A/N: Thanks to the face-palming pain that the Nu52 provided, I have decided to smash existing canon and re-assemble it into something else that maybe resembles a classic take. So yes, this is an origin story for Superman cobbled together out of headcanons, cherry-picked bits of canon from across media appearances, and stuff I made up off the top of my head, not adhering to any single one canon but existing in one entirely its own.

Basically... LOL fuck known canon.

If you're a diehard fan of Nu52!Superman and especially if you stan hard for the Clark/Diana pairing, this may not be for you.

I ship Clark/Lois like FedEx. If that is not your jam, don't hate-read and then complain about it.

Also found on my tumblr page.

Without further delay, I humbly present chapter one of Shatterpoint: Crucible.

The City of Straight Lines

Metropolis was a city of clean straight lines, shining skyscrapers of steel and glass, and of innovation and forward-thinking. Robust, lively and always pushing into the next tomorrow like there was no yesterday, the Midwestern city was unparalleled in many ways. It was a city that had few equals.

And there were highly-motivated individuals who were extremely driven to keep it that way.

At the heart of the Metropolis was the Daily Planet; the primary news outlet for the entire city. It encompassed radio, television, newspaper, and internet spread over a sixty floor building made distinct by the slowly rotating sphere at the top of the tower. The Daily Planet was known for its unfailing honesty in all forms of news and its hard-hitting reporters who always seemed to know the right questions to ask.

One of those reporters, Lois Lane, was the rising star at the Daily Planet. Fresh out of the starting gate, she had swept up a coveted Pulitzer for her stunning editorial, "Metropolis, the City of Tomorrow". It had showcased exactly what had made Metropolis the unparalleled city that it was. Beautifully crafted sentences had described the city's history, its good side and its bad side, and everything in between. It seemed that every word had been carefully selected. It flowed, flawless and perfect in all the right ways. No one except Lois and the Daily Planet's editor-in-chief knew that the editorial had gone through four complete re-writes and numerous edits before the finished product had made it to the printers.

At the end of the day, there was no denying that Lois had earned that Pulitzer. It was considered quite a feat, for a young reporter who had been minted less than a year earlier.

But her critics and naysayers claimed that the Daily Planet's rising star was going to be falling back to earth by the end of next spring. No one could maintain the pace that Lois Lane had initially started with. She had peaked too soon; reached her limit. There was nowhere higher for her to go.

The primary detractor was the Metropolis Star, which was known for printing just about anything as long as the spelling was adequate and the story coherent. It was also known as the "Atrocity Star", the "Shot-Down Star", and the "Catastrophic Failure" in the privacy of the Planet's newsroom. They were sure that the Star had similar derogatory names for them as well.

The Star and the Planet had been rivals practically from day one. The Planet was the longest operating newspaper in the city. It had celebrated its one hundred and eightieth birthday this past year. The Star had only come around in the mid-seventies and had aspired to muscle out the paper and take over as the premiere news outlet; an endeavor in which they failed.

The rivalry had pushed into high gear in recent years when David Warfield, the current publisher for the Star had tried to buy the Planet out from underneath its then owner. When Morgan Edge had out-bid him, Warfield had turned his displeasure on Perry White for reasons most people were sure was rooted in racism, for Perry White was as black as could be.

The Star's article on Lois didn't help matters between the two news outlets. Lacy Warfield had written a slanderiffic article on Lois that had stopped just short of libel and it had only gotten published because Daddy was the boss. Any respectable publisher wouldn't have allowed such a biased piece of work to make it into the paper, but again, the Star would print just about anything. The insults and implications were thinly veiled, the narrative dripping with venom, and Lois's name had been deliberately misspelled approximately eight times throughout the article. But it had been the spark that had gotten the critics talking.

Miss Warfield's newest slanderiffic article postulated that Lois had not actually written the Pulitzer-winning editorial but instead had only taken the credit for it, and attempted to present substantiated evidence of that very fact.

