Shades of Chaos

By Emily Hanson <>

Rating: PG

Submitted: October 2001

Summary: Tatitana Alexander has escaped from jail and is working with Lex Luthor to continue her evil plot. Can Lois, Clark and Jimmy stop them? Sequel to the author's "Purple Chaos."

Disclaimers: Characters recognizable from Lois & Clark are not mine. The mutants and SHIELD are Marvel's concepts, but so far, I'm not using anyone from the X-MEN. Tatiana Alexander is my own creation.


Part 1

Tatiana Alexander said nothing as her guards locked the prison cell and activated the special electronic monitoring system that would detect her pulse rate and the amount of oxygen in the air. If it registered any abnormalities, an alarm would go off and a computer chip implanted into her skin would send a signal to SHIELD and the CIA, informing them of her whereabouts. The extra security precautions were necessary because of Tatiana's teleporting ability. She might leave the cell, but the chip ensured that she would be found quickly. No one was taking any chances with her.

What they hadn't counted on was the fact that Tatiana knew some brilliant and ruthless people, among them Lex Luthor. Few knew that he had survived the fall on his wedding night, thanks to a clone of himself. Luthor's brain was placed into the clone's body, while his previous body perished from the physical trauma it had taken. If anyone could find a way to get rid of Tatiana's computer chip, it was Lex Luthor. Waiting until the guards turned their backs, she forced herself to concentrate. Her breathing became shallow and the air shimmered, as she teleported to the last place she'd seen Luthor…LexCorp.

It was late at night and no one was in the CEO's office. Smiling to herself, Tatiana sat down at the computer. It was a good bet that the current CEO kept in touch with Luthor, or else one of the files on his machine could lead her to him. Tatiana just hoped that she could find the information before the cops found her. After searching through desk drawers, she finally found the correct login and password written down on a post-it note that was too dusty to stick anywhere. It took her another twenty-five minutes to find a seemingly innocuous e-mail with an address and telephone number, signed simply, "L." Seeing several police cars approaching through the window, Tatiana memorized the information, shut down the computer and teleported away.

*** Jimmy Olsen was flying high. Not literally, of course, though he wouldn't have been entirely surprised if that happened. Being a mutant now meant that odd things were bound to happen, thanks to the Purple Chaos terrorists and their DNA-altering gas. Jimmy still looked perfectly normal, but his life had been far from ordinary lately…except last night, when he'd gone on a date and gotten a good night kiss from Jennifer after taking her home. She knew he was a mutant and didn't seem to mind, which was all that mattered to him.

"Olsen!" Perry White shouted over the din of the newsroom. "You're five minutes late." Jimmy's eyes widened as he stammered and tried to think of a good excuse, but then the Daily Planet's owner and Editor-in-Chief surprised him. "So your date went well?" Perry said, grinning.

"She kissed me."

"That's usually a good sign."

Jimmy noticed that Perry was holding a cup of coffee, but it didn't look hot. In fact, the cup was frozen. "Since I'm here, I'll run down the block and get you some more coffee," he offered.

Perry looked slightly embarrassed. He'd also been affected by the purple gas, and gotten freezing powers that were amazing, but difficult to control. Thanks to Clark's help, he'd gained some insight into his new abilities. 'Remember to think warm thoughts,' Perry told himself. "You don't have to do that, son. I'll just use the microwave. That's what they're for."

"Chief, really, I don't mind going to the coffee shop."

"You just want an excuse to see Jennifer." Perry gave the young man two dollars as Jimmy grinned sheepishly. "Okay, get me the real stuff. None of that flavored cappuccino."

"Will do."

*** Jennifer smiled when Jimmy walked up. She was a tall, slender young woman with long blonde hair and green eyes. "Hi."

"Hi, yourself."

"I thought you weren't much of a coffee drinker."

"The Chief wanted some coffee. Besides, it's an excuse to see you."

"Mmm hmm." Jennifer turned and began to make the beverage. "I had a good time last night."

"Me, too," Jimmy replied. Was it his imagination, or was Jennifer's hand slightly blurred as she mixed the drink? He decided that it must be the former. He hadn't been getting much sleep lately, because of the psychic visions that kept interrupting his dreams.

"There's something that I need to tell you."

Bernice, Jennifer's friend, roommate and co-worker, raised an eyebrow. She was a tall, slender, African American woman with long brown hair. "Is this going to get personal, Jen?"

"It's nothing that you don't already know."

"Okay." The other woman shrugged.

Olsen looked perplexed. "Jen, what is it?"

She took a deep breath. This wasn't going to be easy. "I'm sorry. I should have told you this yesterday."

"Told me what?"

"I'm a mutant too."

Jimmy shook his head. "It doesn't matter, Jen." But inside, he felt crushed. He'd wanted someone normal to like him. "It's okay," he said, trying to make her feel better…and himself, as well. He felt awful for feeling that way. At the same time, Jimmy couldn't help but wonder if Jen would have gone out with him, if she'd been just like everyone else. Then he mentally kicked himself in the rear end. Jennifer was beautiful, nice, and intelligent. It was rare to find all three qualities in one woman, at least in his experience. "Really."

A hopeful smile appeared on Jennifer's face. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah. So, uh…what's your power?"



She nodded and vanished right in front of him. "I can't disappear for very long, though." Jennifer reappeared and set the cup of coffee down. "Tell Mr. White I said hi, and if he freezes another cup of coffee, he can always come back and get another one."

"Girl, if you keep paying for the customers' coffee, we'll never make rent," Bernice said half-jokingly.

"Don't worry, Bernice. Jimmy's psychic. He can win the lottery for us."

Now there was an idea. Of course, it had occurred to Olsen before, but he hadn't been able to focus his psychic abilities that well. "Maybe," he agreed. "See you later."

At the Daily Planet, Perry White looked up to see Jimmy set a steaming espresso on his desk. "Jen says hello, and if you freeze another cup of coffee accidentally, she'll give you another one."

"Jennifer sounds like a nice young lady. Next time you see her, tell her thanks, but I can afford to pay for my coffee."

"Yes, Chief." Jimmy turned away.

Was it his imagination, Perry thought, or did Olsen look a little sad? "Is something the matter, son?"

"No, Chief."

