“Lois,” Maggie said softly, still holding both her hands and her gaze. “Come with me. Please.”
It was the ‘please’ that worked. Lois and Maggie weren’t in the habit of asking much from each other. Sawyer was sworn to uphold the law, and Lois was inclined to break it on occasion in pursuit of truth; it was better if they didn’t ask for favors. They had volunteered plenty for each other in the past, but the unspoken rule of their friendship was ‘ask nothing’. Whatever Sawyer’s reason for asking her to leave, it was both important enough to break that rule and frightening enough to have spooked Maggie. Maggie, one of the bravest women Lois knew, the only person who had ever ridden shotgun in Lois’ car without clutching the doorframe in panic.
“All right,” Lois said softly. The decision tore her heart out, and she turned to look at Kal-El. He still slumbered, unaware of their arguing, perhaps unaware of everything she’d told him. Lois didn’t know whether to hope he’d heard her or not.
Maggie released her, and Lois turned away, walking to Kal-El’s bedside. “I have to go,” she murmured. “I’ll be back as soon as I can. Hold on, Kal-El. Don’t leave us again.” She cut a defiant look at the soldier and at Maggie, hating the fact that this parting would have witnesses. Then Lois thought, The hell with it. She bent and kissed his cheek, whispering into his ear, “I love you, I’ve always loved you, I always will love you. Your twins need you. I need you. You have to come back, Kal-El.”
It wasn’t enough. Mere words couldn’t express her feelings, the love and fear that twined together in her chest until her very heart felt muffled. Lois closed her eyes and kissed his mouth, softly, letting the press of her lips and the tear trickling down onto his face speak for her.
She pulled back, and glanced at the heart monitor hopefully. No change, and Lois felt like an idiot. This isn’t Sleeping Beauty, you moron; it’s a damn coma. Sighing, she said quietly, “It’s not ‘goodbye’. It’s ‘see you later’.” With those words and a final squeeze of his hand, she turned from Kal-El and followed Maggie out of the room.
The soldier, still unnamed, escorted them silently to the rear entrance of the building. Lois felt her stomach get queasy at the idea of facing that pack of rabid reporters again, but at least she’d gotten the twins out with a minimum of fuss. She was already squaring her shoulders for the inevitable confrontation with her fellow journalists when Maggie asked, apropos of nothing, “You armed, Lois?”
It seemed an odd thing to ask as they approached the doors. Lois looked at her askance and replied, “No. Luthor took my damn gun, the sonofabitch.”
Maggie turned sharply to look at her, a brief burst of triumphant elation on her face, and then she cut the expression off with difficulty. “Ah. Well. That’s… that’s a shame.” They were at the door, and there was no time to elaborate. The soldier opened it for them both, and Lois saw to her relief that Sawyer’s patrol car was parked right outside, only feet away.
Unfortunately, every reporter in Metropolis was packed into the tight space, trying to edge past the soldiers standing guard around the car. Flashbulbs instantly blinded Lois, and she had to rely on Maggie’s hand on her elbow to guide her to the car. The noise was deafening in the enclosed garage, everyone trying to get Lois’ attention, bellowing questions. For the love of God, it’s more peaceful at the zoo during alligator-feeding time!
Maggie helped Lois into the front seat and closed the door, cutting off the worst of the noise. She went around to the driver’s side and raised her hands for silence, getting it after a moment. A forest of microphones turned toward her as she said, loudly and clearly, “Superman remains unconscious but in stable condition. Ms. Lane has graciously volunteered to assist us with our investigation of the incidents aboard the Gertrude.” With that, she got into the car and quickly shut her door.
Not quickly enough to escape Toby Raines’ incredulous shout of “Two sentences? Two sentences?! You call that an update, Sawyer?”
Maggie growled a few choice words under her breath as she carefully maneuvered the patrol car out of the garage. Photographers kept trying to get in front of it for a clearer shot, and the lieutenant murmured, “I hate it when they do that.”
