The Long Night

By Benjamin McElwain < >

Rated: PG

Submitted: July 2001

Summary: A meteorite causes a long night of problems for Superman.

I give permission for this to be made available to the public on the site I sent it to.

Standard disclaimer: I don't own the characters of L&C. However if you don't want them anymore let's start the biding. I bid one dollar.


Superman flew through the predawn sky. It had been a long night. It had started with a volcanic eruption which had been dangerously close to a Nepalese city. Then he had averted a plane crash … and finally a mugging in which the perp actually tried to shoot him. His flight path had conspired to keep him in darkness for almost eighteen hours. He could sure feel the strain of his recent activities. He was finding it a much greater effort than usual to stay in the sky. Superman was also flying much slower than usual. He landed on a rooftop to catch his breath.

/Maybe I should just take a cab./ Superman looked around at the city to get a better fix on his position. /Hmmm. I'm closer to Lois's apartment than my own I bet she would be thrilled to let Superman sleep on her couch. No, I can't risk long term exposure to Lois while in the suit. She might realise the resemblance to her partner./

Superman moved to the edge of the building in preparation to embark on the last leg of his journey home when he spotted something up in the sky. /Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Good Lord, I hope it's not a plane./

Tired as he was, Superman launched himself towards the plummeting ball of flame.

As he approached the object, Superman was relieved to see that there was no way this thing had ever been a plane. It was clearly a meteorite. But it was headed towards Metropolis. Superman moved in to push the meteorite out into the bay, but to his surprise, the intense heat drove him back.

Thinking quickly, Superman headed for the spot where he expected the fireball to hit. He only had seconds to act.

Using one of the meditative techniques that he had learned while in the east, he drew energy from every cell in his body and focused it into two highly compacted orbs. Then he opened his eyes and released the energy in an eruption of power.

The beams were so intense they created a thermal boom not unlike that which results from lightning passing through the air. Around him windows shattered, while up in the sky vision met flaming rock and most of the meteorite vaporized under the onslaught. The remainder being of a much denser material, it survived for 1.2 seconds longer before it exploded. That 1.2 seconds allowed the fragment to travel another 300 metres. Superman covered his face as bits of molten rock struck him. He could feel points of agony all over his body Then he was smashed to the ground and the world went black.


Gloria Watson peered out of the remains of her third story bathroom window and gasped at what she saw out in the street. She ran and grabbed the camera from the desk in her den and returned to the window and started snapping pictures as fast as she could.

But as Superman continued to liein the rubble, surrounded by small fires, her journalistic fervour gave way to concern. She could clearly make out the S emblazoned across the chest of the prostrate man and so had not considered his current circumstances to be dangerous. But as she watched she could see his cape start to smolder. She raced out of the apartment pausing, only to grab the fire extinguisher out of the hall.


He awoke to cold and the smell of chemicals. There was a woman standing over him, holding a red tank.

"I'm so sorry, I've never used one of these things before. I came out to help and now I've gotten it all over you."

Superman screamed. Gloria jumped, terrified that she had hurt him, or worse, made him mad. Then she saw the shard of rock sticking out of Superman's left arm. It was almost glowing a dull red but surely that was only a reflection of the firelight. It was obviously causing the Man of Steel a great deal of pain so, acting on instinct, she reached out and pulled the strange rock out of his arm. A great deal of blood and even bits of flesh seemed to come with it. She threw the disgusting rock away with all her might. This seemed to calm him some, but he still had a big hole in his arm as well as a number of other small lacerations. It wasn't bleeding like she thought it would, then she realized that the heat might have cauterized the wound.

He opened his eyes but his gaze was erratic. Then his lips moved and he asked who she was. "My name is Gloria Watson. I work for the Metropolis Star." When he didn't seem to understand, she simplified, "I'm a reporter." This seemed to rally him a bit.

"Lois … I'm hurt… bad …did I stop it?"

Gloria had quickly realized that he thought she was Lois Lane from the Daily Planet. She and her new partner had been racking up exclusives from Superman since he had first appeared. She decided to go along with it, better not put more of a strain on him than there needed to be. But to answer his question…she looked around but was unclear as to exactly what it was. But she decided to hazard a guess. "Yes, You stopped it. You saved us all." She admitted, if only to herself, that the last was a bit of grandstanding but she thought it reasonable, after all anything that could do this to Superman…

"How…long till sun..rise?"

Gloria glanced at her bare arm and back at Superman. Perhaps he wanted to see one last sunrise. Tears filled her eyes. "Soon, the sun will come up real soon. So you hold on, Superman."

She held his hand, hoping that someone else had called for an ambulance. She didn't think she could stand to go back to her apartment. What if he died while she was gone? After all he had done for this city he deserved more than to die alone in the dirt.

"No!… I … don't want that on … the … the stone. I want to… be … remembered for .. who I really.. am ..not… just the suit."

Gloria was shocked. Was it possible there was more to Superman than the public knew? She remembered now, the Daily planet had christened him Superman and he had accepted it. But who had he been before that? She was so preoccupied by these thoughts that she didn't notice that the eastern sky had begun to brighten.

"Don't talk like that, you're going to be just fine."

She wondered now how she could have done it; stood safe in her apartment and taken pictures while this man lay here suffering. She could hear sirens in the distance, she hoped they were coming for him. Though she was not sure what they could do to help. Superman was an alien, nobody knew how he would react to drugs developed for humans. Nor could they give him a transfusion for the same reason. How do you treat a critically ill alien? And that wasn't even considering the problem with his invulnerable skin. Of course that might not be the case at the moment.

The first rays of sunlight began to streak across the sky and this time she noticed. What a shame Superman was facing the wrong way.

Superman felt the arrival of the sun, as a lifeline just out of reach. What little of its energy that was reaching him was serving mainly to bring him around to realizing just how weak he was. An overturned car seemed to be shielding him from the sun's restorative rays. He tried to summon the energy to float but what little power he had left was being used to keep him alive. There was a woman holding his right hand as if she were trying to comfort him.

"Excuse me. I need your help." He saw the woman start but he had no time right now to be concerned with anything other than survival. "I need the sunlight. Can you help me?"


Gloria did not understand why Superman was so fixated on the sun but she would do her best to honour what might be his last request, however strange it might be. For all she knew this might be part of some form of alien last rites.

She found a motorcycle about half a block down the street. She at first tried to wrench one of the side mirrors off the bike but was unsuccessful. So she picked up a rock and used it to break it off and then she ran back to the fallen hero. Unlike the sirens that had led to hope sometime before, she was not going to turn away.

Returning, she found that he had again passed out. So she stood back up and used the mirror to reflect the rays of the sun onto his face, so that all he would have to do was open his eyes to see the sun.


