Chapter 12: Finale, Part 1

“And he’s just gone forever?” asked Jimmy. His girlfriend Eleanor sat besidehim, opposite Lois and Clark. It was somewhat emphatically not a double date.Lois was trying her best to shift her position on Clark in a way that he wouldactually believe. Eventually she would pretend to see the light, or give him achance, and they would presumably have a relationship built on a foundation oflies. It left a sour taste in her mouth, but since Superman was impervious tophysical damage, he needed to be anchored to the mortal world.

“It won’t be forever,” said Lois. “He’ll probably come back, once he’s figuredsome things out.”

“It’s been a week,” said Clark. “Maybe what he’ll figure out is that he justdoesn’t want to help people anymore.”

Lois looked at him. A full week had passed, and it was still hard not tomarvel at how completely she’d been duped by him. Her pride was only slightlysalved by how much effort Clark seemed to put into it. He’d changed everythingabout himself to put on the Clark Kent persona, and there were a thousandsubtleties to the performance that she hadn’t been consciously aware ofseeing. Everything about Clark was a lie, only there to fool people.

“He still cares,” said Lois. “He still considers himself an American, I think.And there’s been a lot less backlash than there could have been.” That hadbeen thanks in part to the media embargo that had let Lois get a head start oninfluencing public opinion. Superman had powerful friends too, not least ofwhich was the governor himself. There had been no attempt to put out a warrantfor Superman’s arrest, and so far as Lois could tell, no one was seriouslyconsidering trying to stop him aside from her and Lex. A fair number of peopleeven seemed to think that Superman had done the right thing.

“You’re the expert,” said Clark. He shot her a smile, reveling in a joke thathe thought only he could understand. When she thought back through all theirconversations, she could see that he peppered in these winks and nods to thetruth, though he never said anything that Clark-the-ordinary-reporter-with-no-secrets wouldn’t say. It reminded her of playing the game of double meaningswith Lex. That was different, because at least they were both in on it, andthere was a point to it other than gloating.

It did cross her mind that she was being uncharitable to Clark. Of course shecouldn’t actually tell what his smiles meant, and it was just as likely thathe felt a fondness towards her extensive reporting on him. But since Supermanthankfully couldn’t read minds, and since Lois had to keep up a front at alltimes, thinking mean thoughts about Clark was a form of private rebellion, andhelped her to keep her sanity.

After dinner had wrapped up, the couples went their separate ways. Jimmy hadbeen dating the same girl for a while now, and things were getting seriousbetween the two of them. It made her unexpectedly sad, since all the futureseemed to hold for her was a sham of a relationship with Clark, and abstinencefrom any meaningful - or even meaningless - romances for fear of how he’dreact.

“Can I ask a delicate question?” asked Clark. They walked together down thecity streets. Even after being worn down by the city and losing some of hisinnocence, he was still a gentleman, and had insisted on walking her back toher apartment. It was questionable how real the transformation had been in thefirst place, since he had been Superman all along, and how could he have hadany innocence left when he could see how big of bastards people were to eachother?

“Out with it,” said Lois.

“When I asked you out, why did you say no?” asked Clark.

“A delicate question indeed,” said Lois. She let silence settle on them whileshe thought about it. To his credit, he made no attempt to rush her. “You’dbeen working at the paper for two weeks,” she finally said. “I’d been workingat The Daily Planet for eight years, since I was a teenager, and you werefar from the first of our coworkers to ask me out. I care about my job, Clark.Dating someone from the office - it doesn’t matter who - would be a recipe forprofessional disaster. Even outside the office I have to think about whethermy relationships are going to be kosher. If I went on a date with apolitician, people would start saying that I was sleeping with him to get astory. I can handle the rumors that crop up just from being in the public eye,and the way people talk when they see a woman in a position of power orauthority, but I’m not going to invite more of it on myself, and I think Iwould always have a small voice in the back of my head that said they wereright if I stepped over some abstract line.”

She took a breath. All that had been true, but it wasn’t all that needed to besaid to Clark. She’d been preparing for this conversation in one way oranother for the last week, and she was grateful that she hadn’t been the oneto start it. “And I didn’t like you, not when you first came on. You’redifferent now. You’ve changed. I’d thought that the city would chew you up andspit you out, but you didn’t end up going back to Smallville, you stuck withit and persevered. You’re a better reporter now too, someone who doesn’t justrely on -” being able to see through walls and listen in on privateconversations “- luck.” The pause had been barely perceptible. “You’d betternot hold this over me, but I respect you now.”

