Superman Returns II

Act I, Scene I

Metropolis. A shining beacon of civilisation, its tall buildings pristine and proud in the dazzling summer sunshine that bathes the city. We pan across its avenues and streets, taking in the bustling city life of a busy weekday lunchtime. We swoop, much as Superman might swoop, gracefully from rooftop to rooftop, discovering our own corners of beauty, stopping for a moment intermittently to take in a new vignette of city life – here a family rushing to cross a road, the kids bustling and the mother scurrying to keep a wayward toddler in line, there a young couple walking arm in arm...

...and here, a group of men, quite overdressed for the weather, walking purposefully towards a bank.

They're walking toward a man and woman striding in the opposite direction. The woman, clad in a smart business suit, is young, brown-haired, pretty, and with an air of barely restrained impatience about her. Her name is Lois Lane.

We cut, abruptly, to Lois sitting on a couch in an office in the Daily Planet building. She's the very definition of tension. Sitting opposite her, a picture of radiant calm, is an attractive young woman wearing attractive glasses and smiling an attractive smile. It's immediately obvious that Lois despises her. Her name is Dr. Reed, and she's a psychiatrist.

DR. REED: Why don't you begin by telling me about your day so far.

LOIS: Why don't your questions sound like questions?

DR. REED: You feel nervous around me, Miss Lane.

LOIS: Is that a question? What are you writing? Why are you writing something?

DR. REED: Anytime you're ready. And please, feel free to be as detailed and honest as you like.

Lois takes a deep, deep breath, clearly fighting the urge to walk out...or worse.

LOIS: I set off early to cover the latest headline-grabbing lecture at MU by the ever-cuddly Dr. Emmet Vale...

We cut to an establishing shot of Metropolis University, an imposing and grand series of buildings placed rather incongruously in the middle of the urban sprawl. A large crowd files in through the doors, and we cut to inside and a huge lecture hall, packed to the rafters.

LOIS: (voice-over) Dr. Vale was his usual charming self.

We see Dr. Emmet Vale. He's middle-aged, rake-thin, pale, and with an intensity of expression that's both disconcerting and slightly askew. He stalks the stage as he talks.

VALE: Humanity, ladies and gentlemen, is weak. Deny us our technological advances and we suffer. Strip us of our garments and we shiver and freeze. Cut us...

He takes out a small blade and makes an incision in a fingertip, then adjusts a small camera on his lectern so that a zoomed-in image of the blood welling up from his finger is displayed to all. There is a murmur amongst the crowd at this behaviour.

VALE: ...and we bleed. But it is precisely these weaknesses that have driven us since we first clambered down from the treetops to drive ourselves forward. We are beholden to our limitations, for they define our goals, do they not?

He presses the button on his presentation clicker and the image behind him changes to one of Superman, pictured as he was in Superman Returns, lowering Kitty's car down to the ground. As Vale goes through the following speech, he clicks the pointer and the picture changes, always to show Superman doing something astonishing.

VALE: Look at him. What do you see? A hero? Do you know what I see? I see the first. The advance guard. The scout. He claims his planet was destroyed at his birth. He gives us the co-ordinates of some space debris. And we sympathise, with our soft human hearts, because who doesn't love the story of the orphan abandoned on the doorstep? And look, isn't he great, he catches aeroplanes that fall from the sky and poses for pictures at baseball grounds. And not once do we think – what if suddenly this Superman, this God, decided he didn't like us anymore? Or what if a few more of his old friends from the neighbourhood showed up? We are meant to believe he vanished for five years to visit a planet he already knew was destroyed? No. No, I don't think so.

We cut to the crowd. Most of them look disinterested and sceptical in the extreme.

VALE: A wise woman once wrote an article called Why The World Doesn't Need A Superman.

Hearing this, Lois looks up. She sees more than a few people in the crowd turn their heads to stare at her. She colours, but refuses to shrink from their gazes, and instead glares defiantly at Vale, who continues talking, oblivious to her hostility.

Vale's voice fades a little as we move to the side of the lecture hall, and someone standing in the shadows of a doorway there; he sports a heavy coat, a thick blonde mane of hair, and the cruellest eyes imaginable. Lex Luthor is watching proceedings with great interest.

LOIS: (voice-over) Usual Vale nonsense about alien invasion fleets from Krypton, please please don't let the government cut my funding for my incredibly irresponsible weapons program, et cetera et cetera. I met Clark outside and we were coming back to the office, chatting a little I guess...

We cut back to our earlier shot of the young couple walking alongside each other down the Metropolis street and see Lois' idea of 'chatting a little'...

LOIS: ...still won't tell me anything about this undercover assignment of his. Then of course we had the 'what's wrong with you' conversation. Which never fails to make me turn cartwheels of joy. I'm trying to plan my kids' fifth birthday party, which – let me tell you right now – makes the Hanging Gardens of Babylon look like a school science project, and he's on my case about my moods. Moods! If he can't tell when something is wrong, then why should I tell him if there is something, even if there isn't?

The man behind her is hurrying desperately to keep up. Whilst Lois has no trouble barging through the Metropolis masses, her companion simply can't seem to project a physical presence, and as such suffers a constant barrage of people walking into him or through him. This is made worse by the fact that he seems to feel compelled to apologise for each and every collision, despite the fact that none of the collisions are his fault, and that no-one cares.

His name, needless to say, is Clark Kent.

CLARK: Gee Lois, can you slow down a little? Sorry ma'am, my fault entirely...Lois?

Lois spins around.

LOIS: Clark we were due back twenty minutes ago! If you'd stop apologising and get a move on I'd be ordering Jimmy to get me a coffee by now!

CLARK: I don't see what the rus-oof..terribly so...

He's about to say 'sorry' when we – and Clark – see that he's impacted one of the men striding toward the bank. We see the barrel of a gun sticking out of a coat for a single half-second. Clark's eyes widen, but in another instant the men are gone, swept further into the crowd and getting closer to the bank by the second.

We cut back to the psychiatrist's couch. This time it's Clark sitting there. He looks a little uncomfortable, if not on the epic scales of Lois. Dr. Reed smiles at him engagingly, and he smiles back, pushing his glasses back a little up his nose.

DR. REED: If you'd be more comfortable lying down, Mr. Kent, feel free to do that.

CLARK: Uh...I'm fine sitting, thank you ma'am.

DR. REED: Ma'am? (she smiles) Dr. Reed will be fine.

CLARK: Dr. Reed.

DR. REED: Actually, you can call me Vanessa. I think we can risk that, hmm?

She winks at him conspiratorially. He seems a little nonplussed by this, and simply nods.

DR. REED: So Mr. Kent...Clark...?...(seeing him nod, she smiles and continues)...Clark, I'm just here to get to know the staff. We'll start by talking about your day, if that's okay. Can you tell me about it?

CLARK: Uh, gee, I guess so. I wasn't able to attend Dr. Vale's lecture due to some personal business elsewhere-

We see a quick flash of Superman arriving just in time to stabilise a derailing train in spectacular fashion and set it back on the tracks, repairing them with pinpoint accuracy using his heat-vision. Passengers cheer him from the windows.

CLARK: (voice-over) ...I did manage to catch up to Lois after it had ended.

We cut back to the Metropolis street, and Clark looking back at the group of would-be bank robbers.

LOIS: Next time, barge back. C'mon Clark you're like, what, two hundred pounds and I've seen ballerinas with more stopping power.

CLARK: Uh, Lois...you go on ahead. I've got...something to do.

LOIS: What?

CLARK: ...I help out at a homeless shelter a few afternoons a week.

We cut to Dr. Reed. She seems genuinely impressed.

DR. REED: You do? That's tremendous.

Clark grins, a little embarrassed. We cut immediately back to Lois, who gives a different reaction...

LOIS: What is it, community service? Speeding ticket? (off his reaction) No, I guess not.

CLARK: See you back at the office.

He's impatient to go, but Lois just won't let him.

LOIS: Have you forgotten that Perry, wonderful Perry White our glorious editor, has added a psychiatrist to his staff after we got sued for the sub-editor's four stress-induced stomach ulcers, and it's our turn to sit in some darkened room whilst some college grad with perfect nails and a pencil dissects our lives for her own sick pleasure?

We cut to Dr. Reed and Lois. Lois is staring at her coolly, looking pleased with herself.

DR. REED: You have quite a memory, Miss Lane.

LOIS: No, I just really liked that little speech.

DR. REED: Do you still believe it's accurate?

LOIS: No, not at all.

DR. REED: That's good.

LOIS: I have some nail repair cream in my desk. You're welcome to borrow it.

We go back to the Metropolis street. Clark is now desperate to get away to deal with the impending bank robbery, but Lois won't let him and won't take her eyes off him. He seeks inspiration and his eyes flit upward, to the top of a nearby building, where a large billboard is free-standing.

Back to the office, with Dr. Reed and Clark.

DR. REED: The general impression I get of Clark Kent, from speaking to your colleagues prior to meeting you, is that you're...how can I put this...not a risk taker.

Back to the Metropolis street. Clark narrows his eyes at the billboard far above, and we see an almost imperceptible shimmering in the air – heat vision. One of the supports of the billboard smokes and bursts into flame, and the giant advertisement swings free.

CLARK: Lois! The billboard!

She spins, sees the billboard...and as soon as she does, time slows down to a crawl. We see each individual strand of Lois' hair move as her head turns. We see everyone looking up...and away from Clark.