Jimmy obviously didn't want to talk about it, whatever it was. Perry's phone rang, and he had to take the call, so the younger man left. The Chief listened as Inspector Henderson told him about Tatiana Alexander's late night escape. This was a big story, and the Daily Planet was getting the scoop. There was only one catch. Lane and Kent would have to contact Superman, so the Man of Steel could help put the teleporting mutant back behind bars. Knowing that Clark was Superman, Perry grinned. He figured that Kent wouldn't mind helping.

"Morning, Jimmy," Clark said as Olsen passed his desk.

"Hi, CK."

"How'd your date go?"


Suddenly, Perry stepped out of his office. "Lane, Kent, I want to see you in here now!" Lois and Clark exchanged glances. "I just received a phone call from Inspector Henderson," Perry said, closing the door as they entered.. "Tatiana Alexander escaped from jail last night."

"She could be anywhere," Lois remarked.

"Apparently, Miss Alexander has a tracking device implanted, but it is possible to surgically remove it. They traced her to LexCorp immediately afterward. From there, she disappeared. Inspector Henderson wants you to contact Superman and look for her."

"Consider Superman contacted," Clark replied. "Anything else, Chief?"

"No. That's it."

Cat Grant happened to be walking by and noticed Jimmy sitting outside the office, looking rather down in the dumps. "So, how was the concert last night?"

"Great. Jen and I had seats in the third row."

"You're lucky. Those tickets were sold out."

"Miss Grant, can I ask you something personal?"


"Would you consider going out with me if I were a few years older?"

Cat looked at him in astonishment. She was a very attractive woman, and most men tripped over themselves trying to ask her out. Jimmy had never asked her out before. He was a nice guy, but not exactly her type. Still, she didn't want to hurt his feelings. "If you were older, I'd consider it."


"Yes. Don't get your hopes up, though. I'm already seeing someone."

Jimmy grinned. "No problem. I just needed to hear that. Thanks."

"Anytime," she replied with a puzzled look.

Lois and Clark left Perry's office with anxious expressions. CK was loosening his tie, as if he needed to fly off and save someone. Jimmy had discovered Superman's secret identity in a vision several days ago. Since then, he'd felt lucky to be one of only a handful of people who knew the truth.

"Hey, guys, what's up?" Olsen asked.

Clark looked at him a bit distractedly. "Tatiana Alexander broke out of prison. I have to find her before she causes any more trouble."

"You do mean that we have to find her, right?" Lois whispered.

"Of course."

"Let's check out LexCorp, then."

"Lois, how are we going to get inside without looking suspicious?"

Looking at Jimmy, she replied, "I have an idea."

*** Part 2

Lois, Clark and Jimmy entered LexCorp a short time later. As the reporters distracted the receptionist, Olsen snuck into the nearest janitor's closet and walked out with a cart that contained various cleaning supplies. Whistling, he made his way to the elevator and pressed the top floor button. The CEO's office must be the huge, fancy room directly in front of the elevator. A silver-haired man was hard at work behind a large mahogany desk. Jimmy left the janitor's cart by the nearest bathroom and phased partially through the office wall, hoping that his entrance wouldn't be noticed.

After silently watching the CEO for a while, Olsen figured out his logon password and memorized it. Several telephone numbers were scattered on the desk, but none of them looked important. He phased back through the wall and returned the janitor's cart to its closet.

"Hey, guys," Jimmy whispered.

Lois smiled at the receptionist. "Thank you, Miss Smith. We'll just come back another time."

The receptionist nodded.

"What'd you find out?" Lois asked once they were out of the building, headed towards the parking lot.

"I got the CEO's password. I watched him on the computer for a while. He never even noticed I was there. I might as well have been invisible." Saying that made Olsen think of Jennifer. What would she say if he told her that he'd been spying on the CEO of LexCorp? At least, it was for a good cause.

"You can come back tonight and get the information off his computer. Good work."

Clark frowned. "We don't want Jimmy to get in trouble, Lois."

"If he's careful, he won't get caught. Besides, Jimmy can always go back in time a couple of minutes and do things differently if it does happen," she pointed out.

That was Jimmy's other mutant power. He could go back in time a few seconds or minutes. So far, he hadn't been able to travel into the future. His abilities all seemed to be linked to time. When he phased, Olsen stepped outside of the current temporal plane and onto an adjacent plane. At least, that was the theory Peter Parker had mentioned when he'd been in town a few days ago, helping them catch Tatiana Alexander and the Purple Chaos terrorists. His other gift was a psychic ability that he couldn't really control. He was just beginning to learn how his powers worked.

"True," Clark agreed. "But what if there are side effects? Tampering with time is usually not a good thing." If anything, Clark's encounters with Tempus and H. G. Wells had taught him that. Tempus was a time traveler from the future, where Utopia had been founded by Superman. Being incredibly bored, or so he claimed, Tempus sought revenge on Clark Kent and kept going back in time to stop Utopia from ever being built. Superman had stopped him with the aid of H. G. Wells and Lois Lane.

"I'll be careful," Jimmy said. Didn't they think he could handle the job? He'd been in tough situations before.

As if reading his mind, CK replied, "I know you can do it. If anything happens, though, remember Superman will be there if you need him."

Jimmy nodded. He still hadn't gotten used to the idea of Clark talking about Superman as another person, even being around those who knew. Jimmy figured that it was to separate the two personalities in Clark's own mind, as well as to better hide his secret identity. He wondered why Tatiana Alexander had gone to LexCorp. Lex Luthor was dead…wasn't he?

*** Luthor glared at the silver-haired woman who had dared to contact him. Tatiana Alexander looked none the worse for wear following her prison break. Lex knew he was taking a risk by allowing the Russian mutant to stay as long as she had on his hidden island. She'd confessed that the government had implanted a tracking device into her skin, but if Luthor could find a way to remove it, she would be loyal to him.

Lex couldn't resist having the loyalty of someone with such useful talents. Tatiana was quite lovely, and intelligent besides. After his botched wedding with Lois and his first wife's attempt to murder him, Lex hadn't had a relationship with anyone. Oh, he'd had a few flings, but nothing serious. Maybe, in time, Tatiana would prove to be worthy of Luthor's affection. He'd supplied some of the chemicals for her Purple Chaos operation, and was thrilled to learn that two incessantly annoying Daily Planet employees were now mutants: Jimmy Olsen and Perry White, who was instrumental in bringing down Luthor by allowing Lois Lane and Clark Kent to publish their garbage.

"Ms. Alexander, I will have Nigel find a competent surgeon to remove your implant. In the meantime, I offer my spare suite. It is quite roomy, and has the added bonus of communication scramblers. Hopefully, they will be enough to confuse the police and government for now. I strongly suggest that you don't leave the suite without my permission. It has all the necessities, including room service."

