No Real Choice

By Tank Wilson <>

Rated: PG

Submitted: October 2001

Summary: In this first season vignette, Lois is placed in a life-threatening situation and has to make a decision about who will live: her or Superman.

Author's notes: This is another little vignette that I wrote for Zoomway's message boards. There is no deep message, nor is there any major advance in the Lois and Clark relationship. Instead I just wanted to write a quick character piece on Lois. The first season Lois was always portrayed as this hard-edged loner who was consumed with career success and had little time for trivial things like romantic entanglements. Still, amongst all that, we often saw glimpses of her loyalty to her friends and her passion for the truth. So given these seeming contradictions in who and what Lois Lane was, how would she react when given… no real choice?

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Lois Lane found herself being manhandled into a nearly barren room. Her blindfold had slipped off, but she was still tightly bound by the wrists behind her back. Of the two goons that had brought her here, one still had a firm grip on her arm. She struggled briefly, but after a harsh look and a severe shake from the junior godzilla, she quieted down. Instead she decided to check out her surroundings.

The room was simply four concrete block walls with a single metal door, which they had come through. She could smell the ocean so she knew they were somewhere in Hobbs Bay, or one of the smaller harbors. She had tried to memorize their route after she had been taken outside the Daily Planet building, but the blindfold had robbed her of any visual references and they had obviously taken a circuitous path since they had taken numerous turns. Many more than were necessary to wind up in the Bay area.

There was a plain wooden chair bolted to the floor in the middle of the room which appeared to have some device fastened to the bottom of it, but Lois couldn't make out what it was. The oddest feature of the simple room was the metal cage, or cell, that occupied the far corner. The lighting was poor but Lois could swear that the bars emitted a sickly green glow.

She was hustled over to the chair and forced to sit down in it. The one goon placed his meaty hand on her shoulder and kept her seated as she again struggled against his superior strength. The other goon had been speaking to someone on a cell phone and had just completed his call. He came over to stand in front of Lois, a big grin on his face.

"I don't think I would struggle too much there, Miss Lane," he said, his grin getting wider.

"It's Ms. Lane, and why should I care what you say?" She continued her wriggling against her captor's grip.

"Because you are sitting on a bomb."

Lois immediately sat still. "What?"

The talky goon laughed. "Let me explain. When you sat down on that chair, you armed an explosive device that is wired to the bottom of it. It's a pressure sensitive trigger. The moment you get up off the chair, the timer starts and ten seconds later… boom!" He laughed again. "And a significant boom it is at that. More than enough to take out this whole room… and anyone in it."

Lois glared at her overly large keepers. She watched them carefully as she took a deep breath. "Help! Superman! Help …" She stopped as she noticed that both men were merely grinning at her. Her confused look only caused more laughter.

"Okay, buster," Lois growled from her clenched jaw. "I think you'd better tell me the rest. Why the explosive chair instead of just shooting me? And why the ten second delay?"

Mr. Conversation gave her his barracuda-like grin again. "Let's just say that it's a test."

He strode over to the cell-like cage and pushed a button that Lois hadn't noticed before, that was attached to one of the bars. A large trapdoor opened and, from the sounds of waves crashing underneath, Lois could tell that the fall led to the harbor. She was still greatly confused and it showed on her face. The trapdoor swung back into place as he strolled back over toward Lois. He pulled out his cell phone and quickly punched up a number.

"Now," was all he said.

As Lois watched, a metal panel in the back wall of the cell opened and something colorful tumbled out onto the bare floor. "Superman!" Lois gasped.

She had almost risen out of her seat when she first recognized her favorite hero, but stopped herself as she remembered what she was sitting on. "What's the meaning of this? What's going on?" She stared in horror at the crumpled form of the Man of Steel. "What have you done to him?"

Mr. Conversation glanced over at the prone form of Superman, then back to Lois. "Have you ever heard of… kryptonite, *Ms.* Lane?"

Lois' eyes grew large. "You mean it really exists?"

