Chapter 10: A Vast and Terrifying Enemy

William Calhoun sat in the jail cell, staring blankly at the wall. Ten yearsago, or even five, he might have been trying to plot his escape. Now he wassimply old, fat, and broke. What was left of his money was going to pay forthe lawyers for this current case, but even if he won, there would be nothingto go home to. His empire had crumbled, and the last crime boss of Metropoliswas soon going to be finished. It had taken Superman a year.

“I did it,” said Willie softly. “I told those men to kidnap the children, gavethem instructions on how to get away without you finding out, and found aplace for them to lay low.” Superman could hear everything. Willie foundhimself talking to Superman often, sometimes just trying to goad him, butother times confessing his sins. The Whitman thing turned out worse than he’dthought. He’d picked ruthless, violent men, and though he hadn’t told themwhat to do, he’d had a vague idea of what would happen. It didn’t sit rightwith him, now that it was over. Willie had been responsible for a number ofkidnappings, and had never had any real problems with coercing a man by usinghis family against him. This was different. The children were picked becausethey would make the news, not because of anything that their father had donebeyond the usual political dickery about being tough on crime.

Willie didn’t exactly live by a code, but he had a notion that people wereresponsible for their own actions. If a shopkeeper didn’t pay protectionmoney, he got a brick through his window. If a boxer didn’t take the fall whenhe was supposed to, he got his legs broken. If people made him angry, they gothurt. Maybe he would have felt differently if Superman had actually done as hewas supposed to and shown his true colors by killing the kidnappers. As Williesat in his cell and stared at the wall, he couldn’t help but think that he’dsimply done an evil for no purpose at all. He’d never really thought ofhimself as a monster before.

“I did it,” Willie repeated. “I ordered those men to do what they did. Peoplesay that you weren’t fast enough, but we both know that’s not true. The reasonthe whole thing happened was that you didn’t kill me when you should have.You’re a chicken-shit, and people are dying because of it.”

There was no response, but Willie hadn’t expected any. If Superman waslistening, he didn’t show it.

The atomic research facility in Hub City had been built shortly after Lex haddiscovered that Superman’s x-ray vision couldn’t penetrate lead. Lead washeavily used for radioactive shielding, and so it made sense for thick platesof the stuff to be nearly everywhere in the facility. Of late, Lex had puttogether a team of scientists to work on creating an atomic super weapon,though the room in the basement was off-limits even to them. The culture ofparanoia, suspicion, and obedience to the rules had been deliberatelycultivated.

Lex often considered what it would have been like if Superman had shown uptwenty or thirty years later. This entire operation would have been donethrough television, ideally with robotic arms of some kind. It would haveallowed for a degree of anonymity that strongly appealed to Lex.Unfortunately, the technologies had not progressed to such an extent that itwas feasible, and so Lex was left with two choices; he could hire a scientistor group of scientists to conduct research which would be overseen by Lex at agreat distance through the usual means, or he could investigate in person.Given the baffling death of Martha Kent, the choice was clear. Lex had lostmuch of his confidence in the ability of outside parties to carry out theirassigned tasks.

He locked the door behind him after he entered the secret room, and lookedcarefully at the large crate in front of him. It sat at the bottom of the leadmine for nearly two days, and spent another two on the road. If Superman had away to track it beyond his usual methods, he had made no effort to steal itback. Lex half suspected that Superman would come crashing down through theroof to kill him at any moment, but he was nearly certain that he was justbeing overly paranoid. He steeled his resolve and took a crowbar to the crate,opening it up and revealing what looked to be thick sheets of lead. A smallcatch at the bottom was enough to start unfolding the leaden container andreveal the spaceship inside..