Something was tugging at his mind. There was more energy than there had been before. Not much, but something deep down in Clark told him that if he didn't move now he would not be moving any more. He lurched to the side and the new energy went away and he despaired as he fell back towards the darkness, but then the energy came back and he moved again. He felt something in his left arm rip and the splash of a warm liquid on his hand but that was not important to him. If it was not connected with getting into the sun it was not something he cared about. He could feel the energy on his hands and he pulled himself out into the light.


Gloria watched. That was all she could do. She had seen him crawl into the sun and then collapse onto his back. She hoped he could rest in peace knowing that he had made it. When he had first moved it had startled her and she had let the light slip off him but then he had collapsed, his skin turning gray and she had felt like she had betrayed him. But when she had brought the light back he had again started to move. Blood was flowing freely from the hole in his left arm. But what did it matter now?

She turned, intending to take one last look before heading back to her apartment. She had to tell them. She had to find someone who knew what should be engraved on a granite slab. One of the small cuts on his face closed and vanished. Gloria Watson blinked and looked more closely, but as she looked, other cuts closed, healing without so much as a scar remaining. Her eyes darted from one to another but she was irresistibly drawn to the left arm. Although the arm was drenched in dried blood she was almost positive that it had stopped bleeding.


Clark again surfaced. The feeling of impending doom had evaporated like mist before the warmth of the sun. He sat up and noticed the woman standing a few feet away. There was a small twinge from his left arm but he ignored it.

"Thank you."

"I thought… I thought you were dead." The woman said.

"Thanks to you, I'm not. Now, if you'll excuse me I have to go change. You might consider doing the same."

Gloria looked down at herself She was still in her white bathrobe, although there was quite a lot of dark red on it now. "Oh yes, you're right." When she looked up he was gone.


Superman arrived back at Clark's apartment and went straight for the shower. Removing the ruined uniform at super speed he stepped into the spray. He didn't bother adding any cold water and the room was soon filled with steam, but he was clean. He still had a few hours before he had to be at the Planet for his editorial meeting with Perry White, but he found it hard to make up his mind as to whether he should go to bed to grab some shuteye or head out as Superman to catch some more rays.

The alarm sounded, sending electronic shrieks out into the room. Clark deactivated the alarm clock and pulled himself out of bed. He had decided to compromise and had slept with the drapes open, allowing the sunlight to bathe him as he slept. He carefully closed the drapes before moving at super speed to get ready for work.

After showering and getting dressed, he cracked two eggs onto a plate and then added four strips of bacon. A brief application of heat vision and breakfast was ready. Life was beautiful.

When Clark stepped off the elevator on to intothe Daily Planet's newsroom he noted the sombre atmosphere. Since Lois was at her desk he decided to make that his first stop before going in for his meeting with Perry.

"Hi, Lois. Why the long face?" Clark leaned against the desk so he could face his partner. He once again marvelled at her beauty. He had thought a great deal about asking her out. He thought he might have a chance given her reaction when she had shown up early at his first apartment and caught him in just a towel. But her reaction to Superman and abrasiveness at work had given him pause.

Lois started. "Clark I didn't see you there. I guess you haven't heard."

She handed him a copy of the Metropolis Star. "Superman was hurt last night. I've been on the phone with Star Labs. According to them, NORAD tracked a small object entering the atmosphere at around five thirteen this morning. They believe it was a small meteorite and judging by its trajectory they think it would have landed in metropolis. I think that's how Superman was injured; stopping the meteorite."

Clark stared at the front page photo of himself. The lighting wasn't the best but he could make out that there was a lot of blood. He quashed the impulse to rub his left arm. Physical damage was not a concept he was used to dealing with in relation to himself. His own memories had been a bit fuzzy but he had not felt the need to push. Apparently things had been worse than he had thought.

After seeing Clark's reaction, she continued, "The reporter said Superman was able to leave the scene under his own power but there has been no sign of him since."

"Lois, I'm sure Superman will be okay. He probably just needs a little time to recover. You know like when he disappeared for a while after taking out the Nightfall Asteriod." Clark reached out to squeeze Lois's shoulder in a supportive manner, but a twinge of pain in his left arm while leaning forward, made him jump back.

Lois didn't appear to have noticed, her attention having returned to their rival's front page. Clark used his meeting with the chief as an excuse to get away. He still had three minutes before he had to go in so he went to the restroom instead. Once secure in a stall, he pushed his glasses up and used his x-ray vision to peer through the clothing covering his left arm. Clark found the scar.


Davy picked up another empty can of A&W Root Beer. He could get five cents a can down at the redemption centre. He figured by the time the sun burned out he would have enough to get one of those condo apartments that people were always trying to sell.

Light reflected off something next to the dumpster so he moved in, looking for another can. But what he found looked more like a pale football. When he picked it up it felt warm to the touch. He turned it over but couldn't find any opening or stitches. He could squeeze it but it felt as if there was something hard inside it.

"Not bad."

It might be nice to have on a cold night, so he put it in the clear plastic bag with the cans and headed for the park. It was a nice day and there were bound to be lots of people who couldn't be bothered to pick up their own trash.


After enduring Perry's pep talk and editorial review, Clark decided he needed to put in an appearance as Superman to reassure people that he was all right before he headed over to Star Labs. Since the injury had occurred to Superman he would be able to seek medical advice as Superman.

Clark took the stair up to the roof of the Daily Planet building and spun into his Superman costume. He carefully folded his clothes into an airtight bag then sucked out all the air, sealed it, and hooked it under his cape. A moment later Superman was patrolling the skies over Metropolis.


The patrol was going well. After putting some distance between himself and the Daily Planet, Superman had descended and slowed his forward velocity to make it easier for people to see him.

He had found the act of zooming between the buildings to be a pleasant change from simply going over them. He passed over a news stand and noted that he was the top story on most of the dailies. He was even above the fold on one of the financials. Then it hit him. The papers still bore the story of his injuries of the early morning. His continued presence as the protector of Metropolis would not be in print till at least the afternoon. His parents would be sick with worry.

Why didn't I call them before I left the apartment? His mind was consumed with guilt at how thoughtless he had been. Spotting a pay phone he swooped down intent on correcting his mistake. Using most of the change he carried with him in case he needed to summon emergency vehicles, Superman placed his call. The phone was already ringing by the time the presence of the staring crowd penetrated his consciousness.

"Hello. Clark, is that you, dear?"

Superman swallowed. He could hear the worry in his mother's voice. For the first time he wondered about the exact time at which the story had broken about Superman being hurt. "Mrs. Kent, this is Superman. I'm calling from a pay phone. I am sorry to bother you but I have not been able to contact Clark this morning. Do you know where I might find him? I wanted to assure him that I was all right."

There was a pause on the other end. "I'm sorry, Superman, we haven't heard from Clark today. As a reporter he moves around a lot and sometimes we can't keep in touch as much as we might like to. We are both pleased to hear that you are ok. We were worried when Jonathan brought in the morning paper."