And we see Clark Kent for who he really is. With no hint of slowness about his movements, he turns, and speeds through the suddenly static crowded Metropolis street, weaving between people and vehicles with incredible speed, heading away from the falling billboard, toward the four men who have fanned out and are even now striding (albeit in super slow-motion) through the doors of the Metropolis Bank...

We see the mouths of the people open in large O's of shock as the billboard begins to fall, heading directly down for the crowded street below, its shadow of impact growing larger by the moment, at least thirty people contained in that shadow...

With an incredibly fast blur of movement – even in this super-slow world – Clark reaches the four bank robbers and they are tied together securely with one of the crowd-control rope barriers bank queues use in the blink of an eye.

We see him stop for one moment to look back down the avenue at the falling billboard. He seems to judge the situation in an instant, before ripping open his shirt and tie to reveal the classic red and blue suit underneath. With another indiscernible blur of movement his Clark Kent clothes are bundled tightly under his arm. He takes aim, and throws the bundle high...high...incredibly high into the sky, before taking off like a rocket for the falling billboard.

Under it, the people have just realised they are about to be crushed. It's less than twenty feet from the ground now and falling. We see almost-frozen people screaming what they think is to be the last scream of their lives...

...and with a massive, stirring blast of the classic 'Superman' theme, time goes back to normal...just in time for Superman to swoop in, scoop up the billboard, and fly it majestically back to the rooftop from whence it came. The crowds below go wild. He waves down at them, smiling, before settling the billboard carefully down and repairing its damaged strut with a further blast of heat vision.

Then, with a final wave to his adoring public, he launches himself into the azure Metropolis sky. We follow him as he speeds upward a few hundred feet, until we realise he's zeroing in on a falling bundle. He catches it, and in a blur of mid-air motion he's Clark Kent again. We see him look down and we zoom in, in a simulation of his incredible vision, on Lois far below, whose head is just beginning to turn...

...again, time slows down from our perspective, as Superman goes into a nosedive of incredible speed, zooming down hundreds of feet, threading back through the crowds and coming to halt just behind Lois.

Time resumes. Lois looks back at Clark...and beyond Clark, for in a line behind him a massive gust of wind (created by the speed of his descent) has just, from everyone's perspective, blown up out of nowhere. Newspapers, magazines, and a few skirts are blown upwards, but no-one is hurt.

We cut back to Clark and Dr. Reed.

CLARK: I guess I like to play it safe, yes.

Back to the street.

LOIS: Did you see that?

CLARK: Freak mini-tornado...?

LOIS: I meant Superman! Did you see him just save everyone!

CLARK: I guess so.

LOIS: You guess so! God, Clark...c'mon!

She grabs him and drags him forward.

CLARK: Where are we going?

LOIS: To interview shellshocked survivors! It's not like a better story is going to fall into our laps today, Clark!

We zoom down the avenue to the Metropolis bank, where security guards are standing, baffled and speechless, around a roped-up bunch of would-be bank robbers, extremely confused by this turn of events.

CLARK: I guess you're right, Lois.

Back to Dr. Reed. She looks over at her patient, and as we cut to what she sees the screen splits into two, with Clark to the left and Lois to the right. During the following we will be flitting back and forth between Clark and Lois' sessions with Dr. Reed.

DR. REED: I'll tell you what I think of you, from first impressions.

CLARK: Okay.LOIS: Oh, goody, would you?

DR. REED: Clark, you're a handsome, intelligent, successful man in the prime of his life, and yet you act like a man who wants nothing more than to run and hide. Why? I understand you recently completed a five-year sabbatical to see the world. When I mentioned this to some of your workmates, at least four of them expressed surprise. When I pressed, they admitted they hadn't noticed you'd gone. No-one I asked could tell me much about you bar your name, and that you were useful if they fell behind on a typing deadline. None of them knew when your birthday was or whether you were married or single. Does what I'm saying surprise you?

We see this register on Clark. We, of course, know the reasons for his mild-mannered reporter facade, but hearing the bald truth about how little impact he has made to the people he works with clearly hurts Clark. We see him absorb it, before finally – sadly – shaking his head.

DR. REED: ...and that's what I think.

She's talking to Lois, and has just completed her assessment. Lois looks at her guardedly.

LOIS: That's it?

DR. REED: Yes.

LOIS: Oh thank God, I thought it was going to be so much worse than that! (adding quickly) And don't ask me why, okay?

DR. REED: So can I expect you to think about what we've talked about here today?

CLARK: (melancholy) Yes.LOIS: (insincerely) Yes.

DR. REED: Thank you for your time. Please send in my next appointment.

We see Lois fairly jump out of her seat with relief, give a cursory nod to Dr. Reed and fling open the door to the room. Clark is standing outside, waiting to go in.

LOIS: (thumps him on the shoulder) Nothing to worry about, Clark.

Clark smiles at her, a little puzzled, and goes in, closing the door. We stay on it and a second later it opens and Clark exits, having just completed his session. He looks over the workfloor, at the little pockets of people talking and laughing together, and suddenly he looks very alone and very small, and despite Lois' cheerful prediction, definitely somewhat worried...

Act I, Scene II

A different world to the one we just left – Smallville, Kansas. No skyscrapers, no avenues thronged with people and heaving with humanity; just a few homesteads dotted about the picturebook rural landscape...and one in particular, with smoke curling from the chimney, and a mailbox bearing the name 'Kent', catches our attention.

We go inside, to a mother and son preparing a meal. It's a mundane thing, and no words are exchanged, but we can tell from the little smiles the mother gives the son when he can't see them that she's enjoying just having him here more than she can say. Though she thinks him unaware, when her back is turned he sends her a look that tells us he knows, and he's glad to be here.

MARTHA: I saw that thing you did over Nicaragua.

CLARK: Did you?

MARTHA: Channel 8 did a nice story on it. You looked so handsome in the interview after.

CLARK: (embarrassed) Mom...parts of me were still on fire during that interview.

MARTHA: (waving a hand dismissively)Always too critical of yourself.

Clark's eyes alight on something rather incongruous sitting on the kitchen sideboard; a water pistol, bright and neon-coloured. He picks it up and examines it, bemused. Martha sees this and chuckles.

MARTHA: I see you've found Clark's gun.

CLARK: Clark? You mean...Pete's son, Clark?

MARTHA: Yes. Pete Ross, in case you've forgotten, which is possible considering how long it's been since you saw him. He drops little Clark over now and again; I'm his favourite babysitter, apparently, if you can believe that.

CLARK: (softly)I can believe it.

They potter around for a few more seconds. We can see Martha narrowing her eyes at Clark, who's not doing anything odd insofar as we can tell.

MARTHA: So are you going to tell me what's bothering you, or do I have to wait until I find you sitting on the roof at 4am like when you were thirteen?

We see Clark open his mouth defensively, but in the face of Martha's calm authority his resolve to deny what she's saying evaporates, and he simply shrugs and sits down at the dining table. His mother sits beside him.

CLARK: Who am I, Mom?

MARTHA: Okay...what colour kryptonite caused this effect?

CLARK: Mom...

MARTHA: Oh son, I'm teasing. But I can see this is bothering you, so I'm sorry. I guess I don't understand the question. You're Clark Jerome Kent. You're my son.

CLARK: I'm not Superman?

MARTHA: (shaking her head) What brought this on?

CLARK: Please, Mom...

MARTHA: No, not to me. He's a part of you.

CLARK: Superman...Superman can go anywhere in the world and the people cheer him, Mom. Everyone knows him, and most...love him, I guess, in their way. But me...Clark Kent...I went into space for five years, Mom, and the world pined for Superman, cried out for him, and not one person noticed Clark Kent was gone.

MARTHA: (angrily) Not one?

CLARK: Mom, I didn't mean...I know it was hard for you.

MARTHA: It wasn't just hard, Clark. Hard was when you moved to Metropolis and I knew, heck, if I phoned you and wanted you here I might have to wait a whole three minutes for you to be landing on my porch. So imagine how a mother feels when her son leaves for somewhere a million billion bajillion God only knows miles from her. It's more than hard.

CLARK: I'm sorry.

MARTHA: (sighing) I know, son. But tell me something – when you first realised what you were here to do, why did you create Superman? Why didn't you just fly around as Clark Kent?

CLARK: To protect you.

MARTHA: Really? Or was it because you knew someone like Superman would never get to live a normal life, and you just weren't willing to give that up?

Clark catches sight of himself in an old mirror, and stares at his reflection; a normal man, wearing normal clothes. He takes off his glasses, his shoulders straighten, his gaze hardens, his jaw sets, and suddenly he's Superman.

His mother comes to stand beside him, hugging his arm. Gently, she takes his glasses from his hand and puts them back onto his face. The transformation begins to reverse himself – and Martha reaches out and thumps him on the chest.

CLARK: Ow, Mom! What was that for?

MARTHA: It's about time you realised that just because Clark Kent can't catch bullets with his teeth, that doesn't mean he has to be a walkover!

Clark glances back at his reflection. He straightens up again, seeming almost nervous, and tries to imbue the confidence and poise of his Superman stance in his Clark Kent clothes. Martha smiles.

MARTHA: You wanted a chance at a real life, son. So start taking it.

And as his mother's advice sinks in, a slow smile starts to break out across Clark's face...

Act I, Scene III

Clark enters the Daily Planet building. Lois is about ten feet in front of him. A man walks past her, engrossed in a newspaper, and slams into Clark hard enough for Lois to turn at the sound of the impact.

MAN: Hey, would ya watch where you're going? Idiot.

