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Last Ounce of Strength

by Jessica Campos

April, 2017

A/N: From the first time I saw the episode, ‘The Magic Secret’ from the 1950's Adventures of Superman, I felt that there were some aspects of it that could have been written better. Here, I explore what I hope to be a more realistic approach.

Thanks for proofreading, Mary.

Summary: Everyone has their limit, but sometimes one's limit can be beyond what they expect it to be.

And now... another exciting episode in the Adventures of Superman...

It's Superman!” Gus cried into the car phone as he stomped on the gas.

But it was no use. Superman was gripping the bumper, preventing the two jewel thieves from getting away with 100,000 dollars in diamonds.

Run for it, you fools!” a voice shouted from the other end of the phone.

The two men fled the car, only to run straight into a blue and red uniform.

Lightly tapping their foreheads, Superman swiftly knocked them both out cold before picking up their car phone.

Answer me, answer me!” the voice roared over the phone.

They won’t be answering you for a long time, whoever you are, because they’ll be in jail, where you’ll be – sooner or later,” Superman said.

Get this Superman, somehow — some way — I’ll get you. In the meantime, you’ll never get to me. Never,” the man growled, his voice containing a unique lilt that was currently saturated with fury.

We’ll see,” Superman said, before the man hung up.

O o O

That makes four times in a row Superman has busted up your plans, Mr. Griswald,” Eddy, the bodyguard, said as his boss slammed the phone down.

That’s four times too many. Something has to be done about him. And I am going to do it,” Griswald swore.

O o O o O

So you spoke to our mystery man organizing the robberies?” Henderson asked Clark.

Yes. I could tell by his voice that he’s likely a well educated man and is used to projecting his voice. If I hear his voice again, I’ll recognize it,” Clark assured.

It must be great to have super hearing,” Henderson said, smirking.

Clark smiled. “It does come in handy from time to time,” he said.

Although, it was even better to have a friend who knew he was Superman. Henderson had known for nearly half a year before letting on that he knew, which was actually reassuring to Clark. He had known all that time and hadn’t treated him any differently.

It’s a shame there were no other leads, though,” Henderson said with a frown.

He’ll trip up eventually. They always do,” Clark said.

Henderson nodded, although not that enthused.

O o O o O

A man out there wants to see you, Mr. Griswald. He said it’s about an enemy of yours,” Eddy said, entering his bosses’ office.

Enemy? What does he mean? Who is he?” Griswald asked.

He says his name is Van Brunner. Professor Van Brunner.”

Oh, I remember him. I had done some business with him before he was sent to prison for selling laboratory secrets. Send him on in,” Griswald said, suddenly unbothered and a little curious.

Okay, come on in,” Eddy called into the hall after opening the door.

An older gentleman came in soon after.

Good to see you again, professor. What can I do for you?” Griswald asked.

Nothing. The important thing is, what can I do for you? What would it be worth to you if I were to destroy Superman?” he asked, getting straight to it.

You mean knock him off?” Eddy asked, stunned.


Professor, if I can find a man who could do that, I would make him a millionaire,” Griswald promised before heaving a sigh. “Only it just can’t be done.”

I can do it. Just how much do we know about Superman?” Van Brunner asked.

We know nothing can hurt him,” the guard answered.

You’re wrong. He’s vulnerable to one thing. An element called Kryptonite,” Van Brunner said.

Everyone knows that, but what good does it do us? Unless . . . have you got any?” Griswald asked.

No, and I doubt there is any left on earth, at least not in sufficient quantities for our purpose.”

Then what are you bending our ear for?” Eddy questioned.

Superman came here after his planet exploded, correct?” Van Brunner asked calmly.


That explosion sent out a billion trillion particles of Kryptonite into outer space, particles so tiny they can’t be seen with the naked eye,” Van Brunner continued.

What are you going to do? Jump on a rocket and gather them all up in a butterfly net?” Eddy asked.

No, but I have perfected a way to gather energy from them. Would you like to see how?”

Get the car, Eddy,” Griswald stated, intrigued.

O o O

A square, concrete hole in the ground — so what?” Eddy asked as they stepped out of the car and made their way toward a hole with a large, water hose-like nozzle beside it.

Sixty feet deep, a fall sufficient to kill anybody,” Van Brunner said.

Except Superman,” Griswald stated.

True, but it is this that will destroy him,” Van assured, patting the nozzle stand.

You’re going to squirt water on him and drown ‘im?” Eddy asked.

No, my friend. Look,” he said, pointing at a radio tower looking structure on the hill two miles away.

What is it? A radar pickup?” Griswald asked.

Close, Mr. Griswald,” Van Brunner said. “But instead of picking up radar signals, it’s designed to collect minute particles of Kryptonite floating in space and concentrate them into a wide beam.”

Sounds fishy,” Eddy said.

It’s harmless to us, but if I aim it at Superman, it will first rob him of his strength and eventually destroy him.”

How do you know without trying it on him?” Griswald asked.

I guarantee it, but as for trying it on him . . . that’s your job.”

Griswald grinned. “And I know exactly how.”