The big man chuckled. "Oh, yes, it does indeed." He walked over and slapped the dimly glowing bars. "You see, these bars are coated with it. I understand that the stuff doesn't harm humans at all, but over time it can actually kill Superman, and he has been exposed to it for quite a while now." He came back over to stand in front of Lois. "I've been told that he probably can't survive more than, say, another half an hour exposure."

Tears began to slide down Lois' cheeks. "Why? Why are you doing this?"

"It's quite simple really. My employer is conducting a test. One in which, you, Ms. Lane, are the subject." His smile came back. "You have two courses of action open to you. The bomb you are sitting on will disarm itself in about four hours, so you can just wait it out and no boom. Of course, in that time you will have to watch your vaunted hero die, but you will be safe." His smile turned predatory. "Or you can get up from your chair, rush over to the cage and push the button. That will release the trapdoor you saw demonstrated already. Superman will fall into the harbor where there's a chance that the cold ocean waters will revive him before he drowns. At least he will be away from the kryptonite."

Lois glared daggers at the man through her tears. "But I go boom?"

He licked his lips before he showed his teeth to her. "Yes, Ms. Lane, you go boom."

The two men walked over to the door on the opposite side of the room. The silent one opened it. Mr. Conversation turned and looked at Lois over his shoulder. He came back to her, knelt down and pulled her shoes off.

"Just in case." He smiled his barracuda-like smile again. "Oh, and one last thing." He pointed at the metal door. "This door *will* be locked."

She could hear his laughter echoing long after he had closed and locked the door behind him. She stared at the unmoving form of her hero. "Superman?"


Lex Luthor looked away from his computer screen as the door to his luxurious penthouse office opened, allowing his personal assistant to enter. She was a tall, striking woman. Her exotic beauty masked a sharp but completely amoral mind. She strode purposely over to his desk and waited to be acknowledged.

Luthor cocked a brow at the woman. "You have news, Mrs. Cox?"

Her nod was barely perceptible. "Ms. Lane is in place, as is Superman."

Luthor smiled a wry smile at his assistant. "I can tell by the tone of your voice that you are puzzled by something."

The woman tilted her head ever so slightly. The only indication of confusion she would give. "Since you brought it up, Mr. Luthor. I'm a bit unclear as to Ms. Lane's participation in this little experiment. I didn't think you'd want to risk her life like this."

Like Nigel St. John, Mrs. Cox didn't like Lois Lane. She thought that her boss's fixation on the nosy reporter was not only unwise, but could actually prove dangerous. She didn't know what Luthor had in mind by putting Lane into the situation he had, but she secretly hoped that the fool woman would blow her self to kingdom come.

"Come, come, Mrs. Cox. Don't you think I know what I'm doing?" Luthor reached into a drawer and pulled out an expensive cigar. He continued his lecture as he prepared his smoke. "The one major stumbling block in my pursuit for the affections of the lovely Lois is that she thinks she's in love with Superman. I intend to remove that stumbling block." Luthor lit his cigar and puffed satisfyingly on it before he proceeded.

"You see, just killing Superman won't be enough. Lois has to witness his death. She has to see him, not as a hero who falls valiantly in some noble endeavor, but as a weak, helpless puppet of his betters. Someone who is as easily discarded as some homeless bum on the streets."

"But aren't you worried that she will try to save him?"

Luthor smiled. "Ah, but that is the true beauty of my plan. You see, Lois thinks she loves the Man of Steel. But we all know that man's strongest instincts are those of self-preservation. Oh, she will fuss and fume. She will cry out in despair and frustration. But in the end she will do the right thing, and save her own life… and Superman will die." Lex's smile got wider but turned cold. "She will then be consumed by guilt, all of her friends will desert her. She will become a pariah to all of Metropolis. That is, until I rescue her from all that heartache and loneliness."

The exotic assistant cocked her head as if thinking for a moment. "But isn't Ms. Lane known for continually risking her life merely for the sake of her stories?"

