Written by argonaut :: [Monday, 24 December 2012 04:26] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 21 June 2015 09:40]
CHRISTMAS IS A TIME FOR GIVING – AND IN THIS IMAGINARY STORY, LOIS LANE RECEIVES THE MOST WONDERFUL PRESENT IMAGINABLE: SUPER-POWERS JUST LIKE THOSE OF THE MAN OF STEEL HIMSELF! FINALLY, HE CAN MARRY HER WITHOUT WORRYING THAT HER LIFE WOULD BE IN DANGER FROM HIS ENEMIES! PUT SOME TINSEL ON THE TREE, POUR YOURSELF A GLASS OF EGGNOG, AND READ ALL ABOUT …
“I’m glad you dropped by,” said Lois, handing Superman a cup of eggnog. She clinked her cup against his. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas.” Superman took a sip of eggnog and set the cup down on the coffee table. “Actually, I – I had a special reason for coming over.”
“Oh?” Lois could feel her heartbeat quicken. Was Superman finally going to propose?
“Maybe we’d better sit down.” Superman took her hands in his as he sat down next to her on the sofa. Lois gazed at him expectantly.
“Lois, we’ve been talking a lot lately about geting married,” he began. “But – well, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
“If it’s the old excuse about how my life would be in danger from your enemies-”
“No, no. It’s not that.”
“Then what is it?”
Superman hesitated, choosing his words with care. “I’ve been talking with Kandor’s leading physicians,” he said, “and they all agree that – er – physical intimacy between a super Kryptonian and an Earthling would be fatal – fatal for the Earthling, that is.”
“What do you mean?”
“Lois, you know I wouldn’t hurt you for anything in the universe. But in the – uh – throes of passion, so to speak …” Superman was blushing furiously. “Do I need to spell it out?”
“No.” Lois shook her head. She’d been afraid it might come down to this. How could she be physically intimate with a man who could crush lumps of coal into diamonds with his bare hands?
“Believe me, Lois, I wish there were some way …”
Lois stood up. She grabbed the cups from the coffee table and strode toward the kitchen, blinking away tears of disappointment. “It’s all right. I understand.”
“I hope we can still be-”
“Don’t say it.” She didn’t turn around. “I think – I think you should leave now, okay?”
There was a moment of silence. “I’m sorry, Lois. Good-bye.”
Lois heard the sound of a window being raised. Traffic noises from the street below drifted into the apartment. She paused in the kitchen doorway, waiting until she was sure that Superman had gone. An icy draft made her shiver. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she muttered.
Shaking her head in exasperation, she put the cups in the sink and returned to the living room. Sure enough, Superman had left the window wide open. She shut it with a bang and began pacing around the apartment, her thoughts in a turmoil.
After a while, she stopped and took a deep breath. “Get a grip,” she scolded herself. “Don’t mope around here all afternoon. Go out and get a scoop for the Planet.”
But where could she find a story on Christmas Eve? She thought for a few moments. “I’ll go see Professor Potter,” she decided. “Maybe he has a new invention I could write about.”
“Why, yes,” beamed the Professor. “Let me see ... Ah! As a writer, you’ll be interested in this, I’m sure.”
He led Lois to a worktable where a microphone and a typewriter were connected to a jumble of wires and electronic gadgetry. “It’s a machine that types from dictation,” he explained proudly. “Allow me to demonstrate.”
He put a sheet of paper into the typewriter; then, clearing his throat, he spoke into the microphone: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
The typewriter clattered away for a few moments. Professor Potter pulled out the sheet of paper and handed it to Lois. A single line of print along the top of the page read: It wuz the best uv times, it wuz the wurst uv times.
“I still need to work out a few bugs,” the Professor admitted. “But – my dear Miss Lane, what on Earth is the matter?”
It was no use. Lois had hoped that a visit to Professor Potter would cheer her up, but all the emotions she had been suppressing for the past hour came bursting out in a flood of tears.
“I – I’m sorry,” she sobbed. Pulling a handkerchief from her handbag. “It’s just – I got some bad news this afternoon …”
“Dear me!” said the Professor. “How dreadful! And on Christmas Eve, too! Now you just sit down …”
He conducted Lois to a threadbare but comfortable sofa, then filled a large beaker with tap water and set it over a flaming Bunsen burner. “There! I’ll make you a nice cup of tea and you can tell me all about it.”
Five minutes later, Lois was sipping tea from a chipped porcelain mug and pouring her heart out to the kindly inventor.