O o O o O

Jimmy hurried into her office like a little boy who just learned Santa was coming a month early.

Look, Miss Lane!” Jimmy shouted, thrusting a newspaper ad toward her.

Simmer down, Jimmy,” she said, a little exasperated. “What has you so worked up?”

I can be a magician! Look at this personal ad. ‘Magic tricks revealed, professional secrets taught.’”

Lois took the page and read the ad, muttering a few of the tricks under her breath until coming to the last one, “‘Levitate any living subject.’”

That’s the one I’m most interested in!” Jimmy exclaimed.

This whole list for five dollars?” she asked, incredulously, looking at the page again.

Yeah, I don’t know, but I want to take the course,” Jimmy said, nodding. He suddenly looked sheepish. “That is, if I could borrow three dollars from you until payday.”

Oh, so that’s it. Well, all right,” she said, handing him three dollars for him to have a total of five.

Golly, thanks Miss Lane,” he said, grinning, taking it before hurrying out.

Hey, wait a minute, aren’t you going to make an appointment?” she called.

I already did, I’m on my way there now.”

Wait, I’ll go with you,” she said.

You will?”

Well, I have to protect my investment,” she said before they headed out.

O o O o O

Mr. Olsen, he has an appointment; Miss Lane, no appointment,” Eddy introduced as he closed the door behind them.

You are welcome anyway, Miss Lane; would you sit down?” Griswald asked.

Thank you,” she said before they all sat down. “It says on your door, Mr. Griswald, that you are an investment advisor. It doesn’t say anything about magic.”

Magic is my hobby. I certainly couldn’t make a living off of teaching tricks now and then,” he explained.

I don’t know how you do it anyway. I can’t wait to get started,” Jimmy said, excited.

In that case, let’s leave at once to my place in the country?” he said.

“‘In the country’? What’s the matter with here?” Lois asked.

In my business office, Miss Lane? I’m afraid some of my customers would consider that frivolous. And besides, all my equipment is at my other place.”

Of course,” Jimmy said.

Just the same, I think this whole idea is ridiculous, and I’m not going, Jimmy,” Lois said, smelling a worm.

Well, suit yourselves. As I said, this is really just a hobby and at these prices I certainly don’t have to beg for customers,” he said.

Wait a minute, I want to go, Miss Lane—” Jimmy began.

No, Jimmy. I think we should head back to the office. The Chief wants me to finish that article anyway,” she said, standing up, purse in hand.

I’m afraid you won’t be, Miss Lane,” Mr. Griswald said as his bodyguard pulled out a gun.

I knew there was something wrong with all of this,” Lois stated as Jimmy stared, dumbfounded.

I was hoping you wouldn’t make this difficult, Miss Lane,” Griswald said as he pulled out a gun of his own. “Sit back down,” he ordered them both.

Eddy tied them up. “We’re all going to go for a little drive,” Eddy said.

O o O o O

Clark Kent speaking,” he said, expecting it to be Lois on the other end, but the voice on the other end immediately had him straighten in his chair in surprise. “What’s that? Kidnapped?”

That’s true, Mr. Kent. I was a partner to the scheme but I’ve decided to reform. That’s why I’m telling you where they are so you can do something to save them,” the man said.

I see. Will you please tell me where this place is located?” Clark asked.

Thirty miles north of town, there’s an old radio receiver installation just off the highway. Do you know where that is?”

Yes, I think I know where that is, thank you,” Clark said.

Now remember, Mr. Kent, if those criminals see the police coming, Miss Lane and Mr. Olsen will be in serious danger. In fact the only safe place to approach the place is perhaps by helicopter. I’m sorry, that’s all I can tell you. Good bye, Mr. Kent.”

The man hung up, but instead of promptly jumping up to head to the storeroom, Clark dialed the phone.

Inspector Henderson, this is Clark,” he said. “Our mysterious thief called me.”

What?!” Henderson asked, afraid Clark’s identity might have been blown.

No-no, he doesn’t know who I am. Listen, he’s kidnapped Lois and Jimmy, and I think he wants Superman busy so he can conduct another heist. I want the police department on alert in case I’m right,” Clark explained.

Henderson hummed. “That’s possible. Where does he have Lois and Jimmy?”

The abandoned radio installation off Route 12,” Clark answered.

Certainly far enough away to keep you busy long enough to do something, but just the same, be careful. This man made it quite clear that he would do away with you if he had the chance,” Henderson said very seriously.

I’ll be careful, Bill,” Clark assured, privately amused.

Bill could be such a mother-hen.

I’ll see you later, most likely after you have everything handled over there,” Henderson said. “Hopefully you won’t be waiting for a squad car too long to take whatever number of crooks you’ll likely knock out.”

Don’t worry, I’m patient,” Clark said before saying goodbye and hanging up the phone.

O o O o O

It didn’t take long for Superman to fly the 30 miles to the old radio installation and spot Lois and Jimmy. He landed with a gentle thump.

Well . . .” he began, looking down into the deep hole, not bothering to hide his amusement.

Superman!” Lois called.

Hey, get us out of here!” Jimmy shouted.

