"Enjoy what's left of your life alien," Lex Luthor spat at the bloody beaten man on the floor of the Daily Planet newsroom. Lois Lane watched in horror as the bald madman gave his prone victim one last savage kick to the side before hurrying out of the newsroom, followed by his gang of armed thugs.
The thugs had burst from the elevators less than thirty minutes earlier and had taken the newsroom hostage at gun point. Everyone, Lois included, had assumed Luthor was there to take her hostage to force Superman's arrival. Instead, Luthor swung his head around as if looking for someone. Finally, he spotted the person he had been searching for: Clark Kent.
"There you are, Mister Kent," Luthor purred. "Or should I say, Superman?"
There were protests of disbelief around the room but Luthor's men waved their automatic weapons around threateningly. The protests died quickly.
As Lois watched, Clark seemed to shrink in on himself as if consciously trying to obscure his height. He laughed nervously. "You think I'm…" He made that silly sideways hand motion he used to denote Superman. "That's ridiculous."
"Is it?" Luthor asked. "I have evidence that Superman disappears into this building and not just to visit the charming Ms. Lane here. And a check of personnel records shows there's only one person working in the building who even remotely resembles that flying freak."
"Just because I may resemble…" Clark began to protest.
"Resemble?" Luthor barked. "Superman's twin brother couldn't look more like him than you do. Or should I just call you Kal-El?"
"My name is Clark Kent," Clark managed to say.
Luthor laughed. It was an ugly laugh. "Oh, I know all about you. Clark Joseph Kent, Smallville, Kansas. Only child of Jonathan and Martha Kent – adopted foundling child. Did you know your upstanding, salt of the earth parents were on the FBI's watch list?"
"A lot of civil rights activists were on the FBI's watch list," Clark responded.
Luthor ignored his statement. "Graduated summa cum laude from Smallville High, then disappeared off the face of the Earth until you entered the journalism program at Met U. Graduated with honors there, then managed to wrangle a job at the most prestigious newspaper on the East Coast. How did you manage that? How did 'I never lie' manage to fake a resume good enough to get hired here?"
Out of the corner of her eye Lois saw Perry begin his own protest. One of the thugs swung his gun around to point directly at the editor and he snapped his mouth shut.
"Why do you assume it's fake?" Clark asked.
It occurred to Lois that Clark was trying to keep Luthor talking, trying to buy time. But for what? For the police to arrive? They didn't even know there was a problem. One of Luthor's first acts was to cut the office phones and the computer network. For an opening to act? It was Clark for heaven's sake. Goofy, aw-shucks, trip over his own feet Clark Kent. Unless…
It was ridiculous to think that Clark was really Superman. That would mean that Clark was Jason's biological father. And he had lied to her every day, insinuating himself into her life while at the same time Superman distanced himself from her. Lois looked around at her coworkers and recognized her own confusion and surprise reflected in their faces.
"What do you want, Luthor?" Lois demanded.
The bald man made a show of checking his watch. "What I want is for your little bastard to arrive. Or should I say your alien love child. Or haven't you shared that little tidbit with your co-workers? That the alien freak is a dead-beat dad?"
"That's not true," Lois protested. "Richard is Jason's father!"
"Is that how you suckered the poor boob into keeping you and your brat?" Luthor demanded.
Lois didn't have a chance to answer as the elevator doors opened and her fiancé Richard White stepped out with Jason. She saw their eyes widen as they realized something was wrong but it was too late. Luthor's men were dragging them forward.
"Now the whole family's here," Luthor chortled. "Shall we see who your brat's father really is?" He took a pistol from one of his men and pointed it at Jason.
"Luthor, why are you doing this?" Clark demanded. Lois suppressed a gasp. Clark's voice was lower, firmer, stronger. He sounded like Superman.
"One flying freak is more than enough for this planet. Two? I don't think so. So one of you isn't leaving here alive. If you don't act, the brat dies and I guarantee I'll make sure the entire world knows you sacrificed your bastard to save your own skin," Luthor said.
Lois saw that the color had drained from Clark's face. "What sort of sick old man are you that you would use a child like that?" Clark asked.
"Haven't you figured that out?" Luthor demanded. "I'm saving the world from you. By the way, my gun is loaded with kryptonite."
Lois watched in horror as Luthor's finger tightened on the trigger. The shot echoed in the large room and she reflexively closed her eyes. When she opened her eyes she expected to see her baby dead on the floor. Instead, Clark was shielding him with his body. Blood was staining Clark's jacket.
Richard was standing there, shocked, pale, horrified. Jason was clinging to Richard's leg, tears streaming down his face.
Then Luthor's goons grabbed Clark away from Jason and Richard and began beating him. It was merciless, barbaric, but to Lois's surprise, Clark was getting his licks in as well. He managed to floor two of Luthor's goons.
Luthor was furious. Another shot rang out and this time Clark went down. The beating didn't stop. Even Luthor was getting in the act, kicking him while he was down. Lois was certain she heard bones cracking under the onslaught. And through all of it, Luthor's other goons waved their guns around. No one dared move. No one dared help injured, defenseless, innocuous, Clark.