"You're a very accommodating host, Mr. Luthor. Thank you."

He smiled. "Call me Lex."

"You may call me Tatiana."

Lex asked a security guard to escort the mutant to her quarters, then had another employee run a more detailed background check that would take hours. He wanted to know as much as possible about his newest guest.

*** Bernice and Jennifer exchanged glances as they each recognized the skinheads who had spilled coffee on Jimmy last week. The three young men sauntered up to the counter and ordered espressos.

"Hey," the first skinhead said to Jen, "aren't you the mutie lover? How's your boyfriend?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," she replied.

"You know, the skinny freak with brown hair who's psychic."

She winced at his description of Jimmy. "What about him?"

"Well, we were wondering…do you know how to get in touch with him, other than through the Daily Planet?"

"Why on Earth would I tell you that?"

"We, uh, wanted to apologize."

"Yeah, right. You and your friends are racist scumbags. Take your coffee and go."

"No, really. See, we didn't mean to burn him." The skinhead leaned so close that Jennifer could smell his stinky breath. What had this guy been eating, anyway? "We meant to give the mutie freak exactly what he deserves…a one-way ticket to the other side."

Bernice glared at him. If he made Jen nervous enough, she might accidentally disappear, and that definitely wouldn't be a good thing. "Get away, or I'll scream for Superman."

The skinhead glowered, but her threat had enough substance to make him back up. "Okay. We'll leave you alone…for now."

As they walked away, Jennifer heaved a sigh of relief. "I am really, really getting sick of those guys."

"Me, too," Bernice replied.

"Can you cover for me? I'm going over to the Planet."

Bernice nodded. "Sure."

*** Lois, Clark and Jimmy had just gotten back from LexCorp. Jennifer was patiently waiting by Olsen's desk, looking pretty upset as he approached. For a second, Jimmy wondered if she was mad at him, but that couldn't be it. "Jen? What's wrong?"

"Those stupid jerks came back."

"What jerks?"

"The skinheads."

Suddenly, Jimmy was by her side. All of his earlier doubts fled as he realized she might have been seriously hurt. If those creeps had injured her…subconsciously, his hands clenched into fists. "Jen, are you okay?"

"I'm fine. They were looking for you."

"How'd they get out of jail so fast?"

"Probably by posting bail or something. Jimmy, they were making death threats against you."

"Oh, I'm sure they're just exaggerating. Guys on the street do that all the time."

Jennifer shook her head. "They're serious. Do me a favor and be careful. Please?"

"Okay." Jimmy looked into her eyes and saw real fear. "You're really worried, aren't you?"

She nodded. "I've dealt with their types before, when I was younger. Racists like them don't see us as people. They honestly would rather have us be dead. You can't deal rationally with them." An expression of pure terror flashed across her face for an instant as she remembered being terrorized as a girl. The air around her shimmered for a brief moment and Jennifer was afraid that she would vanish.

"Relax, Jen. Just take a deep breath. No one's going to hurt you here."

Jimmy's voice calmed her. "Sorry I freaked out. When I was about thirteen, there were a bunch of gang members who would always hang around at the bus stop. They didn't go to my high school, but they harassed me every day. At the time, I was too young to drive and my parents wouldn't let me go to another school. One day, the skinheads dragged me away from the bus stop and said they'd heard through the rumor mill that I was different. They beat me up so badly that I was in the hospital for a week. My parents finally got a restraining order against the gang members, but by then everyone knew what had happened. We ended up moving away."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be." The corners of her lips turned upward into a tiny smile. "Just watch your back, okay?"

"I will. Thanks."

Jennifer left. Feeling exceptionally angry at all of the skinheads in the world, Jimmy kicked his desk and grimaced as his foot phased right through it. "Great, I can't even hit this thing. What good are super powers if they aren't even remotely useful?" Feeling frustrated he sat down with a sigh.

"Jimmy," Clark began, "I couldn't help overhearing. Maybe Superman can help."

"Thanks for the offer, CK, but I can take care of myself."

"Okay. Let me know if you need anything."

*** Part 3

Later that evening, Jimmy went back to LexCorp. He avoided the security guards by phasing through a wall far behind them. It occurred to him that his new powers could be used for dishonest purposes, like robbing banks. If Clark Kent had never started to work at the Daily Planet, or had never become Superman, Olsen might have used his super powers that way. He could only guess what he'd be doing now.

Having already been to the CEO's office, Jimmy made his way there quickly and silently. He had to duck into the men's room once on the first floor as a security guard walked past him. Finally, he found the stairs. There was no doubt that the security system kept tabs on the elevators. Olsen kept looking for cameras and phased whenever he caught a glimpse of one. There was a slim chance they could still detect his presence, especially if they were heat-sensitive, but the guards would have a lot of trouble finding him.

After a long climb, Jimmy reached the top floor. He noticed that an electronic key card was required to enter, at least during the evening hours. But that was no problem for him. Phasing through the door, Jimmy found himself at the end of a hallway leading directly to the CEO's office. Once inside, it was simply a matter of using the passwords that he'd memorized earlier.

Sitting down in the leather ergonomic chair that must have been really expensive, Jimmy moved the mouse to kill the screen saver. The CEO hadn't even bothered to shut the power down, he'd just locked his computer in Windows NT. That he could cope with. Bringing up the login menu, Olsen used the password. The screen name was already selected. The computer chimed and he was in.

After about ten minutes of searching through various saved e- mails, Jimmy finally found one with the sender "L." Figuring that had to be it, he opened it. "Bingo," he said softly. Grabbing a pad of yellow sticky notes and a fancy gold pen, he wrote down the information. Suddenly, the main office door opened and Jimmy's heart immediately jumped into his throat.

"Freeze," the security guard demanded. "Put your hands in the air, where I can see them." Jimmy's stunned expression made the guard chuckle. "We saw you in the bathroom."

"You have a security camera in the bathroom? That's disgusting!"

"Be that as it may, I'm going to have to make a citizen's arrest for breaking and entering." The expression on the guard's face was worth a million words when Jimmy phased and went back in time as far as he could go without passing out, which was about five minutes.

Knowing that the guard was coming, Jimmy shut off the computer and quickly wrote down the information he'd seen earlier. It was a good thing he wore a ski mask, he thought, or else they'd be able to identify him. He phased through the wall and made his way downstairs, pausing only as the guard walked right by him. The guard stopped in front of Jimmy, and for a second, Olsen thought he had been caught. But the guard just turned around, continuing on his way.