She’d expected Clark to grin, but he only nodded. “You’ve changed too,” hesaid. “Especially after Superman showed up. You said that you didn’t want toinvite rumors, but with him you just set that rule aside.”

Lois stared at him. “Clark, you can’t possibly be jealous that Superman and I- no, it’s ridiculous.” Nothing had ever happened between her and Superman,they’d gone on a single date together, and Clark knew all that. It was truethat her attempts at playing the role of Superman’s girlfriend had beenpainful from a professional standpoint, but Clark had no reason to be upsetwith her. They were the same person. Unless the problem lay somewhere else, inwhich case Lois thought she knew what to say. “Clark, do you know what I likedabout Superman?”

“Past tense?” asked Clark. “You do know he might be listening in, right?”

The gall it must have taken for Clark Kent to say that almost left Loisimpressed. She knew if she tried to have a conversation about Superman’seavesdropping she’d be liable to go incandescent with rage, so she skippedright past it.

“What I liked about Superman is that he was kind and gentle,” said Lois. “Hewas good. And he liked me, even though I’m not very likable.”

“You’re likable,” said Clark quickly.

“No, I’m really not,” said Lois. “I’m opinionated and hot-headed, and I liketo push people’s buttons. I work more than anyone really asks me to, I stickmy nose where it doesn’t belong, and I turn every tragedy or triumph into astory for consumption by the masses without really even thinking about itanymore. People die and I think about what the headline is going to be, andpart of me knows that’s just a way of shielding myself. I know my goodqualities, but likeability just isn’t one of them.”

“You’re intelligent, driven, principled -”

“Clark, I said I know my good qualities,” said Lois. She had to wonder whetherany of that was what had attracted him, or if he’d simply caught a glimpse ofher legs and worked backward from there. And with Clark it was always possiblethat it was another lie. “We’ve gotten off on a tangent, but what I was tryingto say is that he liked me, and I liked him, and the rules I’d set down formyself seemed really arbitrary. If Superman had picked me out of all thereporters in the world - hell, all the women in the world - then maybe I wasjust being obstinate about how I wanted to be seen by the people around me.”The lies spilled out easily, but the next part would be harder. “It wasn’tthat I broke the rule for Superman, it was that Superman made me see that itwas a rule worth breaking.”

They had reached her apartment building. Lois turned to look at Clark. “Look,I don’t know whether you still feel the same way about me, but I do like youClark. And if you asked me out again, maybe my answer would be different.”

Creating more kryptonite proved to be a challenge.

Lex took a minor risk and shipped portions of the kryptonite to two differentfacilities which both operated as part of the Scientific and TechnologicalAdvanced Research Labs. Robert Meersman had wanted to create a series ofresearch laboratories which were disconnected from any corporate orgovernmental interests. Lex had quickly seen that the end result of such aphilosophy would surely result in either collapse at worst or organizationaldrift towards the very same set of problems which it was trying to escape atbest. A combination of money and mild coercion had put S.T.A.R. Labs in hispocket, though few people knew the source of their funding, and fewer stillknew the primary beneficiary of their research.

The kryptonite was given the name PU-356. It had supposedly been found in thecore of a meteorite, and transferred for analysis shortly afterward, all ofwhich was backed up by a trail of falsified documentation. It was the work ofthe labs to analyze the PU-356 into its component pieces, generate a full listof its properties, and then attempt to make more of it. It was semi-crystalline in nature, and after only a few days of work it was suggested thatmore might be made by introducing a shard of it into a super-saturatedsolution which contained the composite elements. It wasn’t entirely clear howthe structure of the PU-356 produced the properties that it did, but theelements which made it up were eventually sorted out, and a multitude ofexperiments were run to achieve synthesis.

This was part of the reason that Lex had taken the risk of shipping thekryptonite outside of his immediate control; it would have taken him anenormous amount of time to arrive at the proper solution to creating morekryptonite, which involved enormous amounts of energy, a small shard as acatalyst, and a wide variety of purified elements in very precise quantities.The process was slow and costly, but more of the kryptonite was produced withevery passing day.

On those nights when he knew that Clark Kent would be occupied with Lois Lane,Lex began a slow renovation of his house.

Before she’d known that he was Superman, Lois had imagined Clark Kent’sapartment as being relatively bare, with little more than a picture of hismother and father and a large cross. After she’d seen the truth, she’dimagined only a more extreme kind of minimalism; no toiletries, no toothbrush,no food in the cupboards or any other sign that a real person lived there,because no real person did live there. The world was Superman’s playground,and he had no real needs beyond those he decided to indulge in.

