March 5, 2010

A sequel to Game, Set, Match


Lois lingered as long as she could in that half state between sleeping and waking. She was in a bed that smelled of detergent and bleach. It was a good smell, a comforting smell. Like when she was little and her mother was still okay and had put fresh sheets on the bed.

Other smells and sounds intruded, breaking into her comfortable half-dream. Disinfectant smell intermingled with the sound of beeps. She let her mind linger over the odd dream she had. Lex Luthor had been trying to convince her that they'd been lovers and he wanted them to disappear together. Then the dream morphed into something horrible – Luthor had a gun that could kill Superman and he'd used it to kill him. Luthor had killed him. He had killed Clark

The dream morphed again and she was trapped inside a glass canister watching Luthor as he gloated over his victims. She pounded on the canister - only the hands doing the pounding weren't hers. They were large – as large as Clark's, only… Clark was dead on the floor.

But it was only a dream, wasn't it?

She stretched before opening her eyes but her body felt heavy and a little ungainly but she wasn't in any pain. Slowly she opened her eyes and looked around. She was in a hospital bed, but she had no idea which hospital.

She sat up to get her bearings, looked down and had to stifle a gasp of astonishment. Her breasts were gone, replaced by a broad chiseled chest that matched the muscular arms sticking out of the hospital gown.

A horrible suspicion coalesced in her mind and she checked under the sheet and gown to confirm it – she was now male.

Lois cast her mind back to her dream. Luthor had a gun that could kill Superman and he'd used it to kill him – no Luthor hadn't killed him, not just then. She tried to stop Luthor only he threw her aside. Then… Her thoughts shied away from what had to have come next. Luthor had turned his weapon on her for defying him. That or she had tried to shield Superman from Luthor's weapon. Either way, it seemed that Asabi's soul transfer trick had worked.

Lois Lane was alive, but in a different body.

She climbed out of the bed, teetering unsteadily on large feet as she made her way to the adjoining restroom. A look into the mirror confirmed it. She was not only male, but the body was that of the male that Mamba had created for Luthor himself – the genetically perfect Arian male model, blond, blue-eyed, perfect teeth, perfect body.

"The bastard did it," she murmured. Her voice sounded weird in her ears. It was far too low. An errant thought flitted through her mind. Had Mamba given his creation a good singing voice? Her own voice had been pretty good and she enjoyed singing. Had she lost that as well?

Then another thought crossed her mind. Mamba's other creation had been female. Had she survived? And if she had, whose soul had taken her? Clark or Lex?

She felt a chuckle rising into her throat. Lex would be horrified to be in the wrong body. It was odd – her memory was still patchy in some areas – but she clearly remembered Luthor's snide little comments concerning the 'fairer sex'. She suspected that Lex saw women as little more than sex toys and baby factories. He certainly would hate waking up as an 'innie'.

And Clark? Lois wasn't sure how Clark would react if he woke up in a woman's body. He was normally pretty level-headed but this was a seriously mind-blowing concept. And that didn't include Superman – how would Clark react to losing Superman on top of everything?

-o-o-o-

His first impression on waking up was that everything was muted. The sounds were softer and more distant and his sense of touch seemed almost gone – he didn't feel numb so much as he felt there was a barrier between himself and the world. He also felt weak, as weak as he did when exposed to kryptonite but without the pain. His sense of smell was muted – he should have been able to identify where he was just by the scents but all he could smell at the moment was detergent and bleach.

He opened his eyes. Even they weren't working quite right. He could see but again it was like he'd been exposed to kryptonite – his special vision was gone.

Clark took another moment to access the situation. His surroundings indicated he was in a hospital room but he had no idea how he had gotten there.

He remembered Luthor attacking him and kidnapping his mother. He remembered tracking Luthor to his lair. He remembered the searing pain when Luthor turned his disruptor on him. Then nothing, except…

He was sure what he remembered next was a dream. He had opened his eyes to find himself in a glass canister, looking down on his own brightly clad body. Lois was sprawled over Superman's body and it was obvious that they were both dead. He heard a scream and then gunfire. Luthor slumped to the floor, his dead eyes staring at Clark trapped in the canister.

It had to be a dream, right?

He started to climb out of the hospital bed. Depowered or not, he didn't want some overly curious doctor examining him and discovering that he wasn't human.