I see you’ve gotten yourselves in a hole again. It would serve you right if I left you in it this time,” Superman said.

Oh, please Superman!” Lois cried.

Superman smiled and shook his head before jumping in, slowing his fall with his powers to land in front of them.

Now—what is all this about?” Superman asked.

Superman, that is a long, embarrassing story,” Jimmy explained happily.

But how did you find us?” Lois asked.

Well, that’s a long story too, but right now let’s get you out of here,” he said, holding out his hand to Lois.

Relieved, she smiled up at him and moved to take his hand, but before she could, strange sparks began pouring down from above.

Superman instantly stepped forward, ready to protect them as he put his hands on their shoulders.

But it’s harmless, like Fourth of July sparklers,” Jimmy said, looking up after feeling no pain.

You mean this is a gag of some sort?” Lois asked, confused, just as she felt Superman’s hand slip from her shoulder before hearing him back into the wall behind her — hard.

She and Jimmy stared, bewildered, as he then slowly turned and walked straight into the other wall! His head slammed into it and he collapsed onto his side with a sickening smack!

Horrified, they hurried to him.

Superman! What’s the matter?” Lois asked, kneeling beside him.

Golly!” Jimmy said, wondering if it would have been more appropriate to actually mutter a curse.

Must be . . . Kryptonite. Some kind of a trap,” he managed before trying to sit up.

Help, Jimmy,” Lois said, prompting Jimmy to help her assist him.

What can we do?” Jimmy cried.

Together, they helped him sit up, though they couldn’t stop him from bouncing off the wall slightly before he reclined against it with a heavy sigh.

Suddenly, Jimmy gasped, turning when he heard something behind them. “Miss Lane, look, one of the walls is moving!”

We’ll be crushed!”

I think that’s the idea, Miss Lane . . . and now, not even Superman can help us,” he despaired, looking up at the wall to find that the portion moving in was about twelve feet high. There was no way he could scale that.

Miss Lane . . .” Superman said, having to use his arms to keep himself steady. “Help me move my legs.”

Although confused, she complied, guiding his legs by feeling where he was trying to move them to until they were straight and aimed at the wall coming toward them.

You’re weak right now, Superman, will this work?” Lois asked, quickly concluding his plan.

There’s not much of a choice,” Superman said, bracing himself against the wall behind him.

Jimmy and Lois quickly moved on either side of him, desperate to help but unsure of how. All the while the broad ray rained down upon them.

The wall moved closer and closer. Not content to wait, Jimmy pressed his shoulder into it before it inevitably made contact with the bottom of Superman’s boots. Jimmy grunted against the flat surface, hoping his efforts were helping in some way.

For a second the wall seemed to come to a halt, but then it continued to inch onward, forcing Superman’s knees to bend up.

No!” Jimmy shouted, pressing even harder as Lois shifted forward with a cry to help too.

But their efforts made no difference. The force on Superman’s legs remained constant and his knees continued to bend.

Time seemed to slow for Superman. He couldn’t hear Lois screaming or Jimmy shouting at the wall to stop. His vision began to blur, but the reality of what was happening was crystal clear.

He was going to die. They were all going to die.


No, they weren’t.

He refused to accept that they were going to snuff it in a pit, smashed by a slab of stone.

He closed his eyes, pressing his back against the fixed wall so hard that it hurt.

Lois gasped as she felt the pale wall shudder. She and Jimmy quickly turned their eyes to Superman, who seemed oblivious to everything around him except on what he was doing. His eyes were closed, his hands were braced against the floor, and his forehead was dotted in sweat. He sucked in a deep breath and held it, straining to press back the wall.

O o O o O

So it’ll all be over pretty soon now, huh?” Eddy asked.

All over,” Mr. Griswald said, relief in his voice as they peered through the window that overlooked the area from about half a mile away.

They smiled at one another, the professor looking quite pleased with himself as well before one of the readouts on his control panel caught his attention. He leaned toward it.

The wall stopped moving in!” Professor Van Brunner stated.

What do you mean, what’s wrong?” Griswald asked, alarmed.

There’s nothing wrong,” he said, flipping a few switches. “After all, you don’t destroy a person like Superman in just a moment. It may be his last ounce of strength that’s holding the wall open for a little bit.”

Maybe. Or maybe that silly machine of yours isn’t doing the job,” Griswald stated, grabbing a pair of binoculars and trying to figure out what was happening.

Of course it’s doing its job. If not, they all would have been out of there by now,” the professor argued, growing a little frantic with the controls.

O o O o O

Suddenly, an ominous metallic moan echoed from behind the quivering stone as Superman’s legs slowly began to straighten. Lois and Jimmy gaped.


Superman’s knees completely unbent in an instant as the slab split all the way to its top, causing the right half to twist at the base — thus making the uneven crack that more prominent as it rotated slightly into the adjacent wall, grinding against it.

He released the breath he was holding as he felt himself begin to lean to the side, just as unstable as the stone he had just broken.

Superman!” Lois cried.

He could barely feel her hands helping to keep him propped up as his head dipped forward. Lois took hold of his arm as Jimmy gripped his shoulder to further steady him.