Lex deliberately avoided looking at the spaceship, and instead grabbed thenotes that were strapped to the interior of one of the lead walls. The agentsposing as John and Loretta Greene had been instructed to leave a more detailedreport, one not constrained by the need for codes and limited in length. Heread through it carefully, frowning as he went. Floyd Lawton was clearly theproblem, but it still wasn’t clear what specifically had gone wrong. Floyd hadseemingly disobeyed his orders for some reason that would likely remainunknown. Four days had passed, and there had still been no word from Floyd,though if he was using the system Lex had set up the expected time for amessage to reach Metropolis would be nearly that long. Floyd was immaterialeither way. The only thing that a letter might do was illuminate the root ofthe problem, but Lex had half a dozen ideas about what he might have donedifferently already. He’d picked agents with reputations for being cold, calm,and meticulous, but apparently that hadn’t been enough.

Lex turned his attention to the spaceship. It still wasn’t entirely clear thatthe term “spaceship” accurately described it, given that it was missing thevents and exhaust ports that Lex would expect to see, but it certainly madesome pretensions towards being aerodynamic, and it very clearly had stubbywings. The ship was curiously aesthetic in design, and hewed to the goldenratio wherever possible, which surely said something profound about the peoplewho had made it. He was eager to open the ship up, but it would be at least afew days before he felt satisfied that it was safe to touch, no matter that ithad been physically carried by three people with no special equipment.

The ship emitted nothing that Lex could detect. There was no radiation, noradio waves, no light, no sound, and nothing else that Lex was capable ofsensing with his various tools. He took a large number of photographs of thespaceship, and thanks to equipment that had been ordered long ago, more thanhalf of them were x-ray photographs that would allow him to look inside theship before he did anything all that dangerous with it. Lex had learned muchwhen drawing up the plans for Harry Kramer, and the safest way to approach theship was no doubt to treat it as a live bomb, despite the fact that it hadprobably been sitting in a Kansas storm cellar for twenty years.

The x-rays weren’t powerful enough to pierce through the ship entirely, butthey gave some idea of how its internals were arranged. The skin of the craftlooked utterly seamless, but there were latches and hatches that had beencrafted with ridiculously advanced engineering that left them invisible fromthe surface and completely flush with the rest of the ship. In the center,where the spaceship had a bulge, was a pocket of complicated engineeringsurrounding empty space. Presumably this was where the baby had been pulledfrom, though it wasn’t obvious how the Kents would have known what they werelooking at. Towards the back of the ship, where an engine would traditionallysit, the x-ray came back completely white, blocked by what had to be someabsorptive material.

It was only after two full days of looking at it from every angle that LexLuthor decided he could get no further without actually touching the thing. Heput on some gloves and began opening up the machine.

The hole was easily three hundred feet deep, and even if he could escape, he’dbe hundreds of miles away from civilization. It widened out at the bottom,which made getting a handhold difficult, but it could be accomplished bystanding on top of the tin cans that held his food and jumping up to scrambleat the rock. Worse, even if he got out, Superman would simply find him again.He’d get dumped right back in the hole, with the walls smoothed down more thanthey already were. Superman had dug the hole in a handful of minutes, and itwould be little trouble for him to change it.

Floyd opened a can of baked beans and settled in for what he assumed waseither breakfast or lunch. They were far enough north that the small amount oflight coming in through the top of the hole was a constant twilight, making itnearly impossible to track the time. He was halfway through his meal when thelight dimmed briefly. Superman stood in front of Floyd, as though he’d beenthere all along.

“You can’t keep me here forever,” said Floyd.

“Why?” asked Superman.

Floyd had spent the long hours with nothing to do trying to calculate the bestthing to say. So far as he could figure, Superman really could keep him thereforever. Still, it was worth a shot. “It’s illegal,” said Floyd. “You careabout laws, right?”

“Less and less every day,” said Superman. “I went to visit your sister inFlorida.”

“Look, I told you everything I know,” said Floyd.

“I’d thought that I’d done my due diligence when you first came to the farm,”said Superman. “There’s a real woman living at the address you sent yourletters to, living a mundane life. When she got your most recent letter, sheread it carefully and put it in a pile with other papers. And that’s as far asI watched when you first came to the farm, because I wasn’t paranoid enough.”