Lois rolls her eyes. The man begins to walk away – and a hand shoots out and grabs him by the coat. He's spun around to face Clark – a Clark Kent we've never seen before, wearing an expression that says plainly; don't mess with me.

CLARK: Would I watch where I'm going? Newsflash, pal; if you paid the tiniest bit of attention to where you were going you wouldn't have slammed into me. Now I think an apology is in order.

We move out from the close-up on the two men and discover that everyone – EVERYONE – in the Planet lobby has stopped walking in sheer astonishment at the scene unfolding.

Lois' mouth drops open.

MAN: Uh...s-sorry, Clark. I guess you're right.

CLARK: (beaming) Apology accepted, friend. Good day to you.

He lets go of the man's coat and pats him comradely on the shoulder. The man flinches slightly, then realises he's now the centre of much bemusement from the masses. He tries to regain his dignity as much as possible before striding out.

Lois enters the crowded elevator, still looking stunned. Clark steps inside. We see a small circle forming around him as people edge out of his way.

CLARK: (cheerfully)Morning Lois.

LOIS: Yeah.

CLARK: Ready for another day?

LOIS: Yeah.

CLARK: Are you...feeling okay?

LOIS: Yeah.

We cut to later in the day, at a Planet round-table staff meeting being chaired by Perry White, editor-in-chief of the Planet, experienced newshound and affable curmudgeon at-large. He stalks around the table, punctuating his words with gestures as he talks.

PERRY: ...we've got a city of a million stories out there! Scoops, exposes, exclusives about the stars', what they're eating, what they're not eating, who they're dating, who they're divorcing, what crazy religion they've invented this week...

He lets this sink in.

PERRY: None of these stories sell papers, people! They may shift a few copies of some downmarket rag, but we are the Daily Planet, and our readers out there want one thing above all else – can one of you geniuses tell me what that is, or do I have to go put on my firing hat?

Everyone looks to the heavens. They know what's coming.

CLARK: Superman-

PERRY: Right, Kent! Right!

CLARK: Actually Chief, I wasn't finished.

Perry stops mid-gesture. Someone further down the table chokes on their water. Tedious as Perry White's regular Superman-related rants are, it is generally recognised to be extremely unwise, bordering on downright suicidal, to interrupt him in the middle of one.

PERRY: You weren't what?

CLARK: (calmly) Basing our entire newspaper around every Superman-related story we can draw out...well, what do we do if the world doesn't have a big disaster every few days? And how long before the public start saying – yeah yeah, Superman saves people, big deal. As you say, we're the biggest newspaper in the world. We need to broaden our horizons a little and act like it.

PERRY: You mean cover that Gotham freak too? Forget it-

CLARK: Chief, there's more to the world than superheroes. What about human-interest stories, stories about real people living real lives, people of courage, pride, strength, dignity? People just like the readers you're trying to reach.

Everyone around the table, who until now had been following the exchange like a tennis crowd, holds their breath and watches Perry White as he digests what Clark is saying. We see a tiny frown melt away on his forehead before his face clears and he says-

PERRY: Kent, you're out of your mind! People don't want stories about bozos like them! They want romance, escapism! Go get me more Superman stories, all of you! Now! Out!

Everyone files out, a little dejected. Clark gets a pat on the back from a male colleague.

COLLEAGUE: Nice try, Clark. That took some nerve.

CLARK: Thanks.

He reaches his desk and sits down. A shadow falls over him. It's Lois.

CLARK: Hey, Lois.

LOIS: What's up with you today, Clark? Get stuck in a lift with Tony Robbins?

CLARK: Decided to give up ballet.

Lois smiles. Clark smiles too – he's clearly delighted with how well this new image is going, and for just a fleeting moment, in the way Lois looks at him, there's the slightest hint that for the first time, she sees a kernel of potential in Clark Kent.

The moment ends with the arrival of Richard White. He's slightly out of breath, and from the way Lois tenses up at the second she sees him, we can tell all is not as well between the two as it could be.

RICHARD: Hey, honey.

LOIS: Hey.

They move in for a kiss and, in a scene reminiscent of Clark's reunion with Lois in Superman Returns, for an awkward moment they're caught between stools – proper kiss or cheek kiss or just plain hug. Eventually they settle for cheek kiss. Clark diplomatically engrosses himself in his computer screen, but we can see he's noted and filed the moment.

LOIS: How's the secret assignment that you don't trust me enough to tell me about going?

RICHARD: (mock-cheerfully, clearly tired of arguing about this)Very well, thank you. Sorry I missed the meeting. The usual 'get me Superman' rant?

LOIS: (looking at Clark) Mostly.

RICHARD: Can we...talk?

LOIS: Yeah. I'm feeling particularly mood-free today, why not?

She walks off. Richard glances at Clark, embarrassed. There is an awkward pause.

RICHARD: They say they're from Venus. Nah. Too close by. Krypton sounds more like it. (he's about to move off, but then he pauses) Wonder if he ever has this trouble.

There is a clear note of resentment in how he says the word 'he' that leaves us in little doubt as to whom he's referring to. He walks off in pursuit of Lois.

CLARK: (softly) You have no idea.

A fist comes toward Clark, out of nowhere. He has ample time to spin in his chair and grab it mid-flight, before realising that its owner is a rather nonplussed Jimmy Olsen, who has just come perilously close to spilling a cup of steaming coffee over himself.

JIMMY: Um...ow?

CLARK: (releasing him) Sorry Jimmy. Startled me.

JIMMY: Just coming to give you your favourite coffee and a well-deserved thump on the shoulder – I heard about your little tete-a-tete with the guy in the lobby, and now standing up to Perry in mid-rant? CK you have officially moved up my heroes list.

CLARK: (taking the coffee cup from Jimmy) Really? To what number?

JIMMY: (diplomatically)You've moved up, and that's the main thing.

Jimmy continues talking, but in the corner of Clark's vision he sees Richard and Lois enter an unoccupied office. They begin talking animatedly, before Richard goes and pulls the blinds, cutting off the view...for about a second, as Clark's X-Ray vision cuts through the barrier effortlessly. We close in on the side of Clark's face as his enhanced hearing zeroes in on the conversation...

RICHARD: ...I'd appreciate it if you didn't broadcast our problems to your workmates, Lois.

LOIS: So we have problems now?

RICHARD: I think arguing every other day for the past few months means we do, yes!

LOIS: You disappear for days at a time. When you're here, you're spend more time locked in Perry's room than you do with me. And the other day, I get a call from a woman asking for John.

RICHARD: You know I can't talk about that, Lois. It's for your own good.

LOIS: Oh, cut the crap.

We move to inside the office. The two lovers are standing facing one other. Richard reaches out his hand to touch her arm and there's the slightest recoil from Lois. His hand curls away at this and he points a finger at her instead.

RICHARD: There. Right there is what I'm talking about. More than five years together and the woman I love, the woman I'm engaged to, starts flinching when I try to touch her. And we don't have problems, Lois?

LOIS: So you're not using some undercover assignment as an excuse to...

She trails off, unable to say it.

RICHARD: No. No Lois, I'm not. So you're not still in love with Superman?

There is a massive howl from outside the office.

JIMMY: OWWWWWWGOD!

Curious despite herself, Lois goes to the door and opens it. Jimmy is frantically dabbing at a wet coffee-coloured patch on his shirt just above the navel. Clark, the coffee-spitter, is trying to help him and apologise at the same time. Lois frowns at the scene for a second before closing the door again.

LOIS: That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard-

RICHARD: Prove it. Let's set a date. It's been over two years since I gave you that ring, Lois. I'd like to make good on it before my son sees too many more birthdays.

Conflicting emotions rage inside Lois, guilt clearly one of them. Richard White is a good man, a decent man, and she knows deep in her heart that every single one of the arguments recently has been her fault.

LOIS: Okay. Let's talk about a date.

RICHARD: You...you mean it?

We cut to outside the office. Clark, who has just heard this, stares through the walls to where Lois stands, looking heartbroken.

LOIS: I mean it. We'll announce it at Jason's party, tonight.

Richard hugs her. But as we move around the couple we go from his face, a beacon of happiness, to hers – and she's wearing the exact same expression we just saw on Clark Kent.

Back outside, Jimmy is still ruefully dabbing at his shirt.

JIMMY: And my day started off so well.

CLARK: Yeah. Mine too.

Act I, Scene IV

It is approaching dusk, and somewhere off the East Coast, a small fishing boat is preparing to come into port. The crew are working their positions, the captain at the wheel.

CAPTAIN: Brewster! Get those nets in or I'll use that bald head of yours as a new lure!

We see a bald-headed man working to haul in the nets.

BREWSTER: Yes, captain.

The ship pulls up alongside its moorings and the crew disembark and stand on the pier. They separate into two groups, with the captain and crew standing apart from Brewster, who's walking away clutching a large, bulging burlap sack.

CAPTAIN: Sure you won't reconsider, Zorba? We got kinda used to having you around.

The crew chime their agreements. We see 'Brewster' for the first time – it's a face that can occasionally, as now, look quite normal, but we're more accustomed to seeing those eyes deaden, the lips thin and drawn, and the gaze cruel and piercing. It's the face of a fanatic, of a madman...of Lex Luthor.

LUTHOR: Let me recap. I promised you all half a million dollars, each, for four months service on your ship and salvage of any of the...objects...you came across in the course of your fishing, gentlemen.

He hefts the sack, and one of the 'objects' sticks out a little. It's crystalline and green-hued, and there are no prizes for guessing what it is.