Then one of the goons yelled out a warning. Luthor gave Clark one last vicious kick before leaving the newsroom. "Enjoy what's left of your life alien."
Lois was shaking as she knelt beside the bloodied man on the floor. She couldn't even tell if he was breathing. "Clark?"
"Help's on the way," Richard said from somewhere close.
A murmur went through the newsroom. Lois looked up to see a dark haired man kneeling across from her – Bruce Wayne, the Daily Planet's publisher.
"The police were notified as soon as we lost the security system and phones," Wayne said. "Luthor won't get far." He turned his attention to the man on the floor. "Hang in there buddy."
"Luthor was going on about how Clark was really Superman," someone said. Lois thought it might be Jimmy, but she couldn't be sure. Nothing was making sense.
"He said he had kryptonite bullets," the voice went on.
Wayne nodded and tapped the earpiece Lois just now noticed he was wearing. "Code Dallas. Repeat Code Dallas," he said softly to the air.
The next few minutes were a blur. Suddenly she was surrounded by blue uniforms that pulled her away while white uniforms gently moved Clark's body onto a gurney. They cut away his jacket and shirt sleeve and began hunting for a vein for an IV. He had to be alive if they were starting an IV, right?
There was no sign of Superman's distinctive skin tight blue.
"Mommy?" a small voice asked and she felt Jason's warm body against her leg. She knelt down to be on eye level with him. His eyes were wide with fear, brimming with tears. She scanned the rest of his body. He was unhurt, just scared.
"It's okay, baby," Lois assured her son. "It's going to be okay…"
From behind her, Perry was shouting orders to the rest of the crew: "This is a newsroom. This is news! Gil, you and Jaime are on Luthor. Polly, you're on Kent. Why did Luthor think he was Superman? And where the hell was Superman?"
Wait... Perry doesn't believe Luthor's claims about Clark?
"Mexico City, chief," a voice called out. "An apartment building collapse… oh shit…"
The noise in the newsroom dropped to nothing and someone turned up the volume on the GNN monitor. "… have they found him?" a reporter was asking someone. In the background men were attacking a burning pile of rubble with shovels and blankets. Then a shout. The camera came closer as workers, some with bare bleeding hands, rolled away chunks of concrete to reveal a bloody, dust-gray body – but the dust didn't hide the fact that the body belonged to a dark-haired man wearing a Superman uniform. The dust also didn't hide the sickly green color of some of the chips of rubble.
"Is he…" the reporter on the screen asked. One of the rescue workers shook his head and the reporter turned back to the camera. He swallowed hard, visibly shaken. "To bring you up to date – less than an hour ago, reports came in concerning the collapse of an apartment building that was under construction on the outskirts of Mexico City. Witnesses say that Superman was on the scene digging out survivors almost before anyone realized what had happened. Then the unthinkable - while Superman was inside looking for the last unaccounted for workmen, a bomb brought down what remained of the building. As you can see, rescue workers and members of the construction team have been working feverishly to rescue the being who has rescued so many, but now…"
On the screen a man with a stethoscope shook his head solemnly. Another man draped a worn jacket over the face of the dead man.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the world," the reporter said solemnly. "It would appear that Superman is dead."
"How…" Lois managed to stammer out even though she wasn't sure what she was even trying to ask.
"Lois, how about we go home?" Richard asked, breaking into her whirling thoughts.
At first his words didn't really register, but then she shook her head. "No, I'll be okay." She wasn't sure if she was lying or not.
"Lois, at least get Jason away from here," Perry suggested gruffly. "Your sister's or even Alice." He nodded meaningfully at the police tape that now surrounded the area where Clark had been shot and beaten. Men and women wearing protective masks and nitrile gloves were taking samples of everything they could.
Lois nodded. It would be better if Jason was away from the newsroom. She grabbed her purse and keys and took Jason's hand.
"Ms. Lane, we'll need to get your statement," one of the officers said.
"I'll be back," she promised. "I just need to get my son away from here."
She started toward the glass doors to the elevators only to find that Wayne had fallen into step with her on Jason's other side.
"I'll walk you to your car," he said as he ushered her into the elevator car. "I could drive you, if you'd like."
"No, thank you," Lois said. After a few moments the elevator doors opened onto the one of the floors that connected to the parking garage. She led the way through the steel doors and then found her path blocked by the billionaire.
"Ms. Lane," he began. "Clark is a very good friend of mine, and I promised him I would do everything in my power to keep you and your son safe. So for his sake, I need you to trust me."
"Why would Clark…"
"I think we both know why," Wayne said quietly.
It was insane, utterly insane, but Lois suddenly knew that Luthor had been right. Clark Kent was Superman. She had a sudden vision of Clark in jeans and a plaid shirt, face bloodied.
'Maybe we should hire a body guard,' he was saying.
'I don't want a bodyguard. I want the man I fell in love with,' she heard herself say.
'I know Lois, and I wish he were here.'
"He…" she began then thought better of it. If Clark is dead it won't matter and if he isn't, we'll have time to hash this out. "What do you want me to do?"