Chapter 2: Dissemination of Information

Lois Lane was undeniably at the top of her game.

There had been grumbling from some of the other reporters that it had beendumb luck, but obviously Superman had chosen her for a reason, and obviouslythat reason had been her reporting. That’s what she kept telling herself,anyway. Lois worked twice as hard as any other reporter at The Daily Planet,and put out three times as many stories. She’d started there at the age ofsixteen, after she’d sent in an anonymous letter to the editor that had soimpressed Perry White that he’d put out an advert asking for her to identifyherself. From there it had been a quick climb to the top of the heap, with noreal challengers until Clark Kent had come along.

“Listen to this one,” Lois said to him. “‘Superman is not Christ Reborn butthe Herald of the Apocalypse, a False Prophet that Presages the End Times’.”She set down the paper with a laugh and looked at Clark, who was hammeringaway at his typewriter. “Where on earth do people come up with this stuff?”

Clark paused and looked at her through his thick glasses, apparently notseeing the humor. “It’s from the book of Revelation,” he said. “‘And he doethgreat wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth inthe sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means ofthose miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast.’ They’rethinking that Superman is capable of these wonders and must be an agent of theAntichrist. Some others are arguing that he’s the reincarnation of Christ.”

Lois laughed, and Clark frowned, just as she knew he would.

“It’s not right to make fun of people’s legitimately held beliefs,” saidClark. Lois was a Roman Catholic, in that she attended mass twice a year onChristmas and Easter. Clark was a Lutheran and a bit more serious about hisfaith. She enjoyed needling him about it, more to annoy him than because shehad any strong theological opinions. More often than not, Clark would bringforth some bit of folksy wisdom from his father - his “pa”. By all rightsClark should have been chewed up and spit out by Metropolis two weeks afterhe’d arrived, but he’d clung on for a solid five months. Still, Lois didn’tthink he’d last too much longer. He didn’t have that core of steel a reporterneeded in the big city.

“Do you know how much ad space costs in the paper right now?” asked Lois.“People know that Superman reads The Daily Planet, and that’s their only wayof communicating with him short of calling out for him and hoping that hestops by, which we know doesn’t work and probably just pisses him off.”

“Superman doesn’t get upset,” said Clark with a sigh.

“Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t,” said Lois. “He doesn’t show it, sure, butthat doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel it. You think that he’s just got a heart ofstone when he interrupts a rape in progress?” Clark flinched at that. “I metthe man, and talked with him more than anyone else since he got here, and Idon’t buy it. He may not be human, but he still feels. Anyway, my point isthat the paper is the only way that they have any hope of getting across amessage, and so ad prices have skyrocketed since the interview came out. Don’tyou have any interest in the kinds of crazy crap that people are putting inour pages? It’s all the more crazy knowing that they’re paying top dollar forit.” She looked down at the paper. “This ad only makes sense to people whoalready buy into what it’s selling, so what’s the point of it?”

“I don’t know,” said Clark.

“You okay Smallville?” asked Lois. That was the name of the town that Clarkwas from, no joke. When Lois had found out she’d laughed for five solidminutes. She’d looked it up on a map later, and hadn’t been surprised to seethat it was almost precisely in the middle of nowhere. “Usually you at leastpretend to be enchanted by my wit.”

“I’ve got a lot on my mind, sorry,” said Clark. He looked genuinelyapologetic, and turned to engage her in proper conversation. “Did you knowSuperman is being sued?”

“Had to happen eventually,” said Lois. “No surprise it’s sooner rather thanlater. What’s the complaint?”

“One of the alleged perpetrators of a jewelry store robbery is claiming thatSuperman broke his wrist,” said Clark.

“Obvious bullshit or legitimate claim?” asked Lois. “That’ll make thedifference between the front page and the back page.”

“It’s obviously untrue,” said Clark. He didn’t swear, which Lois foundunaccountably annoying, like many things about him. “Superman will still haveto go to court to have his say though.”

“If he wants to get involved in the police business, he’ll need to get used tocourtroom appearances,” said Lois. “God those are boring. It’s too badSuperman sells. I don’t look forward to being asked to cover those.”

