By Chris Carr <email@example.com>
Submitted: December 2006
Summary: What was Clark thinking while he was trapped in the isolation chamber during the episode "Super Mann"?
I found this 'inbetweenie' for Super Mann half-written on my hard drive. So I dusted it off and finished it. Make of it what you will. Many thanks to Jenni for beta-reading and to Classicalla for GEing.
DISCLAIMER: This story has been written for fun, not for profit. No attempt is being made to infringe any existing copyrights held by December 3rd Productions, Warner Bros, D C Comics, or any other copyright holders. The dialogue comes from the episode, Super Mann, which was written by Chris Ruppenthal.
Touch: one of the five human senses.
Touch: a noun. A sterile word that gives no hint of how touch can make you feel. For that, you have to look at all the word's other meanings.
There are everyday touches, the ways we reach out to explore the world about us. Tactile sensation. Finger tips brushing against summer grass or against dry, cracked fall leaves. Dad knows, just by touching the grains, when the perfect moment for harvesting the ripened corn arrives.
Then there is sensual touch. The kind of touch someone uses to savour and to please the person he or she loves. The kind I use when I'm with Lois. The kind she uses on me.
The kind I *used to use* with Lois.
I sit down against the walls of the isolation chamber and I feel… hollow. Bereft. Lost. Helpless.
I can no longer touch the world. A dirty bomb in a mineshaft has made sure of that.
I can no longer touch Lois, who is my world, either.
Dr Klein told me that radioactive particles have embedded themselves in my skin. They are inside me. They don't hurt me — not physically, at least. But they have contaminated me.
Because of my differences, I have often felt apart from the world. But I've never felt so apart from it as I do now. How can I feel otherwise when I cannot touch anything? If I do, I will destroy all the things I love.
I can never again run my hands against the bark of a tree, run my fingers through the fur of a cat or dog, touch the smooth, worn pebbles on a beach… I can never do any of those tiny things we all take for granted.
I'm trying to concentrate on the tiny things because, while I'm thinking about them, I can't think about the bigger picture.
That's the theory, anyway.
Pity it doesn't work in practice.
I will never again be able to hug my parents.
I will never hold Lois, the woman I love.
I think that is what hurts me the most.
No. I *know* that is what hurts me the most.
I will never be able to touch *all* of her. Suddenly, I wish we hadn't decided to wait, because now I will never know…
I can't bear this!
Lois was here earlier. She pressed her hand against the lead glass. I matched my hand to hers, and I tried to feel the pads of her finger tips and her palms against mine, skin against skin. But I couldn't. All I could feel was smooth, cold glass, which warmed slightly as it leached heat from my body.
Lois looked as pained as I felt. Her face twisted as I told her a lot of rubbish about how we'd get through this. I don't know whether I was trying to convince her or myself. All I know is that the more I think about what I said, the less I believe it.
Lois's voice had to be transmitted to me through an intercom system, so I couldn't hear her properly. I've lost that, too… the sweet caress of her voice, I mean.
I can't see a way out of this.
I run my fingers along the smooth floor and walls, and I want to choke. How can this be my world now?
Just a few hours ago, I had more freedom than any other man on Earth. I had the whole world for a playground. I could fly anywhere. I could do anything.
Now my world has shrunk to this. A box. A cube that is smaller than a prison cell. I will never again feel the wind against my face, smell spring flowers, touch…
Lois's hair… Feel her lips… against mine…
I… Oh, God.
Is this really my world, now? A box of cold metal and glass?
On the other side of my four walls, the world is coming to an end, and I can do nothing to prevent it.
Lois is back. This time, she's in a hurry. She still looks worried, but she doesn't look as desperate as she did earlier. Instead, she looks… purposeful. Single-minded.
How can she possibly have hope at a time like this?
Her mere presence cheers me. And I'm so wrapped up in what I can't hear that I don't pay attention to what I can. At least, not to begin with.
"Lois, did you find them?" I ask.
Her filtered words reach me. They are distorted, yes. But the way they tumble out, running over and into each other, is pure Lois. Not for the first time, I wonder at the way her mouth sometimes has to struggle to keep up with the quicksilver agility of her mind. "Maybe," she says. "But there's a bunch of goons at the Planet right now and a couple tried to tail me. I think I lost them, but I better be quick. I've got an idea on how to deradiate you, thanks to Skip, but that's another story."
"Technically, the term is —" Dr Klein, ever the scientist, tries to interrupt, but Lois is having none of it. What does she care about scientific accuracy?
I almost smile as she cuts him off. "Excuse me, okay? I'm in kind of a rush."
Dr Klein, smart man that he is, backs down in the face of Steamroller Lane. "Sorry."
And Lois starts gushing words again. "Anyway, I was thinking, those little pieces of radioactivity that are in you, it's like you've been shot with shotgun pellets. Now if you had a big enough magnet, you could suck them all out of you."
"Shotgun pellets are lead. They're non-magnetic," says Dr Klein, unable to resist. Okay, so maybe he's not quite as smart as I thought. Then again, maybe he, unlike Lois, craves accuracy. Maybe he's a true pedant.
"Go with me here!" Lois pleads. "Okay, *steel* shotgun pellets. And gravity's kind of like magnetism, right?"
"Right." Actually, I'm not sure about this, but Lois has an incredible knack for being right about things she doesn't know very much about. She has some kind of weird intuition thing going, and I've never really understood it. Besides, *I* have nothing better to do than listen to whatever it is she has to say.
"So what we need is a bigger gravity magnet than the Earth to suck the radioactivity out of you. So we use the Sun."
"H'm," says Dr Klein.
H'm? Well, if *he* thinks Lois's idea is worth thinking about, then who am I to argue? — about the theory, at least. "Lois, it'll take me hours to get there and back."
Even as I say the words I realise just how stupid they are. I mean, it's not as though I have anything better to do, is it?
"And once you're within the Sun's gravitational pull, do you think you'll be able to escape?" asks the good doctor.
"There's only one way to find out," I say. "In the meantime, Lois, don't do anything until I get back."
I suspect she'll ignore me. Heck, I know she will. This is Lois, after all, but I feel better for saying it anyway.
I levitate. I brace my hands against the roof of the isolation chamber, and I push. I have to judge this perfectly because if I get this wrong I will break through the chamber instead of lifting it up with me.
I can feel the foundations of the building quaking, fighting me for possession of the chamber. And then the chamber snaps free. I push upwards, through the ceiling, through the labs and ceilings above, and finally through the roof of the Star Labs' building. Then I'm flying up through the atmosphere, the stratosphere and the ionosphere. And then I'm in the vacuum of space.
The chamber is tough, but not tough enough to withstand a vacuum. The air around me pushes against the walls of the isolation chamber. Nothing pushes back. Cracks appear in the glass and then, suddenly, in a burst of silence, the chamber explodes.
I'm flying free.
Towards the sun. Towards a hope that Lois has given me.
There, miles from earth, I think again about the many different kinds of touch. And I think about how Lois's brilliance is touching me now.
And I think about how much I love her, about no matter how far we are apart, she is always with me. Touching my heart and soul.