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by Gary Wilbur

A cocktail party in Metropolis, one of the most glamorous cities in the world, was not where one expected to see a young couple, newly parents, from a midwestern farm community. But there they were, hobnobbing with the rich and famous, talking with, of all people, the mayor of the city. Buck Sackett had been engaged in some small talk with them, but he interrupted himself when he saw the man who was probably Metropolis' single most influential figure approaching. "Lex," he called. "Lex, I'd like you to meet the former US senator, Pete Ross."

"Senator Ross." Lex Luthor extended his hand.

"Mister Luthor, it's a pleasure. And please call me Pete." The blond, earnest young man shook the hand of the urbane sophisticate, the man who held the ultimate power in Metropolis, and knew it.

"Pete it is. And this is . . . ?"

"Oh, allow me to introduce my wife, Lana."

As their eyes met, both Luthor and the young woman showed the instant shock of recognition. But Luthor recovered instantly. "Mrs. Ross. How delightful to meet you."

"Oh, it's . . . of course . . . to meet you . . . "

Pete glanced quickly from her to Luthor. "Lana? is something wrong? Have you met before?"

"I'm very sorry. I guess I just got a little flustered." Lana smiled. "Mr. Luthor's a very famous man."

"And I must say that it is disconcerting to meet such a lovely and charming woman as yourself," Luthor responded in his most elegant manner. "I'm sure that if we had met before I would not have forgotten it."

"Ross is in town to rekindle some old political friendships," said Sackett. "Have I got that right, Pete?"

"Er, yes, in fact. I have been out of the public eye for a while, and you never know . . . I still feel the pull to serve if the opportunity should present itself."

Luthor eyed him closely. "I seem to recall you. You were in the news for something."

"Yes. There's no sense trying to duck facts. What you refer to is an unfortunate alliance with the Sons of Liberty. It's a long story, but it essentially put a hold on my political career, while it brought me closer to Lana. Now we think it's time to get back into public service again. Isn't that right, Lana?"

"Yes. We talked about it and decided a trip to Metropolis might be in order. I think Pete is happiest in the political scene."

"Well, you're in the right place tonight," Luthor smiled. "The real power brokers are all here. Have you met . . . " his voice trailed off from Lana's hearing as he led Pete over to another circle of conversation.

What were we thinking? Lana thought. Of course Lex Luthor is the power here in Metropolis. And he's the monster who had me kidnapped and tortured.

And as Pete began to slip comfortably into an animated conversation, Lex had some thoughts of his own: So Ross yearns for elected office. He's a fool to think that he's anything but a dead pigeon after that Sons of Liberty affair. It's incredible that he wasn't prosecuted. Hmm. Someone who can be manipulated like that, and yet is well-liked enough to escape prosecution could be of real value to me. Especially with that earnest farm-boy charm. It's obvious his wife has never told him about our connection. And if she thought I could further her husband's political career, that would encourage continued silence. There are possibilities to be considered here.

Luthor's thoughts were interrupted by a rattling crash of something against the side of the building.

"What was that?"

"Are we under attack? An earthquake?"

Outside, the scene was startling to anyone unfamiliar with Metropolis, but probably less so to anyone who had regularly seen the city's famous superhero in action. A strange man who looked like a chart of the human muscular system, devoid of skin and with a thatch of very long hair on his head, had just thrown the man of steel against the side of the building, and was shouting at him as he recovered to counterattack. "It's over for you, Superman."

The athletic caped hero flew back at the strange figure. "Who . . . or what . . . are you?" Superman asked as the two grappled, each in an attempt to throw the other."

"Pretty strong, ain't I? You can call me the new boss in town, or you can just call me Sinew."

"I dont know where you came from, Sinew, but you seem to have a personal antagonism for me."

"Im out to take you down, Superman."

"I don't know what has made you my enemy . . . but I'm perfectly willing to let you know who protects this city." Superman finally got the advantage and threw the odd creature. But he was attacking again in an instant.

"Oh, your precious city. That's right. You are the big boy scout," Sinew taunted as they collided again.

"You know something? I'm proud to be seen that way. " It was a struggle, but Superman threw him again. This guy was strong.

"So you think you can stop me? You? I'm calling you out, Superman." Sinew was charging him again. "You're no longer the meanest dog on the block. Say hello to the new champ: Sinew."