"It's a bunch of bullshit!" Lois snarled, tearing the page down the middle. "I still have everything on my hard-drive! I can prove up, down and sideways that I wrote that editorial! I poured my blood, tears and soul into that!"

She wadded up the rest of the Metropolis Star and tried to shred it with her bare hands, but it only twisted and crumpled under the assault. Giving up on trying to tear it in half, she slammed it into the waste-bin and stomped it down.

Across from her, the senior political correspondent, Winslow Osborne, raised an eyebrow.

"What kind of blood did you pour into it, your menstrual blood?" he commented. "You're full of a lot of rage right now, Miss Lane. You need to cool off or you'll get stress-wrinkles."

Annoyed anger snapped in Lois's chest.

"Don't tell me how I should be feeling, Osborne." she ordered, the snarl returning ten-fold to her tone. "And I don't give a fuck about stress-wrinkles!"

"You're going to grow into an old maid." Winslow said, calmly turning the pages of the paper he was reading. He was reclined at his desk, three days ahead on his work-load. "You really shouldn't be wasting your time in a job like this. Go find a nice young man and settle down."

Winslow was an older man in his late fifties who couldn't shake the mindset that women didn't belong in the work place. He was casually sexist and didn't even realize it. It was the way his personality had formed and nothing had happened to change it. He believed, without any shameless sneering or vitriol, that a young woman of Lois's age really oughta have been married by now with one child and another one on the way. Take up the role of passive housewife and let her husband bring home the bacon.

But Lois Lane had known for years that being a passive housewife wasn't going to happen. She was bullheaded and passionate and too focused on her career to bother with things like dating eligible men.

"Keep your sexist opinions to yourself, Osborne. I do what I want and right now, I want to be pissed." the twenty-four year old woman declared, fists clenched. She also wanted to storm the Daily Star's office and tear Lacy Warfield's hair out, bounce her head off the wall, and drown her in the water cooler, but following through would get her arrested. All Lois could do was sit there and stew in ineffectual rage at the bitch's article.

Later, when the anger had boiled down to a simmer, she would probably write up some scathing, ripping commentary and post it on the internet. She was perfectly entitled to defend herself.

"The Star has a nice point." Winslow said, apparently not put off by the way his younger colleague was steaming like a kettle. "A Pulitzer prize? That's a holy grail in this business. There are reporters who work for years towards one, but they never get the pay-off."

Lois canted an eyebrow. "Like you?"

"But the downside is that winning a Pulitzer means that you're at the end of your career. You've peaked. You've done your very best and you'll never do that well again. You've reached the top and there's nowhere to go but down." Winslow went on in a horribly self-assured way.

"You're trying to make yourself feel better." Lois commented. She wasn't blind. She had seen the way the political correspondent had reacted when Perry had announced the news. Winslow had bleached to a deathly shade of pale before turning an equally deathly shade of crimson. It was no secret around the newsroom that he had been angling for a Pulitzer for a decade and a half now.

And when Lois Lane, then twenty-three years old and a junior reporter with a mere associate's degree in journalism who had no business winning such prestigious awards, had bagged one despite her relative inexperience, Winslow had been damn near apoplectic.

The editorial had meant to test her mettle, to see if she really had the chops to tackle the work of being an investigative reporter on the city desk. A trial by fire. Getting tossed off the deep end from the get-go to see if she would sink or swim.

It had not been intended to galvanize her career.

Lois had done what much of the Daily Planet thought was impossible for a young reporter.

"I'm stating the utmost truth, Miss Lane." Winslow said. "You've done all you can and now it's time for you to back off and give the spotlight back to the hardworking men."

How he could say that with a straight face Lois had no idea.

"Delusion doesn't suit you, Osborne." Lois drew herself up fully in her chair. "If your dream is to see me fall from grace, then you'd better get yourself a new dream. Believe me, I'm not going anywhere. That Pulitzer was just the start. There'll be a second one coming in just a few years, you'll see. I'll be a top-paid and highly-respected investigative journalist long before you're shitting on yourself in the nursing home."