LUTHOR: I trust you've all kept quiet about my identity as I specified?

The crew all answer enthusiastically in the affirmative.

CREWMEMBER: For half a million big ones? Hell, I'd have sown my mouth shut if you'd asked.

Everyone laughs, including Luthor, but his laughter is odd, the laughter of someone who knows, on an intellectual level, what laughter is, what it sounds like, when it should be used, but not ever someone who has found something to be genuinely amusing.

LUTHOR: Your severance package awaits you back on the ship, gentlemen, in what used – laughably – to be termed my cabin. I thank you. It's been...educational, in a horrifically banal sort of way.

He bids them farewell and continues along the dock, the bag heavy on his shoulders. We see the crew hesitate for about a quarter of a second before charging back to the ship, vaulting from the pier to the deck, squabbling amongst themselves a little, before eventually vanishing into the ship's depths.

Lex stops, apparently exhausted by the weight of the sack. A young couple with the look of tourists are leaning against the pier beside where he stops. They look at him and take him for a fisherman. The man shyly approaches him with a small, inexpensive-looking camera.

MAN: Hey, do you mind...?

LUTHOR: Not at all, friend.

The couple get into position with their backs facing the harbour, catching the sun's red rays.

WOMAN: I'm telling you, there's not enough light. And that damn flash still won't work.

Hearing this, Luthor smiles, and worryingly, this one looks close to being genuine.

LUTHOR: Madam, that's not going to be a problem.

We see the photograph he takes a second later; the couple, screaming in fear as behind them the fishing boat Luthor just disembarked from is annihilated in a massive explosion, raining debris down all over the dock.

The couple are cowering and whimpering in fear, the woman crying against the man's chest as he hugs her tightly, terrified.

Luthor taps him on the shoulder and gives him back the camera. The man accepts it numbly.

LUTHOR: Don't let that put you off travelling by boat. Statistically speaking, they're still a pretty safe way to travel.

And with that, he turns and walks away

Act I, Scene V

The roof of the Daily Planet building. Lois walks from the access elevator onto the surface of the roof, looking up at the early evening sky of Metropolis. She seems nervous, as if she's not sure she's doing the right thing.

LOIS: (softly) I need to talk to you. I hope you can hear me.

She waits. Around ten seconds pass. We can see she feels somewhat foolish doing this. She sighs, and sits down on a ledge adjacent to the revolving Daily Planet globe.

LOIS: Yeah, Lois. Ask a superhero to take time out from saving people to talk to you about your latest crisis. That'll get you some karma.

SUPERMAN: I told you. I'm always around.

She turns. He's hovering about twenty feet above her head and descending slowly, until he lands a few feet away. They regard each other for a second, two people with a wealth of history between them, trying as ever to find the best way to speak to one another.

LOIS: I need to tell you something. It's about Jason.

SUPERMAN: Lois...I know. Somehow when you told me – I can't explain, I know I was in some sort of coma, but I heard everything. And I think...I think it might have saved my life, hearing it. So thank you.

LOIS: (slightly stunned) Well...I'm glad. But to be honest, I knew that you knew – I've seen you, outside his window sometimes, at night.

SUPERMAN: You have? I thought I was keeping pretty low-profile. (he indicates his outfit somewhat sheepishly) It's only really something I can do at night.

LOIS: You were low-profile, don't worry. I just...I can always see you.

She blushes slightly at the admission, and moves on quickly before either can dwell on what subtext it might contain.

LOIS: The thing about Jason is...he wasn't born until after you left. Almost two years after you left.. I must have carried him for that long.

SUPERMAN: Okay. Maybe that's normal for Kryptonian gestation. Or half-Kryptonian, anyway. I'm sorry, I don't know. If Luthor hadn't stolen the crystals from my home, I could have asked...but that's gone now.

LOIS: Gone?

We see a quick flash of Superman in the Fortress of Solitude. He tries to piece together crystals from the exotic control panel. No matter what he does, the mysterious technology behind the Fortress remains silent. We see Superman calling-

SUPERMAN: Father...

­-but no answer comes, and he stands there, alone.

We go back to the rooftop.

LOIS: What I'm trying to tell you...is that because he wasn't born until that time-

Realisation begins to dawn on Superman's face as to what Lois is trying to say.

SUPERMAN: You thought he was Richard's.

LOIS: ...and Richard still does.

SUPERMAN: Oh.

LOIS: Oh?

SUPERMAN: What do you want me to say, Lois? You called me here to tell me this. You must have done that for a reason.

LOIS: I'm getting married to Richard.

SUPERMAN: (sounding a little bitter)That's standard procedure for an engaged couple, isn't it?

LOIS: I mean we're actually getting married. We've set a date. It's next week.

SUPERMAN: Why waste time?

LOIS: Would you stop this?

SUPERMAN: Stop what, Lois? What's next? You've hired a wedding carriage but the driver cancelled, so I could I fly it to the church on time? Am I missing anything, or did you call me here to try to make me feel as bad as possible?

LOIS: Do you love me?

SUPERMAN: If you can't tell, Lois, then why should I tell you?

LOIS: What are you, Supergirl now?

Despite the extreme tension and high emotions, the pair actually share a small, if painful, smile at this weak joke.

LOIS: I can't tell Richard about Jason. Not yet. Not...not for It would destroy him to know.

SUPERMAN: You may be right, Lois. But what happens if he's told he can't have a puppy and he puts a hole through the wall in a tantrum?

LOIS: What did you do?

SUPERMAN: Me?

LOIS: Yes, you. You were a kid once, or at least I assume you were-

SUPERMAN: I was a child. When I landed on Earth, I was a baby.

Lois frowns at this – we sense she's never really thought about this before, but now that Superman has admitted the circumstances of his arrival, her keen journalistic mind is working the scenario through and examining it from all angles.

LOIS: Someone took care of you?

SUPERMAN: (looking distinctly uncomfortable) Yes. I was...found. Taken in.

LOIS: By who?

SUPERMAN: (in a 'drop it' tone)By my mother and father, Lois.

LOIS: (sensing that's all she's going to get) Okay. So how did they cope with a superpowered son? They must have been a lot stronger than I am.

SUPERMAN: You're strong, Lois. Stronger than you realise.

LOIS: (angrily) Don't give me that motivational speaker crap, okay? My son throws pianos like they're dinky toys before he's five years old. How the hell is he going to hide that from the world? And if the world finds out, what then? Is he gonna be expected to go into the family business and juggle airplanes and have bullets bounce off his chest? Over my dead body. He is my son.

SUPERMAN: He's our son.

LOIS: Listen to me-

SUPERMAN: No Lois, you listen to me now, OK? I accept the fact that Richard has been Jason's father and it looks like he's going to go on being his father. It hurts like you wouldn't believe, but I accept it. But Jason needs me, if not as a father...then as a guide. Lois, he killed a man when he threw that piano.

LOIS: (unable to look at him, upset) I know.

SUPERMAN: We can't let that happen again, Lois. I'm the only person on this planet who's capable of training him in how to control his powers, control them so completely he can conceal who he really is, so well that he can walk and live and love amongst humans and have a normal life, and no-one around him will know what he can do.

LOIS: What makes you think you can do that?

Superman doesn't answer for a moment, and Lois' face clears as the truth dawns on her.

LOIS: Because you did it.

Superman cocks his head to the side. We zoom in a little on his ear and we hear calls for help coming from an unidentified source.

SUPERMAN: I have to go.

He lifts off and begins to soar through the Metropolis sky, but we don't follow him – instead, we stay on the rooftop with Lois. She's staring after him, after Superman, the world's most famous icon.

LOIS: (wonderingly)You walk among us...

Act I, Scene VI

A high-rise office building, somewhere in America. We cut inside to an extremely high-tech laboratory. Computer displays of complex data flash past.

Into this technological world steps Dr. Emmet Vale, looking as if he was born here and quite frankly as if he hasn't quite gotten out as much as he should have done since. Two hapless lab assistants trail in his wake.

VALE: Must my life's work be defined by the whimsy of morons who wouldn't know progress if it teleported into their offices? And where the hell is Corben? He should be here!

ASSISTANT: Corben's gone to a meeting. Sir, without government funding or approval, we're looking at a complete shutdown of the project. There's really nothing we can do.

VALE: (darkly)I have another backer interested in this project.

ASSISTANT #2: But Dr. Vale...the government would never allow-

VALE: This work is too important! Don't you realise that? My God, after eight months working with me can't you see that? The future of humanity on this planet depends on the work we're doing here!

The two assistants exchange an uncomfortable look with each other. We get the impression they've heard this kind of talk from Vale before, and it never gets any easier to hear with time.

ASSISTANT #2: Dr. Vale, with all due respect...

LUTHOR: Why is it that when the phrase with all due respect is used, you can bet something disrespectful in the extreme will follow?

He's walking across the lab, carrying a large briefcase with him.

ASSISTANT: This...this is your other backer? Lex Luthor? Dr. Vale, are you insane?

ASSISTANT #2: I have to agree. There are other ways to raise the money, sir. There has to be.

VALE: It may surprise both of you to learn that I am a very wealthy man. I'm not bringing Mr. Luthor aboard for his deep pockets. He has something much more valuable to offer.

Sensing his cue, Lex places the briefcase down on a nearby table. We see up from the case as the faces of the four men crowd around. Luthor opens the case and a greenish glow suffuses upward, bathing them in an eerie jade light.

ASSISTANT: What is it?

