Mindstorm, part 15

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0" Note sections of this part taken verbatim from Superman: Man of Steel #131 and Action Comics #796.

"Superman!" Steel's voice, professional but edged with worry over the psionic link. "We've been trying to hail you... it's Lois ... she went AWOL from the safehouse..."

Superman's fists balled tighter as he cut through the mesosphere, making a bee line for Metropolis. Steel's voice continued to buzz in his head, reporting that Jimmy thought she had gone to their apartment-

/I'm here, Clark./

He shook off the echoes of his wife's voice. She needed him. God, he should have known, all those other villains... distractions. He burst through the window of his floor, flying full tilt to the door of their apartment, graffitied with his own logo in red and he could smell it was blood...

/Clark. Hold my hand. Please-/

He blasted through the door, and the bastard didn't even flinch. Just took another drag off his cigarette before saying, "Yeah, you're good. But you're not that good, mate."

The blood was everywhere, overwhelming his senses as his knees buckled.

"Fact is," Manchester Black continued, "you're a little late this time."

/Don't let it take you again, Clark. I know -/

She was still alive, barely. He could hear her heartbeat over her voice in his head. The memory of her voice. Because her mouth was slack and open and-

Manchester Black was still speaking, drawing the focus of his mind. "...little tweak... That heartbeat you're... Ain't hers. Idiot. S'mine."

/Clark, you can't do this again. I'm not sure J'onn-/

"Lois is dead."

"No. No." He could barely hear himself, much less Black. His whole body shook as Black kicked her corpse to prove his point. She wasn't in it. She was dead. Dead.

/Clark, I love you. Please-/

"...piety pourin' out of you... telling me how the damn world works... sparing my life. Bet that looks like a big screw-up now, don't it?"

/It's an illusion, Clark. Whatever you're seeing.../

"Why?" He had to ask. Because Lois' murder was so senseless, so-

"Because I hate you. Because you're stupid. Because I wanted to pull you out of your tower and show you beyond question how the bloody world works for real people!..."

Black was ranting, telekinetically animating Lois body, making her sway up to her knees, making her monstrous with her blood soaked hair and empty features and -

"How does it feel?" Black was asking, and the rage bubbled up in Superman.

"You're the telepath," he growled. "READ MY MIND." He slammed into Black, took the fight out over the skyline, blasting him with heat rays that did nothing, pounding fists toward him only to have them bounce off his shielding. A telekinetic blast sent Superman spiraling down to the street below, cracking concrete as he landed, and it didn't hurt so much as his heart-

"You need more incentive to fight like a man?" Black crowed. "How about a telepathic retrospective on your wife's last hour of life?"

/Clark, can't you feel me squeezing your hand? I'm right here, no matter what-/

"NO MORE TALKING!" Superman roared. "THIS ENDS NOW!"

/Clark - Smallville! Stop it! Right now! I'm blowing the story of a lifetime here to hold your hand and hope the Martian sitting next to you doesn't explode from trying to keep you sane, and I'll be seriously upset-/

Lois? He reached out, feeling the familiar contours of J'onn's telepathic link...

Everything went black.

Lois could feel the silk of her blouse sticking to her sweat as everything began shaking again and J'onn slumped in the chair across from her. "What now?" she groaned.

As if on cue, the Flash appeared. "The moon-" he began, then looked at J'onn. "Shit, what happened?"

Lois shrugged wearily. "More of the same." The ground seemed to heave, throwing J'onn from his chair and forcing Lois to grab hold of the structural support column that they had stationed themselves beside.

Wally joined her, clinging tight and, she suspected, ready to zip her to safety. "I reinforced the support shields," he yelled over the rumble and crash of falling equipment. "The Watchtower will hold together."

"What's happening?" she shouted back.

"I think they've won downstairs! I lost the feed from Earth, but the moon is going back to its orbit!"

The ground seemed to roll under them, making Lois feel seasick. Superman's bed tipped, angling toward her and Wally for a moment before swaying back to topple him on top of J'onn's unmoving form. Lois started to reach forward instinctively, but Wally stopped her.

"They're fine!" he pointed out. "This can't hurt them!"

A groaning sound vibrated through the column she and the Flash clung to. She shot a horrified look at him. "You're sure it will hold?"

He reached out and took her hand. "We've got too much to live for for it to fail!"

She bit back a sarcastic retort as a supply cabinet crashed to the floor, shattering glass beakers and test tubes that somehow had survived the first displacement of the moon.

And then the shaking stopped.

Both she and Wally stayed where they were, blinking at the sudden silence and stillness. Then Lois felt her knees give in delayed reaction.

The Flash caught her before she hit the floor, lowering her the final inches to the ground. Lois giggled in embarrassment. She looked around the medbay, noticing with relief that J'onn was beginning to move. "Aren't you glad you cleaned his place up?"

She was half-surprised when Wally pushed back his mask and gave her a rueful smile. "You know, I used to dream about a world that moved closer to my speed," he confessed, joining her in examining the rubble. "After the last three hours? Not so much."

Lois closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "Only three hours?"

"Lois?" that was J'onn's voice, and she opened her eyes to see the Martian sitting up, studying her with a concerned expression. Too concerned, actually, and she realized how deeply sucked in to Superman's latest delusion he had been.

"I'm fine," she promised. She reached forward to where her husband's head rested against the steel floor and smoothed back the curl over his forehead. "Fine."

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