Winslow straightened the pages. "You're cute, Miss Lane." he said. "Gonna make a lucky man real happy one day."

Lois couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic. Rolling her eyes (because everything he said was ridiculous), she spun her chair around to face her computer and tried to ignore the pinprick of doubt that niggled at her.

Winslow had a way of making you believe what he was saying. Most of the women around here saw right through him, but there were the naive few who weren't so sure of themselves and the career they wanted to pursue. In the roughly two years or so Lois had been at the Planet, while she had worked her way up from copy girl to reporter, the sexist prick had talked two of her female colleagues into quitting on the grounds that marriage and children were more fulfilling paths.

It was worth noting that both of them had come back about a week later after realizing that they needed jobs to survive and Perry had given them back their positions, knowing full well that Winslow had that way about him.

"If only he used his superpower for good..." the editor-in-chief had lamented.

Lois concurred. What use was it having the ability to charm and manipulate people like they were play-doh if the only thing you used it for was to talk people into quitting their jobs because you were a sexist, half-misogynistic ass-hat?

Why not use it to get people to tell the truth for a change?

Imagine the stories!


As if thinking about the editor-in-chief had summoned him, Perry had opened his door to bellow across the newsroom. He usually had to shout to make himself heard.

"Lane! Get in here!" he ordered.

"Now you're in trouble." Winslow whispered.

"I'm going to make you eat that paper." Lois threatened as she stood up.

The newsroom was crowded, noisy and bustling. Phones rang and the televisions were on constantly, streaming in several news outlets from around the nation. Some people listened to music as they worked and others darted back and forth between desks and filing cabinets, and the mail jockeys clogged up the aisles a lot more often than they should have. Crossing the newsroom through the middle was always an exercise in patience; no one ever got out of the way quite when they should have. As always, there was the ever-present click-clack of keyboards and the buzz of the printers.

Lois was an expert at navigating the chaos, if only because the location of her desk had forced her to get good really fast. She slipped her way out to the side and walked over to the open door of the editor-in-chief's office.

"You bellowed, Chief?" Lois asked mildly, poking her head through the open doorway.

"Don't call me 'Chief'." Perry replied automatically. "Come in and sit down, Lois."

Lois closed the door behind her, shutting out the noise. The sudden drop was both stifling and calming in equal measures.

Perry White had run the newspaper portion of the Daily Planet for the better part of thirty years. He was probably in his late fifties. It was hard to determine his age at a glance and it was even harder to determine who knew his age. He veered between angry bastard who projected a field of "Don't breathe at me" ten feet in every direction and to being the most friendly, cuddliest teddy bear in the room.

It depended on how much he liked you.

Lining his office walls were awards for stellar journalism, framed front pages from pivotal moments of history like the start of wars and the deaths of very prominent presidents, and several black and white publicity photos of Elvis Presley, three of which were autographed.

"What's goin' on, Chief?" Lois asked, dropping into one of the chairs in front of the desk. "Is it Luthor? Tell me it's Luthor. Tell me he got involved in a big juicy scandal cover-up sort of thing."

"Not to my knowledge." Perry told her with a sigh. He had a gruff voice worn ragged by years of shouting and the southern accent of an antebellum gentleman. "I wanted to talk to you about your latest article, Lois. It just-- wasn't up to your usual standard."

A pit sunk into Lois's stomach. Not this, not now. It was bad enough the Warfield wench was running slanderiffic articles on her and trying to tear her down with power of the press, but now one of her biggest supporters who had seen her through everything since the beginning was starting to have doubts?

What was the world coming to?

"The editorial you did on Metropolis. It was brilliant. The spirit of some great reporter must have possessed you to write that. You earned that Pulitzer, no doubt about that. It was a beautiful, inspired piece of writing. I had tears, Lois. Actual tears coming out these eyes." Perry pointed to his eyes for emphasis. "I don't find many pieces that can make me cry with joy."

He did find an awful lot of articles that did make him cry in horror and shame. In shock that anyone fancying themselves a reporter could be so terrible at stringing two words together. Screaming gin and ignorance, that's what he saw a lot of.