"Well, here's your hello, Sinew." Superman threw him again, the length of a city block. "But in this race I'm afraid you're still just an also-ran."

Sinew got to his feet again, but slowly this time. Then he ran at Superman again, they met with a crash, and Sinew found himself sitting on the sidewalk. "Had enough?" Superman asked, as Sinew got to his feet and began to back away.

"Okay," Sinew said as he retreated. "Okay, you're still stronger now, but you won't always be. You'll get yours, Superman. Count on that." And the man who looked like the skinless muscular system rounded a corner and disappeared.

That was odd, thought Superman. But if he were any stronger, he might have been a serious match for me. And then he noticed an odd residue on his hands and clothes.

Lana Ross had been thinking about it for some time. If we're in Metropolis for long, and with Pete's prospects slim, I'd better be considering some part time work. She had been perusing the want ads for a while this morning, and finally there was a possibility. Hm. This might do it: general administrative, computer literacy, apply in person between . . . .

It appeared to be perfect. Lana had made a phone call, set up an appointment, and gone armed with her resume to the address the voice on the phone had given her, and was already seated across from the interviewer. It was a new company, just starting up, WMEW, a local TV station.

"Okay, Mrs. Ross," the interviewer was saying, "Your resume looks good, you seem to have the skills we're looking for . . . so tell me a little about yourself."

"Well, I'm from Smallville, Kansas . . . "

"Really? What brings you to Metropolis?"

"My husband and I are in Metropolis because he hopes to get back into politics, and wanted to make some contacts. He met Lex Luthor last night. And you know the writers, Clark Kent and Lois Lane? We're friends of theirs."

A message flashed across the interviewer's computer screen, angled so that he could see it but Lana couldn't: "Hire her." He was startled to get it, and couldn't help wondering what had triggered his boss's interest in hiring this young woman. But he went on.

"Really? How do you know them?"

"Well, Clark and I grew up together. We were what you'd call high school sweethearts, I guess."

The screen flashed again. "HIRE HER!" And although the interview went on for a few minutes for show, the decision was made, and Lana Lang Ross was hired. This interviewer, of course, had no idea why, but the man at the desk in the next room did.

Morgan Edge's Intergang contacts have no love for Lex Luthor, thought the well-groomed and tailored executive. And they know Edge's expertise in the TV news field, so they were happy to invest in this project. But this woman has contact with Lois Lane as well. Perfect! And with Sinew as my agent against Superman . . . he hesitated and allowed himself an evil smile . . . I just don't see how I can lose.

Clark tapped on the already open door of the WMEW office and poked his head in. "Hi, Lana."

"Clark! I didn't expect to see you here." Lana was delighted to see her old friend.

"I just wanted to stop by and congratulate you on the new job." He stepped in and sat on the corner of her desk.

"Thanks. It was a complete surprise. I was interviewing for office help, and got hired as an on-air personality."

"I know. You'll be wonderful. Your employer, Mister . . . uh . . . " he pulled a letter out of his jacket pocket and looked at it. "Edward Morgan, sent me an offer to work here, too. And his letter made a point of telling me who I'd be working with if I accepted."

"Are you going to?"

"Oh, no. They've certainly made an attractive offer, but my heart is really at the Planet. I doubt that I'd . . . ." Clark stopped as his X-ray vision revealed the person in the next room.

Lana followed his look. "Clark. What?"

"Hm?" he looked back at her. "Oh. Sorry. Brain cramp."

"So you have no plans to change jobs, huh?"

"Uh, no. Not really. Listen, Lana, I'm sorry but I only had a minute or two. I just wanted to wish you all the best. But I have to go."

She gave him a knowing smile. "This is a job for . . . " she said.


"Take care, Clark," she said to the empty space hed just been in.

Two things had spurred Clark away. That was Morgan Edge, he thought. Has he been released from prison? I need to check up on this. But the second stimulus was even more urgent. Superhearing had revealed the voice of Sinew calling from the street.

"Superman! Where are you? Come on out and fight like a man."

Oh, no. I really never expected to see this guy ever again after the beating he took, Superman thought as he quickly changed to the famous primary-colored costume. Apparently, though, this really is a job for Superman.

The man of tomorrow swooped down to street level where Sinew was awaiting him, looking confident, cocky, and somewhat bulkier than before. And as Superman attempted to land a punch, Sinew grabbed his arm and immediately maneuvered to a wrestling hold.