“So do I,” Lois retorted. “Stupid. Dangerous. Inconsider
“Sometimes you just wanna run ‘em over, don’t you?” Maggie said, the corner of her mouth quirking up in a grin.
“Road pizza, with extra paparazzi,” Lois said. The two women chuckled, finally feeling at ease with each other again. Of course, Lois still didn’t know what the hell was going on, but the traffic situation in the city still hadn’t been completely resolved, so they’d have plenty of time to talk about it.
“So, tell me what happened,” Maggie said before Lois could figure out how to phrase her own question.
“I thought you couldn’t take my statement,” Lois countered.
Those pale blue eyes cut her a quick look before focusing on traffic again. “Lois. This isn’t Lieutenant Margaret Sawyer of the Metropolis S.C.U. asking you for a statement. This is your friend Maggie wondering what happened yesterday, purely out of concern for your well-being. Are we clear on the difference?”
Her tone had an edge, and Lois sat back in the seat, staring. After a moment in which Sawyer refused to elaborate, the reporter finally said, “Well, in a nutshell, I got a voicemail from Luthor telling me exactly where he was. Clark was gone, Superman was gone, so I ditched my car and went after Luthor myself. Once I found the yacht, I snuck onboard and started looking for my kids. Ran into Luthor, and he threatened Jason to get me to give up the gun.
“After that, everything went to hell in a handbasket. Luthor locked Jason back up – he never let me see Kala – and decided to play a little cat-and-mouse with me. We scuffled, I broke one of his ribs, and he got his pet thug Riley to help him tie my hands and lock me up in the freakin’ pantry. I was trying to get out when I saw Luthor and both twins leave on the helicopter.”
The horror of that moment, of seeing her daughter’s head whip around and locking gazes with Kala’s terrified eyes, silenced Lois for several heartbeats. She bit her lip and continued, “Once the boss was gone, Riley wanted to play. He thinks of himself as a filmmaker – snuff films. He dragged me down to the gallery and left me on the floor while he got everything ready. By the time he turned back around, I’d used a broken bolt in the floor to cut the cable ties off my hands. I ran, he chased me, and I smacked him upside the head with a rock and tied him up so he couldn’t bother me.
“Then I went after the other guy on board, Grant. He was in the wheelhouse. I surprised him, faking him into thinking I had a gun when all I had was Riley’s damn police baton. Those frikkin’ things hurt, by the way, Sawyer. I tied him up and got on the radio, got in touch with Richard. He’d just talked me into letting him rescue me when Lex came back.”
Lois was gazing out the window, but seeing that room, seeing Luthor burst in and attack her without a word. “I think Grant might’ve tried to warn me he was coming. Luthor jumped me, strangled me unconscious. I woke up handcuffed, in the helicopter. He used me for bait to get Superman closer, Maggie. He held my own gun to my head and practically pushed me out the door to get Superman close enough for an easy shot. The bastard had put kryptonite in my hollowpoints, and Superman fell into the ocean. I elbowed Lex and jumped after him.
“Richard dived at the helicopter until Lex’s chicken pilot got them out of there. Richard and Lana rescued me and Superman, I pulled the bullet out, and Superman recovered enough to go remove the freakin’ kryptonite island I didn’t even know about until I saw him pick it up. Then Richard managed to get me to the hospital at the same time that Superman arrived. The rest you know.”
Maggie nodded slowly. “Okay, that all fits… Did you leave anything out?”
Lois gave an exasperated sigh. “Well, yeah, I left out the part where Riley felt me up while he was searching me for weapons. And I left out Lex in the helicopter, telling me exactly how he planned to rape me and make me like it. Yeah, I left out a couple things, Maggie, mostly to keep you from having a coronary.”
The lieutenant had winced, and then her lip curled in a snarl that didn’t bode well for Luthor when he was finally captured. When she’d mastered her anger, she asked, “So you never fired your gun?”