She had been wrong. Clark’s apartment was slightly smaller than her own, butjust as packed with mementos, curios, and pictures. Where Lois had accumulatedsouvenirs over a lifetime of travel, Clark had instead pulled in pieces ofMetropolis. It wasn’t just the photographs that lined the walls, there was acollection of bric-a-brac on top of one of the short bookshelves; a model ofthe Emperor building, three-dimensional map of the city made with pressed tin,and a signed baseball among others.

“Jimmy took most of the pictures,” said Clark. He seemed nervous, though therewas no way of knowing whether that was his usual act or whether he wasactually tentative about letting her see how he lived.

Her anger was starting to fade, which was a problem. It had been five weeks,and though she still felt hot sparks of rage, it was hard to stay as angry asshe’d been in the beginning, especially when she was wearing a layer ofdeception over her feelings. Lying to Clark day in and day out meant buildingup an image of how she would feel about him if she didn’t know, and almost bydefinition that meant some level of empathy.

She’d dealt with a number of battered women in her time, either as part ofcovering a story or through one of the social programs she was part of, andshe had always found it puzzling that they would sit there with a black eyeand say that their husband or lover had done nothing wrong, or that itwouldn’t happen again. It was a lie, but it was one that they were able toconvince themselves of. She’d never thought that she would be a woman likethat, but now that she and Clark were courting, she could see it happening toher. She would tell the lies so much that she would start to believe them,because the alternative was making Superman upset. And if she tried to gethelp, she would be laughed off and alienated, and of course it would only makehim angry. There would be no escape.

She could imagine Clark hitting her. She could imagine his fist going straightthrough her skull, pushing aside bone and flesh like it wasn’t even there,just like he’d done with Calhoun. She kept more than enough secrets fromClark, and a few of them might set him off. She could have stopped meetingwith Lex, but that would mean giving up hope that Superman could be broughtdown to mortal levels. She was willing to give up her personal happiness if itmeant keeping Clark pacified, but she had to know for sure that there was noother way - some more permanent solution. Lex had not yet declared that it washopeless, but when he did, Lois would focus all of her efforts on being a goodgirlfriend, and eventually a good wife.

“Do you like it?” asked Clark.

“It’s not what I expected,” said Lois. A glint of metal in the corner caughther eye, and she walked over to stare at it. “You can’t possibly expect me tobelieve that you play the saxaphone.”

“No,” said Clark with a bashful smile. “I bought it thinking that I wouldlearn, but it turns out that I don’t really have an ear for music.”

She had to wonder whether that was another bluff. Once you knew that ClarkKent was a disguise, it called into question everything he said. Hisappearance was a lie, the thick glasses most of all. His apartment was clean,in a way that suggested that it wasn’t always so pristine, and she wonderedwhether that was another piece of the elaborate deception he’d woven for her.She felt a flash of anger coming on, and did her best to divert it.

“My father made me take harp lessons,” she said. “He must have thought that itwould make me more ladylike, but I hated the harp and never practiced. After Igave up, he kept the harp in the living room, and it was like an albatrossaround my neck. And we moved a lot, you remember, so for years my father justcarried the harp with us from place to place.”

“I’d be interested to meet him,” said Clark with a frown.

“It probably won’t happen, at least for a while,” said Lois. “He got pulledout of an early retirement to work on some secret military project. He wasn’tthe best father, but he trained my sister and I well, and I think we’retougher for it. He wanted boys, and didn’t get them, and on top of that heraised us alone.”

“We have that in common,” said Clark. “Not being raised alone, butunconventional childhoods.” He tapped a photo of Martha and Jonathan, whichheld a place of privilege on his wall - the only piece of his life in Kansasthat was visible. “They were too old to be raising a child, by most people’sestimations. Sometimes I think everyone has their own story that’s just asunique and interesting as your own, if you could only get to know them.”