"You seem to prefer wrestling to boxing, Sinew."

"I can do both. But wrestling is the way I'm going to defeat you, Superman."

The struggle was on, and it felt like a much more even match. Superman was amazed at the increase in strength in his opponent, as they pulled and pushed and slammed each other against building walls. "You're stronger than you were, Sinew. Been working out?"

"Surprised, aren't you? You like to think you're the best there is, but you'll be surrendering that crown soon."

"To you? Don't flatter yourself." Superman finally got the better position and was able to throw the weird antagonist. But he was back instantly, and the struggle was on again. Attempts to pull Sinew into the air were difficult because he always got a hold on something to anchor himself, and he was strong enough to keep that hold. So Superman's great strength would succeed only in ripping up whatever property Sinew had grasped. Superman didn't want to do that, and he didn't want to harm him with heat vision if he could help it. This guy isn't that major a threat, Superman thought. I should be able to beat him with superstrength alone.

Finally, with a mighty surge, Superman was able to get the footing and lift Sinew off the ground and throw him. Sinew landed hard and didn't get up right away this time. "Okay," he said. "Round two goes to you, too." And he slunk away.

Superman again noticed the residue. After the last time, he had checked it out with John Henry. It was low-level radioactive.

It was only a few minutes later that Clark was in Perry White's office, sharing the news of the man in the offices of the new TV station.

"Morgan Edge?" Perry could hardly believe it.

"I thought I saw him there. Has he been released from Stryker's?"

"No, he's not released. He's escaped. Some time ago. I'm surprised you don't remember it. Must have something to do with being a newlywed at the time."

Clark looked puzzled. "Escaped. So if he's around, he certainly can't be in the public eye." But he was sitting at that desk like he was the boss, he thought. Is he running that station? That is his expertise. "Something is very wrong here, Perry. Why was Edge there? Why do they want to hire me over there? What's going on?"

Perry leaned back in his chair. "You smell a story, don't you? So do I. Listen, Clark, you have a golden opportunity here. I think you should accept that job offer."


"Go undercover. Work there and find out what's going on. If Edge is there, we need to get him back behind bars. But this has all the earmarks of a bigger story. I want you to get it for us."

Clark's first day at WMEW held more than one surprise, including finding who would be his immediate supervisor. "Welcome aboard, Kent."

It was a familiar broadcasting voice. "Steve Lombard!"

"Yeah, it's a shock, right? Mr. Morgan hired me to manage the station. I guess he had a pretty good idea in advance who he wanted to recruit. He went after you, too, eh?"

"Yes, he did," Clark answered. "So, have you actually seen our boss, this Edward Morgan?"

"Nah, he's one of these eccentric recluses. I don't think any of us has seen him."


"Yeah." Now Lombard sounded businesslike. "And here's your main guideline: do the news with your established earnestness, but especially if it is something that will embarrass Lex Luthor."

Clark hesitated. "Is that ethical? I'm no fan of Luthor's, but isn't that putting the cart before the horse? If he does something newsworthy and it's an embarrassment to him, that's one thing. But looking for embarrassing stories specifically is the worst use of the medium."

Lombard rolled his eyes. "Kent, you are a charming misfit, aren't you?"

The next two weeks were a whirlwind of Clark preparing and delivering news reports on TV, and using his superpowers to read files and investigate the paperwork behind the station's operation. But three things were especially troubling: One was the appearance, every couple days, of Sinew, who just seemed stronger at every battle. Another was the schedule of working closely with Lana, often going into very late night hours with just the two of them alone in the studio. The most upsetting part of this was the realization of how much he was enjoying her company. And third was the nature of the broadcasts themselves. The promo Lana was giving was a good example of what concerned him.

"Hypersector. Lex Luthor's brainchild. Most of us recall his attempts to remove a historical landmark and an elderly man's home in order to build it. And it's common knowledge that it mostly serves his interests, but how much of his own funds actually built it? Tune in at eleven for the shady dealings that have altered the face of our city."

Lombard gave her the off-the-air signal. "Okay, you're off. Great stuff, Lana."

"Thanks, Steve."

Clark had been watching from the side. "You did it beautifully, Lana, but we'd better have the evidence to back this up. We can be sued for libel and slander if we don't."

"But we do. Don't we, Steve?"

