By Tank Wilson <TankW1@aol.com>
Submitted: January 2000
Summary: A nemesis from the past may have exacted the ultimate revenge, a weapon so enticing and yet so deadly that even Superman has no defense.
Author's notes: As with all my fics, this one too first saw light of day on Zoomway's boards. In my L&C universe, The Family Hour never happened because I happen to believe Dr. Klein, that Clark being an alien can't reproduce with earth women. So this story can take place anytime after the marriage. As always any and all feedback is welcome. All characters are copyrighted and trademarked to their respective owners.
During the day the Daily Planet newsroom was a bustle of activity with folks from all different departments passing through on various tasks and assignments. At any given time staffers from research, marketing, production, sports, and even the suits upstairs could be seen on the floor of the city desk newsroom. So the unknown young man who exited from the stairwell and entered the bullpen elicited no response from anyone already there. When he made his way over to the coffee pot no one gave him a second glance, and so, no one saw him sprinkle a fine white powder into the bottom of one particular coffee mug sitting there. The white coloring of the mug blended well with the white powder and unless one were actually looking for it you probably wouldn't notice it unless the cup tipped over. Glancing around one last time to make sure no one was paying any attention to him, he casually strolled away and exited the way he'd come.
Just then the elevator door chimed its arrival and opened out onto the upper level of the newsroom. The Planet's hottest news team exited in a typical pose. The darkly handsome man had his arm around the shoulders of the stunning brunette as they ambled down the ramp toward their desks.
Clark Kent slipped his hand into that of his wife Lois Lane's and suddenly frowned. "Lois, are you trying to tell me something?" He held her hand up in front of her face, revealing the naked fingers of her left hand.
She giggled. "Well I thought I might give those two, new, young interns down in advertising a try. They are kinda cute, but I didn't want to scare them off with the image of an old married lady." She laughed as Clark just raised his brow at her. "Okay, actually the rings are at the jewelers. I'm having that loose stone reset, and then they're going to clean them as long as they have them. I'll pick them up after work."
"It's just as well," he said shaking his head. "I doubt those two could've kept up with you on their best days." He gave her a squeeze. "I can barely and I have some added, super advantages."
Lois gave him a quick kiss and pointed to the upper level break area. "Coffee." It wasn't so much of a request as a command.
Clark bowed, which elicited another smile, and left to do his queen's bidding. Repeating a ritual he had been doing nearly every morning for the last several years, Clark quickly had two cups filled, one with the strong black brew for Lois and a milky tan colored drink for him. He set her cup down as he peered over her shoulder to watch while her computer screen began to come to life.
Lois took a sip of her coffee. "Oh," she frowned at the cup. "Seems a little bitter this morning." She shrugged and took another sip. "Must've been that blackberry Danish I had this morning for breakfast."
Clark just nodded in acquiescence as they began to discuss the latest trouble her honor the mayor was getting herself into this fine day.
It was late in the afternoon when Lois began to feel woozy. Her head began to pound and she had trouble focusing on her computer screen. She glanced over at Clark's desk but he wasn't back yet. He'd had to leave to attend to some major traffic snafu about a half an hour ago and still hadn't returned. Lois stood up and had to clutch at the back of her chair to steady herself. Jimmy, noticing her distress, quickly came over to lend a hand.
"Whoa there, Lois, are you all right?" He steadied her with a hand to her back.
Lois gave him a wan smile. "I don't know. I suddenly got hit with a doozy of a headache." She glanced at the clock over the doorway of the conference room. "It's almost time to wrap it up anyway. I think I'm going to take a cab home and just lie down for a bit." She turned to Jimmy. "When Clark gets back, would you tell him I went home with a headache and that he should take the jeep back with him?"
"Sure, Lois, no problem. By the way, where is Clark?"
Lois was already at the top of the ramp. "Who knows?" She waved her hand in an aimless gesture.
Once outside, the fresh air seemed to do little to alleviate Lois' suffering or buoy her spirits. She was irritated. She hadn't had a headache hit her this hard in years. She had trouble focusing her vision also. She didn't know what it was that she had come down with, but what ever it was, it was not making her happy. She cursed everything she had eaten and everyone she might have had contact with in the last day or so for giving her what ever ailment it was that was making her feel so bad.
She approached the curb, about to hail a cab, when a dark sedan pulled over beside her. Lois tried to look in the windows, but they were blacked out. A large, brutish fellow jumped out of the passenger side and placed his hand on Lois' arm.
"Miss Lane, if you will please accompany us."
Lois jerked her arm away, which almost caused her to lose her balance. "I will do no such thing." She glared at the fellow. "Who are you? What do you want?"
"I'm afraid I'll have to insist, Miss Lane." He pulled his jacket back enough to reveal the revolver tucked neatly into his under arm holster.
Lois cast a weary glance heavenward. "Oh, of course."
The large fellow opened the back door and indicated that Lois should get in. She sighed as she bent over to enter into the back seat of the sedan. As she did so she could see another figure in the back seat. Her eyes grew wide in recognition.
Clark pulled the Jeep up in front of the brownstone on Hyperion. He had returned to the Planet about an hour after Lois had left. He was surprised that Lois hadn't been there, but Jimmy soon informed him of Lois' departure. Clark had called home, but there had been no answer. Given what Jimmy had said about Lois not feeling well, he assumed she probably had gone to bed. Unfortunately, Perry had caught Clark and required an excuse for his absence, so he had been stuck writing up the story on the big traffic accident that Superman had been forced to deal with. It had been a multi car collision with injuries, but luckily there had been no fatalities. Superman had, at first, been required to ferry some of the injured to the hospital, then he'd had to carefully untangle and remove from the roadway several large hunks of twisted metal that had once been proud, expensive Detroit steel.
Clark worried that Lois was coming down with a flu bug or something so on the way home from the Planet he stopped and purchased an assortment of remedies, along with a gallon of double chocolate fudge ripple ice cream and some herbal teas that he knew had restful qualities. He wasn't about to lay any odds on which remedy Lois would decide she needed most.
With a couple bags under his arms, Clark almost missed the package that lay against the front door as he made to enter the townhome. It was a plain brown paper wrapped package with only the words 'Clark Kent' printed on the outside. Getting everything inside and the bags on the kitchen table, Clark unwrapped the package as he called out to Lois.
"Lois, I'm home, are you awake?"
Clark hadn't spoken too loudly for he didn't want to wake his wife if she were asleep. Sleep was probably the best thing for her if she was indeed sick. He scanned the upstairs with his 'vision gizmo' as Lois liked to call it. He frowned. She wasn't in the bedroom or the bath. A quick survey of the house disclosed that there was no Lois there. In fact, there was no evidence that she had ever been there at all.
Insidious tendrils of fear began to creep into the concern and confusion Clark was feeling. Where was Lois? He looked down at the item in his hands that had previously been so innocently wrapped. It was a plain unmarked video tape. A sigh of apprehension slipped out as Clark walked over and placed the tape into the VCR. The static at the beginning of the tape quickly resolved itself into a crystal clear image. Clark felt an icy hand squeeze his heart as he recognized the subject of the video.
It was a featureless room, with a single table and chair. Seated in the chair was an obviously heavily drugged Lois, dressed in a plain hospital type gown. The hair around her face was wet and plastered against her skin. She was perspiring profusely yet was shivering at the same time. Her eyes were bright but seemed unable to focus on anything as they darted around the room. Suddenly a deep mechanical sounding voice penetrated the silence that had existed until then.
"Lois? Lois, can you hear me?" The voice asked and Lois jerked her head around nodding as if pleasing the voice was the most important thing to her at that moment.