“I didn’t set any of that up,” said Floyd, “I was just given instructions.”

“My mother was trusting,” said Superman. “She had a kind heart. I told herthat I could help her with anything that needed doing on the farm, but shealways liked taking in strays. I watched you, Floyd. In the first week youwere on the farm, I read every letter you sent or recieved. I watched all ofyour movements. And you didn’t act like anything other than a drifter. Ithought I’d been sufficiently careful, and eventually you just became afixture of the farm. I turned my eyes back towards the city, and very nearlyforgot about you.”

Floyd was silent.

“Your sister dropped the letter off at the law office she works for,” saidSuperman. “From there it was translated into a code of random letters andnumbers through the use of a one-time pad behind lead walls. Even if I’d beenwatching closely before I might not have caught it. They copied it and sent itout to the seven largest cities in the United States, and from there wastransmitted out into the open by radio.” Superman stared off into the distancepast Floyd, but it wasn’t clear whether he was looking through the rocks orjust thinking about something.

“Are you gonna keep me here forever?” asked Floyd.

“Maybe,” said Superman.

“You can’t be my jailer,” said Floyd. “I need food, water, showers, someactual damned light, and something other than a bucket to relieve myself in. Iswear to god, hand me over to the police and I won’t say a single thing aboutthe other guy.” Superman had nearly throttled Floyd the last time the name ofClark Kent came up, but it was difficult to talk around. Floyd had informationthat Superman didn’t want made public, and it didn’t seem to matter toSuperman that Floyd’s employer already knew.

“Do you know why I came here?” asked Superman.

Floyd shook his head.

“I want to kill you,” said Superman. “I want it with every fiber of my being.I came here because I thought it was important to test myself, to prove tomyself that I wouldn’t ever do it because I let my emotions overwhelm me. Andif I slipped up here, no one would have to know. You’d just be a red smearacross the wall in an anonymous hole in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.To take a life is evil, but maybe, if it’s necessary, I think it might also begood.”

Floyd watched him closely. “Are you going to kill me then?”

“I’m still not sure,” replied Superman. “I’ll let you know when I figure itout.”

There was a blast of air as Superman launched himself up and away. Floydlooked up at the rough rock walls that Superman had carved out by hand, anddecided that even if escape was useless, it was better than waiting for death.

The city was unexpectedly quiet, but for once that suited Lois. She sat on herbalcony in one of the wooden chairs, sipping at a glass of wine and waiting.She was wearing her most alluring dress, a blue one that clung to her hips.Hopefully it would draw his attention away from how nervous she was, if heeven showed up.

Clark Kent had gotten word that his mother died on Monday, and broke downcrying at his desk. He’d be gone for five days as he went to Kansas to settlehis parents affairs and go to the funeral. At the same time, Lex Luthor wasoff at some scientific conference in Hub City. A year ago, she would havethrown herself into her work, but she was a changed woman now, and being thestar reporter of the world’s largest newspaper just wasn’t enough. So she’ddone her best to arrange a date with Superman, because at least that wassomething.


I’ve been wondering whether you would like to join me for dinner on Thursday.I live in an apartment building on the corner of 13th St. and 33nd Ave. E. Youshould be able to land on my balcony, where I’ll have everything set up. I’llbe eating at seven whether you’re there or not, but I’d be pleased if youwould join me.


She’d gone over the letter a half dozen times trying to get the wording right,and was never quite happy with it. She wasn’t terribly good at turning on thecharm, at least not with someone she wasn’t actually attracted to. She’d hadany number of brief relationships over the years, but she didn’t fullyunderstand what it was that attracted men to her. She knew those qualitiesthat she found attractive in herself, but had no real idea which of them werecause for attraction in others. She’d tried her best to play up what shethought that Superman would like. If he didn’t show up, at least she wouldhave made an effort.

He made a deft landing on her balcony ten minutes before seven.

“Miss Lane,” he said with a gentle smile.