"But all of your articles since haven't had the same spice, the same punch. They lack the vim and vinegar that I associate with your writing. I'm worried you're losing your touch."

"Maybe if you'd stop comparing all of my articles to my magnum opus, you wouldn't have that problem." Lois pointed out testily. Though such an achievement that it was to win a Pulitzer so early in her career, she simply hadn't had the time to build up a robust portfolio of respectable articles. There was no acceptable baseline to compare to.

Privately, however, she admitted to herself that the words just weren't coming as easily as they used to.

But she was NOT going to say that out loud. She was not going to add fuel to a fire she didn't even want burning.

"I'm just worried. I don't want to see one of my ace reporters losing it this early in her career." Perry said. He was fond of Lois's articles. Every time one of them was on the front page, sales went up six percent.

"I'm not losing it." Lois said stubbornly.

"You've lost a spark. You've lost a something." Perry said. He wasn't going to bow to this; he was certain the ace reporter was lacking something in the wake of the Pulitzer. "That's why I'm partnering you up with the new guy."

Lois sat up like a shot.


Her voice rose in pitch until it cracked and Perry winced when the sound echoed inside the office.

"It's just for a couple of weeks--" he started to say.

"You're making me babysit a rookie?!" Lois demanded, standing up. She wasn't very tall or very broad in the shoulders, and the heels she wore added only an extra two inches. But right then and there, she seemed to tower over the editor-in-chief.

"It's not babysitting. It's more of a mentoring." Perry corrected, fighting the urge to cower away. "He's got a lot of raw potential, but he needs breaking in. And I want you to let him shadow you. Let him get the lay of the land. You're the best and I want him to learn from the best."

Lois crossed her arms. "I hope you're replacing me with someone handsome." she griped.

Perry almost rolled his eyes. He was too old to indulge in the gesture. "I'm not replacing you, Lois." he said, raising his hand above her eye level to make a 'come here' gesture. "As for handsome... well, suppose that's your opinion."

The door clicked open and the noise of the newsroom briefly overwhelmed the silence. Lois turned around and her stomach gave a little jolt of pleasure and surprise. She had to battle down the urge to wolf-whistle. The new guy was a fine-looking hunk of man. A few inches over six feet tall, he had a strong square jaw, overgrown black hair that was neatly gelled down and navy blue eyes. He was classically handsome like Gregory Peck or a young Marlon Brando. He wore the dark blue suit very well, looking articulate and cultured in a way men these days failed to pull off with any sort of class.

The unfortunate thing was the black, thick-rimmed glasses, the knobbly lump in his appallingly tacky excuse for a tie, and the hunched posture that curved his shoulders inwards.


"Hello tall, dark, and handsome. What cloud in heaven did you fall off of?" Lois wondered, appreciatively eyeing the new guy up and down. Oh, if there wasn't some muscle formation under those clothes, she was going to cry.

"Excuse me?" the new guy sputtered, jaw falling open in surprise.

And he blushed so cutely too; a pinkish tinge spreading across his cheeks like spilled wine.

"Oh, I said that out loud." Lois realized. She didn't feel the slightest tinge of shame for it, because look at those white perfect teeth! One big smile and he could blind the nation, she was sure of that already.

Perry put himself between them to do introductions.

"Lois, this is Clark Kent. I want him to shadow you, because it's like I told you. He's got a lot of raw potential. He has a snappy, punchy prose style. He is the fastest typist I have ever seen. And he knows how to treat his editor-in-chief with the proper respect." he said proudly, like he was personally responsible for Clark Kent having these qualities. "In my thirty years in this business, that is the most important quality to have."

"Thank you, Mr. White." Clark said, shifting a leather satchel in front of him and the pink blush filtered back into his cheeks.

"Please, Kent. Call me 'Perry'." the editor instructed in the most kindly, fatherly tone Lois had ever heard him use.