Superman, please answer us,” Jimmy pleaded.

Superman couldn’t talk, he was too preoccupied with trying to keep his breathing even, but he did manage to squeeze Lois’ hand in reply.

Lois frowned, privately noting how cold his skin suddenly felt.

We need to get him out of here,” Lois said, looking up at the broken slab just a few feet behind them.

Jimmy nodded and stepped to the broken rock and tried to move it. It wouldn’t budge.

However, he didn’t give up and instead tried to climb and managed to peer between the jagged gap Superman had indirectly created.

Miss Lane!” Jimmy cried, “Come over here, help me!”

Lois carefully but swiftly leapt up.

What is it? What do you see?” she asked, stopping beneath him to help keep him from falling as he looked further beyond the crack.

There’s a hallway of some sort on the other side and machinery!” Jimmy looked up and grinned. “We can get out by climbing over this!” But then he frowned, looking at Superman who hadn’t moved since they had stood up. “There’s no way we’ll be able to lift him this high, though,” Jimmy stated grimly.

Then you go, Jimmy. Get out of this hole and get help as fast as you can. There’s got to be a shaft with a ladder somewhere if there’s machinery. Hurry!” Lois ordered, before looking at the corner that was slightly shaded by the tilted rock. “Wait — help me move him under there. Maybe that’ll help block some of the rays.”

Good idea,” he said, clamoring down.

Together, they dragged Superman to the corner, doing their best to place as much of him under the protection of the slab that had only just recently been anything but helpful. The bottom half of his legs were still fully exposed to the ray, but at least his head and chest weren’t anymore.

Superman grunted and managed to glance up at them. “Better,” he breathed.

Jimmy nodded. “I’ll find a way to turn off the ray and bring help as soon as I can,” he promised, before precariously making his way up and over the damaged twelve foot wall.

A gentle thud announced his arrival on the other side.

Jimmy, are you okay?” Lois called from beside Superman.

Jimmy replied with running footsteps.

Lois pursed her lips, hoping Jimmy would be able to do what he had said as she focused back on Superman.

Superman, is there anything I can do?” she asked, praying the answer would not be ‘no’.

He didn’t answer right away, but she waited, knowing he was having to gather his strength to talk.

Just . . . keep talking. Keep me . . . awake,” he said, briefly opening his eyes before closing them again. “Awake.”

Lois swallowed thickly, unable to shake the feeling that the word ‘awake’ might as well have been the word ‘alive’.

I will, Superman. Try to give my hand a squeeze every so often so I know you’re still listening,” she said, quickly trying to decide what she should talk about. But then, she realized anything would do. Superman needed something to focus on, the subject didn’t matter.

O o O o O

Jimmy couldn’t see anything in front of him and had to rely on his hands following the wall to guide him. If circumstances were different, he would have been disturbed by the empty, pitch black corridor.

He wasn’t sure how long he had been hurrying into the blackness, but he prayed he wouldn’t be too late.

Come on, there’s got to be a way out,” Jimmy told himself once more. “It’s got to be here somewhere.”

He stumbled as the hall turned, revealing a door. He quickly found the handle. He wanted to cry when it refused to turn and kicked it furiously. He was rewarded with a sore big toe.

Okay, keep moving. The hallway keeps going. There must be another!” he urged himself, moving on while groping for hopefully another door.

He gasped as his hand closed around another handle he hadn’t been expecting.

Yes!” he bellowed, wrenching the door open.

He saw light, trickling from above. There was a ladder.

He climbed.

O o O o O

I wanted to go with my friends so bad I told my mom I would do anything,” Lois said, continuing with a story from her childhood.

Encouraged by the occasional amused smile from Superman, she didn’t care that the story was one of her most embarrassing. All that mattered now was keeping him awake, which was proving more and more difficult. It also didn’t help that there wasn’t as much sunlight making it down the hole as before. Evening was approaching.

So, of course, she made me clean out the barn, by myself. She knew the mice in there frightened me, but she knew I wanted to go out that weekend even more,” Lois said with a thoughtful laugh. “She tells me now that she was helping me get over my fear of rodents. Peh!”

Lois paused, waiting for a response. A hand squeeze, a half-smirk, something. She didn’t get anything.

Superman?” she asked, keeping her voice level, somehow. “Superman?” she said again, louder. “Hey,” she said, nudging him before boldly patting his cheek as she gave his shoulder a firm shake. He was getting colder. “Hey, you need to stay awake. You told me to keep you awake,” she said, her voice quickly becoming frantic. “Come on, come on!”

His eyes cracked open as he mumbled something.

She heaved a sigh of relief, but her relief vanished as her eyes met his.

Where there should have been white, there was a sickly green.

She swallowed. “Please stay awake, Superman. Jimmy is coming with help, we just need to hold on a little while longer,” she promised, gripping his hand with hers.

He closed his eyes again.

O o O o O

Henderson felt uneasy as they drove to the old radio installation.

No reports of any robberies had come through. If their mysterious mastermind behind the recent burglaries was actually going to pull a heist, he had missed his opportunity, for Superman would have no doubt gotten to Jimmy and Lois by now.