VALE: (reverentially)Fuel...

Luthor shuts the case.

ASSISTANT #2: Fuel? But the prototypes aren't anything more than schematics...

VALE: Yes. I'm afraid an apology is in order.

He presses a button on a control panel adjacent and, like something from a Bond movie, the lab remodels itself, hidden panels and displays rotating into view. A large sarcophagus-esque casket rises slowly from the centre of the room in a rattle and hiss of machinery, coolant clouds billowing out from all sides.

Vale and Luthor look thrilled. The assistants are horrified.

The sarcophagus tilts upward, until its occupant is revealed through the toughened glass front panel; its the rough shape and size of a man, but is clearly a machine; a horrifically strong, solid looking machine, not smooth and sleek but squat, powerful, almost cruel, with an approximation of a face and two horizontal slits in place of eyes.

VALE: I call him Metallo.

LUTHOR: (wincing) You're still on Metallo? I was hoping you'd get bored of it and move on.

VALE: It's retro. I like it.

ASSISTANT: (spluttering with rage) Sir! I cannot believe you went ahead with construction – the weapon systems alone...this is illegal!

ASSISTANT #2: Sir, I'm begging you. Stop this.

VALE: (to Luthor) Ready?

LUTHOR: Oh yes, Doctor...

He puts the Kryptonite-filled briefcase on a nearby panel, takes out a single green brick of the substance, and gives it to Vale. Vale walks over to the sarcophagus containing Metallo and presses a certain sequence on a keypad embedded within; the glass panel slides back, and Metallo's chest opens and unfurls in a complicated series of metallic whirrs and whooshes. There is a cavity within exactly the size of the Kryptonite brick; clearly the alien rock has been cut to fit neatly inside.

Vale is about to place the brick inside when, from behind him, one of the lab assistants reaches inside his white lab coat and produces a handgun.

ASSISTANT: Hold it right there!

The other assistant does the same thing, pointing his gun at Lex Luthor.

ASSISTANT #2: You too, Luthor.

Vale turns. He looks at the two men, betrayed.

VALE: You're not even scientists, are you?

ASSISTANT: We're CIA, Doctor Vale. Did you really think your little psychosis and private experiments would go unnoticed? We've been tracking you for months.

ASSISTANT #2: I can't believe we netted Lex Luthor. Talk about your bonuses. You dropped off the grid after that stunt you pulled in the Atlantic so well we were beginning to think we'd never catch you. What'd you do, spend four months at the bottom of a hole?

LUTHOR: (breezily)I went fishing. But my hat's off to you gentlemen and your undoubted talents. Although it seems, sadly, that powers of observation aren't amongst them.

ASSISTANT: Meaning?

Vale steps to the side, allowing the CIA agents – and us – a better look at Metallo. And it's now, with the light illuminating it a little better, that we see that Metallo's chest cavity ALREADY contains one of the Kryptonite power cells.

VALE: Activate.

And at his single word, those sinister horizontal slits for eyes glow green with life, and from deep within the machine a deep, harsh, artificial and pitiless voice emanates.

METALLO: Threats detected.

The agents, panicking, begin retreating backwards, firing at the machine. The bullets ping harmlessly off the thick armour. Metallo frees himself of the sarcophagus with frightening speed for something that seems so cumbersome.

ASSISTANT #2: Vale! Call it off! Switch it off NOW-

That is as far as he gets. With one spring and leap we might think impossible for a machine, Metallo is upon him. We hear a snap and see his body hit the ground, limp as a puppet with snipped strings.

Metallo's head turns to look at the second agent. His eyes wide as saucers, he gibbers in fear.

ASSISTANT: I surrender! I surrender!

He throws his pistol to the floor, where it clatters along until it comes to a rest by Metallo's foot. The robot tilts its head to the side, almost inquisitively.

LUTHOR: Metallo! Activate enemy surrender protocol.

For one glorious moment, the agent looks relieved. And then his eyes widen again-

ASSISTANT: AAAAGHHH!

We cut to Vale and to Lex Luthor before the agent meets his fate, but we do hear another loud snap from the direction of the doomed man. Luthor smiles. Vale looks away.

And as quickly as it began, the lab is silent again. Metallo stands motionless, his hands at his sides. His thick metallic fingers, which at first look simply coloured red, betray their true origins as a drop of blood forms from a single digit and plummets to the floor.

LUTHOR: I see the surrender protocols are working perfectly, Doctor.

Vale remains turned away from the scene. His hands grip the console and we can see his knuckles are white, so hard is he gripping, almost as if he fears collapsing. He is breathing deeply. He remains this way until Luthor appears at his side.

LUTHOR: It had to be done, Doctor. They sought to close you down. Close us down. We can't let that happen.

VALE: (bitterly)Did you enjoy it?

LUTHOR: We don't have time for weakness, Doctor.

He turns Vale around and speaks to him passionately, articulately, as only Lex Luthor can; every word of the following is a lie, we know instinctively that Luthor doesn't believe a single word of it, but it's oh so plausible and sincere...

LUTHOR: You and I know the truth about what he represents. We have to send a message to his kind, that this planet can fight back. If we don't, more like him will come, and he and they will stop this charade of helping us. They will come to rule us, Doctor.

VALE: I know. I know.

Luthor walks to the imposing, silent statue of Metallo; he barely measures up to the robot's midriff, but somehow he projects just as menacing a presence as his burly bodyguard.

LUTHOR: With this...with your creation, we can finally target the scout they sent to Earth. The first of the invasion force. Tonight, Doctor, we will destroy Superman.

Act I, Scene VII

Lois Lane and Richard White's residence. A little boy's birthday party, and all of the chaos that entails, is in full swing. A clown is making balloon animals. One little boy, no more than four or so, takes one long look up at his painted face and bursts into extremely loud sobs. His mother swoops and picks him up moments later. The other kids watch. Some giggle. We see large platters of kiddy-friendly snacks and cakes being gobbled down by legions of little tykes.

Through this menagerie Lois Lane wanders, smiling absent-mindedly at the children in her way. She taps another mother on the arm. We don't hear her question, only see the other mother think for a moment before shaking her head no and shrugging her shoulders apologetically. Lois moves on, and this sequence repeats itself with a few other mothers and one father she encounters.

Eventually she encounters Richard, exiting the kitchen (a room filled mostly with Dads desperately seeking sanctuary and alcohol, by the looks of it). She asks him a question and he considers for a moment, before nodding grimly and leading her upstairs. They leave the noise of the party downstairs behind and enter a room – Jason's room.

They find Jason standing at his window alone, staring out at the Metropolis night.

LOIS: Jason? Jason honey?

She goes to him and he turns, looking up at her with big doleful eyes.

LOIS: Your party's in full swing downstairs, honey. The kids are wondering where you are.

JASON: No they're not. Most of them don't even know me.

RICHARD: Well in that case, we miss you, son. Won't you come down with us? It's almost time for your presents and...well, your Mom and I have a little extra surprise announcement to make.

JASON: Okay.

RICHARD: That's my boy.

Lois looks faintly pained at this tender exchange, all the more so because Richard has such a natural rapport with Jason; he's a natural parent, even if he's not the natural father. That just makes it harder.

JASON: Mom, are you gonna let Clark in?

LOIS: Did the doorbell ring?

The doorbell rings.

RICHARD: (laughs, ruffles Jason's hair) How about that? We should let you pick the lottery numbers, kiddo.

JASON: (confused) I heard him.

Richard looks at his son, still wearing a bemused 'kids say the darndest things' smile. Lois, however, is clearly a little rattled by Jason's childlike honesty.

LOIS: I'll get the door. You try and get us some peace and quiet downstairs for the presents and the...other surprise.

We cut to Lois approaching her front door.

LOIS: Coming, Clark. (under her breath) At least I can rely on you not to surprise me.

She opens the door, to reveal Clark with large present under one arm...and attached to the other, Dr. Vanessa Reed, the blonde psychiatrist from Act I, Scene I Lois so despised.

LOIS: Oh my God.

DR. REED: Good evening.

CLARK: Uh...is there a problem, Lois?

LOIS: (through gritted teeth) Problem? No...

Richard appears behind Lois, with Jason in his arms. We see Clark registering this.

CLARK: Hey, birthday boy.

JASON: Hey, uncle Clark.

Clark starts in surprise at the 'uncle' part. Richard grins at Clark and Dr. Reed.

RICHARD: The uncle part was my idea. Hope you don't mind?

CLARK: No. Not at all.

RICHARD: Great. Vanessa, glad you could make it. You didn't sound too hopeful when I invited you.

DR. REED: (glancing at Clark with a smile) Changed my mind.

Clark is still somewhat stunned. On the one hand, it hurts to have Jason call him 'uncle' when his actual relationship is much closer, but on the other, he's touched that Richard should make the gesture. It's another reminder of how essentially decent the man is. Lois, meanwhile, has a smile so jaw-straining in its ultra-sincerity that we begin to fear it might cause her permanent muscle damage.

There is an awkward moment as we go beyond the time it should take for someone at the door – namely, Lois – to invite the people outside to come in. Eventually Lois comes to life.

LOIS: Do come in.

Act I, Scene VIII

The party. Richard White straightens himself nervously – it's time. He displaces the clown from the rudimentary stage – the clown visibly sighs with relief – and, with Jason in his arms and Lois by the hand, stands before the assembled crowd of parents and tykes.

DR. REED: (faintly alarmed) So many children...

Perry White and Jimmy Olsen appear beside Clark and his date.