Well, new guy seemed to have hit all the right notes with Perry. She thought, this time looking him up and down more critically. Impressing Perry White on the first try was a difficult thing to accomplish. As Lois understood it, it usually took up to four trial articles before Perry could be colored impressed.

"Lois, I want you to mentor him." Perry repeated, turning back to Lois even as he put an arm around the new guy's shoulders (he had to reach for it a little). "He was a good reporter when I first met him, but now--"

"Wait, you two have met?" Lois interrupted.

"'Course we have. It was a while back, though. I liked what I saw, so I offered him a job here at the Planet. Told him to take me up on it whenever he felt inclined." Perry explained, nodding.

Lois made a noncommittal noise. No wonder the hot new guy was getting hired on the spot. Perry had already gotten a good look at what he could do and had decided that offering him a job was the best thing to do.

"Now Kent, this is Lois Lane. She one of the best investigative reporters I've seen pass through these walls." Perry went on with an equal amount of pride. "If I had to pick one person who cares about every story that crosses her desk, it would be Lois. She's in it for the thrill of the chase."

"I'm sure there's a lot I can learn from her." Clark replied with a smile that was as nice and pleasant as Lois had hoped it would be. "It's nice to meet you, Ms. Lane."

His voice caught Lois off guard. She had expected a tone of smooth sophistication; a cultured timbre that had spent years percolating in ivy league universities and long lectures on philosophy and current events. Instead, he sounded fresh off the farm; his long lazy syllables a marked difference from the precise clip of the city-slickers. Like he was a hayseed that had blown into Metropolis by mistake.

"Nice to meet you too." Lois said. Just because the boy was a wayward hayseed was no reason to forgo politeness and manners. She took the hand he offered, now half-expecting to get a dead-fish, limp-wristed excuse for a handshake, but he surprised her again with a strong, firm grip.

"Where are you from?" she asked. "Not from around here, that's for sure."

"A town called Smallville." Clark replied.

"Smallville? Who names a place 'Smallville'? Was Bigville already taken?" Lois wondered teasingly.

"Actually, no. It was named after the town founder, Ezra Small. Or-- he named it after himself." Clark corrected with such an earnest expression that made her think he hadn't realized she'd just been teasing.

"Well, where is Smallville?"

"Have you ever been to Kansas?"

"God no." Lois recoiled in horror. There was nothing in Kansas. Kansas was flyover country. Nothing worth stopping for in that flat-ass excuse for a state. It wasn't on her list of places to visit. She had lived in Metropolis for so long already that she couldn't imagine leaving the beat of the city for the middle of nowhere.

Then Clark's face fell with a kind of humiliated disappointment, his brows drawing together and his mouth turning down into an ashamed sort of frown. Lois felt like she had kicked a puppy while it was already down.

"Would you excuse me a minute?" she requested sweetly. Then she turned to Perry and dragged him aside to the far corner of the office to talk privately.

"Perry, I can't babysit the hayseed. I don't have the time. I've got a story over on the west side to look into and a reputation to salvage. He's just going to slow me down." she explained in a hissing whisper.

"Take him with you. Get some lunch, get to know him." Perry urged. It was more of a command than a request. "You might be surprised. He's a good kid. I've worked with him."

"I don't work well with other people!" Lois reminded him. "Remember Brewster? And Ellicot? I've been through three photographers in the last few months alone. And Danny, now? If he doesn't clear out in the next few weeks, I will buy him a fruit basket!"

"Maybe if you stopped scaring them off..."

"Why do you keep assigning me to work with people?"

"I'm sorry, Lois, I didn't know you wanted to work with a robot." Perry said in a distinct sassing tone. "I assign you to work with people because you do all these dangerous things to get the story-- Don't get me wrong; I like your drive, Lois. I do. You've blown open cases for the police." he added, to assure her that he wasn't reprimanding her. "But I'm worried you're going to step into some deep poo one day and it'll suck you under."

"So you're assigning me a bodyguard?" Lois asked, a little insulted that Perry didn't think she could take care of herself. Military brat with over ten years of self-defense lessons under her knuckles; she could sure as shit handle herself.