"I guess I'll have to find him on my own. Goodbye." Superman hung up the phone. His parents had understood. He was lucky to have them.

/Once more round the city and then I have got to see Dr. Klein./ His arm had given him a few momentary brushes with pain. But it had all been low level and easily shrugged off.

Superman was on the final leg of his city circuit as he passed over the park when the pain knocked him from the sky.


Lois was in the park to meet up with one of her snitches in City Hall. There were rumours of someone providing a lot of grease to the administrative wheels and Lois wanted to find out if the rumours were more than the talk of a dissatisfied contractor after losing a bid.

When she saw Superman the dark cloud that had been hanging over her lifted. Lois raised her right hand to wave as many of the other occupants of the park were doing. Her heart seized as Superman grabbed his upper left arm and went into a corkscrew dive. He struck an old oak tree and the wood splintered. It sounded like the crack of a starter's pistol in Lois's ears. She began to run towards Superman even as he slid through the dirt, still clutching his arm.

Lois, not bothering to slow down, slid down beside Superman as if she was trying to steal home plate. She could see tears streaming down his face. The tears were starting to form a small puddle. Super powered tear ducts?, thought Lois.

"Superman, are you all right? Well obviously you're not all right. It's just that's what people say and I'm babbling." Lois took a deep breath. "How can I help?"

Superman continued to clutch his left arm and rock back and forth while groans escaped his tightly clenched teeth. There was no sign that he was even aware of her presence.

Lois reached forward to try and remove his right hand, to see if she could see what was causing him pain, but after touching the area just in front of his fingers she jerked her hand away. Lois stared at her hand as blisters formed on her fingertips. It hurt like hell but she pushed through the pain. Instead, Lois took hold of Superman's right arm and tried to drag him to his feet. She was surprised by how heavy he was. It was obvious that she would not be moving him alone. Lois decided she needed a plan. Lois ran away. But she returned less than a minute later with her car.

She pulled up as close as she dared without danger of hitting him. After getting out and opening the passenger side door Lois again tried to lift Superman. This time she tried to motivate him to help her. She started out nicely but eventually demanded that he get up. The latter evidently reached him because they were able to stagger to Lois's car.

After Lois had lifted Superman's feet into the car she debated for a second whether to try to get the seatbelt on him. She decided not to bother, the only thing she would be protecting would be the car.

Lois slammed her door and stomped on the accelerator. Clods of dirt and clumps of grass shot into the air behind the vehicle, then the tires caught and she was off.


Clark opened his eyes, blinked them clear, and closed them again as the car he was in just missed the rear fender of a Yellow Cab by an inch. The pain had gone, drained away. He was mentally exhausted. Glancing over at the driver he discovered that it was Lois. He glanced down to see who she thought he was.

Superman straightened himself, squared his shoulders, and said, "Lois I think you should slow down now."


Superman lay on the slab as he was drawn into the huge machine. He could have floated in but Dr. Klein had said he wanted him to try and minimize his use of power during the test. So he waited while the machine made noises at him.

Dr. Klein was there when they drew him out of the machine. "It's as I feared. The same energy aura that protects you from such things as radiation and bullets is also preventing our scans from penetrating your body." Klein sighed as he dumped several blank x-rays into the waste basket. "I'd like to try out a new invention of mine called SAM. It stands for Superman Aura Monitor."

Superman raised an eyebrow. "You named a monitoring system after me?"

Klein shrugged. "You're the only one it will work on, so why not. A human's aura energy is way too low to be detected by this machine. You, on the other hand, have an aura that is measured in terra watts."

"Is that why Lois was burned? Something has gone wrong with my aura?"

"Superman, I know this is not what you want to hear but I just don't know yet. As I said the tests we have run so far have not revealed anything. But if you will step over here next to SAM maybe I can get some answers for you. Oh, and could you remove your shirt so we can get a clear line of sight on the scar you told me about?"

Superman looked over at Lois, sitting in the corner with her bandaged hand. She had seen Clark topless. "Uh, Lois, would you give us some privacy?"

Lois looked up from examining the bandage covering her right hand. The pills they had given her had really made her feel much better. She smiled at Superman. "The human, er, kryptonian body is nothing to be ashamed of, especially yours."

Superman returned her smile. "Are you sure you mean that? Remember I have x-ray vision."

Lois's hands moved to cover herself. Then she glared at him, put her hands at her sides, and walked out of the room.

Superman removed his top and cape at super speed so no one would see him slip the bag containing his street clothes into the middle of the bundle. Then he stepped in front of the camera.


Back in uniform, both Superman and Lois peered over Dr. Klein's shoulder as he tried to explain the image being displayed on the monitor. "As you can see, the aura is strong and stable over the majority of Superman's body. However, when we go in for a close up on the area with the scar we see several small weak spots in the field. When we go to maximum magnification on the largest of these spots we can see that the energy is being drawn into the area under the scar tissue."

Superman watched, fascinated by the micro whirlpools of energy.

"What could be causing this doctor?" asked Lois.

Klein turned to Superman. "From what you have told me about your injuries I would speculate that not all the material from the meteorite that hit you was removed before your body healed. This material was probably buried beneath the flesh as the laceration closed."

Superman paled and clutched at his left arm. "The pain, it has started again but not as bad as last time."

Klein raced around to the SAM. "Superman try to keep your hand away from the affected area. I'm going to try to take some readings."

Lois held Superman's right hand as he slumped to the floor, the pain apparently overcoming him. She gasped as she saw that an area on Superman's blue-clad left arm had begun to give off a reddish glow. "Doctor, his arm!"

Klein took his eyes off the SAM long enough to glance down at Superman and then ran across the lab to grab a plasma temperature gauge that he had been repairing for the physics department. Returning to Superman's side, he activated the gauge and handed the device to Lois. "Try to keep this as close to the area as possible." Trusting her, he returned to the SAM.

Lois watched the numbers fly by on the digital readout. They were already past 4000 degrees Kelvin when the glow changed from red to white. That was when the scream started.

The sheer volume pumped out by superpower lungs would have been impressive enough but the wind being produced battered all within the confines of the lab. A table was thrown across the room, beakers shattered, mixing exotic chemicals. The building vibrated from the harmonics in the cacophony of pain. Sirens blared throughout the building, adding to the din.

When it was over, Superman lay on the floor gasping for breath.


Davy sat on a stack of old newspapers. He was in an alley and he was out of breath.

"What a day. First I got to the park just in time to see Superman fall out of the sky. I high-tailed it out of there figuring I don't want to be near anything that can do that to Superman. I've been to New York. I've seen what happens when suits fight. Then I stopped by that distillery that burned last year to see Frank but Frank wasn't there so I figure I might as well check my stuff. And what do I find? What no guesses? Well, you know that strange football I found this morning? It had gotten bigger and had sprouted five bulbs. Thing sorta looked like a turtle without a shell.