“Me either,” said Clark. He looked uncharacteristically glum. “Perry wants tosee you, by the way.”

“You couldn’t have mentioned that twenty minutes ago?” asked Lois. She walkedoff to their editor’s office without waiting for an answer. Clark Kent wasnotoriously unreliable, and if it hadn’t been for his uncanny ability to getstories, Lois was certain that he would have been sacked a few times over. Thenewspaper was supposed to be a meritocracy, and Clark seemed to skate by onsomething like luck.

“I’ve got a story for you,” Perry White said with a grimace. He was a thickman, with white at his temples and an invariably neat crew cut. Lois couldusually tell what kind of day it had been by how far down Perry had unbuttonedhis shirt. Today was a two-button day.

“That bad?” she asked.

“A special request from upstairs,” said Perry. “There’s a man by the name ofLex Luthor that very much wants you to write a story about the orphanage he’sbuilding in Suicide Slums.”

“Me specifically?” she asked.

“In person,” replied Perry with a nod.

“I could do it over the phone with no problem,” said Lois. “So my guess isthat this Luthor character has some ulterior motive?”

“One might be tempted to assume that,” said Perry. “But this is an order fromhigh above, and so I want you to play it straight. You’re going to his houseto get an interview about the orphanage. Don’t assume anything more. Ifsomething else comes up, play it by ear, but he’s got the attention of theboss and that means he’s probably a bad man to piss off.”

“I’ll be on my best behavior,” said Lois as she rolled her eyes. “Scout’shonor.”

Perry gave her a warning look, but Lois merely smiled. She’d known Perry for afull decade now, and could read him better than anyone else. He was just asannoyed with the request as she was. She went off to do some prep work for theinterview. Orphanages were soft news, the kind you kept in your back pocket tofill in some space on a slow news day. Lois could only hope that whateverLuthor was really after would make for a good article.

Lex Luthor had become a different man. The key to maintaining a long-termdeception was to find a lie as close as possible to the truth, so that itwould be more difficult to get caught out. There were perfectly benevolentreasons for a multimillionaire to seek out every scrap of information he couldget about Superman. He could only hope that the gathering of informationwouldn’t attract much notice from Superman, though he could hardly be the onlyone trying to get answers. So far he’d done nothing illegal, simply paidpeople for their accounts of meeting with Superman. The most important witnesswas still ahead.

“Welcome, Miss Lane,” said Lex with a pleasant, practiced smile. He led herinto the smoking room of his mansion, walking with a light and graceful step.Lois wore a blue skirt and a white blouse, showing some of her figure. She waspretty enough, but Lex had other concerns.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Luthor,” said Lois.

“My father was Mr. Luthor,” said Lex with a smile. “ You can call me Lex.”

“I’m sure you’re a busy man, so I’ll try to keep this brief,” said Lois. “Ijust need a few quotes for the newspaper about the orphanage you’re buildingin, ah, Southside.”

“Suicide Slums,” said Lex. “No need to stand on formality, I grew up there.Southside is what the city planners called it. It’s how the area is talkedabout by the politicians. But to those who live there, it’s always calledSuicide Slums.”

“You grew up there?” asked Lois with a raised eyebrow. He watched her take aquick glance around the smoking room. It was about as far away from SuicideSlums as you could get.

“I did,” said Lex. “If you’re thinking that I’m building an orphanage becauseI was an orphan myself, I can assure you that wasn’t the case. My mother andfather were poor, but they were at least present. The orphanage is for thosechildren who aren’t quite so fortunate. My adolescence was decidedlyunfortunate, and it was only through sheer luck that I was able to get out.”

“Luck,” said Lois Lane. “I did some research Mr. Luthor. You have three PhDsand run the largest private corporation in Metropolis. There are half ahundred patents to your name, and you’re the discoverer of something calledLuthorian bonding that I couldn’t make heads or tails of.”

“It allows for a more efficient form of industrial lubrication,” said Lex.