The camera had moved to a close up on Lois' face, and Clark could see the tautness of the muscles as her head continued to jerk around looking for the source of the voice.
"Lois, I want you to listen very carefully to me. If you want to please me you have to do whatever I say. You do want to please me, don't you?"
Lois nodded again, her head looking like one of those bouncing head dolls one got in the local souvenir shop. The camera pulled back again and now Clark could see that a hand gun had been laid out on the table. The hand around Clark's heart squeezed a little tighter.
"Lois, I want you to pick up the gun."
Lois reached out with her right hand and fumbled the small revolver, nearly knocking it off the table. She grabbed at it with her left hand and was able to snare it before it fell. She picked the gun up with both hands, hands that were shaking very badly.
"Very good, Lois," the voice seemed to raise in volume a bit. "Now I want you to place the barrel against your forehead."
Lois' eyes bulged as she looked about the room like a mouse trapped in a corner with no way out. Her hands shook violently. Clark found his own hands clenched into fists so tight that the hardest steel would've become like butter between his fingers.
"Fight it, honey, fight it" was Clark's mantra as his voice became audible as a soft moan.
The harsh mechanical voice intruded again. "Lois, I want you to put the gun barrel against your forehead." There seemed to be a war going on as Lois' palsied hands struggled first to bring forth, then back, then toward her again. "Do it!"
The battle was lost. A sobbing Lois placed the gun barrel squarely against her forehead right at the junction of her eyebrows.
"Very good, Lois. Now I want you to pull the trigger. You know you have to do it, Lois. Pull the trigger."
"No, no, no," Clark moaned in terror as he watched his wife try to fight the effects of the drugs and the hypnotic commands of the voice.
"Lois! You know you must please me. I demand that you pull the trigger." Lois seemed to jump at the loud and angry tone of the voice. "Now!"
"No, no, no, no." Clark closed his eyes as if trying to at once will his strength to the love of his life and shut out the horror of what was being played out on the tape.
The very small piece of rational mind that he had left knew that the outcome of this terrible tableau had already taken place and nothing he could do now would affect that outcome. He opened his eyes briefly and saw Lois' thumb on the trigger. Her hands were shaking and sweat rained from every pore as if she was sitting in a furnace. The muscles in her face and hands were stretched tight as she appeared to fight the persuasive commands. Clark thought for a second that it looked like Lois might be edging the gun away from her.
The roar of the hand gun crashed through Clark's hearing, ripping into his psyche and replaced all other sounds as it played over and over again in his mind. He fell to his knees weeping.
Lois Lane paced the floor of the drab featureless room she was being held in. She had called out to her captors a couple of times but no one answered. Her headache had subsided somewhat but that did nothing to moderate her mood and her growing anger. Why was she here? What was she in store for? She, actually, was surprised she wasn't dead yet. Once she had seen who her kidnapper was, Lois figured she'd be dead by now.
A few experimental 'Help Superman's' had yielded no results so she guessed she was pretty well sound shielded. Probably had the room lined with lead too. Lois shook her head as she wondered where do these people come up with hideouts like this?
Suddenly the single, solid door to the room opened to admit the big fellow that Lois had met at the car. He spoke in polite tones, but it was obvious from the little contact that Lois had with him that he wasn't too bright, and he did what he was told. He was carrying one of those combination TV/VCR units. He set it on the lone table that sat in the middle of the room, which together with the single hard backed chair comprised all the furniture that the room held. Using a long extension cord he plugged the unit in and switched it on. He pointed to the chair.
Lois gave him a mock smile. "No thanks, I think I'll stand. The exercise will help counter act what ever stupid drug you people gave me."
The big fellow sighed deeply and appeared to be composing himself. He pointed to the chair again. "Sit, *please*."
Lois eyed her unwelcome companion warily. She knew that if she continued to resist he was very capable of physically putting her in the chair so she relented and sat. He smiled and dropped an unmarked video tape on the table and turned to leave. He stopped and turned back just as he opened the door.
"Please watch that tape." He left closing, and locking the door behind him.
Lois picked the tape up and looked at it. There were no markings of any kind on it. It appeared to be a typical VHS tape that you could buy in any drug or variety store anywhere.
"How am I supposed to know if I haven't already seen this movie if there is no label?"
Lois wasn't surprised by the fact that there was no answer to her query. She thought, if they wanted her to view this tape then that was exactly what she wasn't going to do. There was no way she was going to watch that tape. She didn't know what was on the tape but if they wanted her to see it then she didn't want to, uh uh, no way. Even if it might prove to be a clue as to why she was kidnapped, or even if she was just a tiny bit curious, she wasn't going to watch it.
To her credit, Lois actually held out for nearly a half an hour before her curiosity got the better of her. She had kept up a running conversation with herself as to what might be on the tape and she had finally convinced herself that the tape might give her an important clue as to the why and where of this little escapade. She slipped the cassette into the front slot and slouched back in the chair to watch.
The static cleared in a few seconds and was replaced by a scene that instantly puzzled Lois. It was a room similar, if not identical to the one she now occupied. A single table and chair where also in the center of the room. The chair was occupied. The camera angle was from behind so she couldn't see who sat in the chair at first. It seemed to be a fairly large man dressed in some sort of hospital type gown or robe. The camera slowly moved, circling the man until a front view was revealed.
"Clark?" The words escaped from Lois' mouth before she had a chance to stop them.
Lois frowned, something was very wrong. Clark appeared to be sweating heavily and glassy eyed looks constantly darted around the room as if seeking for something. If she didn't know better she'd say that Clark appeared to be drugged. A mechanical voice intruded onto the scene and the terrible tableau began. Once the tape had run its course and had reverted to static Lois could only feel sick inside. A couple lone tears rolled down her cheeks as she grieved for the poor soul she had seen on the tape. She had no idea who it was, but it obviously wasn't Clark. Of course, her jailer didn't have the advantage of knowing Clark was Superman and that a common bullet from a common hand gun wouldn't have had such a devastatingly final result. Lois gagged. What kind of person tortures and murders an innocent victim just to make her think her husband had been killed.
It had been about twenty minutes since the tape had run out on the VCR and static filled the screen on the television. Clark hadn't moved from the spot a few feet way. He was still on his knees with his hands clenched at his side. Dried tear tracks had left streaks on his face as unseeing eyes continued to stare at the screen. Suddenly there was a knock on the front door. Clark didn't react to it.
"Hey, CK, Lois, it's me Jimmy. Perry sent me to tell you some big news." The door swung open beneath Jimmy's knocking fist. Clark hadn't shut it tight when he'd come home originally. Jimmy spied Clark on the floor. "There you are, CK. Hey, why didn't you answer your phone? Perry said…"
Jimmy finally noticed the eerie setting. The television was filled with static, apparently from the VCR, and Clark was on his knees hunched over in front of them. Jimmy ran over and put his arm around Clark.
"CK, hey, CK, it's Jimmy. What happened man? Where's Lois?"
Clark didn't move his head to acknowledge Jimmy. He just let his hand wave limply in the general direction of the TV. Jimmy was really spooked by the situation. He'd never seen Clark so out of it before, and where was Lois? She had gone home quite some time ago. With a look of concern for his friend, Jimmy reached over and rewound the tape.
Once he hit the play button, Jimmy was soon subject to the same horrific scenes that Clark had witnessed earlier. As the final gunshot marked the end of the bloody tableau, Jimmy ran into the kitchen and was noisily ill in the sink. Clark had flinched when the shot had rung out for the second time, but this time his brows knitted in a frown of concentration.