But that was another thing. Usually Superman called the precinct when he had suspects in custody and he hadn’t done that yet. If he had, Henderson would have been notified via their car radio.

Something was wrong.

Step on it, Howard,” he stated from the passenger seat.

The officer did so without question even though they were already going well above the speed limit as they continued down the dirt road. Henderson scanned the rather barren landscape. They were just a few minutes away and one of the radio towers was within view.

Inspector!” Howard shouted a minute later, pointing with his free hand while he continued to steer.

That’s Jimmy Olsen!” Henderson shouted, recognizing the running form.

The boy had no doubt spotted their approach and was now on his way to them.

Howard steered the police cruiser off the road before screeching to a halt just a few yards short of Olsen. Henderson flung the door open.

Olsen, what’s happened?” he asked. “Where’s Miss Lane and Superman?”

Out of breath and resting his hands on his knees, Olsen did his best to answer.

Superman needs . . . help. Kryptonite. It was a trap,” Olsen wheezed.

Where?” Henderson asked while opening the back door and motioning him to climb in.

That way,” Olsen directed, recognizing the path they had taken to get to the pit. “But they might be watching, and I know at least one of them is armed.”

Okay, we’ll keep that in mind,” Henderson said, closing the door behind Olsen and getting back in the passenger side. “Who are ‘they’?”

A man named Mr. Griswald and his bodyguard, Eddy,” Jimmy said. “They mentioned a professor also.”

All right, let’s go,” Henderson said, deciding he would get further details later.

Howard drove where Olsen directed, never minding the terrain’s likely impact on the car.

There!” Olsen pointed.

Howard stopped a few yards short from the corner of the hole.

Henderson leapt out of the car, with Olsen and Howard close behind, and ran to the strange, water hose-like contraption spewing out white sparks. With a rough yank, Henderson tried to turn it, but the spout seemed to be bolted in place. It wouldn’t rotate, pivot, or move at all.

Miss Lane!” Jimmy shouted into the hole as Henderson peered over the edge. “Miss Lane, can you hear me?”

Despite being draped in shadows, Henderson could see Lois standing beside what he easily recognized being Superman’s legs. The rest of Superman was blocked from view by a tilted stone slab.

Jimmy! Jimmy, hurry! I can’t tell if he’s breathing! He won’t wake up now!” Lois cried.

Henderson didn’t need to think as he ran back to the car.

Move back, both of you!” Henderson ordered.

Howard and Olsen clamored out of the way as Henderson restarted the car, slammed it in reverse for a few seconds, and then put it back into drive, practically standing on the gas pedal.

The right front corner of the car bashed into the large spout, bending it at its base. White sparks shot around as the spout twisted down and over before the bend at the pipe pinched the flow of energy.

Two seconds later, a distant boom was heard.

Nice thinking, Inspector!” Howard shouted, hurrying around and opening the door for him.

Henderson stepped back out, doing his best to shake off consequences of the sudden jolt he had willingly placed himself under.

I’ll be all right,” he assured them both before motioning to the trunk. “Get the rope out. It should be long enough.”

Howard nodded and quickly retrieved it before securing one end to the base frame of the car.

Miss Lane, how is he?!” Henderson called down.

The same! Please help him!” Lois cried.

I’ll head down. You’re hurt, Inspector, even though you’re trying to hide it. I also know first aid,” Howard said.

I suppose it’s just as well. You’re the smallest of us and there’s only so much room down there,” Henderson agreed.

Henderson was right. Howard was small in stature, thanks in part to his Asian heritage. His height was something he hadn’t liked about himself for a long time, but thanks to situations like this, he learned to appreciate it and use it.

Officer Howard Wu’s coming down, Miss Lane!” Henderson assured her.

Jimmy and Henderson helped secure the rope around Howard and lower him down with a first-aid kit and a flashlight from the patrol car; all the while they hadn’t heard a sound from Superman.

Howard landed at the bottom after using his legs to help guide his descent. He quickly took in what was before him with his flashlight.

Superman was propped up in the corner partially sheltered by the slanted wall. His eyes were closed and his skin was frighteningly pale. A tearful Lois Lane was on her knees beside him, holding one of his unmoving hands in hers.

How long has he been like this?” Howard quickly asked, kneeling down before her.

She shifted back to give him room. “For about five minutes I think. He briefly opened his eyes and then closed them. He hasn’t moved since.”

Howard pressed his hand at the side of Superman’s neck and frowned. He put the flashlight down but angled it so he could still see what he was doing.

I’m going to pull him by his legs to lay him down flat. I want you to ease his head to the ground as I do so,” he stated before looking up at Henderson and Olsen who were watching from above. “Call the ambulance!”

Already done!” Henderson shouted back down. “It’s going to take at least 20 minutes for them to get here with their sirens!”

Howard looked back to Lois, who was barely keeping herself from going into emotional shock.

All right, I’m moving him now,” he said, gently but firmly dragging him away from the wall to lay him down fully.

Lois did her part in easing him carefully to the hard floor, cradling his head and shoulders with her hands.

