"I'm pregnant," Lois Lane said.
Superman turned red. "Didn't you take precautions?"
"Of course I took precautions. Did you think a diaphragm could stop your sperm? The little bugger probably ripped right through it like it was made of tissue paper."
Involuntarily, Superman quirked a grin. "Chip off the old block."
"Yeah, well, you'd better start thinking of rocks! As in diamonds." Lois held up her ring hand and waggled her fingers. She knew how little it would demand of him to squeeze a lump of coal into something eye-popping. "And I expect a church wedding with a reception afterwards, and a honeymoon too." She began to cry. "All the stuff I grew up wanting. Is that too much to ask for?"
It was an ugly scene. After he'd finally managed to calm Lois down with promises and kisses, Superman flew as fast and far away as he could. Somewhere west of the North Pole was the Fortress of Solitude. That's where he went. There was a chunk of kryptonite there, wrapped in lead. He picked it up.
"To be, or not to be …" The words sounded corny in his ears. He was not Hamlet, nor was meant to be. He was like Conan the Barbarian—a pure being, meant to solve problems by the application of brute strength alone. Women complicated everything.
Still … He stared down at the stone in his hand. So easy. One little burst of heat vision and the lead would run like water, letting the kryptonite bathe him with its lethal radiation.
He sighed, and put the deadly nugget back on its shelf. There was no answer there. So far as he could see—and he could see very far indeed—there was no answer anywhere. He was going to have to marry Lois. He wished he liked her more.
Angrily, he punched a wall, collapsing one entire wing of the fortress and making seismographs dance as far south as San Francisco.
"Damn it, I'm only human!" he shouted in anguish.
But those words, too, sounded hollow and false.
© 2002 by Michael Swanwick and SCIFI.COM.