"Oh yeah, we're covered. Morgan is taking no chances. It's all spelled out in that script, and it's going on at eleven. Better get familiar with it." Lombard tossed a copy in the general direction of Lana and Clark just as the phone rang, and he picked it up. "Talk to me," he said. "What? But we need to . . . Yes, sir. Yes. Right now." He hung up, paused a moment and turned to Clark and Lana. "Mr. Morgan thinks you two should familiarize yourselves with this stuff until dinner, and then he's made reservations for you at Chez Maurice. He says he demands a lot from you, you deliver, and you deserve this."

"You know, Clark, this really is kind of nice." Lana had finished her dessert, and there was dinner music in the background. "We never get a chance to catch up."

"Well, we're both happily married people. That tends to fill our time pretty well."

"Yes. I wish . . . " There was a long pause.


"I wish Pete were happier. I think that politics is his first love. That's the main reason we're here. But now he's the house-husband and little Clark's main parent while I'm . . . here."

"You're uncomfortable with this."

"Yes . . . No! . . . Well, I guess . . . yes. Yes, I am."

"You know what Lois said when I told her I'd be late getting home? She said this is the third time this week. In my, you know, other work, I'm away a lot. But this is the first time she has said such a thing. Ever."

"Pete said the exact same thing tonight."

"Maybe I'm imagining this, but our mysterious employer seems to be setting us up, pushing us together. Any idea why he would do that?"

"I don't even know who he is."

"I thought I did, but this doesn't make any sense." Clark paused and looked around the dinng room. "Look, Lana, you shouldn't feel uncomfortable with an old friend and co-worker. But we are married people, after all. Let's get together again, and often. But with Pete and Lois as well. I think we'll all feel better about it. Right?"

She gave him a long look, and it was hard to tell what she was thinking. "Right," she said.

"I'm going to take you home, do a quick patrol of the city as you-know-who, and head back home. Have a good evening with the family, Mrs. Ross."

That quick patrol wasn't quite as quick as Clark had intended.

"Superman!" It was the voice of Sinew again.

It was a fierce collision this time, and Superman could not help noticing that he and Sinew seemed to be about equal in strength this time. And it looked like Sinew had gained considerable bulk as well. This is incredible. He has gotten stronger again. What is going on, anyway?

Sinew almost seemed to read his thought as they struggled. "As long as you are seen as so unbeatable, you will always have me to contend with. Got it?"

"Where did you come from, Sinew? Why have you singled me out?" It was difficult for both of them to fight and talk, too.

"If you knew who created me, it would make perfect sense to you. He has a serious grudge, not only against you, but a couple other people in this city." There was a long pause in speaking while Sinew caught his breath, got better footing and a better hold. "He plans to get all of you. I just get the pleasure of bringing you down."

"Who is it, Sinew? Tell me."

"Ha. You'll have to beat it out of me, Superman."

"Don't think I can't."

The struggle went on for several minutes more, each opponent getting in several throws with nothing conclusive happening. Then finally, Superman was able to get a solid hold before Sinew had a chance to anchor himself, and flew him high above Metropolis and pitched him like a baseball into Hobs Bay.

Sinew came up sputtering. "You're not going to win, Superman. Ultimately, you can't win. Every time you beat me, I just get stronger. It won't be long before I'm just too strong for you."

It was over for tonight, but at the rate Sinew's strength was increasing, Superman knew he might be right. And where was that radioactive stuff coming from, anyway?

"Perry , it's all Intergang." Clark was at the Daily Planet editor's office, sharing the results of his secret investigation. "They have financed everything, and they have no love for Lex Luthor. That explains the willingness to air potentially libelous info about him. They may have lost Boss Moxie's following, but they're still a force to be reckoned with."

Perry shook his head. "I still don't get it. Edge may have talked his Intergang cronies into bankrolling this affair, but why is he targeting Luthor? I mean, that's always a dangerous proposition. Why is he willing to risk it when his own position is so precarious?"

"You're right," Clark admitted. "The authorities already want him, and to make an enemy of Lex Luthor, too . . . It doesn't make sense, does it?"

Perry walked slowly from behind his desk. "Here's a man with everything to lose, acting as if he has nothing to lose. Hm. I wonder if he has a terminal disease? There's something missing in this picture."

There really is, Clark thought. And why would Edge be so interested in throwing Lana and me together? It's clear that's what he is doing. Then he said aloud, "I'll see if I can discover anything about his health, Perry. That's an angle I hadn't thought of."