“Please, call me Lois,” she said with what she hoped was a flirtatious smile.“I hope you don’t think I was too forward inviting you over, but you don’texactly have a mailing address.”

“I’ve been meaning to set something up with the post office,” said Superman.“Though of course I think there’s some benefit in keeping out of reach, and Idon’t think I’d have the patience to keep up with the flood of mail. You’reonly lucky that I’ve been keeping a special watch over people close to me.”

Lois couldn’t help but feel a pang of discomfort at that. She and Supermanwere far from close. “I’m making spaghetti for dinner,” said Lois. “I have noidea whether you eat or not, but I can make enough for two.”

“I eat,” said Superman with a smile.

Lois walked into her apartment. It was small, which was the price she’d paidfor having a balcony on the top floor. The place was littered with souvenirsand photographs, along with a number of framed headlines that she wasparticularly proud of. She’d been a reporter for eight years, and that wasenough time to do a great many things and see a great many places. She hadcleaned the night before, for the first time in a very long time, and wasalmost proud of how neat the apartment looked. If Superman had been spying onher he would know how she lived from day-to-day, but she hoped he would takethe effort as a compliment all the same.

She didn’t mention the fact that Superman was taking time off from saving theworld to spend time with her, and he didn’t bring it up. She desperately hopedthat he had some way to turn his super hearing off, because the thought of himlistening to every single death in the world with a grin on his face wasalmost enough to make her physically ill. Shutting off his hearing wasn’treally a solution either though. On days when she was in a particularly badmood, she could imagine that she could hear all of the pain and sufferinghappening at any given time. Superman had opened her mind to it, and now itwas hard to ignore, even if she’d never actually heard what it was likefirsthand.

“Spaghetti is the only thing I know how to cook,” said Lois. She had a pot ofsauce and noodles in boiling water, all ready to go. She’d had more than oneman tease her about her lack of domestic skill, and she’d let them think thatshe was simply an independent woman of the new mold rather than let them knowshe had an actual, unintentional deficit of skill.

“That’s fine,” said Superman.

Lois served up two plates, and took them back out to the balcony, where theysat down together. She didn’t think she was in any actual danger, but felt anuneasy tension all the same.

“So when you say that you eat,” said Lois. “It’s voluntary for you?”

“No,” said Superman. “I get hungry, just the same as anyone else. I can justgo longer.” He dug into his spaghetti and Lois couldn’t help but think that helooked ridiculous in that costume. It was all well and good to wear askintight red and blue outfit with a long flowing cape while you were savinglives, but it just looked silly while he was doing something so mundane. Helooked too human.

“Where do you eat?” asked Lois. “You could eat for free at any restaurant inthe city, but so far as I know you never have. And you disdain money.”

“Just to be clear, this isn’t an interview?” asked Superman with a raisedeyebrow.

“No, just - just a date,” said Lois. She could hear how strained her voicesounded, but either Superman didn’t notice, or he didn’t care. Maybe he justthought she was nervous, which was at least true. At the same time, she wasworried that he would contradict her and gently tell her that he had nointerest in her, which would have been humiliating given that she was actuallytrying to use her femininity for once in her life.

“Distance isn’t really a factor for me,” said Superman. “I’ve shared stew withMongolian nomads and African tribesmen, and I can hunt and forage with ease.But I don’t really get any weaker from not having food, it’s just a naggingirritation. I once went three weeks without food just to see if I could, andit didn’t seem to make any difference in terms of strength. The same goes withsleep. I sleep for two hours most nights, but I could stay up for a monthwithout any real trouble if I had to.”

Lois took a small bite of her spaghetti, but wasn’t really hungry. “Tell meabout your life.”

“My life?” asked Superman. “What about it?”

“You’re a mystery,” said Lois. “Deliberately so, it seems. I just want to knowwhat it’s like to be you.”

“I’m surprisingly boring,” said Superman with a laugh. “I wake up at five inthe morning, circle the planet once to make sure that there’s not anythingmajor happening that needs my attention, and then patrol Metropolis lookingfor places that I can do good.”