"He's a reporter too." Perry pointed out. "Kent's a big guy. Maybe not the most intimidating, but people don't often mess with the big guys. Lois," The editor-in-chief took her by the shoulders. "I'm not stupid. I know exactly where you're going this afternoon and I'd rather you not go in alone."

"But he won't be able to keep up." she protested.

"Kent is more than a match for you. Trust me. He'll keep up."

Lois was not convinced. So far, no one had been able to keep up with her. Brewster had called her too intimidating and her methods too stressful. Ellicot had said she was just a little too enthusiastic -- which was the polite way of saying Ellicot thought she was fucking insane. And Danny had a habit of ducking under his desk if he saw her coming. The fact that he had hung on for a month already was impressive, but he probably wouldn't stick it out to the end of this month. No one was willing to follow her into the breach.

She glanced over her shoulder at Clark Kent. He was staring with deliberate interest at some of the awards that Perry had won for journalism, clearly pretending that he couldn't hear them hissing at each other on the other side of the office. She couldn't see what made Kent different from Ellicot or Brewster or even squirrely Danny. If anything, he was comparatively worse, being brand-new in the field. He had no experience, no rapport with the readers. He was a complete and utter unknown in the field of journalism. Lois had nothing to work off of.

"Lois--" Perry prompted.

"Okay, okay!" Lois gave in, waving her hands to cut him off. "But it's just for a few days. If he falls behind, I'm cutting him loose and then he can sink or swim without me."

The editor-in-chief raised his hands in compliancy. If a few days was all he was going to get out of her, then he would take it. A few days would be time enough for her to see the reporter that Kent was.

He shooed them out of the office.

"Nothing against you, Smallville, but even as a kid, I never liked babysitting." Lois grumbled as they walked back into the newsroom. "You wanna keep up with me, you gotta be quick. I don't slow down and I don't hold hands."

"You'll find that I'm faster than I look." Clark informed her. He was doing a pretty good job keep up with her in the busy crush of the desks.

"Hope that's with your head and not your feet." Lois said. It came out like a sneering retort and she cringed internally. She didn't want to see that kicked-puppy look again. "And let's get something straight. I did not work my ass off for a Pulitzer just to babysit some rube from nowheresville. And one other thing. You're not working with me, you're working for me. I call the shots, I ask the questions. You are low man, I am top banana. Got it?"

"Absolutely." Clark nodded, looking every inch compliant. "You like to be on top."

"That--" Lois started to reply, but then it sunk in. The innuendo... Had he said that deliberately? Did the hayseed have a little bit of sass underneath that weirdly polished exterior that must also be hiding a corn farmer?

There might be some promise for him. She mused.

"That's right." she said confidently. Then she turned and shouted across the newsroom: "Danny! Where are those photos I asked for yesterday?! Get them on my desk before I go home!"

Satisfied when she saw the photographer lurch into action, she made the last push to her desk and retrieved her purse. It always held a reporter's essentials; her brand-new smartphone the WayneTech Pearl G2 (those things were marvelous), a notebook, at least a dozen pens at any given time, and her own camera because you never knew when a photo op was going to strike.

For Clark, the newsroom was almost claustrophobically active. He had been to the big cities before- he had been halfway around the world, in fact - so he was more used to the large crowds than one might expect a Kansas farm boy to be. But there was something very tight and confining about the newsroom that had him stumbling around everyone's feet. He couldn't figure out how Lois had managed to get through it so smoothly and easily.

A wheeled cart jutted out in front of him and Clark, looking over his shoulder, didn't see it until he was falling over it. He had to let himself fall and hope that the cart wasn't smashed in by the time he got back up. On the way down, he knocked over an in-tray piled high with papers, someone with a coffee mug and the mail-jockey's cart. Papers went up in a cloud around him as he hit the floor.


"Watch it, ya klutz!"

Lois turned her head in time to see Clark picking himself up off the floor. He looked up at her and tilted his head in a sheepish kind of way, accompanied by a tiny, slightly shamed smile.