"So I think this is some weird stuff I got here. You know who likes weird stuff? Those eggheads over at Star Labs. I figured I might be able to get a couple hundred bucks out of this thing. So I go over there and no sooner than I walk in the door but the place goes nuts. Alarms sounding, windows breaking. I figured that I had better get out of there.

"But, as I'm making my way over here my bag starts getting heavier. At first I figure I'm just getting tired. But then I stop to catch my breath and I look in my sack. That thing's glowing and growing. It's really starting to get heavy.

"I drag it out to get a better look at it. And I see that those bulbs I told you about have turned into arms. Then the thing takes a swing at me. That was when I decided to just leave it. I've been around enough to know you don't get involved in that sort a thing. That's suit territory."

The man called David Bannian raised his beer in a salute. "I hear you, brother."


Superman sailed above the clouds, feeling the warmth of the sun on his face. After the pain had left him and he had seen to Lois and Dr. Klein, he had had decided he needed some time to think and recharge. Dr. Gibson had assured him that Lois and Dr. Klein were going to be fine. There was no permanent damage and the ringing would work itself out within an hour or two.

Inclining his body, Superman banked right to avoid a flock of birds. In his head he was reviewing his day. The sound of the crash and the impacts against his body prompted him to look around and that was when he realized that he was inside and office.

"Superman, what in blazes are you doing?" shouted an enraged Lex Luthor.

Superman glanced behind him to see the shattered window. Turning back, Superman noticed the mayor, who seemed to have paled noticeably. The mayor held an unmarked envelope in his hands.


Dr. Klein could hardly believe the numbers before him. According to the thermal scans made by the temperature gauge, a temperature of nearly a million degrees Kelvin had been achieved at several points within Superman's left arm. It was a testament to the durability of the Kryptonian that any of them were still alive. The surface temperature had only reached a relatively cool four thousand five hundred degrees. The readings from the SAM had been even more telling. It had clearly shown large quantities of energy being drawn into the area in which Superman had been hurt. The strange thing was that with all the energy that was being drawn in there did not seem to be any residual build up in energy levels.

Dr. Klein, needing more information, decided to call Gloria Watson.


The Mayor, almost leaping off the couch, ran forward to shake Superman's hand. "A pleasure to finally meet you. A real pleasure. I see you've run into a little problem there with the window. Well, in light of all the hard work you have done to help out this fair city I think it's about time we lend you a hand. Don't you agree, Mr. Luthor? Of course you do."

The mayor, being forced to pause for breath, took the opportunity to shove the unmarked envelope into Lex Luthor's hand. "Here take this, I believe this should cover the damage and if you'll excuse me I must be getting back to City Hall. Goodbye, Superman."

And with that the mayor enthusiastically showed himself out.

Luthor turned his full attention on Superman. "Well I hope you're happy. Mark my words, your shameless interference in the democratic process will be remembered."

"You know what, Lex, I'm not in the mood to deal with you today. So, I won't." Superman turned and leapt out the window.


Back at Star Labs, Dr. Klein was filling Superman in on all that he had learned.

"Doctor what is triggering theses massive drains in my energy?" asked Superman.

"Before I get into that there is one last test I would like to run. I think it may be possible to gain some internal readings if I direct a scanning pulse directly at the weak areas in your aura. If you will retake your position on the table, only this time lying on your right side, I will calibrate the machine." Not waiting for a reply, Dr. Klein moved off to work at the control panel for the massive scanning device.

Not feeling like he had much choice, the beleaguered superhero resumed his role as lab rat.


"According to the readings I have taken, you have small specks of a material in your arm that is quite similar to the substance we know as kryptonite. However, thanks to my conversation with one Gloria Watson, we know that this form of kryptonite glows red rather than green. Also the fact that she was able to grip the shard that impaled you without suffering burns that soon after its plunge through the atmosphere would indicate that it has a remarkable resistance to heat that goes beyond any other known substance. It is too bad the shard has not been recovered." When Superman looked askance at this remark Klein quickly elaborated. "It would allow us to study the substance in more detail and give us a better understanding on how to help you. In addition to its own value, the shard has been reported to be coated in your blood. To be blunt, Superman, you're the only alien we have. It would be an incredible experience to be able to examine a sample of your blood."

Preferring to move away from a discussion of his personal fluids, Superman brought up the topic that had been foremost in his mind on his way back to Star Labs. "Doctor, I believe I have been experiencing what could be described as mental lapses. I have counted at least five instances in which my mind did not work in the way in which I am accustomed to. You were a witness to one of these events. When I got Lois to leave the room by threatening her privacy."

Klein frowned. "I admit I did think that a little out of character but at the time I just put it down to stress. However, if as you say it is one incident in a pattern then it is far more serious." Dr. Klein took a few moments to pace back and forth. "There is only one solution to this problem that I can see. The red kryptonite must be surgically removed."


The two men were in a vacuum chamber from which all the air had been removed. Dr. Klein carefully poured the last of the carbon into the mould and tamped it down. Then, stepping back, he gestured for Superman to proceed.

Stepping forward, Superman lightly focused his heat vision on the black powder. He knew he had to be careful, aiming for a specific temperature. Klein tapped him on the shoulder. In response to the signal, Superman stepped forward and slammed the top half of the mould into place and pressed down hard and then they both waited, one man protected from the vacuum by the latest incarnation of the spacesuit. Superman had elected to forgo such protection in the interest of efficiency. After five minutes he released the pressure and gave Dr. Klein the thumbs up.

While Klein talked to the technicians about restoring air pressure, Superman separated the two halves of the mould and withdrew a glimmering diamond spike. Superman turned the ad hoc medical instrument, admiring it as sound was returned to the world.


A surgeon had been brought in from Metropolis General to monitor the operation. And right now he was watching a massive robotic arm smoke and spark as it attempted to pierce Superman's flesh. Superman, growing tired of the machine's feather-light touch grabbed the diamond spike and attempted to jab it into his own arm. The crystal shattered unable to withstand the forces being exerted on it.

Dr. Klein approached Superman. "Don't feel bad, that was probably the inevitable outcome. The question is how can we remove the red Kryptonite if we can't even pierce your skin with the strongest natural substance known to man?"

"If we had green kryptonite you could use it to weaken me," Superman said.

"Well, you did not know that when you destroyed the few samples that we did have. Is there another way to power down your aura?"

Superman inclined his head, listening. "I have an idea but I have to go for now. I'm meet you back here at 5:00 am." Superman left, leaving only a micro sonic boom in his wake.


Clark Kent returned to the Daily Planet, with an exclusive on a warehouse fire over on the east side that Superman had extinguished before the Fire Department had been able to arrive. He was counting on the story covering for him with Perry, seeing as he had been out of the office most of the day.

After handing in his story, Clark logged into the network and accessed the shared folder that he and Lois kept on the network for when they were both working on the same project. Going through the files, Clark failed to find any connections to the mayor in Lois's corruption story. He would have to mention the idea to her.