“The city’s gotten a lot better with you patrolling,” said Lois.

“For the most part,” replied Superman. His face darkened slightly.

“How’s the spaghetti?” asked Lois.

“Good,” replied Superman. A smile returned to his face. “It’s very good. Thankyou for making it.”

“If you eat … I can understand why you have a non-interventionist policy, butI don’t really understand why you wouldn’t take in a free meal at a nicerestaurant,” said Lois. “You’re basically the patron saint of the city, butyou’ve never eaten at all of the best places. I could show you around.” Thiswas one of Lex’s ideas, a way to get Superman more invested in the city.

“I look ridiculous in the costume,” said Superman. He laughed as he watchedher expression. “Come on, you know you were thinking it.”

“A little bit,” admitted Lois. “And that’s the only reason?”

“I can’t go anywhere without people looking at me,” said Superman. “I wouldn’tbe able to eat in peace. People would come up to me and thank me for what I’vedone, or tell me what I should be doing differently, or try to touch me justso they could tell their friends that they had. And I’d have to grin and bearit, or calmly explain how I just want to be left alone. That’s not all. Itwould drive business to the restaurant, and might have an impact on the otherrestaurants across the street, so I’d have to figure out some way of dividingup my meals between the restaurants that’s equitable. And if there was ascandal of some sort, like the owner of Paulucci’s getting arrested fordealing drugs, it might tarnish my public image and stir up all sorts ofcontroversy that detracts from the message I’m trying to send. On top of allthat, not everyone would be as understanding as you’ve been about the factthat I need some time to myself. They’d draw up charts to show that while Iwas eating hundreds of people were dying. You can imagine the headlines.”

Lois nodded, though of course she didn’t really understand. She would have runherself ragged trying to improve the world if she had Superman’s powers. Hell,she had no special powers at all and still spent nearly all her time working,or thinking about work. But of course this whole exercise wasn’t about whatLois thought, it was about keeping Superman happy.

“I could arrange something discreet for you,” said Lois. “We could take lunchtogether on top of the Daily Planet Building. I eat at my desk or out in thestreet anyway.”

“I’d like that,” smiled Superman. He moved his hand across the table to cuphers, and it was only because she’d been expecting it that she was able tosmile back at him.

The trial went quickly.

The last crime boss of Metropolis took on a serious, concerned look in thecourtroom. Of course it was a terrible thing that happened to June Whitman andher tragically deceased brother, but she was a confused young girl coercedinto testimony by Superman, the alien god who had a personal vendetta againstCalhoun. On the third day of the trial, June took the stand. She broke downunder cross-examination, and was ushered out of the courthouse by her father,who shot a withering look at both Calhoun and Superman himself. Willie didn’tfigure that he had much of a shot of winning the trial, but hell if he wasn’tgoing to go down fighting. If he lost, he had a revolver ready to shove intohis mouth. At his age, with all the enemies he’d made over the years andhardly a dime to his name, it seemed like a better option than ten years inSing Sing.

At night, he said his prayers to Superman. Willie confessed to every singlecrime he’d ever committed, and a number of them he hadn’t. He described invivid detail the things he’d do to Superman if only he could, and when thatgot old he moved on to anything else he could think of. There had to be someway of provoking the alien, something that Willie could say that would getsome reaction. There had to be something, some set of words that would get thealien’s calm stoicism to crack. His prayers were greeted only by silence.

Someone knocked on the window when Clarence had just gotten himself ready forbed. He nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned to the side and sawSuperman standing on the fire escape. He slowly padded over and opened thewindow. He’d seen Superman in court, but up close he was much more impressive,and more threatening.

“Two days ago you received three hundred dollars to help sway your position,”said Superman.

Clarence didn’t trust himself to speak. The woman had walked beside him, andtold him to help deliver a guilty verdict. The money had been in his handsshortly afterwards, without him even agreeing to anything. It was more than hemade in a month.

“I was going to tell the judge,” said Clarence. “I was going to explain tohim.”