Lois opened her mouth, and then remembered the mirror. The damned mirror. “Well, yeah. I shot into a mirror, actually. It had Luthor’s reflection in it at the time, I thought it was him. Wound up giving myself away.”
“So you fired a warning shot into a mirror?” Maggie asked.
“Warning shot my ass, I was trying to kill the sonofabitch,” Lois retorted. “It was a full-length mirror, I couldn’t tell, I thought it was Lex–”
Maggie reached over and gripped Lois’ knee lightly, giving her another of those I-know-you’re-smarter-than-this looks. “You fired a warning shot, Lois. Into a mirror, to let Luthor know you were serious. A warning shot.” Her hand tightened, her eyes deadly serious.
“Okay, yeah, a warning shot,” Lois muttered. “Whatever…”
Maggie’s grip started to get painful, but Lois had the idea that this was tension, not for emphasis. “And that was the only time you fired your weapon on board the Gertrude?”
“Yes. Mags, you’re hurting me here.”
“Sorry.” Sawyer relaxed and concentrated on her driving. “We didn’t have this conversation.”
“Fine,” Lois sighed. “Maggie, what the hell is going on? You’ve been acting schizo since you walked into his hospital room. I want an explanation.”
“Now, Maggie.” Lois leaned against the door and glared. All of a sudden she was exhausted again.
“You’re a damn good actress, aren’t you?”
“What the hell…? Okay, yes, I should’ve won an Oscar, not a Pulitzer. Maggie, what the fuck?”
“You need to be,” Sawyer said, and her voice was still low and serious. “You’ll need to look surprised when you hear this from Smith, or my integrity’s as screwed as your chances in court. Lois, we found two men on that ship, both of them tied up. Both of them shot in the face at point-blank range.”
That was enough to whip her head around to face Maggie, absolutely thunderstruck. The utter incredulousness of her expression only doubled the lieutenant’s confidence. For a full minute, Lois stayed silent as she digested what was said. When she finally spoke, her voice was low and shaky with anger as her eyes narrowed. “Let me guess, Luthor killed them with my gun. And I had motive, right?”
“The bullets match your Ladysmith,” Maggie said quietly. “Smith found that wild shot you fired at the range last week for comparison. And yes, you and I practically joked about it the night of the Pulitzers. We also found partials of your fingerprints on the cable ties and the police baton. Smith’s been building a case against you. Two counts of murder one.”
“Great. Just fabulous,” Lois snarled, wishing once again that she’d shot Luthor instead of his reflection. All their problems would’ve been solved… “So even though Luthor didn’t get to fuck me, he still managed to fuck me over.” She swore angrily, kicking the inside of the car door in frustration.
“Lois, it’s going to be all right,” Maggie said. “You didn’t do it, and you don’t have the weapon. All you have to do is tell the truth. The evidence is circumstantial. I’m sure you’ll be cleared.”
“Now you’re sure,” Lois said bitterly. “No wonder you were acting so weird in the room. You thought I’d done it, didn’t you? You actually thought I’d kill two unarmed men when they were tied up and helpless.”
Maggie glanced at her again. “No, Lois. You know me; you know I wouldn’t let our friendship stand in the way of justice. If I believed you shot them, you’d be in the back seat, cuffed.” She sighed. “But I have to admit I’m damned glad to know you didn’t.”
The twins hadn’t wanted to go home and stay with Ella, so Richard brought them back to the office. A few more staff members had trickled in to work, and Perry was getting everything organized, barking orders and shepherding reporters around. Ella made herself and the twins reasonably comfortable in Lois’ office, keeping out from underfoot while Richard swung back into the business of producing a major daily newspaper… with about half the staff and less than half the equipment they normally had available.
Kala and Jason both felt closer to their mother in her office, so they settled down and eventually fell asleep on her couch. Richard finally relaxed when he saw that, but his peace of mind couldn’t last. “Thank God,” Ron sighed as he walked into the bullpen. “Jason and Kala, they’re okay?”