“What I’m saying is that your success seems to go a bit beyond luck.” Shestuck the end of her pencil in her mouth and bit it. “Yet prior to a week ago,you stayed in the shadows. On paper, LexCorp is enormous, but I’d wager thatmost people in Metropolis have never heard of it, even if they work for one ofits subsidiaries. So far as I can tell, The Daily Planet hasn’t filed asingle story about you. And now here you are, stepping out from behind thecurtain to set up an orphanage in Suicide Slums - one of a few grandcharitable gestures you’ve been making. I have to wonder why.”

“I don’t suppose that a person ever really wakes up one day and decides to bea better person,” said Lex with a laugh. “That certainly wasn’t the case forme. No, it was the influence of a man that I believe you’re well familiarwith. Superman.”

“You know Superman?” asked Lois. He could hear the skepticism her voice.

“No, of course not,” said Lex. “I merely said that I was influenced by him.There’s something quite heroic about seeing an alien with such marvelouspowers using them exclusively for the greater good. In fact, I had a fewquestions that I’d like to ask you about him, if you don’t mind.”

Lois raised an eyebrow. “So that’s your game,” she said. She sat back in herchair and smiled. “I should let you know that as a matter of journalisticethics I don’t divulge information about the people that I interview. For highprofile subjects who aren’t the subject of controversy, I let them look overwhat I’ve written in case I’ve gotten something wrong or let slip somethingthat wasn’t supposed to be on the record. Superman is about as high profile asit gets. I suspect you know all that, and I’m guessing that’s why you asked mehere under false pretenses, thinking you could convince me otherwise. I shouldalso let you know that as a matter of personal taste, I hate deception.”

“It’s only a minor deception,” said Lex with a friendly smile. “I really ambuilding an orphanage in Suicide Slums, and I really do think that there’s astory in it. I have my own burning curiosities about Superman, and would likemore information than can be found in the paper, but strictly speaking Ihaven’t lied to you. Building an orphanage to get a chance to talk with you ishardly the worst thing in the world.”

“All the same, I see no reason to continue this line of conversation,” saidLois. “A journalist is only as good as their reputation, even without thewatchful eyes of the big guy.” She looked towards the ceiling, where Lex couldeasily imagine Superman was looking down on them.

“I’m not asking for you to reveal any implicit or explicit secrets thatSuperman might have shared with you. Nothing that was off the record.” Lexwaved his hand. “All I want are the small details that you might not haveconsidered interesting enough to print.”

“No,” said Lois with a sharp smile. “I can’t be bought.” All the same, shehadn’t moved.

“Miss Lane, it’s been my experience that people who say that underestimatewhat money can buy,” said Lex. He watched her carefully, as though measuringher, but he’d done some research of his own, and already knew what to offerher. “I can get the Equal Rights Amendment passed.”

Lois showed not even the slightest reaction, which in itself was telling.“It’s been dead for a decade.”

“Introduced every session and bottled up in committee,” said Lex with a nod.“I can get it to the floor, and I can help to ensure it has the votes. I havethe ear of powerful men.”

“You’re talking about bribes,” said Lois. She glanced towards the ceiling, andLex couldn’t help but smile. Finally, here was another person who saw whatSuperman’s abilities really meant. No conversation could be presumed private.

“Not bribes Miss Lane, influence. If I were to mention to the right men thatmy companies would be preferentially hiring women, and that I would makeelection day a paid holiday throughout my workforce, do you think they couldignore that? Do you imagine that a man who won his seat with a margin of halfa percent could afford not to change his stance in response?” Lex smiled. “Nobribes. No money changing hands. When you’re responsible for the employment ofa quarter of a million people, politicians listen.”

“All that for what amounts to scraps of information from me?” asked Lois.

“I won’t pretend that our political interests are unaligned,” said Lex. “I’veoften considered myself something of a feminist. The world is set to undergo atransition away from manual labor, and everything I’ve read indicates thatwomen are just as capable as men in the intellectual fields, limited only by alack of education imposed by the existing social structures.” That languagecould have been lifted straight from one of Lois Lane’s inflammatory articleson equal rights. Lex watched her carefully to make sure that he hadn’t saidthings too perfectly. She was trying hard not to respond, but a faint trace ofquirk of her lips betrayed her excitement.

“I’m supposed to just take your word for it?” she asked with excessivenonchalance.

