Summary: Lex gets a "friendly" warning about staying on the straight and
Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their
Rating: PG-13, for themes.
Time Frame: About two weeks after the end of "A Better World." (spoilers)
Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (email@example.com) to let me
know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see
what else you've got.
Lex Luthor smiled as he walked out of the ground floor of the skyscraper
and along the busy Metropolis street. It had been a busy two weeks since
he was pardoned and released from prison: he had checked on all of the
assets which had been frozen, and found they were more or less intact,
including his controlling interest in LexCorp, which Mercy had meekly
signed back over to him as a preemptive attempt to forestall any revenge on
his part. He had smiled and reassured her that he had been pleased with
her performance as CEO--certain personal issues aside--and would have no
problem with her continuing in that position indefinitely. * Or until I'm
bored and want some entertainment--and revenge is most definitely a dish
best served cold * He had set up shop in the Presidential Suite at the
Excelsior Hotel--the quality of service was excellent, and the security
first-rate, allowing him to plan for the future in safety and comfort.
Lex entered his suite at about eight PM, and quickly changed into more
casual clothing. His two bodyguards were waiting just outside his door,
ready for any trouble, but Lex thought it would be a quiet evening--he
would just go over some paperwork before watching the evening news and
eating a nice dinner--
"Hello, Lex. Enjoying your freedom?"
Lex prided himself on his ability to weather sudden shocks, but he was
completely unable to stop from flinching as he heard the familiar voice.
He remembered all too well being awakened by it in his mansion bedroom, and
the sight of Mercy being knocked cold by a single no-look punch. He took a
deep breath, turned around, and saw Batman standing there with a smirk on
his face. He glared at the intruder and snapped, "Hotel security really
isn't what it used to be."
"Don't be too hard on them," replied Batman, pulling up a chair and sitting
across from Lex. "It took me half an hour to come up with an effective way
to get in here without being detected. Way better than average. If you've
got some extra investment capital, I'd recommend putting it in whoever
their security vendor is--they're going places."
"I'll keep that in mind," Lex replied as he shook his head in irritation.
Batman remained impassive, and Lex scowled and demanded, "Why are you in
here? I've received a full pardon, and I haven't done a single damned
illegal thing since I've left."
"I wanted to show you something, Lex--and I thought that you might want to
keep the fact that I'd met with you secret from the general public. People
might come to the wrong conclusions." Batman spoke calmly, and Luthor
raised an eyebrow. Batman noted the reaction and added calmly, "And I know
you've been a good boy so far--that's why I'm asking rather than telling
you, and why I'm giving you the option of doing it quietly. Your call."
Lex looked at Batman suspiciously, and considered the proposal. * He could
have made a spectacle of things tonight if he can pierce hotel security so
easily--he must have really wanted to show me something: what could it be?
* He frowned, then looked at Batman. "Where do you want to meet?"
"The alley between the hotel and the jewelry store: ten minutes." Batman
replied, and Lex turned to reach for his wallet. When he turned back
around, Batman was gone.
Lex sighed, and went to tell his security guards that he'd be going out for
a little bit on his own, and not to follow. They grumbled, but complied.
Lex threw on a coat over his casual clothes and went downstairs, out the
revolving door, and over to the alley. Batman wasn't visible, but he saw
the glint of metal of a car parked down the alley, and he walked over to
see the Batmobile, sleek and dangerous-looking as it sat silently. The
bubble-top popped open and Batman said simply, "Hop in."
Lex did so, and the top closed above them, sealing them in. Lex would
ordinarily have felt claustrophobic, but the technology on display in front
of him had fully engaged his attention. "Remarkable piece of automotive
engineering you have here--don't suppose you'd like to put me in touch with
Batman smirked. "I'll pass on that." He pulled the car out of the alley,
and they drove out of the city and onto a quiet highway, with Lex waiting
impatiently as Batman serenely looked ahead. Just as he was about to
angrily demand that Batman say something, the dark figure reached out and
flipped a switch, causing a small screen to pop up in front of Lex. "Watch
The screen lit up, and what looked like the footage from a high-quality
digital surveillance camera came up on the screen. Lex noted a time-stamp
on the screen that--oddly enough--seemed to be from about two years in the
future. More interesting was the fact that the view seemed to be of the
interior of the Oval Office--and that he was standing behind the desk,
busily grabbing papers and stuffing them into a briefcase. Lex's eyes
widened. "Good Lord."
"Yes, you did quite well for yourself in the Lords' Universe, Lex--made it
all the way to the big chair." Batman spoke quietly, still looking
straight ahead, though Lex suspected that he was keeping an eye on his
passenger with his peripheral vision. Lex nodded involuntarily, not
surprised at the source of the video record, and listened as Batman added,
"Of course, you got greedy, and at this point you're trying to flee, one
step ahead of the Justice League and with the country at the verge of an
apocalyptic war. You always were fond of making messes for others to clean
Lex scowled, and watched as the door to the office was kicked off its
hinges and Superman strode in with an angry expression on his face. Batman
pressed another switch and commented, "You might want to hear this."
Lex watched and listened, and came to the conclusion that his counterpart
was a bit unhinged. * I don't sound like that! He must have gone insane
from Kryptonite exposure, or something * He smiled as the other Luthor
threatened Superman with The Button, and taunted him with his inability to
kill. * He knows the Big Blue Boy Scout pretty well. . .but, then again,
this one isn't like that, is he? *
As if in answer to Luthor's thought, the video showed Superman's eyes
glowing bright red, and the other Luthor screamed. After another second,
something happened that caused Luthor to close his eyes and which made him
very glad that he had not eaten in some time. The sound alone would have
caused more or less the same reaction.