Clark made a dinner of stuffed chicken and mashed potatoes. It wasn’t really asurprise that he was a better cook than she was, since he would almost have tobe, but it still irked her just a bit. The thing was, there wasn’t reallyanything wrong with Clark if you could subtract out the Superman business. Ifhe were truly, honestly Clark, he wouldn’t be so bad, especially given theways that he’d changed over the past year. He had actual stories to tell now.He was kind and courteous, and he’d left the naiveté behind him. Most of all,he treated her like an equal, despite his infatuation. There had never been amoment in their time working together when she felt like he was dismissive ofwhat she was saying, which was more than she could say for any other man thatshe worked with, except perhaps for Perry. Lois could practically feel thepart of her that wanted to believe that she’d been wrong about him beingSuperman. If it was all just a bad case of paranoia, and Superman was aseparate person that just looked like Clark despite all the other evidence, itwasn’t like she and Clark would live some idyllic life of marital bliss, butat least she could see how she would find him compelling, and possibly evenattractive.

But no, Clark was an unrepentant liar. She wasn’t sure whether he was an alienthat had forged a human identity for himself or a farm boy who had developedastonishing powers, but it didn’t really matter much either way. He was coldand callous, and sat by while bad things happened in favor of reporting on thenews in the least efficient possible way. Lois wasn’t terribly religious, andmuch of it had to do with a conversation she’d had with a priest when she waseleven years old about why God let bad things happen. Most of the samearguments applied to Superman, even if he wasn’t perfectly omniscient andomnipotent. When seen through the new lens of Clark Kent, it was possible toimagine that he’d never cared about doing the most good at all. Being a symbolfor the people coincided with getting the highest amount of publicacknowledgement, and that seemed a little too convenient. It was easy to lookat Clark as Superman and think that it had all been about his ego all along.

After dinner they sat down on his couch together and listened to the radio.After debating it for a few minutes, Lois yawned and then curled up againsthim. It was a momentary shock to remember that he had the same hard, definedmuscles that Superman did, but she tried her best to play the obliviousgirlfriend that Clark wanted. The show that Clark had picked out was afanciful bit of science fiction about a man meeting aliens on the surface ofMars, which didn’t really hold her interest. Lois slowly fell asleep againstthe Man of Steel.

The radio show ended and the commercials started up, which was when Lois beganto wake up. Clark leaned forward and shut it off. He turned towards her,cupped her chin in his hand, and kissed her. His lips were soft, and if itweren’t for the thought that his hand could crush her jawbone in a heartbeat,she might have actually enjoyed herself. He wasn’t awkward and fumbling likeshe had thought he would be, just calm and tender.

When Clark backed away, he looked sad. “How long have you known?” he asked.

Lois swallowed. She was still sleepy, but she knew this wasn’t good. “What areyou talking about?”

“I kept waiting for you to slap me across the face,” said Clark. “Frompractically the moment I put on the suit, I was waiting for you to figureeverything out and … I don’t know what I thought that your reaction would be.I guess I thought you’d be angry with me, but I’d hoped that you would help tokeep my secret.” He sighed. “Lois, how long have you known?”

She wanted to deny it, but it was clear that wouldn’t do any good. A surge offear was working its way through her brain, clearing up her thoughts. “Sincejust after you retired Superman,” said Lois.

“Ah,” replied Clark. He took off his glasses and set them on an end table,then laid back against the couch. Some of the Clark Kent posturing faded away.“And that’s why we’re dating now.” It wasn’t a question. Lois kept herselfvery still. “I feel like I’ve made a mess of everything.”

“You haven’t -”

“Stop,” said Clark, and so she did. “I love you Lois. One of the things that Ialways loved about you, right from the start, is that you never held back. Yousaid the things that other people kept to themselves. In Smallville peopletalk in circles and hide barbs in their words. My mother -” His voice caught.“My mother always disliked it. You’d ask to borrow a cup of sugar, and they’dhappily give it to you, and then afterward they’d complain about theinconvenience. It was worse for me, since I could hear all of the words saidin private. But you were never like that. You talked to artists, urchins, andpoliticians all the same. There was an honesty to you, I guess. And thenSuperman showed up, and you were different. It took me so long to see. Herewas someone that you were actually scared of, someone that you had to watchyour words around. You lied to him - to me. Even your affection was a lie,because you were scared. So please, no more lies. We need to have it out, oneway or another. If you hate me, I need to know.”

Lois watched him carefully. She took a few moments to consider. Clark alreadyknew that she had been lying to him, and nothing short of the truth - or atleast a truth - would convince him. “Do you really want that?”

Clark nodded.

“You’re squandering your power,” said Lois. “You’re invincible, and people aredying, and you’re just … sitting here. If I had your powers, I wouldn’t stopfor a single instant. Lying to everyone around you is one thing, and killing aman in cold blood was another, but what I can’t stand is that you’re soindifferent to the suffering of the world.” Perhaps it was more than he wantedto hear, but he had asked for the truth, and she hoped that he could hear itin her voice.