Luthor gave the woman a conciliatory nod. "That is true, to an extent. You must realize that she knows that Superman is usually around to *save* her, which she knows won't happen here. And more to the point, Lois is known for taking calculated risks. That is quite different from committing suicide." Luthor blew a perfectly round smoke ring into the air. "Her brain will be feverishly trying to work a way out of her dilemma, but by the time she admits that there is no way out, it will be too late. Superman will be dead and she — will — be — mine."

The tall woman nodded, and began to walk toward the exit. She stopped and looked back at Lex, her face still holding a trace of doubt.

"Mrs. Cox," Luthor chided in a slightly patronizing tone. "I didn't get to be the third richest man in the world by being stupid. Trust me, I have it all figured out."

Mrs. Cox shrugged, turned back toward the door, and exited her boss's office.


Lois looked frantically about her for something, anything that might help her escape her situation. The chair she sat in was bolted to the floor in the middle of the room. Except for the cell-like cage over against the far wall, there was nothing else in the room.

She began to struggle with the ropes that bound her wrists, but stopped when she almost slipped out of the chair. She cursed the foresight of the bad guys for taking away her shoes. It would have been an incredible long shot, but she might have been able to kick them off in the direction of the trapdoor release button some fifteen feet away.

"Superman? Superman, can you hear me?!"

Lois swallowed a cry of despair. Superman was slumped in a boneless pile on the floor of the cage right where he'd been originally dumped. He hadn't moved. Lois was afraid he might be dead already. She knew that even if he was alive, he wouldn't be for long. She had to do something, and she had to do it now.

With one last look around to satisfy herself that she hadn't missed anything, Lois made her decision. There really hadn't been any other choice. Her life measured against Superman's? She prided herself on her accomplishments, and liked to think that her stories occasionally made a difference. But if put up against the good that Superman had already done and what he was sure to do in the future, there was no real choice.

Lois sighed. Now that she'd set her mind on a course of action, her frustration left her. A sort of false calm came over her. She knew that she would soon die, but her only regrets were that she'd miss Lucy, and her friends. She wished she could have had a chance to say goodbye to Perry, Jimmy… and to Clark. Lois had enough ego to hope that the world would appreciate her sacrifice, and that, at least, her friends might miss her.

It was time. Lois took one long, deep breath, then jumped up out of the chair. She knew she only had seconds to act. She stumbled slightly as she launched herself toward the cage. Since her hands were still tied behind her back she lowered her shoulder and rammed the large button mounted on the bars of the cage like a linebacker stuffing a running play.

The impact was painful, but she experienced a rush of satisfaction as she felt the button depress under her shoulder. She bounced off the slender, kryptonite-coated bars and fell to the floor. To her horror she realized that the trapdoor hadn't released.

She quickly scrambled to her feet. She knew that her time must be nearly gone. She slammed into the release button once more… nothing.

"Those lying bastards," Lois sobbed as she slumped down against the green bars waiting for the explosion that would end it all.

Several moments passed before Lois realized something. She realized that something was missing. There had been no boom.

Lois contorted her body until she managed to slide her hands underneath her and out from behind her back and legs. They were still tied, but now they were in front of her where she could use her hands to some extent. She quickly crawled across the floor and over to the chair. She peered underneath the seat, checking out the 'bomb' that had been placed there. It looked authentic enough. There were several sticks of what appeared to be dynamite taped securely to the chair bottom. A digital display ticked happily along, wires sticking out of the little metal box. The wires appeared to wrap around the bottom of the chair and into the ends of dynamite.

Lois closed her eyes as she reached out with her bound hands and tugged at the wires. They came away easily. They had never been hooked up. The bomb was a phony!

Lois glanced back over her shoulder and let her gaze rest on her fallen hero. She struggled to her feet and hurried over to the cage. She reached her hands through the bars, almost afraid that if she touched him he'd turn out to be a phony too. Her fingers grasped one of Superman's outstretched hands. It was warm. This was a real person, at least.

Lois felt for a pulse. Thank god there was one. It was weak and somewhat slow, but it was still there. "Superman! Superman, can you hear me?" There was no response.