"Simple physics--bring a substantial amount of liquid to a boil within a
sealed container. . .sooner or later, something has to give." Batman
commented, glancing over to the screen, which showed the other Luthor's
smoking corpse and the other Superman standing quietly at the window,
looking out at the Washington Monument. Batman and Wonder Woman showed up
and reacted to the spectacle, and Wonder Woman walked over to check on
Superman. The Kryptonian's answer to the Themysciran's concern chilled Lex
to the bone:
"I feel *great*!"
The screen went blank, and Lex sat in silence for several seconds before
commenting softly, "I always wondered if there was something that would
make him cross that line--now I know."
"Yes." Batman replied, looking at the road ahead and noting that Lex was
visibly pale. "My counterpart sent me that footage, along with a lot of
other information about the Lords' world that might well come in handy for
preventing what happened there." Lex was silent, and Batman continued,
"We're having this conversation because you've proven that you *can* deal
in good faith when you think it's going to benefit you, though you'll
certainly cheat if you think you'll come out ahead."
Lex shrugged. "If you say so."
"I do." Batman smirked again, and continued: "That incident was the first
and most crucial catalyst to the downfall of that world: there were others
that followed, but the willingness of Superman to cross that line without
regretting it was the start of the avalanche. Once he had fallen, the
others followed, whether reluctantly or not. He must not be allowed to go
down that road, and that mission statement leads me to you, Lex."
"Well, I certainly know not to taunt him like that--I don't really see
having my head exploded with heat vision as a viable lifestyle choice," Lex
replied, shivering slightly.
"Yes, but as the saying goes, 'All roads lead to Rome.' You've made trying
to destroy Superman a large part of your life, Lex. We knew before that he
could be brainwashed into being a threat to humanity--now we know that
simply pushing him too far can force him past the point of no return. He's
done a remarkable job of resisting Lord Acton's adage about power
corrupting--but he has limits, and you're the one I see as most likely to
push him past them." Batman's tone was grim, and he turned to look at Lex
as he concluded, "The world needs a fail-safe to protect it from what you
might cause him to do."
Lex raised an eyebrow. "Really? And what, pray tell, is that failsafe
going to be?"
Batman didn't move a muscle, but the tone of his voice caused Lex to flinch
involuntarily as he uttered a single word:
Lex took a moment to recover from the burst of irrational fear he had
experienced, and he chuckled loudly, "You? Oh, you've done a good job of
piercing my security a couple of times when I wasn't specifically trying to
keep you out, but do you really think that I couldn't come up with airtight
security against you if I wanted it?"
"Possibly--do you really want to risk it?" Batman smirked, and pressed a
couple of buttons before Lex could answer. A printed page came out of a
slot in front of Lex. "Recognize those numbers, Lex?"
Lex grabbed the paper, and read it quickly. The chill returned, redoubled.
"What in the hell--?"
"Four different hidden bank accounts, in four different nations that don't
exactly practice good financial citizenship with the rest of the world.
Total amount in those four accounts as of two days ago: fifty million
dollars." Batman replied matter-of-factly, watching Lex's reaction with a
placid expression. "If you call those banks, you will find those accounts
contain precisely one thousand dollars each--just enough to keep them
"You're lying," Lex whispered, refusing to believe. "They wouldn't--"
"Given the right combination of bribes and pressure? Like hell they
wouldn't--but there's a phone right in front of you that you're welcome to
use to confirm what I've told you." Batman said, amusement now audible in
Lex stared at the phone, and decided that he'd check when the hero wasn't
around to snicker at his discomfort. "You bastard--I'll see you ruined and
hanging from a flagpole for this!"
"Doubtful, since the very fact that you have such bank accounts could have
you back in prison for twenty years, if you are indiscreet enough to call
it to the attention of the authorities by kicking up a fuss." Batman's
voice was now a silky whisper, and it fanned Lex's rage even as his
rational mind told him that he'd better calm down. He fought down the
anger, and Batman added, "Don't worry--I didn't go on a shopping spree with
your money." He pressed another button, and a second sheet came out of the
printer. "The money is here--and here's what you need to do to claim it."
Lex took the paper and read it--the last paragraph caused his jaw to drop
and his voice to crack as he said, "You've got to be kidding."
"Oh no, Lex--to the letter. And don't try to bribe them to get around it--
they've been warned about the consequences of doing so." Batman replied,
pulling the Batmobile into the parking lot of a roadside convenience store
and turning to Lex before adding, "If you remain a solid citizen--albeit
one with a few little secrets like those bank accounts--we don't have a
problem. If you start straying, you will find that your life is getting
increasingly unpleasant in ways that will be hard to trace or prevent. If
you become a genuine threat to the human race again. . .better that I have
to try to resist Lord Acton's adage than Superman, and I don't need flashy
superpowers to end you, Lex. Let's not go there, all right?" The top
popped open on the Batmobile, and Lex noticed a battered cab parked nearby.
Batman smiled evilly. "I've covered your ride home, Lex. Enjoy."
Lex didn't wait to be told twice--he got out and entered the cab, which
immediately headed back for Metropolis, with the engine sounding as if it
would die at any moment. Lex wasn't paying attention to that particular
indignity--he was wondering how many people he would have to bribe to keep
the spectacle of having to sing "The Barney Song" in front of the occupants
of a busy Bahamian bank at mid-day in order to reclaim his money from being
the headline of every gossip rag in the civilized world.
As always, comments are welcomed and desired.