“Pretty much,” Richard told him. “Lois, too.”
“That’s perfect,” Ron replied. “I suppose I can tell my wife what’s going on now?”
“What do you…?” Richard trailed off, then remembered that they’d kept Lucy in the dark because of her pregnancy. “Huh. That’s going to be fun.”
“Yeah, you know the Lane women,” Ron said with a wry smile. “I think I’m going to see if I can talk Ella into telling her for me – Lucy’s been absolutely livid since Ella had to leave the birthday party.”
“You do that,” Richard said. He watched Ron walk into Lois’ office, and saw Ella’s sympathetic look as he began explaining his situation. The twins didn’t even blink, and that told Richard better than anything else how tired they really were.
Another voice demanded his attention. “Hey, Richard, did you hear the news?” Gil called to him.
“No. Good God, what now?” In spite of having caught only a few hours’ sleep, Richard roused himself to deal with whatever else was happening.
“I just heard that Lois left S.T.A.R. Labs,” Gil told him. “In a police car.”
“What?!” Richard looked at him blankly for a long moment. “Gil, why…?”
“Something about the police investigation,” Gil said.
“What police investigation? I’ve been a little busy the last few days, and city isn’t exactly my beat, Gil!”
“Easy, man,” the older reporter replied. “The Coast Guard brought in that yacht, the Gertrude, yesterday. There were two dead men on board, suspicion of homicide. Police are keeping mum, but rumor says they were shot to death.”
Richard swallowed. “Really. I suppose the police want to ask Lois, since she was on board. She might know who killed them.”
Gil nodded, seemingly satisfied, and muttered, “Lane gets all the damn exclusives,” as he walked back to his desk. Richard just leaned back in his chair, his heart beating faster. Lois had a gun, and she’d threatened to kill Luthor more than once. If his thugs had threatened the kids, he didn’t know what she was capable of. And the only way Richard could think of for Lois to leave Superman’s side would be if she absolutely had to. If she’d been compelled… You’d think she would call me … if she can.
Maggie paced outside the one-way mirror, staring into the interrogation room. Smith had gone about the interview all wrong – alienating Lois from his first words, making her hostile and uncooperative. He made her go over her story again and again, picking at the details, making it very clear not only that he suspected her of cold-blooded murder but also that he would enjoy charging her with the crime.
Fortunately, Lois had kept her cool. Exhausted and furious, she’d snapped at Smith a few times, but she hadn’t completely lost her temper. Maggie worried that wouldn’t last if he tried leaving Lois alone for an hour one more time, and then asked the exact same questions again. “He’s totally screwing this up,” she muttered under her breath.
The police commissioner, Bill Henderson, sighed. “You want a try, Sawyer?”
Maggie turned around and looked at him. “Sir?”
“Lieutenant, I know she’s your friend,” he said. “But I also know you’re too good a cop to let her get away with this. If it was a little breaking and entering, or shooting someone in self-defense, you’d go to bat for her. But this is premeditated murder. If she did it, you wouldn’t let her walk away from it.”
“No, I wouldn’t,” Maggie replied. “But I also don’t believe she did it, Commissioner.”
Henderson nodded slightly without replying, looking into the interrogation room where Smith had started over again with his questions. The young officer looked down at his notes and said, “So this Riley brought you down to the gallery. And your hands were tied at that point?”
“Yes,” Lois replied. “You can still see the marks on my wrists.”
“He pushed you to the floor, and then what happened?”
Lois gritted her teeth, inhaling slowly before she answered. Her voice now had the flat, declamatory tone of someone about to lose patience completely. “I cut my arm on some kind of sheered-off bolt in the floor. Every time he turned his back on me, I started sawing the cable ties around my wrists against that bolt.”
“What was he doing when he turned his back on you?” Smith asked.