Once outside, Jimmy heaved a sigh of relief. Taking off his ski mask, he walked three blocks to where he'd parked his motorcycle. He was not completely surprised to find Clark waiting for him.

"Hey, CK, I got it."

"You're sure?"

"Well, I'm pretty sure. There was an e-mail sent by a person known only as L, which has to be Lex Luthor. He'd never identify himself if he really is alive."

Clark nodded. Jimmy's deductive reasoning was very good. He figured that the younger man would make a good reporter one day. "That's great. Nobody saw you?"

"Well…" He looked down at his feet and then up again. "I had to go back in time a couple of minutes to avoid one of the guards, but that's it." Jimmy gave Clark the piece of paper.

"Thanks. I'll see you at the Planet tomorrow."


As Clark spun into Superman, Jimmy's eyes widened. "Woah."

"I have to go out on patrol. Good night."

Olsen nodded as Superman launched himself into the sky, then hopped on his bike and took off. It was very late, about 2:00 in the morning. The streets were pretty much deserted, except for an occasional police car parked along the shoulder. By the time Jimmy got home, he was exhausted. The sleepless nights weren't helping, either. Walking up the stairs, he nearly ran into his landlady.

"Sorry, Mrs. Johnson."

"How many times have I told you to call me Maggie?"

He shrugged. "I'm really tired. I was doing something for work."

"And you haven't gotten much sleep lately. Your tossing and turning wakes up my cat, Millicent. Then she walks all over the bed, meows at the wall, and wakes me up."

Embarrassed, he shrugged again. Having the apartment next door to the landlady definitely had its down side. "Sorry. It's not exactly something that I can help right now."

"It's all right, Jimmy. Have you tried drinking herbal tea?"

"I can't stand the stuff. Besides, I doubt it would help. My sleeplessness is related to being psychic, which I can't do anything about."

"You're really psychic?"


"Is it from the purple gas?"

Jimmy nodded.

"Can you see my future?"

"It doesn't usually work like that. But what the heck…give me your hand." He concentrated for ten seconds, then shook his head. "I'm not getting anything. Sorry."

"It's probably like my CD player. It works when it wants to," Maggie said. "Well, I'm going to bed. Good night, Jimmy."

Olsen told her good night and hit the sack. For once, his sleep was filled with normal, ordinary dreams.

*** Lex Luthor read the report on Tatiana Alexander's background. It was very interesting. Her parents had both been KGB officers and traveled frequently. As a result, she spoke six languages fluently — Russian, English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish. She'd gone to a myriad of schools, but had finally gotten her college degree from Oxford in 1992. The only clue as to Tatiana's rebellious nature came from her parents' deaths in 1987. They'd died in a mysterious airplane crash on the way from Moscow to Berlin. Tatiana was supposed to have been on board. The possibility that she had teleported away entered Luthor's mind. Lex decided to ask her about it when he got to know her better.

Luthor telephoned another associate, and asked him to find information on the projects that Tatiana's parents had been working on. This particular accomplice was an expert computer hacker. If anyone could get into the old KGB files, it would be him. Lex hung up and went to his guest's suite to check on her. It was dawn where they were located. Tatiana was having her morning coffee when Lex came in.

"Good morning, my dear. Did you sleep well?" He inquired.

"Yes. How long will it take to get my implant removed?" She asked hastily.

"Oh, just another day. The surgeon is currently located in Guatemala. He is the best," Lex replied. At least, Dr. Brinkman's reputation preceded him. Luthor had hired kidnappers to take Dr. Brinkman to the tropical island where he was hiding, knowing that the surgeon would not come of his own free will.

"Ah. Forgive my rudeness. I'm just eager to have the device taken out."

"That is understandable. When your implant is removed, what are your plans?"

"I was hoping that you would allow me to continue my previous operation."

Lex raised an eyebrow. "You still want to transform everyone into mutants?"

"As many as possible. That way, we'll finally hold real power. Did you know that several American congressmen were affected by my purple gas? They haven't resigned yet, Lex, which means that we have a voice in the world's most powerful country."

The idea still had potential. Luthor was intrigued by it. With the power he could have as a mutant, it might finally give him the opportunity to beat Superman. The problem was that mutant powers were unpredictable. No one knew what they would get beforehand. He could end up with useless abilities, or worse, none. It was rare, but there were some mutants without special powers. They just looked odd. If Lex could figure out a way to generate the abilities he wanted, then he'd finally have an edge against the Kryptonian.

"I must admit that your plan is intriguing, Tatiana. If I 'hire' talented scientists, do you think they'll be able to modify your gas in order to give me what I want?"

"You want mutant powers," she realized.

"Yes. I want enough power to defeat Superman. In return, I expect you to follow my orders. You will be allowed to continue with your operation, but I'll have specific targets." The first targets on his list were Clark Kent and Lois Lane. He relished the thought of getting even with them. It was too bad that Lois' beauty might be destroyed when she became a mutant, but she had rejected him, and thus earned a place on his list of enemies.

Tatiana nodded. "I suspect that one of your targets will be the Daily Planet. If so, might I suggest going after Lois Lane and Clark Kent?"

"Are you sure that you're not telepathic, my dear? Those were my very thoughts."

"I have got a…how do you say it? I have a bone to pick with them, also."

"Good," Luthor said and smiled. This was going to be an excellent partnership. Imagining Clark Kent and Lois Lane as mutants, and particularly ugly, he laughed.

*** Part 4

Jimmy arrived at work the next day to find a yellow sticky note from Jennifer on his computer. It read: "We need to talk — Jen." He headed for the coffee shop, only to find Bernice working alone.

"Hey, where's Jen?"

Bernice frowned. "I haven't seen her since she got up this morning. We usually ride the same bus. Maybe she was just running late."

"Okay, thanks. If you do see Jen, please tell her that I got the note."

"I will."

Jimmy went back to the Daily Planet and discovered a message on his answering machine that hadn't been there earlier. He pressed the play button and grimaced, recognizing the caller's voice as one of the skinheads.

"Hey, freak, if you ever want to see your mutie girlfriend again, go to the corner of 30th Avenue South and New York Street as soon as you can. Come alone."

The message ended with an annoying beep.

"Jimmy?" Clark Kent gave him a concerned look.

"I'll deal with it."

"Okay. Let me know if anything happens."

