Lex Marks the Spot!
Disclaimer: I own neither DC Comics nor BtVS, thay are owned by their respective corporations.
Xander blinked a few times and looked around. He'd just been escorting children trick or treating, in the only costume he'd been able to come up with due to his limited budget. A single piece of costume jewelry, a fake bald 'wig' combined with a LED from Radio Shack, and his Sunday best had made for a passable-
"Mr. Luthor, your three o'clock is here," the intercom announced, interrupting his thoughts.
"Send him in," Xander replied before leaning back in his chair, and examining the ring on his left hand with its softly glowing green stone. He knew he should be freaking out or shocked, but for some reason he felt remarkably calm and he could see a lot of ways he could have fun with this situation before it ended.
Xander looked up and saw a familiar looking face extending a hand to shake. "Give me a moment, Mr. Kent," Xander said, pulling a lead lined box out of a desk drawer and depositing his ring in it.
Clark shook his hand, making sure to make his grip limp and weak. "If I may ask, why did you take off your ring?" He'd expected to have to suffer through nearly half an hour of Kryptonite 's weakening effects to get his interview and had counted on the fact that Luthor kept people at a distance in his spacious office to help him endure it, but now Luthor had removed his ring, which meant he might have figured out who Superman was, making this all an elaborate trap!
"Because wearing it is childish, petty, and possibly dangerous now that I think about it," Xander replied.
Clark was surprised to hear the honesty and amusement in Luthor's tone. "Could you expand on that?"
"Sure," Xander said cheerfully. "Everyone knows I just wear it to annoy Superman and he's the last person on Earth who would actually attack me physically, ironic as that is. So it's both childish and petty to keep on wearing it. Now, it also occurred to me that no long term studies have been done to the effects of Kryptonite exposure on humans, thus possibly dangerous as well."
"That- that makes a great deal of sense," Clark said, trying to hide his surprise.
Xander chuckled. "And completely out of character for me, I know. The really funny part is that Superman is only vulnerable to Kryptonite because he's just about as bad at looking at the big picture as I was."
"How so?" Clark asked intently.
"Kryptonite radiation can be stopped by lead, gold, and similar high density metals as well as specifically tuned energy fields. He could easily redesign his costume using some of the advanced technology he has access to, to either cover him in some thin exotic kryptonite radiation blocking material on exposure or generate a field to block it."
"That's... quite an idea," Clark said in shock.
"That's nothing," Xander waved it off. "He could have a hidden red sun field generator in his belt so he could flip it on, neutralizing his powers and the kryptonite's effect on him."
"But that would make him powerless," Clark pointed out.
"Far from it," Xander said, shaking his head. "It would simply reduce him to near human levels, allowing him to go hand to hand without holding back."
"I hadn't thought of that," Clark admitted.
"Superman is a good guy and by that I mean a good man not just a good guy, if you get the difference. But if there's two things I'm good at, it's making money and annoying Superheroes, so you can bet he's had to restrain himself from hitting me at times," Xander said with a grin.
"You two have had your differences," Clark admitted.
"So imagine how satisfying it would have been for Superman to get to paste one on my grill, just mano a mano," Xander said, amused at the look on Clark's face as he realized he could have done just what Lex was describing and he'd now lost the opportunity.
"Being Superman he couldn't do much more than hit you a few times and turn you over to the cops," Clark said.
Xander laughed. "I'm a trained fighter, Superman isn't nearly as skilled. I'd beat him bloody, but your average crook he could handle."
"I think you'd be surprised," Clark said, forgetting he was playing a role for a second.
"I really wouldn't," Xander said. "Sadly I know more about Superman and his skill levels than anyone but Batman, who obviously trained him. But enough about Superman, I've wasted far too much time needlessly antagonizing him in some adolescent dick waving contest that I've now outgrown. Let's start this interview on...?"
"The recent pay cut to your workers in Gotham," Clark said, pulling out a voice recorder.
"You'll have to refresh my memory on that, I'm afraid I've been dealing with oversea expenditures and have completely blanked on the details," Xander said.
Clark nodded and talked at length about Lex's Gotham holdings and how Luthor's twenty percent pay cut would affect the local neighborhoods.
Xander reached over and pushed the button for his secretary. "Mercy, get me the man I put in charge of Gotham on the line, I want to hear him justify the pay cut to Mr. Kent."
"Right away, sir," she replied.
"I thought you handled all major business decisions yourself," Clark said.
"There is only so much information one man can process and retain with any degree of accuracy, that's why I hire people to work for me and follow their advice, unless I have some reason to believe they're wrong," Xander explained.
"Craig Johnson on line two, sir," Mercy announced over the intercom. "Transferring him now."
"You wanted to talk to me, Mr. Luthor?" Johnson asked.
"Craig, I have Clark from the Daily Planet here and he wants to know how we're justifying the twenty percent cut in pay for our Gotham workers," Xander explained.