“And that’s that.” Lois sighed. “I can’t marry the man I love because he’s a super Kryptonian and I’m just a frail Earth woman.”
Professor Potter nodded thoughtfully. “I do see your problem,” he said. “But I think I have a solution.”
“You – you do?”
“Yes, indeed.” He pointed to a cylindrical chamber standing in a corner of the laboratory, next to a console bristling with levers and dials. “I recently succeeded in isolating a few grams of the rare element vivanium – enough to fuel a device that can endow an ordinary human being such as yourself with powers identical to Superman’s.”
Lois stared, incredulous. “You mean I’d have all of Superman’s powers? Super-strength? Invulnerability? Flying? The whole nine yards?”
“Certainly – if you don’t mind being my first test subject.” The Professor beamed. “Consider it a Christmas present.”
“And these powers would be permanent?”
“Quite permanent, I assure you.”
Lois stood up. “I’ll do it.” Professor Potter’s inventions didn’t always work out as he intended, but that was a risk she was willing to take.
“Splendid!” The Professor led the way to the chamber and opened a door set into its smooth metallic surface. “Just step inside,” he told Lois. “The process will only take a few moments.”
Lois stood nervously inside the chamber as Professor Potter shut the door. She was beginning to have second thoughts about allowing herself to be a guinea pig for one of the Professor’s inventions. She remembered the time his freckle-removing cream made Jimmy Olsen invisible …
But it was too late to back out now. A crimson light was illuminating the chamber. Lois felt a strange tingling sensation spread from her fingers and toes to her arms and legs. The sensation grew stronger, more intense, as a fantastic energy began to surge through every muscle in her body. She closed her eyes, surrendering to the power coursing through her …
“Miss Lane?” There was a tap at the door. “You can come out now.”
Lois opened her eyes. Feeling somewhat light-headed, she stepped out of the chamber. Professor Potter was peering at her with a mixture of concern and scientific curiosity. “How do you feel?” he asked.
Lois took a deep breath. “I feel – I feel …” Suddenly her face lit up. “I feel super!” She picked up a heavy steel bar from a worktable and held it out in front of her, gripping one end in each hand; then, with one smooth effortless motion, she bent it double.
“My word!” exclaimed Professor Potter.
“Goodness!” Lois could hardly believe it herself. “It worked! I’ve got super-strength! Wait’ll I tell – look out!”
“Eh?” Startled, the Professor turned around. The console was shaking like a washing machine; wisps of acrid smoke were drifting from its interior …
In the blink of an eye, Lois was standing between Professor Potter and the console. The machine looked as if it might explode at any moment. “Get down!” she cried, just in the nick of time.
Sparks flew from the console. There was a massive electrical discharge and a muffled roar as the device blew apart. Metal shards flew in all directions, along with bits and pieces of the machine’s electronic innards, striking the walls, the ceiling – and Lois’s invulnerable body. Then silence.
Lois glanced down. Her clothes – or what was left of then – hung from her in charred tatters. “Are you all right?” she asked, without turning around.
“Y-yes,” the Professor replied shakily. “Dear me! I wasn’t expecting that. A slight miscalculation of the flux-field intensity, no doubt …”
“No doubt,” said Lois. She held out an arm. “Could I borrow your lab coat, please?”
“Eh? Oh! Yes – yes, of course.” Moments later, Lois was buttoning up the front of the coat the Professor had handed her. It was small on her – her arms stuck out of the sleeves and the hem fell several inches above her knees – but it served to protect her modesty.
“Your machine …” Lois began.
Professor Potter waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about that,” he said. “I can build a new one. Unless …”
Taking a pair of forceps from a worktable, he bent to pick up a smoking coil of charred metal from the floor.
“Oh, dear,” he said. “The vivanium coil has burnt out – and it will take me months to replace it.”
“Oh, what a shame!” said Lois – hoping that she sounded more sorry than she felt.
“Well.” said the Professor. “At least we proved that you’re invulnerable.”
“Yes,” said Lois ruefully. “We also proved that I’m going to need a new wardrobe. My regular clothes will fall apart whenever I go into super-action.”
Professor Potter was rummaging in a drawer. “Actually, I may be able to help you with that. If I can just – aha!” Triumphantly, he held up what looked like a tiny leotard. Lois regarded it with puzzlement. It was blue, with red piping – and barely large enough for a Barbie doll.
“Er – do you have something in my size?” she asked.