“As you said, reputation is worth its weight in gold,” said Lex. “If you’vedone your homework, you should know that you can trust me. I pride myself inmy fair dealings.” Lex had managed to avoid any messy lawsuits that would be amatter of public record, and many of the more unsavory aspects of his life hadbeen scrubbed away in the past week. There were perhaps a dozen people whocould connect him to any ongoing criminal acts, and he had a long story ofredemption if any of his adolescent crimes surfaced. He had no criminal recordto speak of. He also knew that Lois Lane couldn’t possibly have done enoughinvestigation to unearth anything in the twelve hours since he’d called in thefavor, but she would be swayed by the mere appearance of openness. Lex was acomfortable liar.

“And what about Superman?” asked Lois. “You know I can’t risk losing the nextinterview, if there is one.”

“Do you think this arrangement would upset him?” asked Lex. “He acts very muchlike a man with nothing to hide, and I somewhat doubt that he exposed you toanything that he didn’t want known to the world, even if he does have secrets.There’s no personal gain for you, it’s purely an altruistic act, and ifSuperman has a problem with equal rights for women I doubt he would havechosen you in the first place. You win, I win, and Superman at the least losesnothing.”

Lois sat and thought it over. Lex was in no rush. “Alright. I have onecondition,” she said slowly.

“Go on,” Lex replied.

“Tell me why,” said Lois. “Superman seems to be the only story in town thesedays, but everyone’s got some angle on it, some reason that they’re curious.Some people think he’s got something to do with religion, that he’s Christ orAntichrist, some people are envious of his power, and more than a few womenare rather keen on him.”

“Including yourself?” asked Lex.

“My interests are more professional,” said Lois. “But go on, tell me whatyou’re in it for.”

“You’ve heard of humanism?” he asked. Lois nodded. “I read the manifesto, andI’m sure that if the Humanist Society of Metropolis had known of myinclinations that they would have asked me to sign. I would have declined, fora number of reasons, not least of which is their rejection of profit-seeking,which is perhaps the most efficient method of incentivizing useful work yetknown to man. In many ways I’m in agreement with them though. The IndustrialRevolution and its consequences have been a boon for the human race. I canthink of no better path forward for humanity than a pursuit of furtherrevolutions through applied reason. When I look to Superman, I can onlyimagine the eons of dead ends our scientists could skip, and the advancementsthat could be had if he could be convinced to give us his knowledge. It wouldbe an end to disease, and an end to death.” Lex poured himself a glass ofwhiskey. “I’m doing my best to investigate Superman, because I want topersuade him to do the most good.”

“Alright,” said Lois, seemingly satisfied with his answer. She startedtalking.

It began with a note on her desk. She’d come back from the break room holdinghalf a sandwich in one hand, a bottle of soda water in the other, and acigarette between her lips. Sitting on top of her typewriter was a smallenvelope which simply said “Miss Lane”.

Here Luthor stopped her, and asked her about the specifics, and Lois tried herbest to remember. The envelope was delicate and white, the kind you could getfrom any corner drugstore. The words on the envelope and in the note itselfwere typewritten. Lois had saved it, and it was somewhere in her desk drawer.When Luthor had said that she should leave nothing out, she hadn’t realizedhow literal he was being about it. Being a reporter was about being concise.You had to pay attention to the details, but only say those things that wereactually important. Luthor just wanted a raw stream of consciousness. Luthorthen asked whether she would part with the note, and she’d said that she wouldlet him take a look at it if she could find it.

The note had said to meet him on the roof of The Daily Planet Building, and itwas signed “Superman” in swirling cursive. She’d asked around, and no one hadseen who had left it, so Lois had taken the elevator to the top floor, andthen taken another flight of stairs up beyond where any offices were to reachthe roof. She’d thought it was going to be a prank of some sort, but whenshe’d opened the door she’d seen Superman standing on the very edge of theroof, looking out over the city. His cape flowed behind him in the wind.

“Hello Lois,” he said as he turned around.

He had a body like a strongman. The material of his suit clung to his skin,exposing every muscle to the world, each of them perfectly defined. He wasundeniably handsome, with a curl of hair hanging down that made him lookalmost roguish.