"Oh my god, CK," was all Jimmy could say as with tears streaming down his eyes, he came back into the room.
Clark wiped at his eyes with the back of his hands and reached over to rewind the tape again. Jimmy looked on in horror as he saw Clark push the play button again.
Lois was allowing her anger to grow which had the desired effect of pushing back the sickness she felt for what she had witnessed. She looked up at the sound of the door opening.
"So you decided to show yourself this time," Lois remarked in a less than cordial voice.
Her captor just smiled and gave Lois a perplexed look. "I must have been misinformed. I was told that you loved your husband very dearly." A hand was waved toward the tape machine. "But it appears that his death doesn't effect you as deeply as I'd hoped."
Lois let forth a bark-like laugh. "You couldn't begin to understand the depths of the love Clark and I have for each other, and if he should ever be taken from me I would be devastated." Lois gave her kidnapper a half smile. "But let's not kid ourselves here, shall we? We both know that the poor soul that you murdered on that tape was not my husband."
"Care to enlighten me as to how you knew?"
Lois laughed again. "No, let's just call it one of the mysteries of married life. I know my husband very well, and that was not him."
"I see." Her captor came closer, followed closely by the oversized muscle. "And I suppose the same would be true of Clark. He would know you so well also?"
Lois didn't like where this conversation was going. She eyed her jailer with a guarded look. "Yes, yes he would."
"I see." Another hand signal brought out another unmarked tape. It was tossed on the table next to the machine. "A tape just like this was delivered to your house a couple of hours ago. I'm sure your husband has had time to view it by now. Tell me what you think?"
The big fellow ejected the tape that was in the machine and put the new one in its place. Lois frowned but knew there was no point in arguing so she sat back in the chair and watched as the static abated and the picture cleared. It was with a mild sense of deja vu' that Lois watched a near duplicate of the tape she had just recently seen only with a doppleganger of herself in the starring role. Her stomach lurched as she witnessed another cruel and useless death. Lois dropped her head as the tape finished up.
Her mind was a whirl with conflicting emotions. If Clark had seen this what had he thought. Did he indeed think that she was dead? Lois knew how much that would hurt Clark. It wasn't ego or vanity to know how much Clark loved her, for she loved him every bit as much. But he didn't have the advantage she had. Her captors didn't know that she was married to Superman and so their little duplicitous tape didn't work on her. Where was Clark now she wondered. Was he at home watching a tape depicting the depraved murder of a young woman, thinking it was his own wife? Lois choked back a sob before it could escape. She wasn't going to give them the pleasure of seeing her pain. She raised her head and looked into the cold eyes of her captor.
Jimmy grabbed at Clark's arm but was too late to stop him. "No, CK, you don't want to see this again."
Clark paid his young friend no mind as he watched the scene unfold again with an intensity that scared Jimmy. Clark stopped and started the tape several times as he seemed to focus on something that escaped Jimmy's notice. Finally Clark stopped the tape at the point where the Lois double had the revolver in both her hands, with the barrel pressed firmly against her forehead. Clark pointed at the screen. His voice was a harsh croak.
"There, right there, do you see it? Look, her hands, her hands." Clark got up and headed for the door.
Jimmy ran after him and stopped him. The look on Jimmy's face said it all. The poor boy had no idea what Clark was talking about. From what he'd seen he had to assume his friend had been completely unhinged by the whole affair. Clark's wild expression softened as he looked at his young pal. Clark placed his hand on Jimmy's arm.
"Don't you see, Jim, it wasn't her. It wasn't Lois." Clark turned back to the door. "I've got to get out there. She's in trouble. Someone went to a lot of trouble to make me think Lois was dead, and whoever they are, they have Lois and I have to find her."
Jimmy tried to take in what Clark was saying but much of it didn't make any sense to him, then suddenly it struck him as to the reason he had come over in the first place. He grabbed Clark's arm again to stop the man before he had gone through the doorway.
"CK, I just remembered why I came over." Some of Jimmy's natural enthusiasm started to bubble through. "Perry got a call from Inspector Henderson. Even though official sources are trying to keep it hushed up yet, Henderson thought you and Lois should know." Jimmy could see that Clark was becoming impatient with his explanation so he rushed on. "You'll never guess who broke out of prison a few days ago."
"Why, Lois, you ask me why? I should think that obvious. To hurt you, to hurt you like you were responsible for hurting me." Lois' tormentor continued. "Perhaps you'd like to see the tape again? One last look at what your dearly beloved saw before his life came crashing down. Would you like that, Lois? Would you like to see it again?"
Lois stared straight into the eyes of her captor. "Yes."
The response clearly was unexpected by her kidnapper for no reply was forthcoming. Lois continued to stare as her mind worked at a fever pitch. Something in the back of her head was telling her that something wasn't right. She needed to see the tape again to try and pin point it. She really didn't want to see the poor woman's suffering again, but she needed to. Without waiting for permission, Lois reached out and rewound the tape, then pressed the play button. As the tape reached the grisly scene where the pseudo Lois placed the gun barrel against her forehead again Lois stopped the tape. She looked up at her captor and smiled.
"Clark will know that it's not me." Lois spoke in a confident, matter of fact tone.
Her captor seemed angry. "What, what do you mean! The deception was flawless. I went to great pains to make sure everything was perfect!"
Lois shook her head, looked up and smiled. She held her left hand up in the air and wiggled her fingers. Her kidnapper's eyes grew wide as the mistake became apparent.
"This is by no means over yet, Lois!" And with that her captor stormed out of the room leaving her toady to secure the door behind them.
Lois let out a sigh to release the pent up tension and strain. She didn't for one second think it was over yet. There was still great danger for her and Clark. It was no big secret that her captor had no great love for her, and definitely Arianna Carlin Luthor had no great love for Superman.
"Come on, CK, you 've got to tell me. I'm dying here. I have to know how you knew that the woman in the video wasn't Lois!"
Clark looked over at his anxious friend. He shifted in his seat as he took a quick glance in the rear view mirror of the jeep to check the traffic behind him. They were headed back to the planet to see if they could dig up some needed information that Clark could use to help him find Lois. He glanced at the pathetic look on Jimmy's face and couldn't help but crack a slight smile. He supposed he could take pity on him.
"It's something that only Lois and I would've known. That's why the kidnapper, who I have no doubt is Arianna Carlin, wasn't able to prepare for it in her sick, twisted video."
The bile rose again in Clark's throat as he thought of the fact that Arianna had casually murdered some poor woman just to try and torture him. And why him? She had never included Clark Kent in her lust for vengeance against those she thought were responsible for Lex's downfall. She blamed Lois, and of course, Superman. A chill quickly passed through Clark as the thought that Arianna might know he was Superman. He shook the thought off. No sense worrying about that until he knew for sure, and even then it wouldn't matter. He had to find Lois. That was all that mattered to him.
Clark was jolted out of his reverie by Jimmy's prompt. "Oh yeah, well, as it happens, Lois' wedding rings are at the jeweler's for some minor repair and a cleaning. So, Lois didn't have her rings on today when she was taken. Our kidnapper didn't know this. The tapes were obviously shot before Lois had been taken because the woman on the tape was wearing copies of Lois' rings."
"Wow," Jimmy exclaimed in awe. "So obviously the woman on the tape wasn't Lois. CK, you are the man. I never would have picked up on that."
Clark smiled at his excitable friend. "Well I did have the advantage of Lois and I having a bit of a discussion about the fact that she didn't have her rings on just his morning." Clark checked the mirror again and made a lane change. "So fill me in about Arianna's prison break."