Professor Potter chuckled. “You misunderstand. This is a special fabric I’ve invented. Super-stretchable and virtually indestructible.” He pointed to a door. “ Why don’t you try it on? You can change in there.”
Lois was skeptical as she stepped into the next room and took off the Professor’s lab coat, letting the charred scraps of her own clothing fall to the floor. But as she drew the garment over her legs and slid her arms into the sleeves, she discovered that the fabric stretched to cling snugly to every contour of her body.
“Not bad,” she thought, regarding her reflection in a full-length mirror. “I’m glad I’ve been sticking to my diet. This outfit shows every curve and bulge.”
Shoulders back, head held high, she strode back into the laboratory. “Well, Professor?” she grinned, striking a heroic pose. “What do you think?”
Professor Potter stared at her, open-mouthed. “It’s – ah – very ... dramatic,” he stammered, blushing.
Lois was feeling as excited as a child on Christmas morning, eager to play with her new toys.. “Golly, Professor, I can’t wait to give my super-powers a workout. Do you mind if I --?”
“No, no – of course not. Have fun.” He pressed a button on the wall. Overhead, a skylight swung open with a grinding of gears, letting a cold draft sweep through the laboratory.
Lois bent down to plant a kiss on Professor Potter’s bald head. “Thank you,” she said. “This is the best Christmas present ever! How can I ever thank you?”
“You’re quite welcome, my dear. Just be sure to invite me to the wedding.”
“Count on it!” Lois sprang upward, through the skylight and out into the cold winter air.
Lois felt as warm as toast, despte the frosty temperature that held the city in its grip. Flying too high to be seen by the passers-by below, she gazed down on the streets and rooftops, using her super-vision to watch the crowds of last-minute shoppers, the ice-skaters in Shuster Park, the people hurrying home to spend Christmas Eve with their families. With her super-hearing, she listened to the carolers on the street corners, the bells of the Salvation Army Santa Clauses, and the shouts of “Merry Christmas!” that issued from every throat.
Flying above the shopping district, she felt a sudden impulse to look down into Kosterman’s jewelry store. It had closed earlier that day and the front windows were shuttered; but Lois saw that a back door leading into an alleyway had been forced open; that the burglar alarm had been disabled; and that three men in dark clothing were smashing the display cases in the front showroom and stuffing jewelry into cloth bags.
Swiftly, Lois flew down into the alley behind the store. Entering the back room through the door that stood ajar, Lois made her way quietly through a dark office and into the showroom.The thieves were so busy filling their sacks with jewelry that they didn’t notice Lois coming through the door behind them.
“Doing some last-minute Christmas shopping, fellas?” she asked.
The thieves spun round.
“Holy cow!” one of them exclaimed. “Who’s the fancy dame?”
“Who cares?” snarled another, reaching into his jacket. “Plug her!”
Gunshots rang out in the showroom as the robbers fired away with their Magnums. Lois stood, casually inspecting her fingernails, as bullets bounced every which way from her invulnerable super-body, striking the walls, the floor, the ceiling.
“Yikes!” One of the thieves jumped to one side as a bullet grazed the sleeve of his jacket.
The gunshots ended as suddenly as they had begun. The robbers clicked away at their empty weapons as Lois covered her mouth to hide an ostentatious yawn. The floor was littered with flattened bullets and plaster chips from the cratered walls and ceiling.
“Didja see that, boss?” one of the thieves stammered. “She’s bullet-proof – just like Superman!”
“Don’t worry, boys,” their leader said, stepping forward with his teeth bared in a malicious grin. “I came prepared.”
He pulled something from the pocket of his jacket. It was about the size of an egg, and wrapped in a dull-grey metal foil.
“It’s a Christmas present,” he smirked. “Here – lemme unwrap it for you/”
He peeled back a corner of the foil, releasing a green radiance into the dimly-lit showroom.
Lois stepped back. “Kryptonite!” she gasped.
“That’s right, sister,” said the thief. “This stuff can weaken Superman – even kill him – so I guess it can do the same to you.”
“No!” Lois retreated as the robber advanced until her back was against the showroom wall. Wincing, she turned away, holding out her arms in supplication as she slumped weakly to the floor.
“Not so tough now, are you, missy?” the robber smirked, thrusting the deadly rock in Lois’s face.
“No,” Lois begged. “Please …”
Then, unable to contain herself any longer, she burst into giggles. “Gotcha!” she said, jumping to her feet and snatching the kryptonite from the robber’s hand.