Luthor stopped her again, and asked questions about the costume, and aboutSuperman’s hair. The suit was red and blue, but had no visible seams, not evenany that were hidden. Lois wouldn’t have expected any either, not with the waythat the material clung to his body. It was obviously made of some fabricunknown to the scientists of Earth. The costume could be damaged, but Lois hadscattered reports about it repairing itself over time, knitting back together.Luthor had made special note of that. Superman’s hair was styled with somekind of gel, though from what Lois could remember it always looked like that,even when he was flying. She was about to bring up the possibility that heused a gel from the planet Krypton when Luthor waved his hand for her tocontinue on.

“I’m afraid my etiquette classes didn’t prepare me for this,” Lois had said.“What do I call you? Superman was just the name I made up, I hope-”

“Superman is fine. It’s fitting,” said Superman with a smile.

“Perry was worried people would connect it to German, to Nietzsche’sUbermensch,” said Lois, “And I told him to remember who our audience was.”

“It’s fine,” said Superman again. He had a certain gentleness to him, apatient understanding that was so palpable that Lois could instantlyunderstand how people compared him to Christ. “I thought that perhaps somepeople had questions that they’d like answered.”

“Sure,” said Lois. She cursed herself for not taking the note seriously andfumbled for her pencil and paper. “Alright, let’s start with where you camefrom.”

“I’m an alien,” said Superman. “From the planet Krypton.”

Lois wrote this down as though it weren’t utterly insane. She could decidewhether it should be spelled Krypton or Crypton and decided to go with a Kbecause it looked more foreign. “And does everyone from your planet have yourabilities?” she asked.

“No,” said Superman. His turned somber. “Just me. Krypton was a dying planet,and my parents were able to fashion a spaceship that could hold only one. Theysent me here just as the planet imploded. It wasn’t until I got to this planetthat my abilities began to manifest. I’m the last of my kind.”

Lois didn’t know how to respond to that. “Why did you choose Earth?” sheeventually managed.

“I didn’t,” said Superman. “The coordinates were locked before I knew what washappening. If I could speak with my father, I would ask him that samequestion. I suspect he chose this planet because he thought I would be able toblend in.”

“There are other aliens then?” asked Lois. “Other planets with intelligentlife?”

“Yes,” said Superman. “But it’s not my place to spoil the secrets that awaithumanity when they reach for the stars.”

Lois had frowned at that, but continued on all the same. “You’re out savingpeople and stopping crimes every day, and many of us are wondering why.”

“I think it says something profoundly sad about your species that you have toask that question,” said Superman. “Helping people is its own reward. If youwere given the same power, wouldn’t you do the same? Wouldn’t you put outfires and stop muggings?”

“But you do it for free,” said Lois. “You don’t ask for anything in return,and half the time don’t even stick around long enough for people to thank you.Most of us might stop crimes, but we might ask for a little money from it, orat least get official police sanction. They’re calling you a vigilante.”

“I’ve looked over your law books,” said Superman. “I’m acting within my rightsas a resident alien. It’s important for me to have my independence from humansociety. I don’t want to disturb things too much.”

She’d let that go, and afterwards had hated herself for it. Couldn’t he seethat he was throwing a wrench into human society just by being there? Everyonefrom Washington to the Vatican was clamoring for a sit-down conversation withhim, and he was already a celebrity whether he liked it or not. He’d be in themovies, on television, and spread all through the culture of the world. Justthe news of extraterrestrial life would have caused an immense, irreversiblechange in how humans saw the world. Superman was so much more than that.

But she hadn’t properly prepared, because she’d thought that it was a joke,and so she was too out of sorts to press him on it.

“We know you can fly, and there are reports that you can stop bullets withyour chest, but what else can you do?” she’d asked.

“Would you like a demonstration?” he’d asked with a grin.

She’d nodded, and he’d swept towards her in a rush. Before she knew it, he’dhooked an arm under her legs and swept her off her feet. Seconds later theywere flying to the air, and she had her arms around his neck.

“This wasn’t in the paper,” said Luthor.

“It wasn’t important to the story,” said Lois with a dismissive wave of herhand.