"I will. Thanks, CK."

It didn't take Jimmy long to get to the street corner. Pulling up on his motorcycle, he recognized two of the skinheads. They'd brought a couple of friends. Jennifer was being held by one in the back.

"I see you got my message," said one of the bad guys.

"Yeah, I got it, all right," Olsen replied, glaring at him. "Let her go. She's never done anything to you."

"She's a mutant, just like yourself. Hey, guess what? That means you both get to be punished."

"Have you been reading Skinheads for Dummies?" Jimmy quipped. "Because you're really dumb. I mean, what do you think you're going to be able to do? You've seen me phase before."

"True, but that won't stop us from making sure your girlfriend gets what she deserves. Ralph, do the honors."

The skinhead holding Jennifer whipped out a very sharp knife. Horrified, Jimmy yelled for help. Not knowing if CK heard him, he phased and ran straight through the skinhead in front to get to Jen. Solidifying, Olsen punched Ralph in the jaw. Jen wrenched out of her captor's grip and vanished.

A whoosh of air indicated Superman's arrival. Taking note of the situation, Clark used his super hearing to locate Jennifer. Making sure she wasn't in the way, he picked up the nearest bad guy and hurled him onto the grass across the street. Then, he grabbed Jennifer's arm and pulled her out of harm's way as Jimmy ducked from a well-aimed punch.

"You'll be safer over here."

Jimmy's girlfriend appeared and gaped at him. "I know you're Superman, but how…"

"Super hearing."

Olsen was doing pretty well. He managed to land a kick that sent his opponent sprawling. Clark saw one of the remaining bad guys pull out a gun. In a flash, Superman was there in front of him.


"Drop the gun."

"Don't you know anything?" The skinhead waved at Jimmy and then to Jennifer with the gun. "They're mutants! They don't deserve to live. They aren't human."

"I'm not human," Superman said.

"Yeah, but everyone knows you're an alien."

"So that gives me a right to live more than someone else?"

"No, it just means that we can't kill you as easily."

"I see." Clark glared at him. "Why don't we go for a little spin?" Hovering in the air, he picked up the skinhead.

"Hey, no! Put me down!"

Superman flew higher until the buildings resembled toys on the ground. "Why don't I just drop you? After all, you're not Kryptonian. Surely your life is not worthwhile."

Knowing the Man of Steel's reputation, the skinhead sneered. "You're bluffing."

Clark was bluffing, but he wasn't about to tell the bad guy that. "Am I? What makes you think I value your life? You're a criminal. That makes you scum. Your life is worth a lot less to me than Jimmy Olsen's because he's never committed a crime, as far as I know. He may be a mutant, but at least he's law- abiding. You, on the other hand, have attempted murder. Logically, that means you're not worth saving."

Clark loosened his grip just a little. It was enough to make the bad guy realize that maybe the Man of Steel was serious.

"No! Please, Superman, don't drop me."

Inwardly, he winced. The man was nearly groveling. Clark hated having people react to him like that. "Do you see my point?"

"Yes, I see it! Now can we land? Please?"

Superman landed and set the skinhead down. Jimmy had taken care of his last opponent, who lay groaning on the concrete.

"Nice work," Clark told him, noticing that he had a scratch on his arm. "You might want to have someone take a look at that."

"Thanks, Superman."

"Jimmy!" Jennifer exclaimed, and ran across the street to his side. "That nice family across the street let me use their phone to call the cops."

Clark saw a middle-aged Asian woman in the window, watching with a concerned look on her face.

"Great. It wasn't you who put that note on my computer, was it, Jen?" Jimmy asked.

She shook her head. "I'm glad you're all right. Thank you, Superman."

"No problem," he replied.

*** Dr. Felix Schwartz gasped as his kidnappers removed the duct tape that had been placed over his mouth, as well as his blindfold. He realized that he was in a well-furnished room. The antique furniture was in extremely good condition, and had to be worth several million Deutschmarks. The decadence was not enough to sway his opinion of whoever had done this to him, however. "You'll never get away with this, you fiends!"

"Oh, I think we will. After all, we're working for one of the most powerful men on this planet." The tall man with dark hair laughed. He had an American accent.

"Who are you working for?"

"Sorry, can't say. But you will receive instructions soon. Until then, stay put and have a nice day."

Dr. Schwartz watched his kidnappers leave. An electronic hum followed the door's click. The German doctor had to assume that he was trapped. Who could have done this, and why? Well, the first mission of a prisoner was to escape. He'd play it by ear until he got his chance.

The mirror revealed a man in his fifties with immaculately groomed brown hair, a mustache, and blue eyes wearing a rumpled blue suit. Dr. Schwartz had been kidnapped en route to a conference in America. It was done so expertly that no security guards in the airport noticed anything wrong. His entire day consisted of a ride in a limo, to being blindfolded in the car, to a smaller airport with a private jet waiting. His captors kept him blindfolded on the flight until they were up in the air. The journey took around seven hours, which meant that he could be anywhere.

His room had a window facing west. The sun was setting. He could see palm trees outside, which meant that it might be a tropical island. Dr. Schwartz knew of no one in the tropics who might want to kidnap him. He hoped that his captor would reveal himself in time. Exhausted from his ordeal, the doctor removed his suit jacket and stretched out on his bed.

Suddenly, Dr. Schwartz realized that he could hear movement in the next room. Were these fiends holding more people hostage? He tapped on the wall, and the movement stopped. The doctor tapped on the wall again, but more loudly. A response followed, with measured taps and pauses. Then, he realized that his fellow prisoner was communicating in Morse code.

It was too bad that he'd never learned it. With a sigh, the doctor tapped out the pattern to "Shave and a haircut," (dah-dah- dah-dah-dah) hoping the other person would realize that he didn't know Morse code. The tapping stopped. The doctor resigned himself to resting, at least for the moment. If he was going to search for a way to escape, he had to build up his energy reserves.

*** Part 5

Lex Luthor gave his scientists a threatening gaze. He had three, who claimed to be loyal, and were absolutely brilliant. "Tatiana Alexander has given me the formula to the DNA-altering gas that was used not very long ago in New Troy, New York and several other cities. I give you this challenge: Create a new formula to make me more powerful than Superman. Keep a copy of the original formula, but also make a new version of the gas. With such power, we could be the rulers of a new world."

One of the scientists frowned thoughtfully. "Don't you mean you'd be the ruler, Mr. Luthor?" He spoke with a British accent.