Breakfast at the Rosses next morning was strangely silent, as both Pete and Lana seemed lost in their own individual thoughts. Between spoonfuls of baby food to little Clark, Lana finally broke the silence.

"Pete, it's not happening, is it? No one is going to consider you for political office. I think we both know that."

Pete looked surprised, and then his look changed to one of understanding . . . and resignation. "Lex sounded so encouraging," he said. "I really thought . . . " There was a long pause.

"I know, Hon, But you've always faced facts. That's one of your strengths. And as exciting as Metropolis can be, do you really think it's working out for us?" Lana's wishes were plain, and she was hard for Pete to deny.

"Well, I must admit . . . Little Clark and I haven't seen much of you, lately." He sat down beside her and took over feeding the baby. "I'm very proud of your work at the station, Lana. But continuing to cause difficulty for Luthor will only undermine my chances."

Lana looked at the floor. "Do you really think he is any help to you?"

"He certainly isn't someone I'd want to cross. And his help can be invaluable."

"Pete, he's . . . "


"Nothing." She looked up at him and her eyes glistened. "But I want to move back to Smallville."

Pete hesitated only a second before he said, "Actually, so do I. I haven't wanted to see it, but it's true. I have no prospects here. Maybe I need to say goodbye to politics for good."

And maybe, Lana thought, maybe I need to stay away from Clark for the good of our marriage. She looked at Pete and smiled. "And little Clark needs two parents, right?"

By the time Lana got to the station that morning, Clarks investigation of the Morgan Edge mystery was on a new slant. Being Superman is a wonderful gift, he thought. Who else could do a microscopic examination of someone's physiology from a distance and from behind walls? He continued his "medical examination" and frowned. Edge seems perfectly healthy. Another theory shot. I can't keep this up. I know Edge is a fugitive from justice. I can't continue to delay his arrest just because I can't figure what's happening here. If I can't figure this out by tomorrow's late night broadcast, I'll call in the police and we'll make the arrest. And then his microscopic vision revealed his first clue. Wait. What is that? Low-level radioactive material just like the residue from all my battles with Sinew. He has been in close contact with Sinew.

"Here." Steve Lombard was handing Clark a folder. "Here's the copy for today's broadcast."

"Thanks, Steve." Clark began to peruse the material. Then: "Steve, I can't present this. This goes too far".

"Hey, Clark, baby, I'm not the originator of this piece. This comes straight from Mr. Big, himself".

"But listen to this. This will end the station this afternoon."

Lombard looked exasperated. "Look, Clark, I know what it says. But its what our boss, the one who pays us both, wants aired. And youre the one who is going to present it."

"No. No, Im not, Steve. If anyone puts this diatribe on the air, it will have to be you." He handed the folder back to the station manager.

Lana spoke up. "Clark, are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"It's okay, Lana." Clark responded. "This is going to be my last day working here, anyway."

Lana stared. What a coincidence, she thought. "Mine, too," she said. "And Steve, much as I'd love to, I'm not reading this, either."

"This is Steve Lombard with the WMEW editorial comment. For all the danger Superman posed during his recent dictatorial reign, we at least owe him for a few favors. We should be thanking him for tearing down that monument to corporate greed and corruption, Lexcorp Tower. Unlike the first tower Luthor erected, which crumbled the day it was dedicated, this one had survived way too long. It was the unencroachable fortress of the fat, bald tyrant who manipulated political figures, crime bosses and youth gangs. It was the pleasure palace of the young, bearded Lothario, who, it turned out, was the same man. And there's still a question in many people's minds about that "cloned" Luthor who confessed to all those crimes. That building was a blight on the landscape of decency."

"Turn it off." Across town, Luthor was speaking tight-jawed to an aide. "This has gone too far. I can't allow this station, this Edward Morgan, to continue to undercut me like this. This calls for drastic measures. We're suing."

That night, after the final newscast, the time had come, and there was no more reason for Superman to delay arresting Morgan Edge. In his official capacity as an agent of the MPD, and in his famous tri-color uniform, he burst into Morgan Edge's office.

"Superman!" Edge was taken by surprise.

"Morgan Edge. Whatever made you think you could avoid getting caught in such a high-profile operation as this? And what is your connection with Sinew?"

The executive smiled. "It's a real mystery to you, isn't it, Superman? And I'm succeeding completely. You know, Sinew just gets more powerful, doesn't he?"