“You don’t see the hypocrisy there?” asked Clark. He was perfectly calm, andit was hard to see whether that was another mask. “People say that all thetime. They claim that if they had infinite power they would protect the weakand heal the sick. And then they eat out at fancy restaurants and buyexpensive cigars. It’s easy to say that someone else should do something, butit’s hard to do it yourself. I’ve been in your apartment. I’ve seen how manythings you could do without, if you were really serious about doing the mostgood to the detriment of your own personal satisfaction.”

“I work twelve hour days,” said Lois. “I work for and head up social programsin my free time.” She could feel her face flush. “When I waste an hour onsomething small and petty, the cost isn’t measured in terms of lives.”

Clark didn’t seem the least bit hurt by this. “The rich have a duty to thepoor. But they also have a right to do as they please with their money, don’tthey? Lex Luthor engages in philanthropy, but you don’t begrudge him hismansion, or the excessive amounts of money he’s spent on lead shielding, amongother things. I’m not talking about what should be legally required of us, andI don’t think you are either. I have a moral obligation to the people of theworld, as do you, but that obligation isn’t all-encompassing. I’m not aslave.”

Lois frowned. “I didn’t say you were a slave.”

“You just think you’re better than me?” asked Clark.

“Clark, you lied to me, over and over. But even before that, you were sopowerful and so strange. You crushed rocks into dust in your hands and youthought I would be impressed, and it seemed so hopelessly naive to me.” Shespoke slowly, trying to find the right words. “You lifted me up into the airlike it was nothing, and flew me out a half mile above the city like it wassecond nature for my life to be in your hands. What you can do is objectivelyterrifying, and anyone who doesn’t see that is just engaging in wishfulthinking. I’m sorry that I tried to pretend at being the woman you wanted meto be, the one who you could settle into a life with, but Clark, it wasn’t allan act. If things had been different - hell, things are different now, if wecan be open and honest with each other, and tear down the lies … I’m notpromising anything, you understand, but I think we’d both like to start over.”There. Just the right notes of contrition, and something that was close enoughto the truth that it could pass the sniff test.

“Starting over,” said Clark. He looked out the window at the city. “Alrightthen.” He held out his hand. “My name is Clark Kent. I masquerade as Superman.I can bend steel with my bare hands and move so fast that bullets look likethey’re frozen in the air, among other things.”

She shook his hand. Relief flowed through her; she’d been worried that hisoutward calm was only for show. “Lois Lane,” she replied. “Professional snoop.You’re really from Smallville then? That wasn’t all made up when you came toEarth?”

“I was raised in Kansas,” said Clark. “Everything I’ve ever told you about mychildhood is true, but I left out all the interesting bits. My parents found aspaceship in their field one day, and they took it as a sign from god. I wasjust an unremarkable baby back then. They adopted me without much discussion,and hid the spaceship beneath a tarp until my father could hook a tractor upto it and stick it in the storm cellar. I was raised like any other boy, untilI started to get my powers.” He paused. “How much of this do you want toknow?”

“All of it,” replied Lois. There wasn’t much reason to believe it was anythingbut another deception beyond her gut feeling, but he was painting a picturefor her, and either way he seemed to want to share.

“The hearing came first,” said Clark. “I was six years old, and I thought Iwas going crazy. You can imagine my relief when I realized that I was justhearing conversations from the next county over. It got more powerful as themonths went on, and I learned to shut it down, so that I didn’t have to listento everything that people said or did. I didn’t tell my parents, but I thoughtthat the hearing was what made me special - what God had put me on the earthfor. And then I got the vision when I was eight. I could see straight throughthings. I could count the feathers on a hawk from ten miles away. That waswhen I looked inside the cellar that my parents had kept shut and saw thespaceship.”

“The spaceship that didn’t burn up over the Atlantic,” said Lois.

“It was one of the lies I told you,” said Clark. “Sorry.”

“Wait, this doesn’t make sense,” said Lois. “You said that you were baby whenthe spaceship came down. But the story you told me was that you learnedEnglish from our radio waves on the way over. Was everything about Krypton alie then? Because if you didn’t know you were an alien until you were eightyears old, I don’t see how you would know anything about the planet you camefrom.”