PERRY: Clark. Vanessa. (double take as he realises they are a couple) Clark...? Vanessa?

CLARK: Yes, Mr. White?

PERRY: Mmm. Nothing. You look lovely tonight.

CLARK: Thank you.

PERRY: I was talking to -! Ah. I see. Good one, Kent.

JIMMY: (whispers, to Clark) I'm just glad he wasn't drinking coffee.

RICHARD: If I could have everyone's attention, please?

He untangles Jason, somewhat reluctantly, from his arms and sets the boy down on the stage. Jason turns away from the eyes of the crowd and practically hugs Richard's leg. Richard laughs a little nervously and bends down to have a quick whispered word with the boy, and eventually succeeds in getting him to at least turn around, though his eyes are still shyly fixed to the floor.

We see Clark watching this simple father-son exchange, a world of hurt lurking behind his eyes, made worse by the fact that he knows what the announcement is concerning – a wedding date for Lois and Richard.

RICHARD: Lois and I have an announcement to make. It's, uh, some might say a little overdue...

And that's when Clark hears the voice.

LUTHOR: (voice-over) Superman. I'm now broadcasting on Canines-And-Kryptonians FM, so don't fret about anyone else eavesdropping on this little conversation.

JASON: Superman?

LUTHOR: Well...except for the birthday boy of course.

Clark is close to panic. He begins to scan the building with X-Ray vision, sweeping his head around to search from basement to skylight, trying to source any possible location of danger.

RICHARD: (confused) Superman couldn't make it tonight, son.

LUTHOR: He doesn't know yet, I'll bet. You're probably right. Too young, bless him.

JASON: Daddy, who's the man talking?

RICHARD: I don't hear anyone, son.

LUTHOR: I knew you'd be there tonight, Superman. And it got to me; no-one knows when your birthday is, do they? How sad. So I've got you a little something. It should be arriving about now...

A low humming sound begins to build from somewhere outside the house. Clark and Jason hear it first, but after a second or two we see that the remainder of the crowd are beginning to hear it, too. Everyone begins to look concerned.

DR. REED: Clark, do you hea-

She turns. Clark is gone. She frowns.

One side of the house disintegrates.

Thankfully, since everyone had assembled around the makeshift stage, it is at the far edge of the house. Nonetheless, everyone is thrown off their feet by the force of the blast. The children (and quite a few of the parents) scream for all they are worth. Richard instinctively cradles Lois and Jason close to him. Wood and debris rains down.

Through the smoke, a shadow forms. The terrified parents and children, huddling together in the smoke, cringe back as it approaches, especially as with each step its silhouette grows more and more horrifying and the noise of servomotors and machinery increases.

LOIS: Oh my God...

Metallo steps from the wreckage and surveys its handiwork. Its massive head swivels until it settles on the huddled group of Richard, Lois...and Jason. We see horror in Lois' eyes as she realises this thing, whatever it is, has taken special notice of her son.

METALLO: Secondary target, identified.

And before it can get any further, a red and blue blur appears from nowhere and piledrives into the monster's stomach, sending it high into the Metropolis night. Superman stands there, his fist still extended from the punch. Swinging it hurt him, but he doesn't show it to the people behind him as he turns.

SUPERMAN: Go. All of you. I'll handle this.

With a spring, he's airborne and gone in an instant, leaving only the former partygoers behind. Amazingly, the kids all begin to cheer wildly.

KID: That was way better than that lame clown!

KID #2: Jas, your parties rock.

JASON: Uh...thanks.

Richard begins to carry Jason out of what remains of the Lane household. Lois hurries along beside him.

RICHARD: Secondary target?

LOIS: What was that thing...

Richard doesn't reply, but he bears a strangely haunted expression on his face...

We cut to the skies above. Superman comes to a halt in mid-air, scanning the surrounding space with every one of his super-attuned senses for any trace of the creature he just uppercutted to the lower fringes of the planet's atmosphere.

In the distance, he sees something moving. Moving closer. Closing at an incredible rate. It's Metallo, stretched horizontal, his metallic arms outstretched before him in a grotesque parody of Superman's own flying style. His thin, inhuman eye slots glow a deep shade of jade. His legs, we now see, contain powerful rockets which are now firing, giving him the power of flight.

Superman narrows his eyes. He means business. He makes no effort to get out of the way, and instead simply pulls his fist back for another earth-shattering blow...and blinks. We see his eyes defocus for an instant and he seems to lose concentration. We intercut between this and the green glow emanating from within Metallo. The Kryptonite is having its desired effect.

It's all the opening Metallo needs. He rips into Superman at close to the speed of sound, sending the Man of Steel sprawling, arcing down gracelessly toward the waters of Metropolis harbour, before Superman is able to adjust his fall and crash-land on the surface of the suspension bridge spanning the river.

He gets to his feet. Cars and lorries and Metropolis evening traffic screech to a halt around him, causing instant logjam chaos all along the bridge's span. Horns blare. Metallo lands not ten feet away from Superman and cocks his head to the side, as if studying him.

METALLO: Primary target, identified. Kryptonian invasion force leader.

SUPERMAN: What are you?

Metallo springs to close the distance between itself and Superman. He is extraordinarily fast, but nowhere near on the same level of speed as his opponent. Superman steps backward to be out of range when Metallo lands...but the Kryptonite effect takes hold again, and his movements become sluggish. From seeming at first to move in slow-motion, Metallo's movements abruptly speed up to the point where he is able to land one, two, three, four solid punches to Superman's chest and head with one fist, whilst holding Superman in place with the other.

People begin to get out of their cars to watch. A mother covers her young daughter's eyes, but the child pushes her mother's hand away. A grown man looks away, unable to bear it.

Elsewhere, someone else is enjoying himself immensely. Lex Luthor sits in a huge throne-like chair in the middle of the laboratory, his feet up on the desk. We can see Emmet Vale behind him, looking altogether more tense about proceedings.

They are watching the scene unfold through an enormous video screen, a camera feed linked to Metallo's optical sensors. Luthor is performing his own shadow-boxing routine in time with Metallo; landing every punch, his eyes gleaming with maniacal satisfaction.

Back on the bridge. Superman lies prone on the surface, Metallo towering over him.

LUTHOR: DO IT! KILL HIM! KILL HIM NOW...!

Act I, Scene IX

A news helicopter tears through the skies of Metropolis, its destination in plain sight in the distance; the suspension bridge on which the battle between Superman and Metallo is now taking place. Onboard the helicopter, a young female reporter is talking breathlessly into camera. Her name is Tania Moon. During the following scene we will periodically – and very quickly – cut back to Tania and her news crew on the helicopter as they (rather suicidally) try to get as close to the action as possible.

TANIA: ...you join me live on WKTM as we close in on Ground Zero between Superman and an as-yet-unidentified assailant!

Superman launches himself backward, fully forty feet or so, out of the range of the would-be lethal blow Metallo lands, the force of which sends serious shivers up and down the spine of the bridge.

Metallo tries to spring forward to close the distance...but is stopped mid-spring by Superman, who remains where he is and utilises his super-breath to hold the robot in place. He increases the force and modifies the direction of his mini-hurricane slightly, blowing Metallo back against a support strut of the bridge. Cracks spread rapidly upward. The bridge shudders mightily; it's now close to all-out collapse.

VALE: He's keeping Metallo out of range. The Kryptonite won't have-

LUTHOR: (furiously) I can see what he's doing!

He speaks into some sort of communication device – we see a light flashing on the side of Metallo's head in synch with it.

LUTHOR: New primary target: the bridge. Destroy it.

METALLO: New target, identified.

He immediately sets about his task with terrifying efficiency, launching himself at the second nearby support strut...

SUPERMAN: NO!

...and ploughing clean through it. The entire centre section of the bridge, already hanging by little more than a thread, breaks its suspension bonds and begins to twist and warp and fall toward the freezing ocean below. Hundreds of stranded motorists inside and outside their vehicles scream their lungs out.

TANIA: He's taken out the bridge! Oh my God, those people! (to cameraman) Are you getting this?

Superman goes into action. He shoots upward, gathering cables as they fall from their moorings above, gathering as many as he can before they go taut as the bridge below falls. It slows the bridge's descent and allows him, descending as rapidly as he dares, to suck in a truly HUGE, a truly EPIC breath and release it into the harbour below.

LUTHOR: (mercilessly)Re-engage.

METALLO: Affirmative.

Metallo launches himself at Superman, who has no choice but to remain fixed in place as the huge metal behemoth looms large over him. The water has begun to freeze over, and a skin of ice is forming...Metallo strikes Superman a cruel blow to the head, and Superman reels in pain, but somehow keeps holding on to the cables, keeps that super-breath coming...taking another punch, and another...

TANIA: He can't take this much longer!

...the cables snap, unable to take the weight, and the bridge plummets – but not far, and the ice beneath the span...it cracks, and it groans, but it holds.

LUTHOR: Bravo. Now kill him.

Metallo begins to pound Superman, keeping him close with one hand all the time, not letting Superman get respite from the Kryptonite glowing within him. Even Superman can't withstand this punishment for much longer; he manages to land a few counter-blows here and there, but Metallo shrugs them off, and they're getting weaker by the second.

He's dying when he hears the voice. His father's voice.

JOR-EL: Son. There is much left for you to accomplish. Find the strength within you.

SUPERMAN: (weakly) Father...

Metallo swings his fist around for another blow, and Superman manages to catch it, intercept it, with his own hand. Metallo, however, is clearly the stronger, and pushes Superman's hand relentlessly back...