"How can you act so smug, knowing that you've accomplished nothing and you're going back to jail?"

"Ah, but I am accomplishing exactly what I want, Superman. I am causing the downfall of three people who have wronged me. And I strongly doubt that I will see the inside of a jail ever again. Lex Luthor, however, just might."

"Do you think those news reports are going to put him away?"

"No. You underestimate me. When our building is torched, though, no one in Metropolis will believe that anyone but Luthor did it. Especially after these broadcasts." Edge laced his fingers behind his head. "One down," he said.

Superman was incredulous. "Aren't you taking quite a chance that I will reveal this conversation?" he asked.

"Not at all. I don't think you'll survive to tell anyone. See, Luthor is not my only target. You and Ms. Lois Lane also have a lot to answer for."

"What?" Hearing that Lois was a target awakened a concern. "What are you talking about, Edge?"

"Now, you see, there's your problem. I'm not Morgan Edge." He smiled at Superman's confusion. "You don't see it yet, do you? I've planted the seeds that I believe will eventually lure Lane's beloved husband away from her." He held up two fingers. "Two down."

Superman's patience was wearing thin. "This is crazy. Who are you, if you're not Morgan . . . ?"



"Morgan Wilde. Remember me?"

"The ULTRA humanite!"

"Very good."

"You made a mistake telling me that, Wilde. It all stops here."

"Oh, I don't think so," said the man from his past. He nodded toward the window. "Look."

And there in the moonlight on the roof of the adjacent building was the bulky, muscular Sinew. "Come on out, Superman," he called, "for your last stand."

Morgan Wilde's face reflected pure triumph. "And three down.," he said. "I believe he's strong enough to kill you this time. Goodbye, Superman."

With his cape flying in the breeze, Superman leaped from the window to the roof of the building where Sinew awaited him.

"How do you like this, Superman? I do believe that this is the time I win." And then Sinew charged.

Superman knew that Sinew was now a serious threat, but his course of action was surprising. He stepped aside at the last second of Sinew's charge and watched the creature's momentum carry him over the edge of the roof. Then he flew down to met him at street level. Sinew charged again, and once again the man of steel sidestepped him.

Sinew flew past him and lost his balance. "Whoaaaah. What has happened? What are you doing?" "It's what I'm not doing," Superman said. "I'm not resisting you."

"You can't do that. How will I . . . "

"Continue to gain strength? You won't. It took me a while to figure it out, Sinew, but the way you look gave me the clue. After each encounter with me, you not only got stronger, that strength increase showed in your muscular structure. That's the disadvantage of the muscle showing. And it's also the disadvantage of using radioactive material to accelerate the process. It makes it all more obvious, and it got me thinking: how does muscle tissue grow? It gets ripped and torn by being pushed beyond its normal capacity, and during rest, its cellular 'memory' grows extra cells to heal the rips and to cope with the new demands on it. "That's what has been happening with you, isn't it? The same process, sped and increased by radioactive treatment. But it's all over if I don't give you any resistance. And once I go back and take care of Wilde, the guy who has been giving you those treatments, you'll gradually shrink back to normal human strength levels. For me, it's not a spectacular win. But it's a win."

Sinew sat on the sidewalk pouting like a child. "It's no satisfaction fighting a guy who won't fight back."

"It really isn't, is it? Look, Sinew. I know what Wilde is up to. But is your entire purpose to prove that you're tougher than I am?"

"Well . . . "

"Because I'll be happy to arrange an exhibition match any time you want one. But keep in mind: my muscle tissue grows, too."

"All right. I guess that would work. I could still beat you, Superman. I think. But I think Wilde's plan may beat you yet."

"It was quite the plan, I'll admit, but Wilde has failed in every respect."

"Don't be too sure, yet, Superman." Sinew pointed toward the TV station. "Look."

The building was in flames.

"If Clark Kent dies in that fire, that will finish off both Luthor and Lane," Sinew said.

I'm not worried about Clark Kent, thought Superman, but there are several others trapped in there. "Don't interfere in this, Sinew," he said. "I don't think you're invulnerable to fire."

Superman was back inside the WMEW building faster than a speeding bullet, and he scooped up Lana first.

"Cl- Superman!"

"Easy does it, Lana. Listen, here's what I want you to do . . . "

On the street, the fire department was arriving and training its equipment on the building. "Get those hoses on the fifth story windows," the chief was shouting. "We may be able to contain this. But I think anyone still up there is a goner."