Please, move to his other side, Miss Lane. I’m going to need some room,” he said.

She did so without question.

He lowered his head toward Superman’s face, listening carefully for breathing. He heard and felt no hint of breath.

Howard?!” Henderson called down.

He’s not breathing, but I felt a faint pulse!” Howard shouted back up. “I’m going to try something!”

Do you need help?” Henderson asked, ready and willing to rappel down if told to do so.

Try to rig something up so we can get him out of here!” Howard replied, before looking back down and placing one hand on Superman’s forehead and the other on his chin to tilt Superman’s head back.

What are you doing?” Lois asked, a little confused but desperate to hear that he would do something that’d help.

Resuscitation. It’s new, but at this point. . . .”

Howard pinched Superman’s nose and took a breath before firmly exhaling it into Superman’s mouth for one second.

Lois saw Superman’s chest rise before Howard pulled back and began counting. At six, he gave another breath.

Can you find a pulse at his wrist?” Howard asked as he confirmed to himself that Superman’s heart was still beating by checking the pulse at his neck.

Lois quickly searched around Superman’s wrist and found the one there. “Yes.”

Howard gave another breath.

Let me know if it changes at all,” he continued between counting and giving another breath.

I think it’s getting stronger,” Lois said after he gave two more breaths.

Come on, my friend. Breathe,” Howard stated before giving another breath.

Suddenly, Superman’s chest gave a slight shudder, but then stilled again.

He’s trying to breathe on his own again,” Howard explained, not having to look at Lois to know that that had scared her. After it was clear Superman was still not breathing, Howard resumed his efforts.

Does it usually take this long?” Lois asked frightfully.

This treatment is new, so I can’t really answer that,” Howard admitted. “But his heart rate is getting stronger and he just tried to breathe on his own. Those are good signs.”

Lois nodded and watched him give another breath before Howard froze, listening.

Howard beamed. “He’s breathing again! It’s slow and a little shallow, but it’s there.”

Oh, thank goodness!” Lois said, relieved, before looking up. “Inspector, he’s breathing again!”

Great job, Howard!” Inspector praised. “The ambulance is fifteen minutes away! We have something that can help get Miss Lane out, but nothing more than that. We’ll have to wait for the ambulance!”

All right, we’ll wait then,” Howard answered before checking Superman’s pulse again and looking back at Lois. “Does he seem cold to you?” Howard asked after a moment.

Yes. I noticed his hands were getting a little cold soon after he saved us from the wall,” Lois said.

Inspector, can you toss down a blanket or two? It’s a little chilly down here,” Howard called up.

Sure thing!” Henderson said, motioning Jimmy to look in the patrol car as he pulled up the rope. He didn’t want to risk the blankets landing on the other side of the rock away from them, so decided to lower the blankets instead.

A moment later, the blankets were lowered.

That was good thinking,” Howard commented on the rope around the blankets, before yelling up a thank you and setting to work. “Help me turn him a bit. I want to get him on the blanket and off the floor. It’s not doing him any favors,” he directed Lois.

I never thought I would see him so still for so long,” Lois muttered as they gently tucked the blanket under and around him.

Howard nodded, agreeing with her as she settled across from him, on the other side of Superman. They waited in silence for a bit, wondering when the ambulance would arrive.

His breathing is improving,” Howard said, before shifting forward. “I think he’s waking up.”

Superman!” Lois said, ecstatic. “Superman, can you hear me?”

Slowly, his eyes opened. “Miss Lane?” he asked, squinting up at her.

Oh, you’re all right!” Lois cried, gripping his shoulder.

How are you feeling, Superman?” Howard asked, not as quick to celebrate as he picked up his flashlight.

Superman grimaced as he raised his head and looked down at himself. Lois stilled, realizing what Howard already had.

What’s wrong?” she asked.

Superman laid his head back down and slowly exhaled, as if trying to blow away discomfort. “My legs,” he stated.

Can you move them?” Howard asked, aiming the light at them.

Tentatively, Superman moved his feet, but it was clearly extremely painful to do so.

Lois gasped and looked at Howard. “His legs were exposed the entire time to the Kryptonite!”

The ambulance is on their way and we’ll get you out of here soon,” Howard promised, focusing back on Superman.

He awake?” Henderson asked from above.

Yeah!” Howard answered. “But we’ll still need help to get him out. How far is the ambulance?”

Not far! Miss Lane, let’s get you out now,” Henderson said, lifting the rope to attach what he and Jimmy had rigged up.

Is he okay?” Jimmy asked, peering down from beside Henderson. “Is he all right?!”

His legs are weak, but he’s awake and doing better than before,” Howard answered as Lois carefully stepped around Superman to take hold of what Henderson had just lowered.

Let us know when you’re ready, Miss Lane!” Henderson said.

Howard stood up and helped Lois secure herself to the makeshift, sit-in harness Henderson and Jimmy had made.

All right, ready!” Howard called up.

Jimmy and Henderson hoisted her up as Howard knelt back down beside Superman.

Can you sit up?” Howard asked as they heard sirens in the distance.