Lois snorted contemptuously. “Checking on his cameras and laying out the ‘tools of his trade’, as he called them. He wasn’t content to rape me, he wanted to torture me too – and film the whole thing. Sick bastard. Anyway, I finally broke the cable ties as he was checking on the fourth camera, and after that I was just waiting for a chance to get away…”
“What is it, Sawyer?” Henderson said.
Maggie had suddenly gone tense, her eyes widening. She grabbed the copy of the case file sitting on the table and started flipping through it rapidly. “How many cameras did she say there were?” the lieutenant asked urgently.
“Four,” came the reply. “Sawyer?”
“There’s only three mentioned in the report,” Maggie said. “Three broken cameras. If Lois is right, if there’s a fourth one that crime scene missed…”
“We might have our answer once and for all,” the police commissioner said, grinning. He leaned forward and pressed the intercom button for the interrogation room. “Pardon me a moment, Smith. Ms. Lane, do you remember where the four cameras were located?”
For a moment, Lois seemed to draw a blank, looking toward the mirror in surprise. “Umm … one was on the back of one of the couches. One was on the table with his stuff. He had one on the floor, too. The last one was up in Vanderworth’s study…” Lois’ brow knitted, frowning as she tried to remember. “It was on one of those shelves, stuck down in some kind of box. It was in view of the other cameras so he had to hide it. Production values.” Lois couldn’t help shuddering. Smith scowled, waiting for Henderson to say something else.
“Want me to go for it?” Maggie said to the commissioner.
He grinned a little at the eagerness of her tone. “Go, Sawyer. It’s not your jurisdiction, but I know why you’re on this case. If there’s video, I want it yesterday.” Pressing the intercom button again, Henderson added, “Smith, come out here for a moment.”
The lieutenant had to rein in her delight as she hurried out of the room to call Crime Scene. Nothing felt as good as being able to prove Lois’ innocence … except for the dressing-down Smith would get from Henderson for his sloppy investigative work.
Within the hour, Maggie had tracked down the final camera. The three the crime scene department found earlier had been badly damaged, and it would take time to recover any of the data on their internal disks. But this camera had never been broken like the others, and it was a simple matter to pull the memory card and plug it into one of the precinct’s computers.
Commissioner Henderson, Detective Smith, and Lieutenant Sawyer all watched the screen intently. The view was excellent, though the sound was very scratchy, and the scene played out exactly as Lois had said it did. Smith began to frown. Maggie clenched her fists as she saw Riley laying out his tools while Lois lay apparently helpless on the floor. She’d read the inventory of items recovered, but actually seeing this smiling man look at Lois while holding a pair of pruning shears… It’s a good thing the bastard is dead, Maggie’s mind growled, but she choked off the thought before it could cross the line ethically.
A few moments of conversation that they couldn’t catch, and then Riley was stalking Lois with a knife. She suddenly leaped to her feet and went running, right toward the camera. He chased her, snarling, “Don’t you run from me!” The scuffle happened close enough for them to hear Lois yelp when Riley’s fist connected, to see him pause as he drew back for another blow. Lois’ arm swung around and met his skull with a dull thud, and Riley dropped to the ground.
Lois’ harsh panting was loud enough to be easily heard, but she didn’t stop. Holding her side where Riley had hit her, she knelt beside him and reached into his pocket, pulling something out that she used to bind his wrists and ankles. They both were in perfect view of the camera, and Maggie started to smile at Lois’ swearing. As long as she’s cursing, she’s okay, the lieutenant thought.
On the screen, Lois walked over to Riley’s duffel bag and came back with a police baton. Smith started rifling through the report, muttering something about contusions. Maggie and Henderson just watched the screen, trying to hear what was being said. The box the camera had been in had muffled all but the loudest sounds, but even without the words it was clear that Lois had threatened Riley while he tried to talk his way out of it. At last he’d said something desperate about a man named Grant, and then he was talking too fast about Luthor and an island. But the camera clearly showed Lois dropping the baton and walking away, leaving Riley tied up but alive.