"Well there's really not much to tell. Apparently Arianna escaped from the New Troy Woman's Correctional Facility about three days ago. The powers that be have been withholding the information from the general public for who knows why. Bill Henderson felt that you and Lois, and I guess Superman, should know so he called the Planet. When he couldn't get you or Lois on the phone, he talked to Perry. He didn't give any details, just that Dr. Carlin had escaped and that Perry should let you guys know. I got the impression from what Perry said that Henderson was acting in a very unofficial capacity." Jimmy grinned. "So, anyway, when Perry couldn't raise either of you on the phone he sent me, I grabbed a cab and came as soon as I could." Jimmy looked over at Clark and frowned as the jeep pulled up in front of the Daily Planet building. "Say, CK, don't you think we should be going to the police with this? I mean Henderson is going to want to know that Lois has been kidnapped and that tape is definitely evidence."
Clark turned and stuck his keys into Jimmy's hand. "You're absolutely right, Jim. Go back to my place, grab the tape and head for police headquarters. Find Henderson and tell him what happened. Tell him I'll be down a bit later. I'll fill the chief in, and I need to see if anyone else has tried to contact me. Then I'm going to make a few phone calls to see if I can get any information as to where our felonious doctor might be hiding."
Lois shook her head to clear it. She had to stay alert. Ari Carlin and her goon had been gone for quite some time but Lois knew they'd be back, and she had to be ready. She had taken the table and had pushed it up against the wall on the left side of the door. She had then taken the extension cord that had been used on the TV/VCR and had securely tied it around one leg of the table. Lois had tested the knot several times to make sure it was secure. After she was satisfied, she tied the other end of the cord to the chair leg which she had situated on the right hand side of the door. Lois held the back of the chair in her hands and waited. She thanked whatever gods that watched over wayward reporters that the door was one that opened out.
She didn't know how long she had waited but Lois was finally rewarded when she heard a sound coming from the other side of the door. She took a firm grip on the chair and readied herself. The door swung open and Dr. Carlin and her 'friend' began to enter. Lois pulled back on the chair as hard as she could which caused the extension cord to become taut at about one foot off the floor. It had the effect that Lois had intended. Both Ari Carlin and her compatriot stumbled over the cord as they entered the room. The chair was nearly yanked out of Lois' hands as the two tumbled to the floor. Lois proceeded to implement the second phase of her plan which was to take the chair and smash it over the head of Ari's goon. Having completed that step, she proceeded with the final part of her plan which was to bolt out the door and keep running without a backward glance.
Lois heard Ari shouting for her pet thug to get up and go after Lois, but unfortunately she wasn't able to see Dr. Carlin pull a phone from her coat and speak some instructions into it. Lois just ran. As she neared the end of the current hallway she was traversing, she could see that it branched in two directions. Not wanting to slow down and check out each way, she decided before she got there that she was going to take the right turn and continue on with out slowing down. Wrong choice.
Lois rounded the corner and was immediately met by a massive hand which grabbed her by the throat and half lifted her off the ground. The impact of the blow threatened to choke all the air from her as she hung limply in the grasp of another very large goon. Once she regained her breath she began to struggle and lash out at the fellow with her feet and hands. He just smiled at her efforts. He held her out at arms length as he directed her back the way she had come.
Once they were back in the featureless room, Lois noticed that the table had been removed as had the TV/VCR and the extension cord. Obviously the other goon had taken them out since Lois didn't see him there. Ari just nodded toward another chair, which had been brought in to replace the one Lois had abused, and the large fellow roughly shoved Lois down into the it. He then proceeded to secure her to the chair with strips of heavy duct tape. Lois glared at Arianna.
"A valiant effort, Lois, but one I'm afraid that was doomed to failure." Ari smiled. "You see, Lois, I'm not exactly alone in this operation."
"Really," Lois spat out the word. "So what now? Now that your plan to make Clark and I suffer with those bogus tapes has backfired, what's next? Do you just kill me?"
Arianna's smile became positively wolf like. "Oh no, Lois, I have other plans for you. Actually I think it might just work to my advantage that Clark knows that you're not dead, because that will mean that Superman will soon know that you are not dead." Arianna chuckled. "It will now be much simpler to lure Superman to his death with you as live bait, rather than just vengeance as a motive, don't you think?"
"You know I won't help you lure Superman here." Lois continued to glare at Ari Carlin, perhaps subconsciously trying to make true the old adage, 'if looks could kill'.
"Of course you won't my dear, but that will all be explained in due time." Arianna strolled over to within a few paces of Lois, the big guy only a pace behind her. "I imagine you have several questions?"
Lois cocked an eyebrow at her. "And you want to answer them?"
"Lois, I'm a clinical psychologist. It's my job to try and help people find enlightenment. Of course, I can't help those who don't want my help, so if you aren't interested?"
"Okay, okay, I want to know," Lois admitted through clenched teeth. "First, who were the people that you brutally murdered just to provoke reactions from Clark and me?"
Arianna laughed. "The truth is, Lois, I have no idea." Ari began to pace. "As you know I'm a woman of considerable resources. I not only have made a great deal of money on my own, but Lex did set me up with a considerable divorce settlement as well. I'm sure you're aware of ACL corporation and the annuity that it managed for my personal use?" At Lois' nod Arianna continued. "Well, it seems that ACL corporation was recently acquired by a large concern. These people have INTERnational interests in many, shall we say, GANGland activities. Once they had control of ACL corporation, they found out about me. To their credit they realized that I could be a definite asset to them so they arranged for my release in exchange for my handling a certain task for them. A task, I might add, which I most wholeheartedly agreed to undertake. As part of the negotiations and conditions for my *release* from prison, I asked for doubles of the infamous Lane and Kent be placed at my disposal. They were there and ready when I was released. I never knew who they really were and I didn't care. I had them, and used them for what I needed."
Lois had to swallow the bile which threatened to rise up in her throat as she listened to such a callous disregard for human life. She forced her physical reaction to be nothing more than a sigh of remorse. She looked up into the face of Ari Carlin and saw no such remorse there.
Lois shook her head. "So why drug me? I am assuming that the bitterness in my morning coffee was your doing." At Arianna's smile Lois continued. "Was it just to reinforce the actions of the video to anyone who saw me leave the Planet complaining about not feeling well?"
"Partly. I was hoping that Clark, seeing you suddenly take ill like that, would put the necessary pieces together and come up with the proper conclusion."
"But Clark was out when I left. He never saw me leave."
"Whatever, anyway, as I said, that was part of it. The other reason was much more practical." Arianna grinned. "It made you much more tractable, Lois. We originally thought we might have to drag you half conscious out of your home, but imagine our surprise when you walked practically right up to us outside the Planet building. And you do have to admit, Lois, it did affect your thought processes. I mean, once Tony showed you his gun, you meekly got into the car. Not once did it cross your mind to shout your favorite phrase."
Lois looked at Arianna with a questioning look.
Lois mentally kicked herself. How could she have been so stupid. she probably could have out run Tony the goon long enough to shout for help, or even make it back into the Planet. Instead she just got into the car like some meek lamb being led to slaughter. She shook off the thought. She was drugged and that was past. She had to concentrate on the now, and how to extradite herself from this situation.
"Okay, I know why your showed me a video. You have this mistaken impression that I caused Lex's downfall, which is crap. But why show one to Clark? He had nothing to do with Lex and I."