Yes, but I would just rather not jostle my legs too much if I can help it,” Superman said with a wince.

Then we’ll sit you up carefully,” Howard said, placing his hand on Superman’s shoulder. Howard knew the ambulance attendants would need the room if they were going to get him out.

All right,” Superman said, gripping Howard’s arm for support.

Ready?” he asked.

Yes,” Superman answered.

Howard eased him up, which wasn’t too difficult, but Superman’s legs shifted slightly. “All right?” he asked, concerned by Superman’s sharp gasp.

Blinking a few times, Superman nodded as the sharp pain faded into a throb.

Howard, Superman, the ambulance is here!” Henderson called down.

Howard and Superman both looked up, finding three more individuals peering down with flashlights while Jimmy and Lois were ushered away.

Moments later, an attendant was down with a gurney.

I was told you were exposed to Kryptonite?” the ambulance attendant asked, keeping himself professional even though he had never imagined that he would ever be helping the Man of Steel.

That’s right,” Superman said.

He had lost consciousness and, according to Miss Lane, wasn’t breathing for five minutes before I arrived and began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation,” Howard explained. “He started breathing again six or so minutes after that.”

Heart rate?”

It had been slow and faint when I had arrived, but rose steadily during the rescue breathing.”

How long were you exposed, and has anything like this happened before?” the attendant asked, his focus now on Superman as he began taking his vitals.

I’m not sure, but at least half-an-hour,” Superman said before taking a slow breath. “And I have been exposed to Kryptonite before, but never for so long or with a ray.”

How long were those times?”

Five or so minutes,” Superman answered, trying not to think about how much worse this time had been.

And how long before you fully recovered?”

Minutes, except for one time, when I was struck with a bullet made with fragments of Kryptonite imbedded in iron. My shoulder took a few days to fully recover from that,” he admitted.

The attendant aimed his flashlight and looked at both of his eyes. He nodded to himself, relieved.

Sir?” Superman asked.

Miss Lane had expressed some concerns. She told me the whites of your eyes had been green right before you had stopped breathing. Your eyes seem to be fine now,” he said. “But you do seem to be in some pain, is that correct?”

Yes. Miss Lane and Mr. Olsen moved me under there after I broke the wall that had been moving toward us. It only sheltered my head and torso, leaving most of my legs exposed,” Superman explained as he motioned to the protected corner.

The attendant glanced at the broken slab and blinked. “You did that while the ray was on? Doesn’t Kryptonite take your powers away?”

Yes, it does, but I suppose even I have adrenaline, or an equivalent to it at least,” Superman said thoughtfully.

It might be another reason why your legs are the way they are at the moment, other than the prolonged exposure,” Howard theorized.

What sort of pain are you feeling?” the ambulance attendant asked.

Well, I don’t often feel pain, so I don’t really know how best to describe it, but it’s. . . .” He paused, trying to find the words. “Right now, it’s dull, but constant. If I try to move my legs, it instantly spikes to a sharp, searing pain. It’s one of the most unpleasant things I’ve ever felt.”

But not the worst?” Howard asked.

No, hitting the asteroid was worse,” Superman answered simply. “Although, that was pretty instantaneous. It didn’t linger like this does.”

The attendant’s eyes went wide and Howard blinked. Oddly enough, because Superman was so personable, it was easy to forget what he had accomplished and what he was capable of.

Everything all right down there?” Henderson asked from above.

Yeah,” Howard answered. “We’re about to help him onto the gurney!”

All right, just let us know when you’re ready and we’ll pull him right up!” the attendant beside Henderson answered. “We don’t have much daylight left!”

Howard and the attendant looked back at Superman, who gave a nod to let them know he was ready.

This is likely going to be uncomfortable,” he warned him.

I understand,” Superman said, already preparing himself.

We’ll be as gentle as possible,” Howard assured.

On the count of three,” the attendant said, kneeling by Superman’s feet while Howard went by Superman’s back.

On three, they both took hold of the blanket beneath Superman and lifted him over and onto the gurney as gently but as swiftly as they could.

Superman fell back onto the gurney instead of remaining upright as he bit back a scream and pressed his forearm over his eyes in pain. His legs felt as if they were being pierced with dozens of Kryptonite shards. The pain lingered so mercilessly he was forced to surrender a moan through clenched teeth.

Superman?” Howard asked.

His hands were fists and the one near his face was shaking.

Once the pain passes, we’ll have them lift you up, okay?” Howard asked softly.

Superman managed a stiff nod before the ambulance attendant quietly secured the gurney’s straps, save for the one over his legs.

Over a full minute passed before Superman lowered his arm.

All right,” he said after a few deep breaths. “That might have felt worse than the asteroid.”

Are you ready for more movement?” Howard asked hesitantly.

I don’t think I have much choice, and to be honest, I don’t think remaining down here any longer is wise. I feel like I should be improving, but, I don’t know. It’s as if there are still traces of Kryptonite around,” Superman said.

The attendant frowned. “Then let’s get you out.”

Inspector, he’s ready. Lift slowly!” Howard hollered. “As steady as you can!”