But his center of gravity was wrong and his body just didn't feel right. He looked down to see what was wrong and saw… breasts?

His hands and wrists were wrong – they were small and feminine with manicured nails. His feet and legs were wrong as well. They were shapely legs and feet but they belonged to a woman a little taller and heavier than Lois. He brushed absently at something on his shoulders and discovered his hair was past his shoulders. He held a lock of it in front of his face and stared at it – his new body was a blonde and from his first inspection, the collar and cuffs matched.

Clark had no idea how Luthor had managed it but he had no doubt that Luthor was at fault. He also knew that if he told anyone what had happened to him he'd end up in a padded cell.

Clark had no intention of landing in the psych ward and he knew he would never find out what happened to him from inside a hospital room.

He mulled over his dream, realizing it probably hadn't really been a dream at all. Lois was dead. She'd been sprawled across his body, her chest blown away by that monstrous weapon. Luthor killed her.

Lois was dead.

-o-o-o-

Lois looked up as the door to her room opened and a familiar face showed itself – Bill Henderson, MPD. Another officer followed him in.

"My name is Henderson and this is Wilkerson and we're with the Metropolis police. If you don't mind, Mister Alexander, we'd to ask you a few questions about what happened to you and what you may have seen."

Mister Alexander? Lois was so caught up in the revelation of her body's name that she almost missed the first question.

"Can you tell us why you and your wife were sealed inside bullet-proof air-tight glass tubes in Lex Luthor's hideout?" Henderson asked.

"I honestly have no idea," Lois said. "In fact, I'm a little fuzzy on a lot of things."

Henderson grimaced. "The doctors found some interesting drugs in your system. The lab's still trying to identify some of them. But you have no idea what Luthor was planning?"

"Only that he claimed he had a way to kill Superman, and he had some idea that he'd get away scot free," Lois said. "Something about 'soul transference'."

"Do you know how he planned to kill Superman?" Henderson asked.

"Some sort of gun. A 'disruptor' I think he called it. I have a feeling it was something like a military prototype," Lois said. "I'm pretty sure that's what he used to kill Superman and Lois Lane."

Henderson raised one eyebrow and Lois realized she had mentioned something that she shouldn't have known – the real name of Luthor's female companion.

"I recognized her," Lois explained quickly. "From her photograph. I guess her fiancé must be pretty upset."

Henderson simply nodded.

Lois decided to ask some questions of her own. "You, um, found our ID and clothes and everything?"

"All packed up like you were planning a trip," Wilkerson said. "Where were you planning on going?"

"We had no plans to go anywhere, at least not that I remember."

"You weren't planning on flying to Paris in the morning?" Henderson asked.

Lois shook her head.

"How long had you known Lex Luthor?" Wilkerson asked.

"As far as I remember, I didn't know him at all," Lois answered.

"And you have no idea why he had you and your wife in those tubes?" Henderson insisted.

"No idea at all," Lois lied.

"Do you remember your wife's name?" Henderson asked.

Lois's mind spun. Was Henderson suspicious of her, or just naturally cautious? And what name would Luthor have put on her passport?

"Louisa," Lois said. Close enough to 'Lois' for her to remember, different enough not to raise the suspicions of people who knew Lois Lane.

Henderson seemed almost satisfied. "The doctors want to keep the two of you here overnight for observation. We'll want to talk to you again when your head's clearer."

A woman stuck her head in. Lois recognized her – Betty Reed, an MPD detective.

"Mrs. Alexander has flown the coop," Reed announced.

"I ordered a guard on her," Henderson growled.

Reed shrugged. "We're searching the building, but we think she got some clothes from the nurses' lockers and maybe even some cash. But no credit cards are missing."

"Mister Alexander, why would your wife run away?" Henderson asked.

"She has a really serious aversion to doctors," Lois suggested only half joking.

Henderson was not amused. "And where would she run to?"

"I have no idea," she answered, honestly this time.

-o-o-o-

Clark was ashamed of what he'd had to do – breaking into the nurses' locker room, stealing a set of bright colored scrubs and a pair of shoes that didn't quite fit. Someone had been foolish enough to leave a purse with money in it and he made a mental note of the name so he could pay her back once this nightmare was over.

And it was a nightmare.