Arianna, who had stopped her pacing a few minutes back, began again. "Oh come now, Lois. I may have been in prison, but that doesn't mean I was oblivious to the outside world. I heard all about Gretchen's revival of Lex and his subsequent capture and later his death. I know of the roles you, Clark, and Superman played in that final chapter. I also found out that Mr. Kent was instrumental in exposing Lex's nefarious schemes in the first place." Arianna stopped and stared hard at Lois. "Lois, you were a fool. Lex continued to profess his love for you and his willingness to do anything for you, but what did you do? You continued to reject him for that — that, mild-mannered reporter partner of yours. No, Lois, Clark Kent owes me his pound of flesh too, and I mean to get it some way." Her smile turned evil. "I don't think he'll be too thrilled with the plans I have in store for you."
Arianna laughed. "Oh, Lois, you are so transparent." Arianna shook her head as if enjoying a private joke. "You see, Lois, for all you may profess to love your husband dearly, I know you still harbor deep feelings for a certain man of steel." Arianna laughed again when she saw Lois bite down on her lip. "Oh, yes, you remember our session together, don't you? I knew then that you would never get over the feelings you had for Superman anymore than I could get over my feelings for Lex. That is why it's going to be such delicious irony that you are going to be instrumental in my plan to destroy Superman."
Lois gave Arianna her best look of defiance. "I won't help you in any way."
Arianna's laugh sent a shiver down Lois' spine. "You won't have to, Lois, because you see, *you* are going to be the weapon I use to kill Superman."
Clark Kent sat in a chair across the desk from Inspector Henderson. He was trying his best to hold onto his temper but was close to losing it. Clark clenched and unclenched his fists repeatedly as he fought to control his anger before he spoke again.
"Come on, Bill, you've got to tell me more than that. Lois has been kidnapped by that psycho Dr. Arianna Carlin and you're feeding me the company line!"
Henderson held his hand up in front of Clark. "Hold on, Kent, I can imagine how you feel, but I don't know any more. I'm not in the loop on this. It's being handled by the organized crime boys upstairs."
"Organized crime?" Clark looked perplexed. "Why are they involved?"
"Rumor has it, Intergang is involved somehow." Henderson pointed his finger up toward the upper floors. "Once the word was out that Lois had been kidnapped and that it was probably Arianna Carlin who did it, word came down from on high. OCU was in charge and everyone else was to turn over whatever they had, and but out." Henderson scratched his ear as he wet his lips. "As it is, I'm taking a chance just talking to you now. You are supposed to be upstairs talking to them, not me."
Clark snorted in disgust. "If Gomez is OCU then I've already wasted a half and hour talking to him. It was a pretty one sided conversation. He wasn't exactly forthcoming with any details." Clark shook his head. "How do they figure Intergang is connected?"
"Not sure. The escape was a very organized, slick operation. Carlin has a lot of money, but someone had to plan this down to the finest detail and the execution was smooth as silk." Henderson sighed. "No, this was definitely a very professional job."
Clark stared at his feet for a couple of moments, then he looked up. "Any chance of identifying the woman in the video?"
Henderson just shook his head. "No, not unless we find a body. We do know that it's not the same gal that Carlin used the last time she made trouble for Lois. She's still in prison."
Clark gave Henderson a half smile. "From what I hear they didn't exactly part as good friends at the end of that nasty business."
"No, I don't suppose they did." Henderson looked at his friend and he could only imagine what Clark was going through. He knew how much in love Lois and Clark were, and he was afraid of what might happen to Clark if Lois should come to any permanent harm from this.
Clark got up and began to pace. "So, Bill, what am I supposed to do in the meantime? What do I do while your OCU boys sit on their cans waiting for a clue to drop on their heads, and my wife continues to be held captive by a sick, twisted murderer? What do I do while my very reason for existing is at the mercy of someone who murders some poor innocent dupe just to provoke a reaction from me?"
Henderson sighed and just shook his head again. "Just go home, Clark. I won't tell you to get some rest because I know you won't. It's late, and I don't see anything more happening tonight. Didn't you tell me that you and Perry decided to make public the fact that Lois had been kidnapped and that it was known that the tape was bogus?" Henderson continued after Clark nodded. "Well, maybe you should be somewhere where Arianna Carlin can reach you if she should decide to contact you."
Clark ran his hand through his hair. "I suppose you're right, Bill, and thanks for all your help." Clark reached over and shook the inspector's hand. "You'll let me know if you hear anything, right?"
Henderson released Clark's hand. "Of course, I'll do what ever I can." He clapped a hand on Clark's shoulder. "Go on home. I'll call you if I hear *anything* about Lois."
Clark nodded, turned toward the door and quickly left the police inspector's office. Henderson was right. The Planet article was due to hit the streets come morning, so Clark figured home would be the best place for him at this time. He could do some more research from his home computer, do a thorough air search as Superman, and if he was unsuccessful, he could be back at the Planet by the time the reaction to the morning edition was the hot topic around water coolers everywhere. It wasn't much, but at least it was a plan, of sorts.
"Good morning, Lois, did you sleep well?"
Lois tried to shake the cobwebs out of her brain. Her headache seemed to have gone, but for some reason her buttocks and breasts were sore. As her eyes cleared she saw Arianna Carlin standing over her with a sickly smug smile on her face. Lois tried to turn away but suddenly realized that she was strapped to some sort of table. Turning her head slightly she could see she was on what appeared to be an operating table. Lois repressed a shiver. She tried her best not to think what this twisted doctor might have in mind for her, but, of course she couldn't let it go.
"So what's next?" Lois' voice cracked slightly. "I don't suppose you'd consider asking for a ransom?"
Ari Carlin's smile was enough to make one's skin crawl. "No, Lois, I think you are much better suited as bait." Arianna walked over to a nearby table and picked up a flask. It contained a green colored liquid which seemed to glow very faintly. "Do you know what this is, Lois?"
Lois had a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "I could guess, but since you are so good at enlightening people — enlighten me."
Ari laughed. "Oh, Lois, you are such a delight. Defiant to the end." She swirled the fluid around in the clear glass beaker. "What you see here is the latest in anti-Superman technology. This, my dear Lois, is liquid kryptonite."
Lois closed her eyes and let her head drop, the whispered words escaped on their own. "Liquid kryptonite?"
"Well, it's not a true liquid. Kryptonite's crystalline structure can't be actually liquefied, but it can be ground nearly microscopically fine and suspended in this saline solution. For all practical purposes it acts as a liquid."
Lois shook her head in disgust. "Why is it every one with any kind of grudge against Superman can seem to come up with some kryptonite. How much of that stuff is out there?"
Arianna laughed again. "Really, Lois, there is less than you might think, but as I mentioned before, my benefactors are *very* well connected. Not only are they able to locate specimens of this rare material, but, if need be, they are able to persuade others to part with any that they might have."
"I'm glad you are so enthusiastic, Ms. Lane, because you are instrumental to this whole operation."
Lois looked at Arianna as if she had grown an extra head. "You can't really believe that I'd do anything to help you?" Lois began to strain against the straps which held her.
Arianna strolled over and patted Lois on the cheek. "But, Lois, my dear, you already have." Her smile became positively carnivorous as she showed Lois a syringe full of the liquid kryptonite. "Do you have some soreness, Lois? Say in the regions of your rear and breasts?" Arianna walked around the table that Lois was strapped to, such that Lois could no longer see her now that Arianna was behind her. "Did you know, Lois, that doctors when confronted with people who have veins that are in bad condition will sometimes inject the fluids directly into the individual's fatty tissues. Places like the thigh, abdomen, buttocks, or even the breasts. It does takes longer to pass through your system that way, but that suits our purposes quite well."
Lois stared at Arianna, then down at her own body in horror. "What are you saying?" Lois' voice was weak, and shaky.
