, having missed out on five years of my life, being told that I have to save a 'Superman', who I'm supposed to just fall in love with and *marry!*" She sat down on the couch, holding her cup of coffee.
"Lois, no-one is going to pressure you into anything," Lois said, putting her hand on the other Lois's. "Take your time, and sort things out."
"Thank you." She looked down at Lois's wedding band and asked, "You really love him, don't you?"
"With all my heart," she replied.
"When did you realize… that it was right, that he was the man you'd spend your life with?"
"Well, before we started dating, I knew Clark for about a year. He was my partner at the Planet, and my best friend. Sometimes, I can't believe that I didn't notice it right away. I had always been so independent, I never really considered settling down, but when Clark and I started dating, that all changed. I fought falling in love with him for so long, and I don't know why. But when I finally allowed myself to see Clark for what he was, I knew that he and I were meant to be together. I knew by the way that he looked at me, with love in his eyes. When it's right, you just *know*, Lois. Believe me."
"Thank you, Lois. Is your life always like this?"
"Nah. Sometimes, it gets weird," Lois replied, laughing.
Lois started to feel better about the situation. She sat and talked with Lois about the baby, and what it was like for Lois helping the other Clark become Superman. She finally went back to Clark's room and found him talking to Dr Klein and Mr Wells.
"Clark, you've made a phenomenal recovery. Everything looks great, and you can leave today," Dr Klein said, smiling. He'd been talking to "Mr Weld" the entire night and hadn't even noticed Superman's other visitors. He decided that he should stop by and thank them for coming to help Clark if he got a chance. He did notice that Lois looked different somehow, but figured that he was just tired. He decided to take the rest of the day off.
"Thank you, Dr Klein," Clark said, smiling. He noticed that Lois had walked into the room and he walked toward her.
"Clark, can we go somewhere and talk?" she asked.
"Sure," Clark said.
They walked out of S.T.A.R. Labs toward Centennial Park, talking about their lives, and what had happened during the last five years. 'He's so easy to talk to,' Lois thought to herself.
"So, how's our football team been doing?" Lois asked. She wasn't much of a football fan, but she didn't think it would hurt to talk about sports. A nice, safe subject.
"Okay, I guess. I'm more of a Buffalo fan, though," Clark said. He stopped in mid-sentence; he was picking up a cry for help. He started to loosen his tie. "I'm sorry, Lois. Someone needs help, I have to go." He spun into his suit — something he'd picked up in the other world.
"Can you take me with you?" she asked.
"Yeah, sure, I guess," he said, guessing that she wanted to see what his life was really like. He picked her up and they took off quickly. The feeling of flying was incredible. She held on tightly, with her arms wrapped around his neck as he carried her gently in his arms through the sky. She relaxed and loosened her hold. She somehow knew that she was safe in his arms.
He started to descend towards a freeway overpass. A car sat teetering on the guard rail, its terrified occupants calling for help. He gently lowered Lois to the ground on the shoulder, out of harm's way, and proceeded to lift the car and replace it on the road. Clark opened the doors to let the people out and spotted an injured little girl in the back seat. He pulled her from the car and carried her gently in his arms, her tiny body wrapped in his cape. He turned to her sobbing mother and said, "It's all right, ma'am. I'm going to take her to the hospital, everything will be fine." Clark flew off toward Metropolis General Hospital as an ambulance pulled up to the scene.
Lois rode with the girl's mother and older brother in the ambulance to the hospital. Lois tried to comfort the terrified woman. A doctor met them in the emergency room and told the woman that her daughter would be all right. Lois saw Clark sitting in the waiting room, staring at his hands. His cape and suit were stained with the little girl's blood.
"Clark, are *you* all right?" she asked him softly.
"Yeah," Clark replied. "I'm fine. I was just really worried. The doctors say she'll be all right, though." He smiled wearily and Lois looked deep into his eyes. They were full of kindness and compassion, just like Lois had described. There was something about him, she couldn't quite put her finger on it, but there was something about him that made him unlike anyone Lois had ever met, and it had nothing to do with the super-powers. There was something in his expression, the way he looked at her, the way he spoke to her, the way he carried that little girl in his arms… it was something Lois couldn't describe, but it was definitely there.