"Excuse me are you Clark Kent?" Said a rather attractive blond woman.

"You found me. So, how can I help you?" Clark minimized the window he had been working in and gave the woman his full attention.

The woman smiled. "My name is Gloria Watson, I'm a reporter for the Metropolis Star. I was the one who broke the story about Superman's injuries. I've asked around and the consensus was that you know Superman best. Mr. Kent, I would really like to talk to you in private."

Clark's mind was a whirl. What had occurred this morning to bring this woman to him? "We can use the conference room."

Once seated, Gloria politely refused the offer of coffee and refreshments. She was happy that he had agreed to speak with her, considering they worked for rival papers. "Mr. Kent, when Superman was injured I went out and I sat with him for a time. You probably know this from the article. But what I did not put in the article is that he was partially delirious and he said some things. That is why I am here."

Clark's stomach was doing jumping jacks. When did the Star put their paper to bed? How long did he have to get his parents to safety and would Lois ever speak to him again?

"He said he didn't want to be remembered as Superman, he wanted people to know him by his real name. I was wondering if you could tell me Superman's real name. I sorta made him a promise you see and while I know he's ok now I still feel like I have a responsibility to find out, in case something happens."

Clark was touched by the woman's sense of responsibility and the fact that she had held back information that could have led to a journalistic feeding frenzy. Clark could well imagine competing papers and stations offering huge rewards for information in the search for Superman's real name. "Thank you for bringing this to me rather than your editor. Since you have shown such integrity I will talk to Superman about your request. But I warn you he may not wish to reveal it, he can be a very private person at times."

A smile blossomed on Gloria Watson's face. "Thank you, Mr. Kent, I appreciate this a great deal."


Superman watched the orb of the sun dip below the western horizon. "1..2..3…GO!" Superman's form flew across the sky faster than the human eye could see and then he pushed the pedal down.

In a small town in Ethiopia, where a drought had damaged the crops for the third straight year in a row, the villagers were awakened by a loud roar. When five adults went to investigate they found that water was jetting thirty feet into the air in an old creek bed that had been dry for two years.

"Something must have drilled a hole down into an underground aquifer."

By morning a new lake had been born.


The mission was on hold, a red light from the booster panel had not gone out even after the restart of the computer system. This would mean a delay of months and if they lost their place in the queue it could take years to get the project to study the Ort Cloud back on track.

"Sir, the probe is launching and it's doing it without the boosters!"

"Show me!" An image appeared on the screen of a man in blue and red lifting the one hundred ton space craft. The probe was soon out of sight, forcing the NASA personnel to resort to their monitors in order to track the probe and its stand-in means of propulsion.


The Rebecca Johnson was a super tanker headed for Metropolis. The ship was one day out of Kuwait. Superman carefully placed his hands against the hull of the great ship. The aura that protected his body extended a little ways beyond his skin. This was the effect that allowed him to exert enough force to lift a plane without simply breaking through the metal. But this time he wondered if he was pushing it. Concentrating, Superman tried to force more of his protective energy into the metal. Then he began to push. An hour later the Rebecca Johnson was slowly lowered into port in the Metropolis harbour.

A wet Superman climbed up onto the dock. Using his enhanced vision, Superman found a nail and slipped it between the fingers of his right hand. Closing his eyes he clapped his hands together. Superman tossed the flattened nail in to a trash can and again took to the skies.


The General stared at the screen. "What is it Captain?"

"I don't know, sir, but whatever it is it's the fastest thing I've ever seen." The men watched as the object being tracked by satellite reached Europe and started back toward the USA.

"How many is that?" asked the General.

"Six, sir. Fifteen seconds per trip."

"Uh. Begging the Captain's pardon but that last trip took two seconds longer than the others."

The captain rechecked his figures. "She's right, General. Whatever that thing is out there it's slowing down."

They watched as the mysterious glowing object made five more round trips from the continental United States to England before it vanished in the north sea.


Superman was doing the breast stroke and the twin plumes of water testified that he was doing it fairly well. He had pushed his flight capabilities as far as he dared. The air had been burning around him due to the incredible amount of friction being created by his passage.

Not being able to fly anymore he had been forced to swim. It took him nearly three hours to swim back to Metropolis. After staggering from the bay, Superman headed for his apartment by leaping from one building to the next. Once home, he used the bedroom mirror to reflect his heat vision and thus dry out the Superman suit. Then he changed into a new one and placed the dirty one in the hamper. The screams for help caught him off guard but he knew there was no way he could turn a deaf ear. If he could help he would and if he could not … well he'd face that when it happened.


The flames rose high into the night sky. Small explosions could be heard from inside the nightclub. Jeff Dawson was the senior fire official on site. His men were dousing the nearby buildings to prevent the fire from spreading.

After determining that everyone was out of the building, via the door bouncer's admittance sheet, Dawson had decided to concentrate on saving the surrounding properties. With all the alcohol in the place it was a lost cause and he didn't want to put the lives of his men at undue risk.

Attracted by a shout, Dawson turned just in time to see Superman pass through the water stream from the number three hose.

Not bothering to pause to ask or answer questions, Superman ran to the front of the club and rammed his shoulder into the steel door of the nightclub. Superman found himself on his butt staring at a large dent in the door. Struggling to regain his footing, Superman attacked the door for a second time. Using his fists he rained down blows that drove the metal in around the locking mechanism. With a final knuckle-scraping punch the door swung inward, releasing a gout of flame that surrounded Superman. He felt pain as flames licked about him but forced himself to walk forward into the inferno.

When Superman was no longer standing directly in the flames he opened his eyes and peered through the choking haze. Over by the bar, a bottle of brandy exploded from the heat sending jagged shards of glass out into the room. The rain of alcohol set yet another section of the floor ablaze.

"I'm here to help! Is anybody in here?" shouted Superman. Urged on rather than dissuaded by the lack of response, Superman moved deeper into the club, past puddles of burning liquid to the sounds of broken glass cracking beneath the treads of his boots.

Near the back of the club he found them. One boy and one girl both dressed for a night on the town. The boy's leg was trapped beneath a fallen street light which must have been part of the club's decor. The girl, while unconscious, appeared to be free. Superman grabbed hold on the impeding artifact but was forced to let go due to the heat. Taking a moment to remove his wet cape, Superman wrapped the sodden cloth around where he wanted to grab and pulled on the street light. As he strained against its weight he could feel the heat of the flames increase. By the time Superman set his burden down he was coughing from the smoke. Lifting the teens, he managed to get one over each shoulder as he began to stagger toward the front exit. Unfortunately the wall of flame which had greeted him when he first entered had not magically disappeared.