He just needed to get somewhere safe and quiet, preferably with an Internet connection, where he could hunker down and figure this out. Without giving it much thought he gave the cabbie the address to his apartment.

As the cab wended its way through the busy streets, he sat back and let himself wonder about the body he was in. Who was she? Did she have people who were looking for her, who loved her? Did she have a husband, a lover? He had no answers, yet.

But he wasn't an award winning investigative reporter for nothing. He would figure it out.

The cab stopped in front of his building. He paid the cabbie, trying to ignore the leering look the man gave him. Was this something Lois went through? Guys she didn't know undressing her with their eyes? Lois…

He hurried up the stairs to his apartment. At the door he realized he didn't have his keys and the spare wasn't beneath the plant in the corner.

Maybe, hopefully, his parents were inside. Without super-hearing he couldn't tell. Then it hit him – Superman was dead. His parents must be devastated.

Steeling himself, he knocked on the door. After a moment the door opened and he found himself face to face with… Lois?

She looked awful – eyes red with crying, skin pale and splotchy – a woman deep in grief. "Lois?" she whispered to him, grabbing his arm and pulling him inside.

His dad was standing in the living room. "Lola, who is it?"

"It's Lois!" the dark-haired woman said. Lois was dead, so this had to be the Lois clone Luthor had made. The one who actually married Clark Kent only days before.

"Honey, Lois is dead," Jonathan said gently.

The clone shook her head. "Lex had this crazy plan about using A-type clones to transplant his soul or brain or something," she said. "She's…" the clone pointed to Clark, "one of the A-type clones. She doesn't need to eat frogs."

"She may be right," Martha said, coming out of the bedroom to join Jonathan. She looked worn out. "That looks like a girl the police were trying to rescue from the canister before the air ran out," she added.

Clark followed 'Lola' down the steps. He wanted to grab his mom and give her a hug but he didn't dare. His dad was standing behind his mom, his hands on her shoulders.

"What's your name?" Martha asked gently. "And why did you come here?"

"I'm not Lois," Clark said, realizing that coming here there was a bad idea. "I shouldn't have come here. I'm sorry to have intruded on your grief." He turned to head for the door but found Jonathan's hand on his arm.

"What makes you think we're grieving?" The man's eyes were narrowed suspiciously. "Who are you?"

Clark's shoulders sagged. They would never believe him. He didn't believe it himself.

"I'm not Lois," he repeated.

"Did Lex wake you up and forget to give you a soul?" 'Lola' asked.

"I don't think so," Clark said. "I mean, I don't think he's the one who woke me up. And as for the rest, I don't think you'd believe me if I told you."

Martha chuckled. "You have no idea what I would or wouldn't believe." She gestured for Clark to sit down. "Lola, why don't you start another pot of coffee?"

Lola pouted prettily. "You trust me to do that after I nearly burnt up the last pot?"

"Just remember to add the water and close the lid before you turn on the coffee maker," Jonathan told her with a tired smile.

Lola trudged into the kitchen.

Martha turned back to Clark. "Who are you?"

"I'm not sure," Clark admitted. "But I seem to have the memories of Clark Jerome Kent."

Martha actually paled.

"That's a pretty sick joke young woman," Jonathan growled.

"I told you you wouldn't believe me," Clark said, starting to get up from the chair. Martha motioned him to stay.

"What sort of memories?" she asked.

"Everything."

He didn't need super powers to read the disbelief in his father's face. Clark wondered what he could possibly tell them that would make them believe him.

"When I was eleven, I overheard Mrs. Atkinson talking to Mrs. Lang about how terrible it was that you and dad had adopted somebody's unwanted bastard and that it was only a matter of time before my 'breeding' came out and I'd break your heart, or worse. I was so upset I started running. I just ran and ran. When I stopped, I didn't know where I was, but it wasn't anywhere near Smallville. I found a payphone and called home collect. You and Dad were frantic. You thought I'd been kidnapped or something."

During the story, Jonathan had paled as well. He slowly sat down on the sofa next to his wife.

"Where did you call from?" Jonathan asked. His voice was tight.

"Boulder."

"You never told us why you ran away," Martha murmured. "You never told us you heard what she'd said."

"But we suspected," Jonathan added. "Moira Atkinson was a jealous old…"

Martha put a hand on Jonathan's arm and his voice trailed off.