"Let's just say that your womanly charms have been enhanced." Dr. Carlin gave the syringe a little squeeze and watched Lois' terrified expression. "Yes, you understand now don't you, Lois. You've been injected with the liquid kryptonite." Arianna moved back to the table and set down the syringe. "You have become my weapon against Superman. You have become living kryptonite!"
Clark hurried off the elevator as the doors opened to the newsroom floor. He quickly checked his email, and any messages that might have been left on his desk. There was nothing. He had stayed home as long as he had dared. All the morning television news programs had picked up the story about Lois' kidnapping. Speculations were rampant. Clark hadn't put Arianna's name in the article because they had no actual proof that she had done it. Coupled with the fact that the police still hadn't released any official word on her escape, Clark wasn't able to do more than list several of the more recent people who had a grudge against Lois and Clark. It was quite a long list so the TV news media was having a field day guessing who was behind the kidnapping and what the motives were. One idiot even speculated that Lex Luthor had come back from the dead yet again to complicate the lives of Metropolis' hottest reporting team. Clark was almost amused by how close the fellow actually was.
Clark hadn't had any luck as Superman. He'd flown in circles around the city for hours last night x-raying everything and anything that looked at all suspicious or odd. He then spent hours on the internet searching out possible leads to connect to Arianna Carlin. The only thing he did find were some vague references to ACL corporation and some kind of merger or takeover, but all trails lead to dead ends. After waiting for a time, Clark figured that if Arianna was going to contact him it would be here, at the Daily Planet. Clark saw Jimmy approach down the ramp.
"Hey, CK, any luck yet?" Jimmy grabbed Clark's arm in a gesture of support. "Heard anything? Tracked down any clues to Dr. Carlin's whereabouts?"
Clark shook his head sadly. "No, I'm afraid not Jimmy, though I did seem to find some hints that something has been going on with ACL corporation." At Jimmy's blank expression, Clark explained. "You remember, Jim, that was the corporation that managed Ari Carlin's affairs."
"Oh, yeah, I remember now. Do you want me to go online and see if I have any luck tracing anything?" Jimmy gave Clark a playful punch in the arm. "You may know your way around the computer, but let's face it, who's the expert here?"
Before Clark could tell Jimmy to go for it they were interrupted by Perry White sticking his head out of his office's door. "Clark, Jimmy, in my office."
"So exactly where are we at?" Asked Perry once the two men had stepped into his office. "Are we any closer to finding Lois, or this Carlin woman?"
"I'm afraid not, Chief. I asked Superman to do some checking over the city last night, but he came up empty."
"That's not good — what in tarnation?"
Perry had been interrupted by one of the staffers barging his way in. Once he saw the look on his editor's face he stammered out his words as fast as he could.
"Sor — Sorry, Mr. White, there's a messenger out here that says he has to see Mr. Kent right away."
All three of them went out into the bullpen area outside Perry's office. Clark saw a young man, obviously a bicycle messenger, standing near the elevators, staring at his watch. Clark approached him. He looked up as he became aware of Clark's presence.
"You Clark Kent?" Clark nodded. "Sign here."
Clark quickly signed, and gave the youth a buck. Muttering under his breath the messenger pushed the call button for the elevator. Clark was only too familiar with the type of plain wrapped package that the messenger had given him. Without a word of explanation Clark hurried over to the conference room, tearing off the plain wrapper as he went. As Perry and Jimmy entered the room, closing the door behind them, they saw Clark putting another video into the machine in the conference room. The picture cleared within moments.
"Good morning, Mr. Kent. As you know, my name is Arianna Carlin Luthor. The woman behind me is your wife, Lois Lane."
The figure of Ari Carlin indicated a scene behind her. Clark's face paled as he saw his wife trussed up like a thanksgiving day turkey suspended by a thin wire from some sort of scaffolding that jutted out over what looked to be a very large open pit of some sort. Clark recognized the place as the old Lampson Quarry. It had been abandoned some years ago when they could no longer get high grade quarry stone for construction purposes from it. Lois was suspended from a timber framed structure which had an arm jutting about ten feet over the edge of the edge of the quarry rim. Clark couldn't see from the tape how deep the drop was under Lois, but he was sure it was significant.
"It's been said that you have a way to contact Superman, seemingly at a moments notice." The video image of Dr. Carlin continued. "I do hope that's true, because, if I were you I get in touch with him now. You see, at exactly 10:00 A.M. a small explosive device will be triggered, which will sever the thin cable holding Ms. Lane in the air. I'm sure you can guess what would happen next." Arianna gave the camera her best wolfish smile. "Bye now."
"Great Shades of Elvis, look at the time!" Perry pointed to the wall clock which read 9:59:30. "Clark, I don't know how you'll … Clark?"
The door to the conference room hung open and there was no Clark to be seen. Jimmy looked around the room like he'd lost something. Perry just shook his head and pursed his lips. After a few moments of deep thought, Perry grabbed Jimmy by the arm.
"Jimmy, I just remembered that place. It's the old Lampson Quarry, about thirty miles out of town on county 127." Perry steered Jimmy out the door as he continued to talk. "I want you to head out there as fast as you can. I'll call Bill Henderson and fill him in. So the police should be right behind you."
"Right, Chief." Jimmy began to run up the ramp.
"Oh, and, Jimmy…" Jimmy turned. "Pray that Clark reaches Superman in time."
Superman approached the quarry at a breakneck speed. Still Clark took a few seconds to scope out the situation. The Lampson Quarry was a very large hole in the ground. It was probably a mile across by three hundred feet deep at its lowest point. The switch backed ramped roadway for the haulers was on the far side and a large pile of rubble and discarded rock and debris, called scree, was piled nearly to the rim's edge in a steep rise from the bottom over near where Lois was dangling. Unfortunately, immediately under her was a drop of over two hundred feet. Next to the scaffolding that held Lois were three small buildings. Clark figured he had about ten seconds left, so he was about to scan those buildings for any added complications when he heard a small explosion.
Lois had been bound hands and feet, and gagged. A couple of straps under her arms had been fastened to a thin cable which had been attached to the overhanging arm of the scaffold. A small explosive had been placed at the junction of the timber arm and the cable. It was supposed to have been set to go off at exactly ten, but Arianna, true to her nature, had gone back on that and had set off the charge early. Clark could hear Lois' heavily muffled scream as she dropped into empty space.
Clark put on a burst of speed to overtake her, but suddenly he began to feel weak. As he got a little closer, pain began to shoot through him in waves. His flight got erratic for a second, but he caught himself and forced himself to continue. There could only be one explanation. They had placed some kryptonite on Lois somewhere.
It didn't matter to Clark. There was no way he was going to let Lois die, kryptonite or no. He pushed himself a little harder and finally caught up with her. It took nearly everything he had to not cry out in pain when he wrapped his arms around Lois and cradled her close to him. He could barely see her shaking her head, no, no,no, through the dark haze that was enveloping his eyes. He knew his powers were fading fast, especially his power of flight. He concentrated on blocking out the pain and flew upward toward the rim's edge. To anyone watching, his flight path looked like that of a drunken sailor trying to negotiate a carnival ride. But through sheer determination they made it to the rim and collapsed in a heap near the steeply sloping rubble pile.
Lois tried desperately to untangle herself from Clark's embrace. Her only thought was to get as far away from him as possible. Just as she was about to succeed she was grabbed from behind and held by two strong hands. She watched as the one Arianna had called Tony quickly went over and held a damp cloth against Superman's nose and mouth. Lois could smell the stink of the chloroform from where she was being held. Arianna came up, her expression one of smug satisfaction.
"We can't have Superman performing anymore last minute heroics with his fading powers, now can we, Lois?" She gestured to her two goons and they set about their appointed tasks.