Clark knew he was stuck. While he knew he might yet survive a run through the flames he knew the two lives he carried with him would not. He was trying to think what he could do when he was blinded by even more smoke. But it was not smoke but steam. He could see the spray from a fire hose cutting away at the firewall. When the firemen had succeeded in creating a path through the fire Superman charged out of the burning building to deliver the teens to waiting paramedics before collapsing to the ground.


Dr. Klein glanced again at his watch. It was getting close to the time Superman had set for the second attempt to rid his body of the deadly red kryptonite. His pacing was interrupted by the sound of a siren drawing near. One of the interns brought him the news that Superman had collapsed after rescuing a pair of teens who had been trapped in a burning building.

Klein was there to meet the fire truck when it pulled in to Star Labs' parking lot.


———————————- I just hope he stays out ——— risk anaesthetic. ————————————————————————- no time to cut around it. ————————- Clamp! There shouldn't be an artery there. Remember he's an alien. — ———————————————————————————————————————— ———————————————————————————————- Beep, beep, beep, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Gone! The warmth was gone. No good. Find it? Yes!

Clark's eyes fluttered as his mind edged closer to consciousness. The sound of people cheering dragged him the rest of the way. Dr. Klein was standing over him with a huge grin on his face.

"What happened? The fire …?" Clark was having trouble talking. His mouth seemed incredibly dry.

"Don't worry, Superman you got the children to safety," assured Dr. Klein. "You passed out from what appears to have been smoke inhalation exacerbated by exhaustion. We took the opportunity to do the operation we discussed earlier. Which I am glad to report appears to have been a complete success."

Clark sat up and noticed that the top part of the suit had been removed. "What happened to my clothes?"

"I'm afraid we had to remove your top to get at the arm and then later when we tried using the paddles to restart your heart."

"Restart my heart," blurted Superman.

Slightly spooked by Superman's agitation, Dr. Klein hesitated before continuing. "Your heart stopped, probably due to the stress of the operation. Unfortunately the paddles did not prove effective. So I ordered the shutters opened and I used a set of parabolic mirrors that I had setup earlier to focus the sun's rays on you. I got the idea from talking to that reporter. Your heart restarted and the missing flesh from your arm started to fill in. It really was an incredible thing to see."

Superman, prompted by the doctor's words, examined his left arm. The scar that had previously marred the surface was gone and he could see no sign of the recent trials in the unblemished skin. "Thank you, Dr. Klein. I need to start my patrol."

Superman left Star Labs.


Clark arrived home after saving an early morning swimmer who had encountered an unexpected current. Clark suspected that the trouble she had had catching her breath had been in part due to his state of partial undress. Having an attractive woman in a swimsuit panting over him had been far from unpleasant. "If only Lois would look at me like that."

Despite having had no real sleep last night Clark felt refreshed knowing that his problems with the red kryptonite were now behind him. In fact, since he felt so good, he decided that after a super speed breakfast he would go into work early.


Anger. The source not still.


"Okay, Clark, give. How did you beat the traffic? With that accident on the bridge it was bumper to bumper practically all the way here." Lois backed up her strident tone with a scowl at the general traffic conspiracy against her.

"Lois, have you ever tried cab hopping. If one cab is stuck in traffic you can just jog down the sidewalk and get another one. What accident on the bridge?" asked Clark.

"The one that I got the story on." Lois paused to reassess her tone. The traffic was not Clark's fault. "The pile up happened early this morning. The driver of a moving van claimed that a gremlin came out of the sky and landed on the hood of his truck. This caused him to lose control of the vehicle. The truck flipped over spreading furniture across four lanes. The strange thing is that when I got close enough to see the hood, it did sort of look like it had two footprint-shaped dents. The police made me leave pretty soon after that."

Clark raised an eyebrow. "Wow, you have had an eventful day. Here it is only 9:35 am and you have already been chased off by the police."

The look she gave him was not exactly analogous to that which he had gotten from the swimmer he had rescued but it was still precious.


"Listen up. This is a holdup So if everyone will get down on the ground I will be out of your hair shortly." The bank robber used a nickel plated Glock 9mm to emphasize his words.

The customers quickly complied with the criminal's demands, figuring that he had to be crazy to try and rob a bank in this city. And they were not alone in their opinion. The security guard who was watching the proceedings through closed circuit TV also thought the guy crazy, especially since he wore no mask.

Having already pressed the silent alarm button he decided to see who arrived first, Superman or the cops.


Clark had just taken the first sip of his coffee when a high pitched whine assaulted his ear drums. Clark grimaced.

"Something wrong with your coffee, Clark?" There was the slightest trace of satisfaction in Lois's voice. She didn't see how he could eat the way he did and still look the way he did.

"I think the cream has gone off. I'll go get some more." Clark headed for the stairs.

He must really like coffee. And taking the stairs would explain how he could handle all those calories. Lois considered the cute abs she had seen when she had shown up early for their first assignment. Maybe I should take the stairs more often myself.


The high frequency wail was coming from First National on 37th street.

"I'm really going to have to talk to them about that secondary alarm."

Using his x-ray vision, Superman examined the situation inside the bank. After determining the position of all the people in the building, he swooped down and entered the bank, slowing just enough so as not to damage the bank's doors. A moment later, Superman was standing over the would be bank robber. Superman took a moment to crush the handgun into scrap, before handing the partially filled bag of money back to the bank teller.

"Oh, Superman, thank you, thank you, thank you. I was so scared," said the relieved teller.

Adopting his customary Superman stance, Clark began to try to calm the teller down. But he was interrupted when he was struck by a powerful force.

Shaking off the effects of the blow, Clark looked out through a hole in the bank vault door as diamonds bounced off his head. /I think I found Lois's gremlin./ He could see a creature whose skin resembled a toad. The creature stood approximately four and a half feet tall and it had an elongated mouth.

Before Superman could regain his feet the creature renewed its attack.

Crossing the distance that had separated the two combatants at super speed it leapt atop Superman and attempted to engulf his head in its cavernous mouth. But Superman countered with a powerful right to the jaw, which raised the creature up enough that he was able to get a leg under it and launch it back the way it had come. The creature passed through the broken door of First National and out into the street. A police car, arriving in response to the alarm, swerved to miss the creature.

Superman rocketed out of the bank, his slipstream picking up glass fragments from the broken door. At the last moment he changed direction and allowed the sharp glass fragments to pelt the aggressive creature. The creature ignored the attack and launched itself again at the Man of Steel.

This time the creature was successful in its attempt to get its jaws around Superman's right arm.

Clark felt the energy draining out of his arm, leaving numbness and cold behind. With a tremendous effort he was able to pry the creature's jaws apart to release his arm. This also afforded him an unenviable view down the creature's throat. What he saw threw him sufficiently off-guard so that the creature was able to push away. Thus released from Superman's grip, the creature fell back to the ground.

Superman shook his arm, trying to rid it of the numbness caused by the Creature's attack. In desperation, he tore the right sleeve off to increase the arm's exposure to the sun's energy. At last the cold began to melt away.