From the shadows came Lana's cry: "No, it'll be okay." She ran up to where the crowd had gathered. "Superman just set me down over there, and he's gone back to get the rest."

"It's the news lady."

"Over where?"

"Right here." And Clark Kent stepped out of the shadows as well.

"Clark, you're safe!" Lana cried.

"Yes, Superman just set me down and went back after Steve and Mr. Morgan." Clark was in his exaggerated Clark Kent role. "Gee, I guess we don't have a job here any more, Lana," he said. "I'm going to call the Daily Planet, give them this story and see if I can get my old job back." And he ran off.

"Clark, wait." But he was gone.

"Now there's a guy with newsprint in his blood," someone in the crowd said.

"There he is, I see him. Superman!"

Superman touched down and set Steve Lombard on his feet. "Whoa. Thanks, Superman. Wow, what a ride."

"Steve, you're okay, too." Lana sounded relieved.

"Yeah, I think so."

Lana allowed herself the faintest smile. Very convincing, Clark.

But before Superman leapt back into the air there was a scream from around the corner of the building.

"What is it? What's happened?"

"Someone jumped from the building, just as Superman was flying Mr. Lombard down. How tragic! Didn't he know Superman was coming to save him?"

"Is it Mr. Morgan?"

"It must be. He was the only one left."

"It's Morgan Edge!"

"The guy who escaped Stryker's a few months back?"

Superman stepped up, a look of horror on his face. But it quickly gave way to one of finally understanding. "Yes, it's Edge. He had quite a scheme going to discredit Lex Luthor, and I think he committed suicide when his plot was discovered." He looked around. "Where's Mr. Kent?" he asked.

"Um, he went to phone in his story, Superman," Lana answered, true to her role. "I'm sure we can read all the details in the paper tomorrow."

It was a foursome made up of obviously close friends who were enjoying a dinner together the next evening at Dooley's. And the conversation was mostly about last night's tragic fire, as reported in the Daily Planet that day.

"So what was all that really about, Clark?" Lois was asking.

"Do you remember Morgan Wilde?"

"Wilde . . . Yes! Very well. Lex Luthor stole his research and murdered his wife. We could never prove it, of course."

"So who is Morgan Wilde?" Lana asked. "And what did he have to do with any of this?"

"Wilde's research had to do with 'underlight' or what some would call the human soul," Clark explained. "Several years ago, when Luthor took all that was dearest to him, he killed some of Lexcorp's goons and appeared to die, himself. But he had really just transferred his own underlight to another person, and later another, and continued to wreak havoc on Luthor. Of course, anyone whose body he possessed, died. So he has murdered several people in his quest to get Luthor. Lex's first corporate tower was destroyed, but Wilde never achieved the revenge he sought, mostly because of the intervention of Superman and of our own Lois Joanne Lane."

Lois shook her head. "So this was all a plot to get me, Superman and Luthor?"


"Wow." Lana looked incredulous. "And Edge?"

"Wilde met him in prison, while in some other criminal's body. Learning of Edge's Intergang connections, he decided that Edge was the perfect vehicle to accomplish his revenge. He used Edge's knowledge and connections to set up the TV station and give Luthor a publicly-known motive for the arson which he, himself, committed: a complete frame-up. And he used his own scientific knowledge to create a superpowered someone to kill Superman."

"But Lois?" Pete asked. "How did he plan to hurt her?"

"Through me. He figured that if he could get me working for his station, I would almost certainly . . . " Clark glanced at Lana, " . . . die in the fire. And he figured that would hurt Lois more than . . . . anything else."

"That's amazing."

"He came close to succeeding. And he had planned all along, I think, to ditch Morgan Edge's body. So that was really Morgan Edge we saw dead on the sidewalk that night."

"But what about Wilde himself?" Lois asked.

"Good question. He could be in anyone, most likely some passerby that night. The fire guaranteed a crowd, so he had plenty to choose from. And there's no way even Superman can tell who."

Pete stretched his arrns. "Well, it's getting late, and Lana and I get on the plane to Smallville in the morning."

"I'm sorry this didn't work out, Pete," Lois said.

"In a way, it did. It certainly reminded me of who and what is still most important to me: Lana and little Clark. And who knows what the future will bring? After all, I did get to meet Lex Luthor."