"Head on a swivel around here, Smallville." she advised, putting out a hand to help him up. "It changes in a heartbeat and you need to be ready for it."

"Sorry." Clark said, both to her and the surrounding crowd. "Not used to being around so many people."

"Time to get used to it. This isn't your little high school newspaper crammed in a janitor's closet. You're in the big leagues now." Lois told him.

"I'll try to be more careful." Clark promised. The coffee mug, fortunately, had only been a little full and all of it had missed anything important. A few swipes with a towel would clean things up.

Getting back out was much easier, Lois noticed. Apparently not wanting to risk a larger mess, the other employees found that they actually had a spare second to step slightly aside and allow them a little more room in which to maneuver. It made her smile. If Smallville could make a crowd part like this, then it just might be worth keeping him around.

"I read your editorial, 'Metropolis, the City of Tomorrow'." Clark said, trying to make conversation.

"What did you think of it?" Lois asked, hoping the kid had good taste. He wasn't half bad already and she was starting to see a bit more than an uncultured hayseed about him.

"It was a stand-out. I would have been more surprised if it hadn't gotten recognition." Clark admitted. He wasn't sure if he should tell her just how much it had inspired him towards being an investigative reporter. He had gone to college with that career in mind, knowing that he would have a job waiting in the wings if he chose to take it, but the editorial had solidified his decision.

"It was a bit harsh on Lex Luthor, though."

Lois canted an eyebrow. "Harsh? That wasn't harsh. If anything, that was gentle. That was the truth." she said. "You haven't been here long enough to see what Luthor's capable of."

Clark blinked. "What do you mean?"

"Let me tell you something about Lex Luthor, Smallville. He's a mad scientist of Frankenstein calibre wrapped up in smooth sophistication of a cold, heartless machine of a businessman asexually reproduced from a long line of evil bald men trying to rule the world through technological advancements and hair replacement formulas. He's rich, he's powerful, and he owns half of Metropolis. His name is considered a natural disaster for the effect it has on people. And he's rotten to the core. He papers himself in money, but you can't hide the stench of moral decay."

Lois reached the block of elevators first and pressed the call button.

"The only problem is, no one believes that. He's got good lawyers who can argue away the origin of a coffee stain while he donates some money to orphans." she grumbled.

Clark shook his head. "I'm afraid I don't see it." he admitted. "Smallville was leveled by a tornado around my first birthday. If it hadn't been LuthorCorp-- and Wayne Enterprises too, the town probably wouldn't have recovered inside of a year."

Lois peered thoughtfully at him. "How old are you, twenty-two or so?"

"Twenty-three. Twenty-four next February." Clark answered.

"Okay, see, Lex Luthor didn't take over the company until four years ago. The man in charge back then was Lionel Luthor." Lois explained. "Now while the apple didn't fall far from the tree, Lionel Luthor actually had some scruples. Lex Luthor, on the other hand, is the very definition of dirty businessman with no sense of morals or integrity."

"But he has a good reputation." Clark pointed out, wondering if Luthor was really as bad as she was implying. Metropolis and Smallville were nine hundred miles apart, give or take a dozen. Whatever Luthor did up here didn't have consequences that reached far enough to effect the small farming community and its LexCorp fertilizer plant. The two were practically worlds apart.

"Only on the surface! That's his camouflage!" Lois said. "I plan to have Luthor exposed for the fraud he is and singing the Stryker Island blues by this time next year!"

Clark nodded. "I suppose that makes you his worst critic." he commented. He could almost smell the determination bleeding off her.

"Muckraker. I'm a muckraker." Lois corrected proudly, pushing the call button again. "But I'm not just any muckraker. I am the muckraker. I'm the muckiest rake that rakes up all the muck that's fit to rake. Got it, Smallville?"

The elevator arrived with a ding.

Clark sighed and nodded. "Right. Top banana."

Lois snapped her fingers. "And don't you forget it."

And she sashayed into the elevator.