Lois was manhandled to the point of not being able to focus on the events as they happened. When it was over she found herself tied securely to Superman face to face. Her hands were tied tightly behind his back, as his were behind hers. Their feet were tied together and then to each others in such a manner that if they weren't held up by the goons they would have fallen over.
"Well, Lois, what do you think of my plan now?" Arianna reached over and yanked the tape off Lois' mouth. "Won't Clark think this is cozy now. I'll let you whisper sweet nothings in Superman's ears as your kryptonian enhancements slowly drain the life from the man of steel." Arianna patted Lois on the cheek again. "Don't let anyone tell you that revenge isn't sweet, Lois. I find this absolutely delicious." Arianna made a motion of dismissal toward her two large toadies with her one hand.
Tears were flowing down Lois' face as she placed her lips against the unresponsive lips of her husband for what she thought might be the last time. "I'm sorry." Suddenly they were pushed down, and Lois found themselves tumbling awkwardly and painfully down the steep slope of the pile of stone rubble toward the quarry bottom over two hundred feet below, while Arianna's cruel laughter echoed in her ears.
Lois couldn't help but cough as the dust, created by their long tumble down the steep rubble pile of rock scree, settled around them. The end of their fall had been abrupt and painful as after what seemed like a long time they finally reached the bottom of the quarry with her lying on top of Clark. Lois could feel that her hands, which had been securely tied behind Clark's back were shredded and bloody from the rough trip down. From the wetness she felt on her own back, she knew that Clark's hands were in a similar state. Her labored breathing brought sharp stabs of pain with each breath which told her that her ribs were at least bruised if not worse. Also she found her vision a bit blurry and she had a monster of a headache. Great, she thought to herself, another concussion possible. What was it about her and getting conked on the head. For all the aches and pains, she was still alive. The fact that Clark was bleeding worried her because that meant that much of his invulnerability had been lost already, and if they stayed tied together much longer that was not all that would be lost. She knew that by the time anyone else made it out here to help, it would be too late for Clark. Arianna would have her perfect revenge. Lois Lane would have killed Superman. If only Arianna knew the truth, it would've been even sweeter for her because not only would Lois have been the instrument of the death of Superman, but also the death of her beloved husband Clark Kent.
"Oh, Clark, I'm so sorry."
Lois tried to struggle and pull at the bindings that held her. The tightness of the knots along with the weight of Clark on her arms made it impossible to gain any leverage or advantage. She knew that unless Clark woke up soon enough to still be able to help it would be hopeless, and he would continue to succumb to the effects of the Kryptonite until it was too late. Even unconscious, Lois could see the lines of agony on Clark's face. She began to cry in frustration over the situation and fear over the fact that she was losing the only thing that really mattered in her life. The only thing that gave any real meaning to her life. She hadn't known it at the time, but before she accepted and embraced Clark's love and returned it, she was little more than a mannequin that could type. She even realized that all those award winning stories she wrote before she knew Clark were just facts and figures. She had never really understood the motivations and emotions behind the flashy headline. Clark's love had given her that understanding. He had allowed her to find a part of herself that previously hadn't been utilized, heck, probably never had existed. He showed her that things weren't always black and white, that there were several shades of gray colored by human needs and emotions that had to be considered as well. And the funny thing is, once Lois was able to perceive those shades of gray the black and whites were sharper also.
She stared at the face of the gentlest man she would ever know and wondered how she would be able to continue on without him. Her tears began to fall in earnest. One particularly fat tear escaped Lois' eye to splash down on one of Clark's closed lids. Lois sucked in a breath when she saw that eyelid twitch. Could it be, she wondered.
"Clark?" There was no response.
Suddenly Lois flashed back to their previous encounter with Arianna Carlin. Lois had been sedated when Superman had arrived, but from what Clark had told her, he had been too confident and was shocked when the kryptonite bullet had hit him in the shoulder. He had lain on the floor in pain calling out her name but she hadn't responded. In desperation he had hit upon an idea. His heat vision still seemed to work somewhat so he had focused it on a fish tank above Lois' head and had burned a small hole in the side of the glass tank. It had been enough to cause a stream of water to fall onto her face which had the effect of awaking her. Could it work again? Lois let go of all the control she'd been exerting over her emotions and forcibly thought of worst case scenarios. Clark dying, her being alone the rest of her life, her parents, no more Kerth awards. She let it all come rushing to the surface and soon her crying was coming in sobs that threatened to take her breath away. Tears in great numbers found themselves ending up on Clark's face.
"Come on, Clark," the sobs continued. "You've got to wake up!"
Lois had begun to hiccup and so had almost missed it when Clark began to groan. "Clark, Clark, wake up, please darling, you've got to wake up!" He moaned this time, obviously still in pain. Tears still fell from Lois' eyes but now they were more tears of hope. His eyes opened, but it was clear that he was in great pain.
"Lois?" he asked through clenched teeth.
"Oh, Clark, there's no time to explain, but Arianna Carlin injected me with liquid kryptonite and then when you rescued me from falling you became exposed and then they tied us together and pushed us over the side of the quarry. We are on the bottom but we are still tightly tied together and if I don't get away from you soon, it will be to late and you could die. Clark you've got to use your heat vision to burn away the ropes that have us bound together. Please say you still have some heat vision left." Lois hadn't taken a breath.
Even through clouds of pain, a groggy Clark looked at his wife in amazement. "What?"
"Quick, don't argue. Just burn through these ropes."
Clark finally caught on to what Lois had been babbling about. A quick check showed that he still had some heat vision left. He craned his head around so he could see where his hands had been tied behind Lois. He also checked to see how their legs had been tied together. He sighed, but whether in pain or despair, one couldn't tell.
"Lois, I can't use my heat vision."
A broken sob escaped from Lois. "Is it gone too?"
"No, not yet, but if I use it to burn the ropes I could injure you."
"What! Listen, I don't care if you set me on fire, burn these ropes free!"
Lois could feel the heat on her back as Clark turned his vision on his own tied hands first. Her blouse began to smoke, but suddenly a blast of cool air kept it from igniting. Apparently he still had some of his super breath too. It had felt nice against her back, but she knew that once this was over she would have, at least, the equivalent of a bad sunburn in the small of her back. Her ankles began to feel rather warm now too. She bit her lip so as not to cry out in pain because she knew Clark was having a hard enough time as it was. She really hated it when she sunburned her ankles so she knew what this was going to feel like. Again a blast of super cool breath eased the sting of the burn. Clark moaned again and fell back in obvious pain and exhaustion from the effort. It was awkward but Lois managed to get her feet untangled from Clark's. His own hands now lay spread out on the ground beside him.
It took everything she had, and the blood pounding in her head caused it to ache fiercely while little stars made their way across her field of vision, but she was able to get Clark to almost seated posture. She held him that way just long enough to slip her own bound hands over his head and rolled away from him as he fell back to lie unmoving on the ground. Her emotions warred with her. Was he going to be all right? Was it too late? His complexion seemed almost a little green. As much as her heart cried out for her to stay and comfort him, she knew she had to get as far away, as quickly as possible. So with little regard for a spinning field of vision, painful labored breathing, bloody hands still tied together in front of her, and legs that complained of such ill use, she took off in a stumbling run toward the far side of the quarry. Her only thought was to put as much distance between her kryptonite poisoned body and Clark.