Lois brushed another stray tear that had decided to appear on her cheek as she stood to examine the cage. There was no doorway in the barred part of the cell. Only that metal door in the back wall. The bars didn't appear to be too thick and actually flexed a bit when Lois pushed against them. She tried to slip between adjacent bars but it was too tight. It was close, but even if she'd have been flat-chested, she'd have never gotten through.

She braced herself and pushed against the bars, hoping that she might bend them just enough to be able to slip through. Her muscles cracked in protest, and it seemed like she was close to being able to move them, but the bars proved just a bit too sturdy for her efforts.

On a whim, she rushed over and tried the door to the room. They hadn't lied about that. It was locked. She slumped to the floor, her back against the metal door. Tears of frustration began to fall in earnest.

She didn't understand what was going on. Supposedly, it had been some sort of test, but it had been rigged. She was never in any danger from the bomb. And the trapdoor didn't work. The only thing she could reason was that Superman was supposed to die, and she was supposed to watch it happen.

In a burst of humiliation and anger, Lois tore at the ropes which still bound her. It left the skin on her wrists chapped and her fingers bleeding, but she managed to get them off. In a fit of pique she threw them across the room. It wasn't enough, so she stood up and went over to the chair that she had been a prisoner of a short time ago. With a savage kick she reduced the wooden construct to several splintered slats. It still wasn't enough.

She slowly approached the cell again. Leaning against the bars her voice bespoke of her pain and despair. "I'm so sorry, Superman. You have to believe me. I was more than willing to give my life for yours, really. But I guess in the end it wasn't up to me." Lois sniffed back a few more tears. "If we should ever meet again… you know, in some sort of after life, I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive my failure."

She shook the bars once more in frustration, then turned and slid down the side of the cage with her back to the bars. She wasn't going to watch him die.

Lois hugged her knees as she stared out into the nearly empty room with unseeing eyes. After a few moments her brow furrowed and a frown tightened her lips. Her brow gradually smoothed as an idea began to take shape. Suddenly, the tears stopped flowing and her countenance was one of determination… and hope.

She pushed herself to her feet and went over to the far side of the room and picked up the length of rope that had been used to tie her hands. She tugged at it experimentally a couple of times. Satisfied, she walked over to the wreckage of the chair. She picked up and discarded a few pieces of the broken seat, finally deciding on one of the legs which was still pretty much intact.

She hustled over to the cell and wrapped a double loop of rope around two of the bars. She made sure her knot was quite secure. She then inserted the chair leg between the rope and the sickly green, glowing, metal bars and began to turn it, tourniquet-like.

She grunted, very unladylike, but her effort seemed to be having some effect. Slowly, ever so slowly, the two bars seemed to be pulling closer together. Giving the chair leg a couple of last turns, Lois undid her impromptu device. There was a definite bow to those two bars now.

Lois had to contort herself a bit, but at last she managed to slip between the bars and gain entrance to the cage. She rushed over to Superman and cradled his head in her arms. She kissed his forehead. He felt feverish. She knew she didn't have much time. She laid him back down carefully and moved over to the metal door in the back wall.

She had seen it slide open, and while there was no visible handle, perhaps she could force it enough to one side so that she might be able to drag Superman through. She pressed both hands flat against the cool metal surface and pushed. Nothing happened. She tried again. This time her hands slipped causing her to burn the palms of her hands. Cursing silently, she turned to examine the floor.

She knew that the trapdoor worked. She had seen it demonstrated. She jumped up and down, but admitted that was just an act of frustration. She walked over to where the button was fastened against the bars. It was a simple apparatus. A button, fastened to a plate, which in turn was fastened to the bars. There was a small battery in the back from which two wires exited up along the bars, to the top of the cage and over to the back wall.

Lois carefully pulled the battery from its holder and tested it by placing the end against her tongue. She flinched as the tiny electrical current jolted her sensitive tongue. Well, she thought, it wasn't the battery. She replaced the battery and followed the wires until they flowed nearly to the back wall. She could see that just before the wires disappeared into the wall they went through a small box with a jumper switch in it. The switch had somehow been opened!