"My God. If I had been fighting this thing at night…" Superman exclaimed.

Superman had been rising during his attempts to restore feeling in his arm and now floated several hundred feet in the air. Below him the creature looked at him through bulbous bloodshot eyes. Then it leapt into the air as if fired from a cannon, its intent to renew the battle clear as it peeled back its massive jaws.

But the creature failed to reach its target, levelling out at two hundred and thirty-five feet. Superman followed the arc of the creature and realized that it was going to fall on a blue Saturn that contained people. The car was stationary due to the roadblock the police had setup to keep people away from the bank.

Having no choice, Superman dove towards the creature and grasped one of its feet, then accelerated to supersonic speed, dragging the creature behind him.


Lois was spreading cream cheese on a bagel when the news of what was happening at the First National Bank in Metropolis hit the newsroom, courtesy of LNN. Everyone watched as Superman fought the strange monster.

A bleached blonde reporter stepped up to the mike. "As you have just seen, both Superman and the Toad Man have disappeared into the stratosphere. This is Linda Davis reporting, back to you, Rick."

"Lois, you and Jimmy head over there. We may have been scooped but by print time I want to know something they don't." Perry headed back into his office, confident that his orders would be followed. Therefore, the fact that Lois had not moved from her chair would have come as a surprise to the old news hound. It certainly was for Jimmy.

"Lois, are you all right?" asked Jimmy Olsen.

Lois bit into her bagel before replying. "This is all Clark's fault."

Jimmy frowned, not sure what Lois was talking about. CK wasn't even in the newsroom.

Lois started on the other half of her bagel. "I walked up the stairs to get here."

"Are the elevators not working? I could call maintenance." said Jimmy; he liked being helpful.

Lois gave Jimmy the 'what planet are you from' look. "The elevators are working fine. You see Clark takes the stairs and he, well looks … Oh, never mind." Lois popped the last section of bagel into her mouth. "Now help me up, I have a story to write."


Superman was headed for the nuclear testing area in Death Valley. He figured there would be nothing there that either of them could hurt. The plasma flames seemed to be keeping his passenger busy so he was making good time towards his destination. The look he had gotten down the creature's throat had given him a good idea where it had come from. What he had seen was a knot of tissue wrapped around a glowing red rock. He figured it must be the rock that Gloria Watson had pulled out of him.

/Somehow, the radiation being emitted by the red kryptonite has caused my healing factor to continue to operate. It might have created another me but the same radiation that had prompted the growth was also warping the tissue destroying it's DNA./

The thing had not appeared to have any internal organs. It was certainly without a digestive system. The problems he had been having with his left arm now made a bit more sense. The creature's ability to drain away his life energy, combined with the red kryptonite in its belly, were a definite link to the fragments of the stuff in his arm, which had until recently been a very big problem.

Superman was nearing his target when the air around him was destroyed by a searing blast of heat. In his pain, Superman released the creature as they both tumbled from the sky.

Two ovals of flame slammed into the side of Jefferson Peek.


Flash. Flash. Jimmy was busy taking pictures of the damaged bank vault. He had asked them to leave the diamonds on the floor but they had refused, stating that Lex Jewel's property would not be allowed to sit around where it might be stolen. Still, the ruptured safety deposit boxes did make a nice backdrop.

"Hey, Lois, find anything?" asked Jimmy as he traded film canisters.

"I got an exclusive with Inspector Henderson but he didn't know anything new," replied Lois. "Wow. A foot of solid steel torn like paper. You know, Superman is strong but you don't really know until you see something like this."


Clark's head slammed into a rock and the rock cracked. He was in an uncontrolled roll/fall down the mountain. Most of his cape had been burned away by the monster's heat vision. The collision, combined with his less than orderly descent down the mountain, had succeeded in disorienting him. He had tried to fly out of the roll but had only succeeded in slamming himself into the mountainside and dislodging more rocks to add to the mini-avalanche that was accompanying him.

Superman finally came to rest on a plateau with only a few of the larger rocks bouncing off him. Taking a moment, Superman considered his options. Now that he had gotten the creature away from the city to where he could deal with it what was he going to do? The creature had some of his abilities and was nearly as strong as he was. But it seemed empty in some way that Clark was not really able to explain but he felt none the less. Its lack of flight gave him a sizable advantage but the creature had the ability to drain him of his life energy. If the conflict carried into night he would probably end up in a bad way.

While Superman was climbing back to his feet the creature came in for another attack. Travelling through the air it turned its body sideways and opened its mouth wide. This manoeuvre allowed it to clamp its jaws over a sizable portion of Superman's abdomen. Thus it began to feed on the rich flow of energy emanating from the source's cells.

Clark gritted his teeth as he pounded on the creature, trying to force it to release him, but the creature refused to yield. The cold was starting to reach beyond the area covered by the creature's mouth. Clark knew that if it reached his heart he was doomed. So the Man of Steel drew as much air into his lungs as the spreading cold would allow, drained that air of most of its kinetic energy, and then, leaning closer to the energy leech, blasted it with Super- chilled breath.

The force of the air, combined with the shocking cold, succeeded in dislodging the creature and hurling it into the cliff side. Superman wasted no time in activating his heat vision. But the creature was merely a secondary target.

The side of the mountain became molten and began to flow. The liquid rock sloshed over the Leech. As soon as one layer was in place Superman would switch to super breath, solidifying the rock around his opponent, and then back to heat to bring even more rock down.

Even as Superman was engaged in his containment efforts, he reached down to pull his uniform top up to his chest. This exposed the now-gray skin to the healing rays of the sun. Still, it was several minutes before the colour began to revert to normal.

The containment effort had been proceeding for five minutes before Superman was able to climb back onto his feet. He hoped the slow recovery was a factor of the massive outlay of power which he was currently engaged in rather than the amount of power the creature had been able to extract from him. He had moved half the mountain on top of the Leech, as he now thought of the creature.

Superman rested. If the Leech was able to escape its prison than he would have to be at full strength to combat it. He also knew that he needed a plan but his mind had been left slow and clumsy in the wake of the power drain. Several more minutes passed. Superman used the time to remove his uniform top and discard it on the ground. He also ripped his spandex pants to make impromptu shorts. Allowing the golden rays of the sun to play over his well-muscled frame, Superman waited. The warmth of the sun slowly burned the mental fog away, allowing him to once again consider his situation clearly.

/The Leech was apparently able to draw off mental energy along with the energy that makes up my protective aura. Everything it is it has gotten from me. Yet it does not appear to be able to draw energy from the sun as I do. Therefore if it succeeds in killing me it will eventually die as its supply of stolen energy runs dry. Those are not the actions of a rational creature./ But the creature had shown no signs of rationality that Superman had been able to see. All he had seen were the actions of a sub-sentient brute pursuing prey. The creature was an animal.