And a bright light slices through the night, illuminating Superman from behind, bathing him in a warm yellow glow, dazzling us and – through his viewscreen – a disbelieving Lex Luthor.

TANIA: I can't believe it! I...those...yes, those are the full-spectrum light emitters the police told us didn't exist! They're using them to help him!

We cut to far below, and on the waterfront Metropolis Police vans are pulling up, screeching to a halt. The police officers spilling out are helping to assemble and power what look like giant spotlights, one of which has already been activated. A second THRUMMS into life and sweeps across the sky to embrace Superman.

And incredibly, Metallo's fist begins to be pushed back. Superman closes his eyes, seems to take a deep breath, and when he opens those cold blue eyes of his again, it's clear that the Man of Steel is about to live up to his name once again...

SUPERMAN: AAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHH!

He shakes free of Metallo with a mighty heave, and with a roar of anger and battle-lust drives his fist into the robot's chest so fast and so hard that he goes clean through the armour.

LUTHOR: (despairing) No...he can't have-

But he has. His hand emerges from deep within Metallo clutching a lump of green rock. Its close contact to Superman is enough to make his skin blister and burn, turning cancerous and black. He grits his teeth against the searing pain and, winding back his arm, hurls the Kryptonite into orbit.

TANIA: YES! YES! YES YES YES YES! HOME RUN! HOME GODDAMN RUN!

Metallo is still hovering in mid-air. His leg-rockets, however, are spluttering and dying, and the green glow in his eyes is blinking rapidly.

SUPERMAN: Who built you?

His leg-rockets die. Metallo reaches out an arm, and Superman catches him, arresting his fall.

SUPERMAN: Who built you?

METALLO: (in Luthor's voice) This isn't over. This is only the beginning.

Metallo explodes.

Blown downward by the force of the blast, Superman impacts the ice below, hard, forming an impact crater beneath him.. He lies there for a long few moments before coming to, slowly, shaking his head. We stay close on him and hear a faint sound that sounds like helicopters...

...it is helicopters. Police helicopters are landing on the ice-sheet Superman created. Officers spill out onto the ice, herding up the shaken and injured motorists, no doubt aware that the ice will not stay stable for long. One helicopter touches down within twenty feet of Superman, who's still somewhat dazed from the ordeal. He stares at the hand which held the Kryptonite – only for a second – and flexes its fingers. As we watch, the hand cleanses itself of the Kryptonite's poisonous influence, the skin unblemishing and turning a healthy hue once again.

What Superman doesn't see, however, is a microscopic dot racing up his body. We do.

Superman gets to his feet and is greeted, not by the police he might have expected to be first onto the scene, but by Tania Moon, intrepid television reporter.

TANIA: Superman! That was amazing! You just saved hundreds of people from death and stopped an...um...mutant robot killing machine! How do you feel?

She thrusts the microphone into his face. He looks down at it, somewhat bemused.

SUPERMAN: Uh. Great?

TANIA: What do you pl...oh what the hell-

And before he can stop her, she throws herself at him and kisses him hungrily, completely overcome.

We cut to the Daily Planet offices, which has seemingly become a home for Jason Birthday Party refugees. Superman's kiss with Tania (which he's hurriedly trying to break away from, and finding it was only slightly more difficult to disentangle himself from Metallo) fills the TV screen in the newsroom. Everyone is watching. Lois is not pleased.

JIMMY: Who'd be a superhero?

LOIS: Shut up, Jimmy.

JIMMY: Shutting up, Lois.

On the screen, Superman disentangles himself from Tania Moon and flies off to help the evacuation teams get people to safety. Tania turns to the camera, her hair slightly unkempt, and begins talking. We don't hear her words, however. Our attention is focussed on Richard and Lois. Lois' face betrays her emotions; her awe of Superman and her surge of jealously upon seeing him in the clinch with Tania Moon. Richard is blind to neither. He visibly composes himself before reaching out his arm to put it around her shoulders.

She flinches.

Not a word is exchanged, but we can see the silent despair in his eyes...

Act I, Scene X

A fairly upmarket apartment block in Metropolis. A taxi disgorges Vanessa Reed, dressed smartly as always and clutching a bottle of wine. We see her entering the lobby, going up in the lift, getting out at a certain floor and walking along to door numbered 42. She knocks, then quickly adjusts her appearance, appearing a little nervous.

The door opens.

CLARK: Vanessa?

DR. REED: Clark. (she hefts the bottle of wine)We, uh, we never really did get started last night thanks to...you know, the killer robot almost killing us all. Which, I'll admit, is not something too many people can say about their first date.

CLARK: Yeah...

DR. REED: I was just wondering – I probably should have called – but with you covering Superman rebuilding the bridge all day, I thought you might not want to go out and maybe we could just stay in and-

She stops. A small head has just poked into view. It belongs to Jason Lane.

JASON: Hey.

DR. REED: Uh. Hey.

JASON: You're the head doctor with a K-Mart diploma and bad cute lickles, aren't you?

LOIS: (from inside) JASON!

Jason's head vanishes. There is the low murmuring of Lois telling him off in the background. Clark and Dr. Reed stare at each other for a long moment.

CLARK: Their house is kinda destroyed, so I offered...

DR. REED: (wan smile) Of course you did. Well here. Keep it on ice for some other time.

She hands him the bottle. As their hands touch, she lingers with her fingers an instant longer than necessary, giving him a clear message. He registers it, but cannot bring himself to say anything more than-

CLARK: Some other time.

VANESSA: Goodbye, Clark.

CLARK: Yeah.

He closes the door and turns into his apartment. It's equipped with a small balcony, two comfortable-looking sofas, a modestly large television, a compact but efficient kitchen and overall is actually pretty spacious, and as we'd expect for Clark Kent, neat to the point of painfulness.

Jason and Lois are sitting on one of the sofas. Lois wears an innocent expression that would put a cherub to shame.

LOIS: Jason? Do you have something to say?

JASON: (mumbling) ...sorry for being rude to your guests Uncle Clark. We really appreciate you letting us stay Uncle Clark.

LOIS: Good boy. And it's cuticles, not cute lickles. Now go unpack the rest of your stuff into the guest room.

Jason scampers off obediently.

LOIS: Your bottle's getting warm.

CLARK: Huh? Oh.

He puts the bottle of wine in the refrigerator and begins to tidy up the kitchen area (it's already pretty tidy, we note).

LOIS: We really do appreciate this, you know. It should only be for a few days, until my Dad gets back from duty and swings me a temporary apartment.

CLARK: It's no problem, Lois.

There is a small noise from behind him. It's a small noise to us, but naturally not to Clark. He turns.

CLARK: Lois?

LOIS: I'm OK...I...

She's crying, softly and silently. She walks into the kitchen area to stand with him, casting a glance over her shoulder in the direction of the spare bedroom that Jason disappeared into.

LOIS: I don't want him to see this. Don't you tell him, Clark Kent.

CLARK: I won't.

He reaches out a hand, hesitates, then places it on her shoulder. She glances up at him and smiles a little, grateful for the contact and the concern.

LOIS: Bet you never thought you'd see the day the Ice Queen melted, huh?

CLARK: Lois, you've been through a lot. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

LOIS: I've had what you could call an eventful life, Clark, what with superheroes and supervillains and kidnappings and the like. And I dealt. Not to bang my own drum, but I dealt damn well. But I can't see my son in danger without going to pieces. I love him. If anything happened to him, I'd...

She takes a deep, steadying breath, still staring at the doorway to the spare room. Clark's hand squeezes her shoulder as delicately as he dares. Naturally enough, he empathises with her very easily on this particular topic.

CLARK: He misses his father.

Lois starts at this, before realising what Clark (supposedly) is referring to.

LOIS: Richard...yes (she sighs) he's gone back undercover on this big story of his. I never figured him for a workaholic, especially at a time like this, but there's something about this story he just won't let go of.

CLARK: He wouldn't go without a good reason. (Quietly, with a hint of pain) He's a good man.

LOIS: We were going to announce a date last night. For the wedding. Before he showed up.

CLARK: (outwardly surprised, again proving himself to be an excellent actor)Oh. Well, now that he's been destroyed, you can always-

LOIS: I wasn't talking about the robot, Clark.

And with that, she walks away, leaving Clark – and us – in little doubt as to whom she WAS referring to. Jason emerges from the spare room and goes over to his mother, giving her a hug.

JASON: Mom...where's Dad?

LOIS: Working, honey. Daddy's working.

Act I, Scene XI

Vale's laboratory. He's working at consoles frantically and has his back turned to us, but he turns at the sound of a door opening and closing behind him.

VALE: It's about time you showed up!

We switch to see who he's talking to. The man standing before us is Richard White.

RICHARD: Sorry, Professor.

VALE: They will be coming. We need to pull back to the contingency site. Hurry!

He begins to gather materials. Richard does likewise.

RICHARD: But your machine...your Metallo...it was destroyed. It's over, Professor.

VALE: We've suffered a setback. Nothing more. My designs simply need improving. We're going to rebuild, stronger, smarter, better than before!

RICHARD: Then let's get started.

Act I, Scene XII

That night, Clark's apartment. Jason sleeps peacefully in the spare bed. Lois lies awake next to him, obviously troubled. Finally she sighs and gets out of bed, throwing on a dressing-gown over her nightdress. She rummages in her handbag and produces a packet of cigarettes, before staring at them for a few seconds. She curses softly and throws them against a wall, stalking out of the room. We see her emerge a few seconds later onto the small balcony Clark's apartment possesses. It has a grand view of the city, especially at night. Preoccupied as she is even Lois appreciates it.