“No, you weren’t,” said Superman. “I don’t care. You need the money, I canaccept that. But when you go into deliberation, don’t let it sway you. Thinkabout what you’ve heard in court, and make up your own mind. Decide the caseon its merits.”

“You … you’re helping Calhoun?” asked Clarence. “You hate him.”

“I do,” said Superman, not even trying to deny it. “But when he’s convicted,it needs to be by the books. I promised him that. There are forces workingagainst him, powerful people with their own agendas, and if he goes to jailbecause people with money and influence wanted him there, that’s just as badas if he stayed out of jail because he intimidated witnesses and tampered withthe jury.”

Clarence nodded along. He would have nodded along to anything that Supermansaid at that moment.

“I’m not saying whether you should find him guilty or not guilty,” repeatedSuperman. “I’m saying that your verdict needs to be true to the laws as theystand.”

Clarence nodded once more, and Superman stepped back from the window.

“Clarence?” asked Superman.

Clarence choked on his words, and simply nodded once.

“I was never here,” said Superman. He flew away, a quiet as a whisper.

It was clear now that Clarence should have ducked out on jury duty. Tomorrowhe’d have to go into a room with all the other jurors and deliberate, knowingfull well that Superman was listening to every word they said. He wondered howmany of them were getting visits from Superman in the middle of the night. Itwas a long time before he got to sleep.

“The standard of proof that we’re hewing to is ‘reasonable doubt’,” saidClarence.

“If it’s reasonable doubt, then we have to return a verdict of not guilty,simple as that,” said Louis.

“He’s gotta be guilty of something,” said Frank with a drawn out sigh. “Ifeel like before today, we were in agreement here. Calhoun is guilty as sin,it’s written on his face. Superman’s been cleaning up town, and Calhoun justwanted to hurt him however he could.”

“It didn’t come up in the courtroom,” said Clarence. “And we’re not supposedto be reading the papers.”

“Sure,” said Frank. “But I don’t understand why we have to throw out thingsthat we know. Sure as shit Superman knows things that he’s not allowed to say,but you can’t look at him sitting opposite Calhoun and possibly think thatSuperman is making a mistake.”

“We have to do this by the books,” said Stewart. “Could a reasonable persondoubt that Willie Calhoun was guilty of these specific crimes relating to whathappened to June and Robert Whitman? Seems to me that the answer is yes. Thewhole case rests on June, and I think it’s damned reasonable to question hertestimony.”

“She’s eleven,” said Frank in disgust. “You’re calling her a liar after whatshe’s been through?”

Arlo coughed into his fist. “Not a liar,” he said. “We’re spinning in circleshere. The question isn’t about the crime, it’s about who ordered the crime,and the evidence doesn’t seem to go past the point of reasonable doubt. I’mnot saying the girl is a liar, I’m saying that maybe she misheard something,or maybe she got confused, both well possible.”

Frank sat back in his seat and sighed. “Alright, you fellas want to takeanother vote and see whether we’re coming to an agreement?”

He descended from the heavens like a golden god. There were no strings orwires to hold him aloft, no jets or boosters, only a simple power of flightthat seemed to defy the laws of physics. The reporters cleared a space aroundhim as he touched down with perfect grace. His brown hair was perfectly styledwith a curl at the front, as always. Instead of the trademark half-grin,Superman wore a scowl.

“Not guilty,” he murmured only seconds before the doors to the courthouseopened wide and people began to spill out. The crowd of reporters around himshoved their bulky microphones in his face as they heard the news. Lois stoodtowards the back, not bothering to hide the worry she felt on hearing thenews. Luthor was supposed to take care of this kind of thing, dammit.

“Superman! How do you feel about Calhoun getting off again?”

“Are you going to catch him again, Superman?”

“What’s the point in putting bad guys away if you can’t make it stick?”