"Of course. Obviously, those loyal to me would get special privileges. How would you like to be the leader of the United Kingdom, Dr. Blake?"

A grin spread across Dr. Blake's face. "I'd like that a lot, Mr. Luthor."

"Then do as I say."

"Yes, sir."

Hopefully, it wouldn't be long before these geniuses discovered the secrets behind Tatiana's DNA-altering gas. Then, Lex could crush Superman, Lois Lane, and Clark Kent as he'd always wanted to.

*** In Metropolis, Clark was following up on the information Jimmy had given him. It led to a small island in the Caribbean. It wouldn't take long for him to fly there by himself, but Lois would never forgive him if he went without her. At the moment, she was interviewing Jimmy and Jennifer.

"Lois," Clark said, "sorry to interrupt, but I found out where Lex is."


"Apparently, he filtered some of his money through a legitimate business, and purchased a small island in the Caribbean. Doctors and scientists have disappeared mysteriously around the world during the past few days, as well. How much do you want to bet they're connected to Luthor somehow?"

Lois nodded. "You think he's planning something big?"

"Well, first of all, Tatiana Alexander escapes and goes to Luthor, probably thinking he can help her. She has a tracking device that can be surgically removed. Two of the world's most prominent surgeons have vanished without a trace. I bet Lex kidnapped them to remove the device. Whatever his plans are, they involve her as well. We have to stop them," Clark said.

Jennifer looked thoughtful. "Tatiana Alexander…wasn't she the teleporting mutant behind the gas attacks?"

"Yes," Lois replied.

"We're leaving today. The earliest flight leaves in two hours, and lands in the Bahamas. We'll have to take a boat from there," Clark said. "Jimmy, you'd better go home and pack."

"You got it, CK." Jimmy grinned.

*** Dr. Schwartz was summoned several hours later by two tall, well- built men who simply ordered him to follow them. He did and found himself in an underground room, equipped with the latest medical technology and surgical supplies. "What is this?" He asked.

"You will do as you're told." A handsome bald man stepped out from the shadows. The cold gleam in his eyes overpowered his good looks. With a shock, Dr. Schwartz recognized Lex Luthor.

"You're dead!"

"I'm afraid that the rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated, Dr. Schwartz. You will be working for me now."

"And if I refuse?"

"I will order my guards to shoot you."

The German blanched. "What will you have me do, Herr Luthor?"

"Just a simple surgery is all that is necessary for now." Lex gestured, and Tatiana also stepped out of the shadows.

She was breathtakingly beautiful, Dr. Schwartz thought, recognizing her from newspaper photographs that were distributed after her escape. He found it difficult to believe that she was a mutant. "Frauline Alexander, I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

"I'm glad," Tatiana answered.

"You will remove the tracking device that the US government wrongly implanted into her skin," Luthor said. "Do so as quickly as possible. My guards will be watching you carefully. I have other things to attend to. If you need any more supplies, please inform the guards." And with that, Lex Luthor strode out of the room.

Lex decided that he would check on the progress of his scientists, who had been busy all day working on the purple gas formula. He found them all hunched over a computer screen, depicting several models of chemical elements.

"How is the work coming along?"

The lead scientist nearly jumped out of his skin. "Forgive me, Mr. Luthor…you startled me. We are very close to solving the problem, but we need more time — a day or two, at least."

"I do not have a day," Luthor replied. "Every minute Miss Alexander is out of her room, the authorities have more time to track her to me."

"Of course, sir. We will re-double our efforts."

"I certainly hope so."

*** Dr. Schwartz prepared his instruments, but suddenly, he was interrupted by more guards bringing in another man, presumably someone who was in the same predicament because he tried to resist. When the guards closed the door behind themselves, the newcomer sighed.

"I trust we are in the same boat?"

"Were you also kidnapped?"

"Yes. I am Dr. Williams. You know, I think there are more people being held captive. The other day, I heard tapping on my wall."

"Did you reply in Morse code?" Dr. Schwartz asked cautiously.

"Why, yes. Was that you?" Dr. Williams asked.

"It was."

"Do you know why we're here?"

Dr. Schwartz explained what he had learned so far, and the two men resolved to work together. Hopefully, they would have a chance to escape soon.

*** Lois leaned over the railing of the boat, watching sunlight dance across the ocean waves as the boat got closer to a tiny island. With his super vision, Clark spotted well-armed guards hiding in the trees and bushes. "This isn't going to be easy," he said.

"It never is," she replied. "What do you see?"

"A half-dozen bad guys with rifles. Superman could take them out."

"But then, we'd lose the element of surprise."

The boat slowed as they got closer. Then the captain announced that he would go no further, as this island had been declared off-limits. They would have to wade in.

Lois sighed. "Why do these things always have to involve getting my shoes dirty?"

"Because they wouldn't be any fun otherwise," Clark answered. "Jimmy, are you ready?"

"Yeah," he said.

The boat's crew members helped their passengers into shallow water, then took off. Lois looked down. The water was reaching her hips. Her pants were now soaking wet, and she could feel slimy mud squishing in her shoes. "This is not fun, Clark."

"Oh, come on. It is too." Playfully, he splashed a little water in her direction.

She splashed him back. "Is not."

Clark splashed her again. "Is too."

"Guys," Jimmy said, "Look over there. I think that's where we should be headed."

They turned and saw a large brown building on the island, which was carefully hidden by foliage, but visible if you looked closely enough. Several smaller buildings could also be seen around it. Clark started heading in that general direction, keeping an eye out for trouble. Lois and Jimmy followed.

*** Part 6

Tatiana laid on the metal table in the laboratory. She could not wait for the implant to be gone. Already, the sedative Dr. Schwartz had given her was causing drowsiness. Once the implant was removed, Tatiana could go anywhere, provided that she had at least seen the location in a photograph. It was better to have been there already, but that wasn't always possible. Revenge on Lois, Clark, Peter Parker, Superman and Spider-man would be sweet. Peter Parker was already a mutant now, thanks to the purple gas, but she would have revenge for his part in bringing her down.

While Tatiana trusted Lex Luthor as far as she could throw him, his money and crime network were assets she couldn't afford not to have. What Luthor did with his mutant powers after he got them was no concern to her. If he managed to get rid of Superman, she wouldn't complain. It was more likely that Superman would defeat Lex. No mutant had ever been powerful enough to take on the Man of Steel and win. Even with enhanced strength, speed and flight, Luthor would not be indestructible. Tatiana's thoughts swam into darkness as the sedative took over.