Lois was confused. She had seen the trapdoor work, yet there hadn't been anyone besides Superman in that cage since the demonstration. She wondered if it wasn't like some sort of safety circuit breaker type device, one that had to be reset every time you wished to use the trapdoor. It didn't matter now how the switch had been opened. She needed to find a way to close it.

Lois stared at the switch in dismay. It was too high for her to reach. She stared out at the pieces of what used to be a chair and sighed. Then her eyes landed on her helpless hero.

With an apologetic tone in her voice Lois grabbed Superman by the ankles. "Time for you to lend a hand, big guy. Or should I say, a hip."

Lois dragged Superman over to where he was just under the little jumper switch. Lois stepped on his shiny red shorts; the feel of his firm cheeks under her bare feet was a bit disconcerting. Steadying herself with one hand against the wall, she reached up and closed the jumper switch. Stepping down off Superman, she reached down and dragged him back into the center of the cage.

Walking over to the front of the cage, she approached the release button. It was now or never. It would work, or Superman would die. She took one deep breath and reached around the bar and pushed on the button.

She emitted a startled yelp as she found herself falling through empty space. Within moments the sound of a loud splash was immediately followed by another, and then she felt the shocking sensation of a chilling cold as she hit the water of the bay. She quickly found herself underwater.

Kicking her way back upward, Lois' head broke the surface. She looked around for Superman. It was pretty dark under the dock or jetty or whatever her makeshift prison had been built over, but she could still see. And Superman was not in sight.

Superman had been unconscious. Lois gasped in dismay as she thought he might be drowning. She took a deep breath and dived. Luckily, the bottom wasn't far down and even though she couldn't see in the murky darkness, there wasn't much of a tide at the time, so he couldn't have fallen far. She found him on her third dive to the bottom.

Superman was extremely heavy and Lois doubted if she would have been able to pull him up without the benefit of a body's natural buoyancy in water. It was a struggle, but Lois was a strong swimmer and managed to get both of them to the surface. Pausing only long enough for a couple of deep breaths. Lois set out to find the edge of the jetty, her unconscious companion in tow.

It took Lois nearly twenty minutes to get her and Superman safely onto a stretch of beach. She lay there gasping for breath. Turning to look at her 'swimming buddy,' she was relieved to see his chest moving slowly up and down.

Lois sighed. She knew that she'd probably never find out who was behind this sick little escapade. It was obvious that the two goons were merely hired help. Even if she could ever have found them again, she doubted that they had any idea who really hired them. The plan was elaborate, but not particularly sophisticated. It could have been any number of her — or Superman's — enemies. The only unusual thing they did have was the kryptonite. Lois was angered that she wouldn't be able to bring whoever had done this to her and Superman to justice, but Superman's safety was the most important thing.

A few moments later she was rewarded with a soft moan. It was then she finally allowed herself to think that they had won. They had escaped, and Superman was going to live. For now, that was enough.

Lois knew that she should get up and find a phone or flag down someone so they could get some help. But the sand, having been baked in the sun all day, felt so good on her chilled, sodden body that she found it hard to want to move.


Lois rolled over to see a very confused Superman looking at her. "Hey, big guy, welcome back." She smiled for him. "How are you feeling?"

He gave himself a once over glance, obviously bewildered by his soaked condition. "I still feel very weak, but the pain is gone." His soft brown eyes locked on hers. "Kryptonite?"

Lois nodded. "Yeah, but we're safe now." She sighed once before continuing. "I'll tell you all about it — a little later. Right now I just want to rest here for a few more minutes. Then we'll get out of here and I'll explain everything I know. Okay?"

He smiled back at her. "Sure."

Superman rolled over onto his back and stared up into the sky as it began to darken with the coming of the night. A few stars were just beginning to make themselves visible, and the moon was just starting to climb up out of the bay for its nightly journey. He turned back to watch the recumbent form of his beautiful saviour. He couldn't help the large grin which spread across his face.

Lois was lying, stretched out contentedly, on the warm sand… snoring.