LOIS: Not bad, Kent.

She stares at the twilight city for a few moments more, before tilting her head upwards and addressing the stars.

LOIS: I got rid of the cigarettes. So you can't do your normal showboating entrance this time.

We cut to a few rooms away. Clark is sleeping (we should notice, sleeping in precisely the same foetal position as Jason favours). We close in on him, closer and closer until we seem to travel inside his head...

We find ourselves on a different world; a crystalline world, hued in whites and sapphires, much like the appearance of Superman's Fortress of Solitude, writ large – writ global, in fact. It's barren by Earth standards, a little stark perhaps, but the sheer magnitude and majesty of the scene should be enough to inspire awe.

Far below, on the endless crystalline surface, is a small dot. We swoop down at dizzying speed toward it until it expands into the shape of a man – Superman, in fact, but clad not in his usual red and blue, clad rather in an all-over black suit with a silver 'S' shield emblazoned across the chest.

He is no less awestruck than we are.

SUPERMAN: (whispers) Krypton...

And a voice answers him.

JOR-EL: Magnificent, isn't it?

Superman turns toward the voice, hope and fear and longing in his eyes all at once. And sure enough, standing there, impossibly, is the image of his long-dead father.

SUPERMAN: Father?

JOR-EL: (nods) Son.

Superman stands frozen to the spot. We can tell he wants, more than anything, to go and embrace his father, but something holds him back, some doubt. Jor-El regards his son with paternal pride evident.

SUPERMAN: Is this real?

JOR-EL: Humankind would call it a dream. For us, it is a little more than that.

SUPERMAN: I heard you speak to me when-

JOR-EL: -you were in battle. Yes.

SUPERMAN: You told me I had much left to accomplish.

JOR-EL: You must rediscover your heritage, my son.

SUPERMAN: The crystals are gone. I don't know-

JOR-EL: Yes, you do. You know. And you must retrieve them, son. Until you do, you will not be complete. You know this.

SUPERMAN: I can't go back there. Please, Father...

He walks towards Jor-El, his arms outstretched pleadingly, but finds only emptiness. His father and Krypton are gone, and once again, he stands alone in the void...and that's when he hears Lois' words relayed to him, crystal clear. His eyes open.

LOIS: (voice-over) Come on. I know you're up there.

Clark sighs. We get the impression he doesn't get that much uninterrupted sleep. He pads softly over to his wardrobe, clad only in boxers, and opens the wardrobe door. A row of immaculate Clark Kent issue suits is revealed. Clark reaches a little further and pulls a small lever...and the wardrobe back slides to the left, revealing an altogether different row of suits.

LOIS: (voice-over) Oh okay. Be like that.

Clark smiles wryly, almost sharing a joke with us; Lois Lane is an infuriating woman, definitely possessed of the qualities to drive people crazy at times, and we sense he's not totally immune to that; we also sense it's one of the things he loves most about her.

We cut back to Lois, still staring up at the sky.

LOIS: I'd better see reports of some big disaster happening tonight on the news tomorrow.

She turns and walks away from the balcony, heading back for the room. We see a shape gracefully descend from the skies and touchdown on the balcony behind her.

SUPERMAN: You called?

Lois jumps a little, turns, and glowers at Superman for a second, before running to join him on the balcony and closing the sliding doors to the apartment. The balcony is only just big enough to accommodate two people, and even in doing so forces them to stand rather close to each other...

LOIS: Yes! Sssh. You'll wake Clark.

Superman raises an 'oh, really?' eyebrow at this comment.

LOIS: Oh get serious. He offered to put us up for a few nights after the house was half-destroyed.

SUPERMAN: That's nice of him. He sounds like-

LOIS: -he is. Oh God he is. He's the nicest. Look, I didn't call you here to sing an ode of praise to Clark Kent.

SUPERMAN: Why did you?

LOIS: First off, what the hell was that thing last night?

SUPERMAN: I don't know. I'm looking into it. I know one thing – Luthor is involved.

LOIS: He's back? (thinking it over) Of course he's back. Who else?

Superman notices the worry in her eyes. He stands beside her and puts out a hand to her shoulder, in much the same way as Richard White would do.

She doesn't flinch.

SUPERMAN: I'll deal with Luthor. I promise you that. I was hoping maybe the Planet could-

LOIS: Of course. I'll pass on anything we dig up.

SUPERMAN: Thank you. So is this an interview...?

LOIS: (sighs) No. Just journalistic curiosity forced me to ask, I guess. Now I wish I hadn't. But enough about that...we need to talk. About Jason.

SUPERMAN: Ah.

LOIS: Don't you go monosyllabic on me now, buster, or so help me I'll...

SUPERMAN: (holding up his hands in an 'I surrender' gesture)Okay. Okay, Lois. I won't. Shoot.

LOIS: You were right. I can't expect him to go unnoticed by Richard or the world if I just let him muddle on. And I'm not ready for that. Not yet.

Superman, wisely, simply nods.

LOIS: I want you...I want you to guide him. I'll arrange for you two to meet – God knows you're his hero, so he'll jump at the chance-

SUPERMAN: Hey. Hold up. I'm his hero?

LOIS: (laughs) That's got to be the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say. Of course you're his hero. You're everyone's hero, you dope.

SUPERMAN: (softly)I'm not everyone's father.

He stares into the apartment and his X-Ray vision peels back the walls separating him from his sleeping son. Lois follows his gaze and realises what he's doing. She opens her mouth...then closes it, and just lets him look. He seems close to tears for a moment, before steadying himself visibly. Lois respectfully says nothing about this momentary slip.

LOIS: So what do you say?

SUPERMAN: I think...I say thank you. And yes. Of course, yes.

LOIS: Great. Shall we say tomorrow after school? Assuming we can shake Clark, that is.

Superman, excited and deliriously happy, seems about to say something unwise along the lines of 'oh I don't think THAT will be a problem!', but he stops himself just in time and simply nods as sagely as he can. Lois stares at him, and smiles, unable to stop herself.

LOIS: See you tomorrow.

SUPERMAN: You will. Good night, Lois.

And with that, he takes off and we follow him upward. He's not going anywhere in particular, just expending some of the happiness welling in him; we follow him upward until he reaches Earth's atmosphere. He's wearing the biggest smile you could ever wish to see. He rockets around the planet for a few thousand miles until, around its curvature, the Sun emerges, as the line of night passes over the surface far below.

Superman lets the light of a breaking day wash over him. For this one glorious moment, he is truly happy.

Act I, Scene XIII

A car pulls up to an abandoned warehouse somewhere in Metropolis Harbour. Out scramble Professor Vale and Richard White.

VALE: Our new associate is waiting inside. I think you'll enjoy meeting him.

RICHARD: I'm sure I will.

As they move into the building, Richard takes out a small device from his pocket and thumbs a control on its side. A red light begins to flash on the device. He drops it surreptitiously into a dark corner adjacent to the warehouse's entrance when Vale's attention is distracted.

We see Vale and Richard inside the warehouse which, unlike its rather basic outward appearance, is actually fitted identically to the high-tech laboratory we saw Vale occupy previously...right down to the central attraction; a Metallo model, resplendent in its sarcophagus, dominating the interior of the warehouse. Richard finds himself dumbstruck just looking at it.

RICHARD: Why the hell didn't you tell me you had a working model, Professor? Let alone two...

VALE: I was protecting you, dear boy. Need to know basis. And I was right – would you believe two of my most trusted assistants turned out to be traitors!

LUTHOR: Oh, I think he might.

Richard White freezes at the sound of that voice. Lex Luthor, who has just appeared from between two consoles like a genie from a bottle, regards him with all the calmness one would expect from him.

RICHARD: Luthor...

VALE: You two know each other?

LUTHOR: That depends, Professor. I don't know John Corben, exploitative tabloid hack who swears he hates Superman. But I do know Richard White, nephew of Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet and, last I checked, fiancé of Miss Lois Lane and good acquaintance of...

VALE: ...Superman. (furiously) You lying son of a-

RICHARD: Save it. You're a joke, Vale. Superman is no more of a threat to this planet than I am. You're a laughing stock. But when we got evidence you were building a weapon, you graduated from loser to terrorist.

LUTHOR: (mildly) I must say, Emmet, your security checks on your employees leave something to be desired. Who's your gardener, J Edgar Hoover?

RICHARD: (ignoring him)You two are going to prison for a very long time.

LUTHOR: Perhaps you're referring to the signal beacon you activated prior to entering this facility. Ah, I can see by that look on your face I'm right. Happily though, that won't be an issue.

The confident look on Richard White's face begins to melt away. Luthor's smile only gets broader in response. We notice that Lex has been steadily moving to put himself between Richard and the only exit.

VALE: (scornfully)A signal beacon? Please. This facility is undetectable and invisible to the most advanced technology on the planet.

Luthor produces a small but sufficiently lethal handgun and levels it at Richard White's stomach.

LUTHOR: No-one knows you're here, Richard. I think it's time we had a little talk.

RICHARD: We've got nothing to talk about, Luthor.

Lex's smile takes on a cruel twist. He stares directly at Richard White, and we can see that cold, calculating brain working overtime behind those dead eyes. He walks closer and leans toward him, almost conspiratorially.

LUTHOR: (softly)You would be amazed at how wrong you are.

END OF ACT ONE