William Calhoun strolled out of the courthouse, surrounded by a flock ofreporters all of his own. He wore a brown suit with a bright red tie, andsmiled for the cameras as the flashbulbs went off around him. It would beheadline news. Calhoun spotted Superman only moments after he stepped outside,and casually walked over.

“Pleasure to be out for a stroll on this fine day, ain’t it Supes?” saidCalhoun with a grin. He was only a handful of feet away from the alien, andthe reporters had backed off enough to get a good photo of the two standingtogether. The wind picked up, causing Superman’s cape to billow out behindhim, and the flashbulbs started going off in earnest.

“You’ll pay for your crimes,” said Superman. If you ignored the cape, theskintight suit, and the oversized muscles, you could almost imagine him as ateacher ready to haul a student out of the classroom by his ear.

“I’m sure you’ve heard with those marvelous ears of yours,” said Calhoun, hisshit-eating grin never leaving his face. “I’m innocent.”

“The justice system isn’t perfect,” said Superman. “I think that’s been madeclear today.”

“I bet it just eats you up,” said Calhoun. “To know that you got it wrong,once again. Three times you hauled me in, and three times I walked free. Whatis it you got against me? Is it ‘cause I’m Irish?” He was posing for thecameras in subtle ways. Calhoun, with a smile and a strut, and Superman, withhis hands folded across his chest.

“You’re a murderer,” said Superman. “A rapist, a pimp, a liar, and a crook.You are everything wrong with humanity, and they let you go.”

Calhoun put on his widest smile and leaned in close, close enough thatSuperman surely could have smelled the man’s breath. “I’m not guilty in theeyes of the law,” he declared. “Chalk one up for truth, justice, and theAmerican way.”

It happened faster than anyone could see. They said that Superman could reactto lightning before seeing the flash. They said that he could catch thebullets from a dozen guns at once. He was, by any fair accounting, the singlefastest thing to have ever been on Earth. The time between when he decided todo it and the time it was already done could have been measured inmilliseconds. Later in the day, one lucky photographer would develop a pictureof the exact moment that Superman landed his punch, so fast that it was ablur.

One moment Calhoun was taunting Superman, and the next Superman stood with asingle fist held straight out in front of him. It was covered in blood.Calhoun’s head was spread out over the crowd, covering the reporters with boneand gore, and Calhoun’s body fell to the ground with a soft thud. Supermanlowered his fist and then rose up into the sky, flying away from the shoutedquestions and the flashes of cameras.

Lex worked carefully to pull the large tube from inside the spaceship. He’dfirst thought that it must be some special alloy, like the skin of the shipseemed to be, but the reason that it so effectively blocked the x-rays wasthat it was nothing more than simple lead.

When he was finished, a tube of lead sat on the floor of the workshop. So faras he could guess, this was a power source of some sort. He’d alreadyidentified the engine analog, though he had no idea how it worked. The thickcables internal to the ship all seemed to terminate at the leaden tube, and inanother portion of the ship that Lex had only vaguely guessed the purpose of.The tube of lead was attractive though, above and beyond anything else. Therewere few reasons to use a material like lead, and one of them was shielding.

Lex set up a containment area for the tube, which consisted of little morethan layers of lead to surround it and a Geiger counter that was wired throughto where Lex could read it. The mechanical apparatus took some time to make,but eventually he was able to rig the whole thing up so that he would be ableto see whether there was any lethal radiation once the tube had been openedwithout having to expose himself to it. Lex worked slowly and carefully, andwas eventually satisfied that he wouldn’t get a lethal dose of radiationpoisoning. He took away the layers of lead, and peered closely at what he haduncovered.

The immense promise of this particular part of the ship was that whoever hadbuilt the thing saw fit to include shielding in the first place. If it was athreat to the infant alien, then perhaps it would be a threat to the adultalien as well. When Lex looked down at the green glow of the central core, hecould only smile. There was an immense amount of work still left to do inorder to determine the precise nature of the threat it might pose to Supermanand how best to capitalize on that, but it held definite hope for the future.

It would need a name, of course. Kryptonite had a nice ring to it.

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