Clark remembered a time on his father's farm when he was little. One of the cows had been attacked by coyotes. His father had scared them off before they had killed the cow but they had hurt it a lot. His father had been forced to put the cow out of its misery. It had taken weeks for Jonathan Kent to explain things to his adopted son. He had also explained how the coyotes were not evil because of their actions. They were only trying to survive as nature intended them to.


Lex rewound the tape and watched again as the creature slammed Superman through the vault door. LNN had obtained the security tape from the bank and he had obtained a copy from them.

"A most impressive display of strength," said Nigel.

Lex considered for a moment before responding. "Yes, but the question is are there any more where it came from and how can we get control of one? Nigel, I want all the information we can get of Superman's recent activities and look for any possible origin point for our scrappy friend."


The ground shook and the mountainside cracked to release The Leech in an explosion of power that sent chunks of rock flying for miles. But if it had any sense of freedom it was short lived because sooner had the creature erupted from the earth than it was tackled by earth's mightiest hero. The speed of Superman's assault carried them over the peak of the mountain and down into the desert on the other side. Drawing back a fist Superman nailed the Leech with a roundhouse punch that sent it sliding across the sand. He followed up with a blast of Super breath that created a minute sandstorm. A few pot shots from his heat vision transformed the sand into a rain of molten glass.

The Leech retaliated with a round of its own heat vision. But Superman was able to dodge and weave around the deadly beams. Further exploiting his flight advantage, Superman flew round the Leech creating an F5 tornado. The force of the tornado pulled the Leech from the ground and hurled it into the air where it was assaulted by a maelstrom of wind, sand, rocks and even the occasional cactus.

Once the Tornado was well established, Superman backed off and resumed taking the occasional potshot with heat vision. He thought he was making a good start on his goal to deplete the Leech's power supply and thus make it more manageable.

Clark had no desire to kill the creature but he knew he could not abide it in its current form. It had never shown the slightest concern for the humans that could be hurt by its actions. It was simply too dangerous to be allowed to run free. /Perhaps the Vault would be able to take care of the creature once I have whittled away at its power level first./

When the wind began to die down, Superman went in and delivered a devastating sideways dropkick to the creature's back. This sent the enraged creature flying across the sky in a blur. With a sonic boom Superman was in pursuit.


"What do you mean the satellite is not responding?" questioned General Ross.

"We lost communication with the observing satellite a few minutes ago. Since then I have been trying to reestablish contact but as yet attempts have been unsuccessful," explained Captain Nash. "Luckily we will have another bird in range in time for the test."

"Good work, Captain. The test of this new bomb will ensure our position as the one true Superpower," said General Ross.

The general moved off to check conditions at the site.


The Leech caught Superman on the jaw with a strong left, snapping the Man of Steel's head back, and followed up with a blow to the stomach.

Clark allowed himself to start to double up but instead of collapsing he rammed his shoulder into the Leech's stomach. He kept running, plowing through some cacti and large rocks. Superman was rushing towards a particularly promising granite boulder when the creature managed to wrap its legs around his right knee. This caused him to fall and the two combatants engaged in a deadly wrestling match as they rolled across the desert, each landing punches on the other that would have stopped a charging mastodon in its tracks.

Superman used his flight ability to drag both of them into the sky and then spun at super speed to dislodge the Leech before it could drain more of his energy. Taking a moment to regroup after his extreme spin, Superman noticed something that sent a chill up his spine even in the 110 degree heat of the desert.

The Leech had landed near a cabin and was disentangling itself from a broken jungle gym. The cabin appeared to be close to some sort of oil drilling tower, though what either was doing out here was beyond Clark. The important thing was to move the fight away from here as quickly as possible. So, setting himself, Clark swooped down to grab the Leech. But the creature had seen this before and this time it was ready. As Superman grabbed it, it grabbed Superman and threw itself backwards towards the ground. Superman was flipped over the creature and into the hard packed earth. The Leech recovered first and attacked Superman.

The Man of steel found himself backed up against the metal framework of the tower. The Leech was again trying to swallow his head. While Superman had been successful in draining off a great deal of power the Leech was still strong enough to give him trouble. Clark held the creature's jaws apart to prevent them from closing on his head. Behind him he heard a click and then a clank.

Clark's universe exploded into flames and dropped away from him. A terrible force seized his whole body, lifting him effortlessly from the desert floor which had turned to glass. The sound of it was too great to be heard, it could only be felt. Superman, perhaps the mightiest being ever to walk the surface of the earth, was helplessly adrift on a sea of primal flame.

Superman landed in a puddle of molten rock. He was surrounded by flame so hot that even stone burned. To complete the hellish landscape a mephistophelean form lurched towards him out of the flame. The beast's heart glowed so brightly with malevolent red light that Clark could see it through the creature's blackened hide.


Champagne glasses clinked as the assembled military brass celebrated the successful test of their new trans-gamma bomb. Captain Nash did not join in the backslapping frenzy, he was more concerned with correlating the data coming in from the sensors they had scattered all over the test site. His diligence made him the first to see the second flash captured by the backup satellite. His loud curse made sure he was not alone for long.


Clark pulled himself from the mountain lake. The water had been close to freezing but it had gotten the soot and grime off him, and that was what mattered. Now on the shore he looked up into the clear blue sky and thought of Lois.

"She is going to kill me," said Clark. "There is no way I can explain why I've been gone this long."


"You know, Clark, we do have cream in the city. It wasn't necessary to go to your father's farm," snapped Lois when she spotted her erstwhile partner exiting the elevator.

Clark winced at her tone. "I know and that was the problem. There were just so many new flavours I had never tried before." Clark started extracting flavoured cream containers. He had fifteen of them.

Lois looked on in disbelief as Clark extracted his purchases from the shopping bag. "Clark, I think we need to have a little talk about professionalism. While you've been out shopping I've been here working. As my partner don't you think you … is that Chocolate Peppermint? Hand it over."

Clark smiled as he handed Lois the carton.


Top Secret Communication from the desk of General Ross

Further testing of the AG 47 munitions will be placed on hold until the source of the secondary explosion can be determined.


Gloria Watson wondered at the tapping noise. It wasn't coming from the door as she had first imagined. Finally she spotted the man in blue tights who was floating outside her living room window. She hurried to open it to allow her visitor in.

"Good evening, Miss Watson. Clark Kent told me of your request and I decided that I should drop by and introduce myself properly." Clark was sticking strictly to Superman's tones. He still had trouble believing how effective a pair of glasses were in concealing his dual identity. He secretly suspected that one day someone was just going to see through it.

"Thank you, Superman. I am glad you came," replied the woman.

"My Kryptonian name is Kal El. And I consider myself fortunate to have met you, Miss Watson," said Superman.

After his meeting with Gloria Watson, Clark returned home to the welcoming embrace of his bed. It had been a long night and he was really looking forward to a good night's sleep.


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