In truth, her heart still raced when she thought about it, and not in the goodway. Superman had been presumptuous in touching her, and reminded her of onetoo many boyfriends who had tried to take their own liberties. Superman hadscooped her up like he had known her, like it was some grand flirtatious larkthat they were both enjoying. When they were past the roof of The Daily PlanetBuilding she had looked down for only a moment before burying her head in hisshoulder and closing her eyes tight. Lois wasn’t afraid of heights, and hadeven flown as a passenger with Amelia Earhart once, but this was different.Her life was entirely in Superman’s hands. If he’d stopped and turned her headtowards his own, had tried to kiss her, what choice would she have but to kisshim back?

She hadn’t put it in the article, both because it was a sour note and becauseshe didn’t need people implying that she and Superman were an item. She’dalready caught Clark using the phrase “Superman’s girlfriend Lois Lane” in adifferent article and she’d pitched a fit to Perry until he’d taken it out.She didn’t want to live in someone else’s shadow. None of her inner thoughtscould be revealed to Luthor of course, especially since Superman might belistening in. Lois wanted that second interview, even if she didn’t have anyparticular fondness for Superman.

She skipped ahead to when they’d landed on a beach north of Metropolis. Theflight had seemed to take an eternity, but Lois had kept her eyes closed thewhole time so it was tough to say. Superman had begun a demonstration of hispowers, and Luthor quizzed her on each of these, though she’d already includedall of that in the article. Superman could crush a rock to dust with his barehands. He was faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than alocomotive. He could see straight through walls and read newsprint from milesaway. He could hear the faintest whisper while the ocean roared around them.Luthor asked for details about all of these.

“He called it x-ray vision?” asked Luthor. “Or was that an invention of yourown to describe the phenomenon that you observed?”

“That’s what he said,” Lois replied. “I know it’s probably not how it works.”

“No,” said Luthor with a frown. “It’s not.”

After the demonstration, Superman had asked her if she wanted to return or ifshe had further questions. She had almost said that she would get a taxi, butshe wasn’t sure where she was and didn’t want to offend him. She had alreadybeen thinking about the next interview, even then. He’d scooped her up andflown her back to the top of the building, and she’d tucked her face into thecrook of his shoulder to protect herself from the wind and so that shewouldn’t have to be sick from the view below. She felt him lean his headtowards her, pressing his cheek against her hair, but he hadn’t tried to kissher.

She’d thought about that often afterwards. Superman was untouchable. If he’dwanted to act against her, there was nothing that would stop him, and noretribution that could be enacted against him. Lois had been trained by herfather in hand-to-hand combat and carried a pistol nearly everywhere she went,but both would be useless against the Man of Steel. It was frightening simplyon the face of it, to know that you were completely at the mercy of anotherperson. It was worse knowing that he could watch everything that you did andhear everything that you said. The whole thing was hopelessly complicated ofcourse. Superman was attractive, there was no questioning that, and he was themost perfectly good and selfless man in the whole damned city, but there wasan extreme imbalance of power between the two of them and questions of what itwould mean for her career. She didn’t even know whether she liked him, thoughshe suspected that she didn’t.

Luthor was staring at her, and she realized she hadn’t said anything for awhile.

“Wait right here,” she’d said when they got back. Her legs were shaky on theroof, but if Superman noticed he didn’t seem to take it as anything more thanthe effects of the flight. “I need a picture or no one will ever believe me.”She’d rushed downstairs and grabbed Jimmy Olsen, the first photographer she’dseen. She’d half expected Superman to be gone when she came back up to theroof, but he was still standing there, looking out over the city. It had takenJimmy three tries to get the photograph that ran on the front page and in allthe extra editions, since he was nearly as out of sorts as she was. And afterthat, Superman had shook their hands and flown away. Lois had typed the storyup right away, not wanting to risk someone else getting the jump on her sinceshe stupidly hadn’t confirmed that the interview was an exclusive. She’d leftthe article on her desk for three hours along with a note to Superman askinghis blessing on the article even though that wasn’t strictly necessary and shehad no idea whether he would even spare her a glance. He hadn’t stopped by tomake any comments, and she hadn’t spoken to him since.