After what seemed like hours, but was in reality only a few minutes, Lois stumbled to a halt beside a large rock that was jutting up out of the ground. She half sat and half fell onto the convenient, if uncomfortable, natural bench. She glanced back to the base of the scree pile where she had so recently spent a life time. Clark was beginning to stir. She watched as he used the nearby rock rubble to come to a hands and knees position. He shook his head a couple of times and looked around until he spied her siting on her rock several hundred yards from him. They were too far away from each other to see anything but large physical movements. She could just imagine what was going through his mind because it was probably the same thing that was going through hers. They both wanted desperately to rush into each other's arms and caress and comfort each other, but the logical parts of their brain's told them that such would not be a wise move. Clark began to half crawl and half float his way up the sloped scree pile. He seemed to get stronger as he neared the top. Once at the top he was able to stand upright. Lois wondered how she was going to get back to the top. She was in no physical condition to make such a climb herself.
As those thoughts were going through Lois' head she saw Clark suddenly turn and look off in the other direction. Very soon he was joined by someone who could only be Jimmy. Lois watched as Superman and Jimmy talked. She saw Clark point to where she was sitting and then saw him point over to the other side of the quarry. Lois turned to see what he had been pointing at and saw the switch backed roadway which had been the means for the heavy trucks to haul the quarried stone out of the pit. When she turned back there seemed to be some flashing lights back >from the rim, far enough for her not to be able to tell their source, but that question was soon answered as a trenchcoated figure came into view. With the hat on Lois couldn't be sure, but she guessed it was Inspector Henderson. He spent a few minutes talking to Superman also, then turned and gave some instructions to someone who was out of Lois' line of sight. She hoped they got someone here to help her out soon. She was cold, sore, tired, in a great deal of pain, and suprizingly hungry. She saw Superman look back in her direction and give her a comforting wave for the benefit of the audience as he slowly began to drift upward. He was a bit shaky in his flight but Lois heaved a sigh of relief over the fact that he flew at all. That meant that he was recovering, and that's all that mattered.
Lois gave him a return wave. "I don't know if you can hear me Clark, but I love you very much, and I'll see you soon." As Superman slowly flew off Lois added, "I hope."
Lois scrunched back into her pillow in her bed at Metropolis General. She held the morning's copy of The Daily Planet in her heavily bandaged hands. It was a front page story, but Lois was perversely disappointed that it wasn't a banner headline. 'Kidnapped Planet Reporter Found' had to share the front page with some silly UN peace conference. Checking the byline, Lois had to smile. Jimmy positively had to be bursting with pride. His first major story byline and he had a front page article. For once Lois wasn't the least bit jealous. It had been hard enough filling Jimmy in on all that had happened the past couple of days without having to write it up herself which, of course, was presently physically impossible. She set the paper aside as she saw her guests come through the door.
"How are you doing, honey?" Perry's southern drawl was more in evidence, as it usually was when he wasn't in 'boss mode'.
Lois smiled. "Hi, Perry, Jimmy," she acknowledged the young man trailing behind the chief. "Well, let's see. I've got a mild concussion, three bruised ribs, one cracked rib, mild burns on my back and ankles from Superman's heat vision, and, oh yeah, I won't be typing up any stories for a few days." She grinned as she held up her bandaged hands.
Perry came over and placed a fatherly hand on her arm. "No, I mean, how are *you* doing?"
Lois' heart warmed at Perry's concern. "I'm doing all right, Chief, really." She sighed once then turned her smile back to Perry. "Doctor Klein, from Star Labs, has been here and he and the hospital doctors think that my body will pass the kryptonite naturally like it would any drug or foreign substance within another day or so. Doctor Klein says that even though Kryptonite doesn't seem to affect us regular earth types, it is mildly radioactive and as such he'll be able to rig up a way to detect it within my body. That way they will know when it has been completely passed, and I'll no longer be a threat to Superman." Lois heaved another sigh. "Though the doctors do insist I stay for some extra tests, just to make sure that my kidneys or any other organs didn't suffer any permanent damage from the kryptonite. Things look good though."
"That's great, Lois." Jimmy chimed in from the foot of her bed. "Hey, where's, CK, I would have thought that he'd be here?"
"Oh, yeah, well he was, but — ah," Lois' look became guarded. "It happens that Jonathan is pretty sick, and Martha needs Clark's help on the farm for a few days."
Perry looked a little surprised. "He went home to Smallville while you're in the hospital? Don't the Kent's have some neighbors that can help?"
"Yeah, well that's the way Clark was thinking, but since it looks like I'll be fine, and I'm not going anywhere for at least another day or two, I told him he should go and help his folks. I told him I'd be fine. Besides…" Lois grabbed Perry's hand. "I have friends here that will make sure I'll be okay." Lois laughed at Perry's blush, but then her countenance got serious. "Has there been any word on Arianna, or her goons yet?"
"Not much. Once Superman got his strength back he did a quick search of the area but he didn't find any sign of them. The hired help, a pair of brothers, were picked up at the airport trying to leave town, but there hasn't been any word on the whereabouts of Dr. Carlin."
Everyone's attention was suddenly distracted by a knocking on the room's door jam. A smiling Inspector Henderson stood in the doorway. He pulled off his hat as he made his way into the room to join the group.
"I might be able to shed some light on that last comment, Perry." Henderson smiled toward Lois and at her nod, continued. "It seems that the boys down at the 23th precinct pulled a body out of the Hobbs River this morning. The initial identification is one Arianna Carlin Luthor. It looks like her new benefactors didn't take kindly to her botched attempt at eliminating Superman. We have no real proof, but we feel strongly that Intergang was behind her escape and we all know how Intergang rewards failure."
Lois frowned only slightly. "I can't say I… " She was interrupted by the ringing of the phone on the night stand. She picked it up. "Hi, honey." She placed her hand over the mouthpiece and addressed her guests. "It's Clark."
Perry quickly took the hint. "Well, we'd all better be going. You and Clark have a nice chat, then you'd better get some rest young lady." Perry gave Lois a wink as he shooed the others out the door as they shouted their goodbyes over their shoulders.
"Where are you?" Lois asked.
"About six hundred feet straight above you." If anyone had chanced to look in the right direction they would have seen a brightly clad figure hanging motionless in the air high above Met General with a cell phone pressed against his ear.
"Did you hear about Arianna?"
"Yeah, but we know about her and her fondness for doubles. I won't feel confident that she's out of the picture until they make a positive ID and even then I won't be sure."
"Oh, Clark, I'm sure we no longer have anything to worry about — from her." Lois slid down to a fully reclined position in the bed. "So, what have you been doing while my husband's away in Smallville?"
Clark chuckled. "I heard what you told Perry and Jimmy. Nice save, again." Clark's tone became a little wistful. "Most of my time, between infrequent rescues, has been spent floating high above Metropolis General hospital spying on the most beautiful patient I've ever seen."
"Okay, buster, who is she? You obviously aren't talking about me since I look like I'd been kidnapped by crazy woman, tied to a super hero and thrown into a rock quarry." The big smile on Lois' face belied her words.
"I really miss you."
"I miss you too, Lois, but the doctors are sure that the kryptonite will be gone from your body soon and then we can be together again."
"We are going to have some lost time to make up for big guy." Lois' mouth curved into a mischievous smile. "You know what I'm going to do the minute I get you alone?"
Clark's tone became wary. "What?"
Lois hung up the phone, turned to her pillow and whispered something into it that only a person with super powers could have any chance of hearing.
An office worker in a nearby high rise who'd spotted Superman hovering over the hospital, talking into a phone, suddenly giggled as she noticed the Man of Steel's face suddenly become as red as his cape.
(This humble writer would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank fanfic goddess Nan Smith for her help with how injections of a tance like liquid kryptonite might react in a body. Thanks Nan)