"We never told anyone how far Jonathan had to drive to bring you back when you ran away that day," Martha said softly. "We let everyone assume you were hiding out in town somewhere."

"You believe me?" Clark asked. He couldn't keep the hope out of his voice.

"It's pretty hard to believe," Jonathan said.

"Harder than discovering a baby in a spaceship, or that your teenage son could bench press tractors?" Clark asked.

Jonathan managed a chuckle. "Well, when you put it that way…"

"What happened?" Martha asked.

"I went in to get Lois out. Luthor still had the gun. He shot… Superman. The next thing I know, I'm trapped in a glass canister and I look like this," he said. He studied his mother for a moment. "Did Luthor hurt you?"

"He tried to scare me," she admitted. "But for such a smart man, he really wasn't. Lola knew exactly where he was. She found where he'd stashed me and called the police. Led them right to him."

"So if I'd just waited a few minutes I would have had back up and this wouldn't have happened?" Clark asked.

"He would have killed Superman anyway," Lola said from the kitchen. "And then where would you be?"

"Lois might still be alive," he said.

"You don't know that she isn't," Lola said. "The same thing might have happened to her."

"You really think so?" Clark asked.

"Hey, I'm a clone and yesterday you were a guy who could fly," Lola said. "The way I figure it, anything can happen."

-o-o-o-

Henderson's visit had raised almost as many questions as it had answered. Lois now knew what name Luthor had planned on using and that he had planned to start his new life in Paris. She recalled him mentioning he had a villa on the French Riviera. No doubt he'd had the title transferred to his 'Alexander' identity.

She wondered what other arrangements he had made in preparation for his escape into another body. It was the perfect disguise. How could the police possibly make a case against a killer who has left his body behind, who could be anyone?

And Mrs. Alexander - was she Clark or Lex? If she was really Lex, it would be impossible to prove and chances were very good she was long gone.

And if it was Clark who had been transferred into the female body? What would he do? Where would he go?

Home?

She was certain his parents were still in town. They wouldn't have abandoned their son during his time of need – Luthor had torn their lives apart too with his madness. But how would they react to Clark being in a woman's body? How was she going to tell her own parents? Or would she bother?

Well, she wasn't going to figure it out while stuck in a hospital room. She felt fine. In fact, she felt better than fine. She couldn't remember a time when she felt this good. The sun was up, streaming through the window and she could almost make out the individual flits of dust in the sunbeam.

Lois padded to the hospital room door. A uniformed officer was still sitting there reading the newspaper – the Daily Planet, in fact. 'Superman Dead' the headline screamed. A photo of Lois Lane's demolished body lying over Superman's graced the front page. A second above-the-fold headline read 'Journalist missing, presumed dead'. She noted that the byline on that article belonged to Perry White.

The officer didn't seem to notice her standing there. She cleared her throat, crossing her arms across her chest.

"I assume that you're here for my protection," she said. "And since I wasn't Mirandized or told I was under arrest, I also assume that I'm free to leave whenever I want to."

The officer's eyes widened in surprise and his mouth opened and closed several times before he found his voice. "Uh, I think Inspector Henderson wants you to stay put," he managed to stammer out.

"Tell you what, you find my clothes and my ID and I promise to make sure he gets my forwarding address."

"Everything's down at headquarters," he told her.

"And I'm supposed to go down to PP-One dressed like this to get them?" Lois asked, indicating the skimpy hospital gown she was wearing. The gown would have barely covered her in her normal body – in this body the gown let breezes through to places she hadn't even had before.

She gave him her best Lois Lane glare.

The officer sighed and pulled out his cell phone. "Let me call in and I'll see what we can do."

Within a short time, the officer – his name tag indicated his name was Rodrego – had rounded up a set of faded scrubs and a pair of flip-flops for Lois to wear and was driving her down to Henderson's office at One Police Plaza.

Rodrego wasn't a great conversationalist, but Lois also figured he was under orders not to give her any more information than he had to. Chances were that he didn't have any information in any case. Henderson didn't get to be an MPD inspector due to a charming personality or a tendency to chatter. He had been a good source for Lane and Kent, but always on his terms.

Henderson was waiting when she and her escort got off the elevator on the tenth floor – Special Crimes. He didn't seem surprised to see her.