“Sorry to disappoint you, boys,” she said, as her fingers closed around the green rock. “But unlike Superman, I wasn’t born on Krypton – so kryptonite can’t even give me a mild tingle!” She squeezed, grinding the rock into a fine powder in her bare hands.
“Holy Toledo!” said one of the thieves. “This dame is tougher than Superman!”
“W-what do we do now, boss?” said his comrade.
“Run!” And the next moment, the three robbers were fleeing through the back door of the showroom.
Lois grinned, counting slowly to ten …
Outside, on the sidewalk, about a block from the jewelry store, the three robbers were scrambling into a black sedan.
“Step on it, Tony!” their boss snapped.
“I am, I am.” The driver pressed down on the gas pedal, but the car didn’t move.
“Release the parking brake, you idiot!”
Suddenly the thieves tumbled forward as the back of the sedan rose off the ground. Fearfully, they turned around. Lois was smiling at them through the rear window.
Leaping from their getaway car, the robbers ran off in three different directions. Lois flew after their leader, pulling his cap down over his eyes and dumping him unceremoniously in a drift of snow around the base of a street lamp. Moments later, the second robber was sitting beside him, then the third. Before they could recover their breath, Lois had torn a dozen yards of red Christmas bunting from a storefront and wrapped it tightly around them.
“There!” she said, tying the loose ends of the bunting into a large festive bow. “A Christmas present for Metropolis’ finest! And just to make sure you stay here until they arrive …”
Grabbing the lamppost, she twisted it effortlessly around the indignant thieves.
“A crook can’t make an honest living in this town,” one of them muttered dejectedly.
“Yeah,” his partner chimed in. “If Superman don’t get you, then a super-dame will.”
Lois could hear the wail of an approaching police car. Some bystander must have alerted the police.
“I can give them my statement later,” she thought. “And fix the lamppost. But right now, I need to tell Superman this wonderful news.” And she sprang up into the darkening sky.
Lois buttoned her calf-length winter coat up to the neck, then rang the doorbell. She could barely contain her excitement. On the way over, she’d thought of a dozen different ways to break the news to Superman, but she’d finally decided to play it by ear.
“Lois!” Clark was wearing a terry-cloth bathrobe; his hair was wet. “Come on in. I just stepped out of the shower.”
“Hello, Clark,” said Lois. “I’m sorry to barge in on you on Christmas Eve, but I wanted to apologize for the way I acted earlier. And I’ve got something to tell you.”
“I’m glad you dropped by. Make yourself at home. I’ll be back in a minute.” He stepped into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.
He came out a few minutes later, wearing a pair of dark slacks and a hideous red and green sweater that Perry White had given him last Christmas. “So what did you want to – Great Krypton!”
Clark’s jaw dropped. Lois had removed her coat and stood before him in her skin-tight super-costume. One hand was resting casually on her hip, and with the other she was balancing Clark’s sofa lightly on her shoulder.
“Lois!” Clark gasped. “You have super-strength?”
“And all your other powers, too.” She set the sofa back on the floor.
“But – how?”
“I’ll tell you the whole story later.” Lois sat back in the sofa and patted the cushion next to her. “What’s important is that we can get married, now that I’m just as super as you are.”
Clark sank weakly into an armchair. “Lois – what have you done?”
“What’s wong?” Lois felt a wave of anger rising within her. Was Clark about to come up with yet another reason for not marrying her? “I thought you’d be glad-”
“Please, Lois – just listen.” Clark spoke slowly. “When I left your apartment earlier today, I started thinking ... what’s the use of being a superman with all these powers if I can’t marry the woman I love? So I came back here and took a lead box from my closet – something I’ve been keeping handy in case any villains escape from the Phantom Zone …”
“Oh, no …”
Clark nodded. “I exposed myself to gold kryptonite ... and it removed my super-powers – permanently.”
“Which means …”
“Which means we’re back where we were this morning – but with our roles reversed.” Clark forced a rueful smile to his face. “What is it the French say? Plus ca change ... “
Lois turned away, her eyes brimming with tears. How ironic! She thought. To think that I can’t marry the man I love – because Ihave super-powers ... and he doesn’t!
AND SO OUR CHRISTMAS TALE ENDS ON A SAD NOTE! BUT CHEER UP, READERS! REMEMBER – THIS IS AN IMAGINARY STORY, WHICH MAY NEVER HAPPEN – BUT THEN AGAIN, IT MIGHT!
With grateful acknowledgments to O. Henry, whose classic tale “The Gift of the Magi” inspired this story.