“Told you she didn’t do it,” Maggie said triumphantly.
“Bullshit,” Smith said, “it doesn’t prove anything. She could’ve doubled back and capped him after she was sure he didn’t lie to her.”
Henderson ignored them and watched the rest of the video. Riley rolled around on the floor for a while, struggling against his plastic bonds. The police commissioner clicked on the fast-forward button, which made Riley’s struggles look even more like a dying snake.
“She stood there cold as ice threatening the man!” Smith snapped.
“He just tried to torture and rape her!” Sawyer shot back. “Plus his boss has her kids! That shows a helluva lot of self-control, not kicking him in the groin a couple times!”
“Shut up,” Henderson said, rewinding the film slowly. Detective and Lieutenant turned to look at the screen as a very familiar man entered the picture.
“Lex Luthor,” Maggie said softly. She’d know that profile, that gait, anywhere. Although the side of his face was bloody – from fighting with Lois, she knew. That brought a smile to the lieutenant’s face, even as she recognized the gun he was carrying. “That’s Lois’ Ladysmith.”
Smith had finally shut up, scowling. Luthor found and destroyed the other three cameras before advancing on his erstwhile employee. Riley said something, Lex replied, and the next thing the police officers heard clearly was Riley crying out in pain as Lex kicked him. They exchanged a few more words before Lex started yelling about following orders and kicked Riley in the stomach. “There’s the contusions,” Maggie said.
The bound man rolled onto his side, coughing blood, and Lex smiled down at him. Even though they knew how Riley had died, it still shocked all three cops to see Lex aim the gun and fire from less than two feet away. The expression on his face never changed, and he simply turned and walked away while Riley’s body spasmed.
After a long silence, Maggie said, “Well, she’s cleared.”
“Of one charge,” Smith said bitterly.
Before they could start arguing again, Henderson cut in. “Hush. It’s not logical to assume she killed the other guy. Yes, she might’ve shot him after she left this one, but that would mean her whole story’s a lie, and Luthor got her gun back from her again. Her version makes sense. Let her go, Sawyer, but tell her to stay in town until forensics wraps up the case. We’ll find enough evidence to corroborate her story once all the facts have been analyzed.”
“Yes, sir,” Maggie said, leaving Smith to brood.
Dr. Donner and Nurse Tage stood at Superman’s bedside, looking up at the open skylight. The bright sunlight streaming down forced them to squint. “His pulse is definitely stronger,” Tage observed.
“Mm-hmm,” Donner replied. “A little faster than I’d like, but it has been ever since Ms. Lane left. The EEG is showing bursts of increased activity, too. Oxygen levels are still good, though.”
Tage considered, and finally said tentatively, “If he was conscious, I’d say he was agitated by her absence.”
Donner nodded. “I was thinking the same. I’m actually very glad that she came, good to put a face with the name. I remember when she was covering all the stories on him…” He trailed off, thinking about the past.
After a few minutes, Tage sighed. “Dr. Donner, I don’t think his condition will change anytime soon. But we might very well get sunburned if we stand here any longer.”
“Right,” the doctor said, focusing on the present again. “Let’s go. We can monitor his vitals just as easily from the nurses’ station.” But before he left, he clasped his patient’s shoulder kindly and murmured, “C’mon, kid. Wake up. Soon. We’re all rooting for you.”
Lois had just finished counting acoustical tiles in the ceiling for the twentieth time – and plotting her revenge on this jerk Smith – when Maggie walked in. The reporter glared, muttering, “What is this, good cop/bad cop? Everybody who’s seen more than one episode of N.Y.P.D. Blue knows that trick.”
“No, you’re being released,” Sawyer said, grinning. “We found that last camera. You’re cleared in Riley’s death.”