“And that was it?” asked Luthor. His eyes were cold and piercing, the earlierwarmth forgotten. He had listened intently the entire time, drilling down intothe details of the interview, the minutiae that surely didn’t have any bearingon anything. He seemed to remember himself, and the veil of friendly concernlifted back into place.

“That was it,” said Lois. “You’ll keep your end of the bargain?”

“Of course,” said Luthor. “I’m a man of my word. And if you do get that secondinterview, I’d be very interested in talking to you about it. In fact, I havea few questions I’d like to suggest, if you don’t mind …”

Lex wrote down his findings in a notebook. The language he used was of his owndevising, one that he’d invented a decade ago specifically so that he couldwrite down what he was thinking without the risk of anyone reading it. Thebook that defined the grammar and vocabulary had been burned in a fireplaceshortly after he’d felt confident that he knew it all. Lex was reasonablycertain that Superman didn’t have a universal translator of some sort - he’dheard a few reports from the immigrant neighborhoods of Superman havingdifficulty communicating. It could be a feigned weakness, but Lex thought theodds were that it wasn’t.

Superman had access to a typewriter. He either had money to buy a card or hestole one. If Lex could get his hands on the card itself, he might be able todivine something about the typewriter that had been used to make the letters,some pattern of offset keys that would give some clue to its origins. Mostlikely it was a dead end, and the typewriter would prove to be Miss Lane’sown, but it was something to look into. Furthermore, it might be possible tolift fingerprints from the note itself. If not, Lex would look into gettingsome from the crime scenes. He wasn’t sure what use that would be, but itnever hurt to get more data.

There were a number of points of curiosity in the story as it had been relayedto him. The first was the distance. Superman had said that Krypton wasmillions of miles away, but it had to be trillions at the least. A hundredmillion miles would get you to the Sun but not much further. It was either arevealing mistake or a simplification that the alien had used for a non-technical audience. Second, he had called his vision x-ray vision, which wasplainly false. X-ray photography worked by placing an object between thesource of the x-rays and the x-ray film. If Superman could actually see on thex-ray spectrum, everything would be too dim, and wouldn’t have much of anadvantage over visible light. If his eyes were emitting x-rays, they’d have tooutput an enormous amount that would have to be reflected back mostly bychance, and if that were the case he’d likely be killing people simply bylooking at them. It was possible that the term “x-ray” was anothercolloquialism, but to Lex it suggested that Superman didn’t know how hispowers worked.

There was no easy way to know how much if any of Superman’s story was true. Acivilization capable of interstellar travel being destroyed so utterly thatthere was only a lone, ignorant survivor, who somehow made it acrossunimaginably vast distances to land on a planet filled with people who lookedexactly identical to him? Some part of it had to be a lie. Lex could think ofa hundred ways in which the story would start to make sense. If Superman’srace had the technology to travel between stars, then perhaps they had theability to alter their form at will, and the perfectly chiseled features ofSuperman were merely a mask laid over something tentacled and many-limbed.Superman could be an exile or a narcissist who had chosen to leave of his ownvolition or been forced out by his peers or elders. Lex could think of athousand variations on the story that would make it more plausible, but it wasan exercise in futility. None of it could be trusted in the first place. Lexwas reasonably certain that Superman was an extraterrestrial, because for himto be a product of human ingenuity would require a vast network of scientistsand engineers operating in secret and working toward some unfathomable goal.It was even less plausible than the entire Krypton race being at once capableof sending a ship to Earth and being utterly wiped out in a single planetaryevent.

In the face of such uncertainty, lesser men might have simply given up. LexLuthor believed that very few problems were unsolvable if you put your mind toit. Examinations of the evidence that Superman left behind could only go sofar though. It was time to escalate.

Author’s Note: This is a “bonus” chapter - I’m still planning to update onSunday, I just didn’t want to have too long a chapter and this stuff wasrelatively easy to finish up and post now. As always, I appreciatecorrections/feedback/reviews.

Lois Lane getting hired as a teenager because of an anonymous letter to theeditor is a detail pulled from the life of Nellie Bly, a female reporter ofroughly the same era (who Golden Age Lois was based on).

Subscribe to the weekly digest of our best stories!

Login to leave a comment.
Success! Thank you for subscribing!