Meanwhile, Lois, Clark and Jimmy had made it onto the beach. Lois took off her shoes and unceremoniously dumped out the mud, while the two men exchanged glances.

"Got any ideas, CK?" Olsen asked.

"Yeah. Stay alive."

"No, seriously."

"I am serious." Clark whispered in a soft voice that only Jimmy and Lois could hear, "We're surrounded by four guys with rifles and bulletproof vests. They don't know I can see them. We have to find a way to distract them."

"Good thing I came along, then," Olsen replied.

"What do you have in mind?"

"I'll distract the guards, and you guys take care of Lex. I'll meet up with you when I can."

Clark nodded. "Sounds like a plan."

After Lois put her shoes back on, they went a little further into the woods and ducked behind some trees. Jimmy phased and snuck up behind one of the guards, then tapped him on the shoulder. "Boo."

The man jumped about three inches and spun around to glare at him. "Are you insane or just stupid? You don't sneak up on a guy with a gun like that."

"Really? Thought I just did."

The guard raised his gun. "Identify yourself."

"John Doe."

"Okay, smart aleck," replied the guard and put his finger on the trigger. "You want to get blown away? Fine by me." Jimmy phased just as the gun went off. The bullet went through air and hit a nearby tree. The guard's jaw dropped. "You're a mutant."

"Duh," Olsen replied. "You think I'd have done this otherwise?"

The guard shook his head. "They don't pay me enough around here, that's for sure. I'll bet you can't keep that up for long."

"How much do you want to bet?"

While Jimmy distracted the guards, Lois and Clark snuck past them and into the brown building. It was relatively dark and quiet, but they could hear the voices of Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Williams as they performed surgery. Following the sounds led to a hallway, where a guard stood outside a closed door.

"I'll take care of the guard," Clark said and spun into his Superman suit.

The guard stared as Superman and Lois approached. "How did you two get in?"

"That doesn't matter. Step aside from that door."

"There's a delicate operation going on. I can't let you inside."

Superman sighed as the guard drew his weapon. "When will they learn?" In a red and blue blur, he disarmed the man and tossed the gun aside, after crumpling the weapon into a useless hunk of plastic and metal. It clattered to the ground. The guard tried to punch him, but ended up howling in pain and clenching a sore hand instead. Superman brushed against him as he forced the door open.

Dr. Schwartz stared at him. "Herr Superman?"

Clark recognized the German as one of the doctors who had been recently kidnapped. "I'll get you out of here."

"Please, we must finish the operation, Herr Superman. This young lady cannot be left as she is."

"How much longer will that take?"

"A few minutes."

"All right. I'll watch the door."

*** Jimmy turned and ran, phasing even more so he could barely be seen among the thick foliage. The confused guards headed in all directions, trying to find him. He reached the brown building and found Lois and Clark, dressed as Superman. Olsen turned into his solid form and breathed a sigh of relief.

"Man, am I glad to see you guys."

"We're glad to see you, too," Superman said. "Keep an eye out for Luthor or any more guards."

"Sure thing." Jimmy recognized Tatiana as the woman being operated on. So, the person who had turned his life upside down was right there, in front of him. He wondered what to say when she awoke. How could anyone think they had a right to turn others into mutants against their will? Why would she do such a thing? If it wasn't for Tatiana, the skinheads would never have tried to kill him. His life would be normal now. He wouldn't be having sleepless nights because of psychic visions and nightmares.

Clark noticed Jimmy's clenched fists and stony expression. "Are you all right?"

"I'm okay," came Olsen's clipped response.

"You don't look okay."

Jimmy let out a sigh. "Superman, you wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

"My entire life has been messed up by that woman. Everything was fine until she decided it was her mission to turn us all into mutants. Do you have any idea what it's like to be hated because of something you can't control? I doubt it. You're the big hero. Me, I'm nobody."

"You're not nobody," Superman replied.

"I've never been targeted by racists before. I've never had death threats until now. Complete strangers call me a freak. Do you have any idea what that feels like? I can't sleep because of the psychic visions and nightmares. Tatiana Alexander screwed up my DNA, and now everyone hates me."

"I don't hate you. Believe me, I know what it's like to be different from everyone else. I've had death threats. Remember Trask? You're not alone."

"Jimmy," Lois said softly, "I don't hate you either."

Olsen let out a long sigh. "Thanks."

*** Lex Luthor's scientists informed him that they were ready to try the new formula. He strode into their lab, accompanied by two guards. One scientist held up a hypodermic needle. "Mr. Luthor, we've had to make some changes to the way the formula is administered. Will that be all right?"

"Fine, as long as it works. I am ready."

Lex held his arm out and grimaced only slightly as the needle went in. At first, he felt nothing. But then, searing pain flashed through his body. As he stumbled backwards, one of the guards caught him. Luthor struggled to remain conscious as his mind tried to make sense of what was happening. His muscles bulged, his heart rate sped up, and his eyes glowed bright blue for several moments before turning normal.

Luthor had a pounding headache. He could hear the thoughts of everyone around him. The scientists were amazed that the formula had worked. The guards were astonished. Wait! What was this? Superman, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olson had gotten past the guards outside. They would have to be dealt with. Lex left the room in a burst of super speed.

*** Part 7

As the doctors completed their operation, Jimmy and Superman were both startled to hear a sudden rush of wind. Lex Luthor stood in front of them with glowing blue eyes, and an inhuman expression of hatred. "You…will…pay," he said in a voice that chilled Olsen to the bone.

"Luthor?" Superman asked, horrified. "What happened?"

An evil grin spread across Lex's face. "I have power now, Superman. Enough power to defeat you." Luthor discovered that he could read the Kryptonian's thoughts. It all made sense now. Clark Kent and Superman were one and the same. Things had never been so clear. "After I dump your body into an unmarked grave, I think I'll go to Metropolis and visit the Daily Planet. Even with his new mutant abilities, Mr. White is no match for me. He has no taste for violence. Jimmy Olsen, you may think that you're invulnerable now, but you'll soon learn differently. Lois Lane, how I'd love to see you as a mutant. I wonder how your career would be affected if you lost your good looks?"

"You're nothing but slime, Lex," she replied.

Dr. Schwartz turned around and picked up one of the sharper surgical instruments. He lunged forward. Luthor lifted up the doctor and tossed him across the room. Superman aimed a punch, but Lex dodged, moving so fast that Clark could barely see him. Tatiana awoke, taking in the scene around her. Jimmy saw her sit up.