“I’m getting to that,” said Clark. “And I know that you’re skeptical, butyou’re going to have to bear with me. I asked my parents about the spaceship,and showed them what I could see and hear. They told me everything, and wewent down into the cellar. Almost as soon as I touched the spaceship itgrabbed a hold of my mind and showed me a vision of Krypton as it had been.The ghost of my real father was there, and he told me about the planet as ithad been.”

Lois stared at him. “A ghost,” she said flatly.

“Not really a ghost,” said Clark. “A simulacrum. A shard of my father’spersonality. Krypton was a sprawling place of crystalline spires and flyingcars, and my father sat me down to explain everything to me. He told me how mypowers would grow, and tried to instruct me on how to help avoid the fate ofhis planet.”

“And he said all of this in English?” asked Lois. If Clark wanted her as shetruly was, that was what he was going to get. Skepticism as practically secondnature to her.

“I only thought to ask that later, when I was a teenager,” said Clark. “I’dread enough history books by that point to see that Jor-El was wearing amodified toga. All of the buildings and plants were inspired by Greece, mixedwith a few more artistic flourishes, but it seemed too much like what I knewof Earth. I asked him about that, and he told me that what I was being shownwas just a representation that would make sense to me. The real Krypton was adark planet covered in black water, and the real Kryptonians were somethinglike a cross between a spider and an eel. Before the ship landed, it mappedout human civilization and drew in samples of humanity to examine. I’m notreally a Kryptonian, I’m something that the ship built. I actually think I wasborn on American soil. Jor-El showed me an analog of their world that I couldunderstand, but I think they were even further beyond us than I couldimagine.”

The conversation continued on, and Clark talked about the defining moments ofhis childhood. Lois listened closely, and made mental notes for later,occasionally sharing her own anecdotes that kept him in rapt attention eventhough they didn’t involve godly powers and alien ghosts. The important thingwas that Clark was being honest with her now, and his secrets were spillingout into the open. She had told him off, and he’d called her a hypocrite, butsomehow that didn’t mean they couldn’t still be friends. She debated tellinghim about her arrangement with Lex, but decided that was one secret to keep toherself. Nothing had ever really come of that partnership anyway. And besidesthat, all the talk with Clark hadn’t really changed that much about how shefelt. He was more human to her now, but still as negligent as he’d ever been,for all his protests. Some of the fear had left her, but not enough that shewas about to let Clark know she’d actively tried to work against him.

The first attempt involved the drinking water at the Daily Planet Building.The kryptonite was ground into a fine powder and put into both the watercooler and the water main connecting to the building. Lex had run tests on itbefore using it on people, more because he was worried about overplaying hishand than because he was concerned about what effect it would have on thepeople. A week passed with no indication that there had been any change,though his channels of information from within the building were ratherincomplete, especially since Lois had cut back her visits to practicallynothing. She hadn’t told him Superman’s secret identity, despite his bestefforts to pry it out of her. He was working on a way to have plausiblyferreted it out without exposing himself, but that was doubly difficult nowthat Superman was no longer active.

The second attempt involved aerosolizing the kryptonite powder. Lex thought itunlikely to work, given that the concentration would be measured in parts permillion. The kryptonite seemed to lose the signature glow when reduced topieces smaller than a gram, and Lex suspected that the still-mysterious sourceof the radiation required sufficient mass in close proximity in order tocontinue emitting its waves or particles. At any rate, this too seemed to haveno noticeable effect on Clark Kent or anyone else in the building.

The third attempt involved exposure to the kryptonite. A small, thumb-sizedpiece was given to a man who had only the simplest of instructions: to walkpast Clark Kent. Two spotters were put into position to watch. Their reportwas typed up and broadcast in code, which eventually made its way back to Lex.He hadn’t been able to give them full instructions for fear that they woulddiscover too much, but they hadn’t noticed any real change in Clark’sbehavior, not even when the patsy came within arm’s length of him.

Brief exposure likely wasn’t going to do the trick, especially not at adistance. The fullest test of the kryptonite would be to place it directlynext to Superman for as long as possible. The spaceship’s creche had a largepiece of kryptonite directly next to it, and a relatively thin layer of leadwas apparently sufficient shielding, which said quite a bit about the dangerthat it posed. The kryptonite would have to be close, nearly in range of skincontact. That meant using Lois Lane. Unfortunately, Lois could lead Supermanright back to Lex, but that was what contingency plans were for.

Superman waited, and watched.

Author’s Note: Some post-publication edits have been made - if some of thereviews don’t make sense anymore, that’s why.

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