Slowly, the gurney rose, Henderson, Jimmy, and the ambulance attendants doing a good job of not jostling it too much. It still wasn’t a comfortable ride for Superman, but it was bearable. Five minutes later, he was out of the hole and into the light of dusk.

How are you feeling, Superman?” Henderson asked, coming up to the gurney. Lois and Jimmy were right behind him.

Superman took a few slow deep breaths, still lying on his back. “Better.”

And your legs?” Henderson asked worriedly as Jimmy and another pulled up beside Howard and the other attendant.

Not too bad, actually. I don’t think I should try to run any time soon, but . . .” He paused and looked down at himself again. He closed his eyes, as if listening or sensing something.

Superman?” Henderson asked.

Sunlight. I can feel it helping,” Superman answered softly, privately wishing dusk wasn’t fast approaching.

Henderson smiled, confident the worst was over. “Well, I was going to insist on heading to the hospital, but I think I may have a better idea.”

Inspector?” the ambulance driver asked.

It’ll mean a slightly longer drive, but unless Superman would prefer the hospital, I propose my family’s cabin. It’s secluded and will allow him to bask in as much sun as he wishes in the morning,” Henderson explained.

I would prefer that,” Superman quickly put in, easing himself up on his elbows.

Then we will do that,” the driver said. “I’d still advise calling in a doctor, just to be safe; but from everything we see, there’s nothing more to be done than to allow you to rest and heal.”

With that, they loaded him into the ambulance and followed Henderson’s directions to the cabin.

O o O o O

Superman felt ridiculous being wheeled out to the back porch of Henderson’s cabin but was grateful that he would be recovering at his friend’s secluded place. He had not been looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the hospital, as well as the media that would inevitably accompany it. Granted, he knew there was going to be some fallout over everything that had happened, but at least he wouldn’t have to face it until after he could walk (and fly!) again.

Henderson stopped and locked the wheelchair in place and headed back inside to get a lawn chair.

The night before, he was seen by a doctor. The doctor found bright purple bruises clustered around both of his knees and they blotted up his thighs and down his calves. According to the doctor, the deep-tissue damage had likely been caused by the strain of pushing the wall back before being compounded by the Kryptonite ray. Fortunately, the pain had receded a great deal, but it was still present and obvious that standing would be extremely unwise.

After a brief discussion and agreeing that there was little point in taking Superman to the hospital, the doctor prescribed rest and sunlight.

Taking the doctor’s advice, when morning came, he replaced his uniform with a simple, dark blue button-up, short-sleeve shirt and dark tan shorts. His shirt was half-open and, admittedly, he felt a little self-conscious about being so exposed, but it helped that only Bill and his teenage would be the ones to see him.

Here, Superman. I got you some water,” Henderson’s son said.

Thank you, Ray,” Superman said appreciatively.

Ray beamed and headed back inside to get another chair as his father came back out.

Henderson smirked. “When I told him I wanted him to come with me to clean up the cabin, he hadn’t been too enthused, but on the ride here, when I told him the real reason why we would be staying here for the weekend. . . .”

Superman chuckled, resting the cup on the arm of his chair after taking a sip.

A moment later, Henderson quietly sighed, suddenly serious.

The remains of Eddy McDay, Griswald’s bodyguard, were found late last night in the rubble of the control tower that blew,” Henderson said. “Griswald and Professor Van Brunner were found there early this morning.”

Superman’s eyebrows rose.

When I stopped the ray, the energy surged back to the source,” Henderson explained. “It’s doubtful that they even knew what had happened before they died.”

Superman nodded, solemn, as Ray came back out and tentatively set his chair beside him.

Quietly, they watched as the sun came up. Superman closed his eyes, taking in the healing rays.

Ray couldn’t help but stare as the bruises covering Superman’s legs vanished right before his eyes as sunlight fell upon them. He glanced over at his father, only to catch him staring as well.

Superman shifted in his chair and opened his eyes.

Better?” Bill asked.

Much better,” Superman said. “I think I’ll be able to walk without a problem before too long. Thank you, Bill, for sharing this place.”

Bill waved him off. “It’s nothing. Happy to help, besides, I recall telling you about my favorite fishing spot. I’d love to actually show you.”

Show off, you mean,” Superman said with a smirk, knowing Bill wanted to prove this fishing place was better than Clark’s in Smallville.

Ray looked back and forth between them, not quite sure what their banter was really about, but it was kind of neat to know his father was on such relaxed terms with Superman.

And I’m sure if we do go fishing, giant fish stories will be told,” Superman went on.

Mine will be true!” Bill insisted.

Uh-huh,” Superman said, rubbing his now healed knee with his hand as he placed his feet flat on the floor.

Slowly, he rose himself up from the chair. Easing his weight fully onto his legs, he smiled and looked at Bill and Ray.

Should I get the fishing rods?” Ray asked after a moment, not sure if his question would be taken seriously or not.

Superman laughed as he stepped beside Bill. “Sure, why not? It’ll fit in with what the doctor prescribed and we’ll see about those fish stories.”

O o O The End O o O

Posted April 8, 2017

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