“Thank God,” Lois sighed, getting up. “Now I can get back to the hospital.”
“Whoa, Lane,” Maggie said sternly. “You’re exhausted, you need to go home and get some rest.”
“Screw that,” Lois spat. “I’m tired of hearing that crap from everybody. I’m a big girl; I know when I need a nap and when I don’t.”
“Lois, you won’t do him any good like this,” the lieutenant argued, immediately striking at Lois’ weakness: her vanity. “You look like a drowned rat, and you smell like seawater. When was the last time you had a shower, anyway? Not to mention the lovely matching Louis Vuitton you’ve got under each eye…”
“Stuff it, Sawyer,” Lois growled. “You think you’re the first one to tell me I look like hell? I’ve told my fiancé, my mother, and a four-star general to piss off for saying it, what makes you think I’ll listen to you?”
“Because I can make you do something about it,” Maggie shot back. “You’ve been cleared of Riley’s murder, but not the other guy. Right now, you just have to stay in town while we investigate. Tick me off, and I’ll put you under house arrest.”
“That is such bullshit!” Lois snarled. “Dammit, Mags…”
“I’m driving you home, and you’re going to get a shower, have something to eat, and go to sleep,” Maggie said firmly. “Hell, I’m going home. I’ve been awake for two days straight. Quit arguing, you know I’m right.”
Under other circumstances, Lois would’ve kept arguing. But she really was tired, and she realized she’d left her car unlocked at the docks. It had probably been stolen, leaving her with no transportation. Sighing angrily, she said, “Fine. I’ll do it, but first thing tomorrow morning I’m going back to S.T.A.R. Labs, you hear me? Even if I have to get a cab to take me all the way there from Bakerline.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sawyer said, chuckling. “Now be a good girl and come with me.”
Lois followed her out of the precinct, glaring at Smith as they passed him. The position of the sun in the sky above her came as shock; the interrogation room had no windows or clocks, and Lois was even more irritated to learn she’d lost most of the day. In spite of that, she didn’t remember a thing after getting into the patrol car until Maggie shook her gently awake. “We’re here,” she said, parking in front of the house. Another patrol car pulled up behind them to keep watch; Luthor was still out there.
Groaning, Lois lifted her head from where she’d slumped against the window. “Thanks, Maggie. I just…”
“You’re just so tired you can barely see straight.” Maggie smiled at her and patted her shoulder. “Go on, Lois. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“If anything happens with him, you damn well better call me,” Lois added.
“Will do. I’ll even call your fiancé and tell him where you are. Now scram before you pass out again.”
Muttering agreement, Lois got out of the car and made her way slowly into the house, stifling a yawn. She managed to stay awake through a shower before collapsing in bed, and fell instantly into dreamless sleep.
The sunlight tracked across Kal-El’s room, and his vital signs remained steady. His electroencephalogram showed periodic episodes of increased brain activity, but that was in line with a dream state, nothing indicating consciousness yet. The doctors and nurses gradually stopped taking notice of each brief spike in his brain waves.
Tage happened to be working a long shift, and she was the one standing at the nurses’ station when the first troubling sign came through. The pretty nurse had been just about ready to go home when one of the monitors started beeping.
Superman’s oxygen levels were falling. Tage frowned, picking up the phone to page Dr. Donner. But then his oxygen fell to zero, and the heart monitor flatlined. Tage gasped in horror as the EEG also went flat, adding its shrill alarm to the other two. She smacked the intercom button and called, “Dr. Donner, code blue in 501! Code blue! Crash cart to 501, code blue!” Then she raced down the hallway, almost knocking over another nurse and saying breathlessly, “501’s coding!”
The corridor seemed endless, and Tage felt as if she were running in slow motion. At last she found the door, the two soldiers outside looking nervously at the door. The nurse hit it with her shoulder and barged in, skidding to a halt abruptly. Her gaze went immediately to the bed, and Tage gasped in utter shock.