"I take it you're feeling better?" he asked, ushering her into his office. Reed and Wilkerson were already waiting there.

"I wasn't feeling bad when I first woke up in the hospital," Lois told him. "But I do need my ID and clothes, which you have."

Henderson seemed to think about this for a long moment. "You can sign for them on your way out. However, we do have a few more questions, if you don't mind," he finally said.

"Am I a suspect in anything?" Lois asked.

"We're satisfied that Luthor was responsible for Lane's kidnapping, her death and the death of Superman," Henderson said. "What's puzzling us is you and your wife. According to the crime scene unit, you two were never there. No fingerprints, hair, skin flakes, nothing. But obviously you were in Luthor's bunker because we found you there."

"Like I told you before, I don't remember anything about it except for waking up in that canister,' Lois told him. "And I don't know anything about Luthor, except what everyone else knows."

"Then can you explain why Luthor named you as his son and sole heir?" Wilkinson asked.

Lois felt the blood drain from her face. "He what?"

"You didn't know about it?" Henderson pressed.

Lois shook her head.

"We found a copy of Luthor's will in the same lockbox that we found your birth certificate, passport, credit cards and bearer bonds valued at about five hundred million dollars," Henderson explained. "You had no idea that Luthor was your father?"

Lois spat out a string of expletives describing Luthor's parentage that made Henderson's eyebrows threaten to climb into his hairline.

"I caught Russian, German, Gaelic and something like Chinese," he commented wryly.

"Vietnamese," Lois corrected without thinking. "My… I had a friend whose dad served in Nam. And no, I had no idea he was. In fact it makes me a little sick to think I might be related to that sick old… pervert."

"But you still have no recollection of how you and Mrs. Alexander got into those glass canisters?" Reed asked.

Lois shook her head, staring down at her hands. They still seemed too large and clunky. She couldn't imagine speed typing with them – even though she knew guys at least as large as she was now who did, including Clark.

"I'd like to speak with Mister Alexander alone, if you don't mind," Henderson announced. Wilkerson and Reed both gave him surprised looks but they left without comment, shutting the door behind them.

Henderson leaned back against his desk, arms crossed over his check as he regarded her.

"I'm pretty sure that you know a lot more than you're telling us. And I think I understand why," he said. "So let's call this 'deep background'. One of the sets of fingerprints we found in Luthor's lair belonged to a man known as Gupta Asabi. He's a charlatan who claims to know how to train people to transfer their consciousness from one body to another. He is also a known associate of Luthor's. He was picked up yesterday trying to leave the country."

"And?" Lois prompted.

"When we told Asabi that we had enough to charge him with accessory to kidnapping and murder, and a few other things, he spun a rather interesting story about Luthor having commissioned a pair of cloned bodies to be new and untraceable receptacles for his consciousness and Ms. Lane's."

"Sounds a little nuts to me," Lois said.

Henderson chuckled. "Yeah, it does, except that only last week someone managed to replace the President with a genetically identical fake and then did the same thing with a certain female Daily Planet reporter. Then you show up in a canister the lab boys tell me, quite unofficially, could well be an incubation chamber for inducing rapid growth in a clone."

"So you think maybe I'm one of those clones?" Lois asked.

Henderson shook his head. "I had a conversation with Doctor Mamba before the feds took him away. He confirmed Asabi's story about creating two genetically perfect bodies for Luthor along with a less than perfect Lois Lane clone. Now, if one part of Asabi's story is true, why not the other part?"

"So, you think Luthor succeeded in placing his consciousness in a different body?" Lois asked. She put as much disdain in her voice as she could.

"No, I don't think Luthor managed it," Henderson said. "His ego would be showing, among other things. No, I think his two victims got transferred before he could do it. That's why he turned that ray gun against the two of you."

"And why he ended up getting shot?" Lois asked.

Henderson shrugged. "It's never a good idea to ignore a police officer when he tells you to drop your weapon. So, based on what I've seen, I'm guessing you used to be Lois Lane."

"Like I'd ever admit it," Lois said. Henderson's observational skills were scary at times. And this was certainly one of those times.

"Look, I know you probably don't want to have anything to do with Luthor and his fortune, especially after all the grief he's caused you and Clark," Henderson said. "You certainly won't want to be identified as his son, but you might want to consider how much good you could do with all that money."