"You made a mess of my life," Olsen said.

"Why can't you be more like Luthor? He enjoys his mutant powers. You should, too," she replied.

Jimmy stared at her in amazement. "You're crazy. I want my normal life back."

"That is not going to happen."

"Come on, you must have an antidote. The bad guys always have antidotes."

"This is not a movie, Jimmy. It's real life."

Superman gaped in astonishment as Luthor flew up, crashing through the ceiling and bringing down debris. He followed Lex through the gaping hole as Olsen helped Lois and the doctors get out of the room. Outside, the Man of Steel and Lex Luthor circled around each other.

"I know your name, Superman. Or should I say Clark Kent?"

This was exactly what Clark had feared, but he couldn't let Luthor see it. "I don't care."

"That's your true Achilles' Heel, isn't it? Oh, yes, I could kill you with Kryptonite. But your friends and family mean much more to you. Perhaps, I'll go to Kansas and visit Ma and Pa Kent. Maybe, I'll wreak havoc in Metropolis. No one will be able to stop me."

"Guess again, Lex." Clark finally managed to connect with one of his punches. It sent Luthor spiraling downward, but he recovered.

Lex felt incredible pressure in his brain, but he ignored it. Superman was losing! He couldn't believe it. The Man of Steel had finally met his match. Luthor felt ecstatic and laughed. Power coursed like lightning through his veins. There was a moment when he knew with absolute clarity that he could beat Clark Kent. It was only a matter of time.

Superman stared as his opponent's muscles bulged and his skin rippled. Something was happening to him. In any case, he had to defeat Luthor now. Clark aimed another punch and hit Lex's jaw. Luthor's face rippled like water where his fist had landed, like a rock hitting the surface of a pool. Superman looked horrified as his nemesis started to degenerate.

Lex knew that if he could hold on just a little longer, he could take down his opponent. A few more seconds were all he needed. Superman's mental defenses were finally starting to crack. But as he battered against the steel wall of Clark's mind, Luthor felt his own consciousness slipping away. "Nooooo!" He raged. This couldn't be happening. Lex Luthor could not die, not like this. He was a mutant now, all-powerful and indestructible. This wasn't supposed to happen!

Clark felt Lex's presence in his mind fade. "Wait," he shouted. "There has to be a way to stop this!"

"There is no way to stop it," Tatiana Alexander said from below, accompanied by Jimmy, Lois, and the doctors. The scientists who had worked on the formula also came out to watch the fight.

"Mr. Luthor insisted on getting the formula before we had enough time to complete it," said one of the scientists. "The human body, whether mutant or not, simply can't hold that much power. His DNA is destabilizing, and it will continue to do so. Ms. Alexander is right, there is no way to stop the process."

Superman landed. "You didn't have to give him the formula."

"Yes, we did. He threatened to kill us if we didn't," another scientist answered.

By now, Luthor wasn't in the air anymore. His consciousness was nearly gone. There was one possibility for survival, but it was slim, one chance in a million. If only he could concentrate long enough to transfer his consciousness. Suddenly, a supernova of pain exploded in his mind. The only thing left to do was welcome the beckoning darkness.

"I think we should get out of here," Jimmy said.

"You know," Lois replied, "that sounds like the best idea I've heard all day."

Tatiana had a look of intense concentration on her face. Realizing what she was about to do, Clark grabbed her arm. "You're not going anywhere."

She frowned. "You are very meddlesome."

"Tired of the word annoying?" Lois asked. "Maybe you ought to get a thesaurus."

"And you, Lois Lane, are irksome."

"Oh, I see you've learned a new insult from your 'insult of the month' calendar."

"Lois," Clark said, "I think it's time to go."

*** Back at the Daily Planet, Jimmy found Clark sitting at his desk. "Hey, CK, I think I'd like to take you up on that offer."


"Yeah, you told me that your mom is a good seamstress."

"Oh, that offer. Sure thing. Are you free this weekend?"


"Great. Lois and I were planning on going to see my folks anyway. I'll call my mom and tell her you're coming with us. Got anything in mind?"

"Not really."

"Okay." Clark turned his attention back to work.

*** Several days later, Lois, Clark, and Jonathon watched Martha hold up several different fabric colors. After Jimmy politely rejected the first four choices, she held up a black cloth. "Maybe you want something less flamboyant. How about this?"

"Hey, yeah! I could be, uh…the Phantom."

"I think that's already taken," Lois said.


"That's definitely taken," Clark said.

"Most superheroes get named after their powers," Lois remarked.

"You could do what I did," Clark suggested. "Just go out and help people, and let them decide."

"Ahem," Lois said with a raised eyebrow.

"Uh, or let my wife decide."

"Thanks, guys," Jimmy said. "Um, I really like the black, Mrs. Kent."

"Martha," she gently corrected him. "Okay, now do you want any trim?"

"Some of that gray stuff."

"All right. Now I'll have to make a pattern and sew the fabric together. This shouldn't take long."

*** Later in the evening, Jimmy tried on his new costume. It was black with some gray trim on the sleeves, and a hood that disguised his face and a black cape. "This is great! I can't believe it. This is so cool. CK, what do you think?"

"I like it." Olsen had made a smart choice on the colors. He wouldn't stick out like a sore thumb, not like Superman. Clark liked his costume, but being flamboyant sometimes had its down side. Jimmy would be able to get closer to the bad guys. He wasn't invincible, so the ability to blend into shadows was a good thing. "You'll have to disguise your voice a bit."

"Oh, no problem. I've got this gadget that I picked up from It's a tiny microphone you can use to distort your voice. The settings are easy to change. All I'd have to do is attach it to the mask."

Clark nodded. "I get the picture."

"So, have you decided on a Superhero name?" Martha asked.

"Not really."

"Well, I'm sure you'll think of one. Let us know when you do."

"I sure will, Martha. Thanks for everything."

"No problem."

*** Epilogue

Two days later, the following article appeared on the front page of the Daily Planet:

Mysterious Hero Saves Children From Fire

By Lois Lane & Clark Kent.

A man dressed in black, also wearing a mask and a cape, saved four children from a fire in an apartment complex late last night. He was described by an older child as "walking through flames like a ghost. He made sure the fire didn't touch us." One of the emergency personnel said the man was "a mysterious guy, but definitely a hero." The man who saved the children gave his name only as "Shade." He declined any further comments.