He changed back into his normal clothes and they walked out of the hospital. As they did, Lois casually slipped her hand into his.
Lois and Clark sat wearily in the lounge at S.T.A.R. Labs, waiting for the other Lois and Clark to return. The TV was blaring in the background, but they paid no attention to it until a 'Breaking News Bulletin' flashed across the screen. The LNN reporter immediately began describing the arrest of "…former Mayoral Candidate Tempus, who has been missing since last year and is wanted on charges of attempted murder, arson and kidnapping. Mr Tempus was also wanted for questioning regarding the recent attack on Mr Clark Kent, a.k.a. Superman," the anchorwoman added.
Lois and Clark exchanged expressions of relief. It seemed that finally, an evil demonic sociopath had been captured without their help, and they were more than happy to let someone else handle it. Knowing that all was right with both worlds once again, they allowed themselves to relax. Clark's head rested against Lois's shoulder as she ran her fingers through his hair. He drifted into a peaceful sleep. Lois smiled at him; comforted by his slow, steady breathing, she nodded off a few minutes later.
Lois and Clark walked back into S.T.A.R. labs. They sat in the lobby and continued talking. Clark could see in her the same strength that he'd seen in the other Lois. He knew that she was the one, but he was prepared to take things slow and give her time. She'd already been through so much, he didn't want to put more pressure on her.
Lois was amazed at how comfortable she felt with him. It was as though she'd known him for years. He was so easy to talk to and had such kindness in his voice. They talked for over an hour and then walked to the lounge where Lois and Clark were sleeping to get some coffee. Clark woke up and nudged Lois who slowly stretched out. She and Clark looked up at their doubles and couldn't help but smile.
Mr Wells walked in at that moment, looking over some of Dr Klein's notes on quantum physics. He saw the two couples and was amazed by how alike they were, and was happy to have been able to help this world's Clark Kent meet his Lois Lane.
"Well, we should be going," he said. The four of them exchanged hugs and good-byes. The alternate world's Lois and Clark thanked their doubles for saving their lives and bringing them together.
"You've made this world and my life better in so many ways," Clark said to Lois and Clark. "Thank you."
"Thank you for giving me a chance to live my life," Lois said. "And congratulations on the baby, you two."
"We were happy to help," Lois replied.
"We'd better go back now. Good luck to both of you," Clark said. "Oh, and Clark, make sure you call Mr Olsen in a few days and tell him you found Lois in the Congo, living with a native tribe, or something like that. That'll give you guys some time to recover."
He, Lois, and Mr Wells left S.T.A.R. Labs and returned to the alley where the time machine was hidden. H.G. Wells set the time machine for an hour after they had originally left their world. They returned home, completely exhausted, and called Perry that evening to tell him that they weren't feeling well and wouldn't make it to work in the morning. They still had to find some way to explain why Tempus had disappeared without a trace, but that was the least of their concerns at the moment.
They spent the evening on the couch watching television and
enjoying their first peaceful evening in what seemed like ages. Clark put his arm around his wife and drew her in close to himself. "Lois, did I ever tell you why I became Superman?" Clark asked.
"No," she said, smiling at her husband.
"You. Remember when you told me to start bringing a change of clothes to work?"
She smiled, remembering how hard she had been on him his first few weeks with the Planet.
"But seriously, when I met you, I realized that I could do a lot of good in this world. You were so determined to change the world, you inspired me, and our little adventure proved something I've known for years…"
"What's that?" she asked playfully.
"Neither Clark Kent nor Superman could live without Lois Lane."
She turned and looked deeply into his eyes. Her fingers gently caressing his cheek, she kissed him softly and whispered, "I love you," in his ear. She put her head on his shoulder and took his hand in hers, guiding it to her abdomen.
Clark felt their tiny baby kick and could hear its gentle heartbeat. Lois had completed his world and had made his life perfect, and now she was carrying the greatest blessing they could receive, inside of her. Lois leaned against him and closed her eyes. He kissed her forehead, lifted her up in his arms and carried her to bed.