"Financial forecasts for the upcoming quarter in Gotham shows a minor recession heading our way and by cutting salaries by twenty percent we are hoping to avoid a drop in stock prices that would necessitate closing our Gotham offices," Craig explained promptly.
"Hmm," Xander said tapping his chin. "Show me the hard data on that, so I can eyeball it for a minute."
"You should already have it, sir," Johnson replied.
Xander logged onto the computer built into his desk and quickly brought up the relevant files and glanced through it. "This looks familiar."
"I've shown you the data before, sir," Johnson said nervously.
Xander chuckled. "I mean I've seen this pattern before and yes I know how financial forecasting works, but just as an experiment... let's take a look at the times when a recession did not result from these numbers and see what local businesses did at that time."
It took several minutes before they had a definite pattern that even someone who was untutored in business could see.
"It only caused recessions in one case out of twelve before 1984," Clark noted. "What happened in 1984?"
"There's no telling," Johnson admitted with a sigh. "It could be anything from the price of rice to women's skirt length."
Xander laughed suddenly. "Actually, I believe I know exactly what happened."
"Yes, sir?" Johnson asked curiously.
"Let me give you a clue and see if you get it," Xander said. "I looked up redundant in the dictionary and you know what it said?"
"What?" Clark asked.
"See redundant," Xander replied and laughed only to sigh as neither got the joke. "Recursive error."
"How so?" Clark asked.
"Financial forecasting became a big thing in the early 80's, meaning everyone is responding to the forecast itself and not the market. Forecasting a recession is causing a recession," Xander explained.
"That's awful," Clark said shaking his head.
"Not for Lexcorp it isn't," Xander said. "Increase the salary of everyone that stayed with the company, after getting their pay cut, by fifty percent," Xander ordered. "And prepare for expansion in Gotham as the forced recession takes effect. With proper management we can pick up all the business that everyone else loses, making a fortune for the company without negatively affecting the local population. In effect we will prevent a recession for anyone, but the businesses cutting their employee's salaries and selling off their holdings."
"Sir, you have a reporter with you," Johnson pointed out.
"Good point," Xander said before turning to Clark. "Clark, don't report this or you'll cause a recession."
"The public has a right to know," Clark said.
"True, however what you'll be doing is causing the disaster by warning them of it. It's morally the same as shouting fire in a crowded theater," Xander told him. He knew he really shouldn't be tweaking Superman's nose the way he was, but the memories from Luthor made it just so satisfying!
"I need to report on something," Clark said with a sigh.
"Report that we went over the numbers and you convinced us that we should be investing in Gotham," Xander said. "It's the truth."
"Reporters are supposed to report the news, not make it," Clark said.
"Miss Lane must have missed that memo," Xander joked surprising a laugh out of Clark. "Fine just report that while going over the numbers we decided pay cuts were unnecessary and we're in fact going to increase pay across the board for our loyal employees. We are also going to look into starting in-house medical care for all our employees and their families."
"That's suspiciously generous," Clark noted.
"Mr. Kent, do you know how many new materials Lexcorp employees work with each year?" Xander asked. "Materials that may prove harmful?"
"Quite a few I'd imagine," Clark replied. "But I believe rigorous testing is required to make sure they're not harmful."
"Life is not a laboratory, Mr. Kent," Xander said seriously. "On the job, things occur which no one can foresee, but a good doctor can see what is happening and prevent disasters like the one asbestos created. In this day and age an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure."
"There is some truth to that," Clark admitted.
"Some of the largest costs for families today is medical care. If medical care is covered by working for Lexcorp, not only can we avoid disasters that cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, but we can improve employee retention. There are many businesses that rely on regular employee turnover to make their money, but Lexcorp is not one of them! Skilled employees are worth far more than people think... and I sound like I'm giving a speech. Let's just say providing medical care is not only the right thing to do, it's the fiscally smart thing to do for multiple reasons."
"You've managed to make helping your employees sound selfish," Clark said shaking his head.
"No, I've simply pointed out selfish reasons to help our employees. There are lots of altruistic reasons to do so, but as a businessman I have to be able to sell it to my shareholders, and I fully intend to see it done for both reasons," Xander said, wondering why more businessmen didn't do it since it was blindingly obvious.
"I think I have enough for my story," Clark said, "though it wasn't the story I planned on writing."
"Life is not a laboratory, Mr. Kent," Xander repeated with a smirk.
"I believe I'll be quoting you on that," Clark agreed. "Good day, Mr. Luthor."
"Good day, Mr. Kent," Xander replied.
As the door shut behind him Johnson spoke up, "Sir, am I really instituting those changes or was that just for show?"
"Make it so, Mr. Johnson," Xander said. "Also start a college fund for employee dependents who want to go to med school. If they agree to an 8 year contract when they graduate, we'll cover all their education costs. The world never has enough doctors and this way we'll get them while they're still young and idealistic."
"On it, sir," Johnson replied.
"Good, Luthor out," Xander said with a grin as he hit the call end button.
"Marcy do I have any more appointments today?" he asked.
"A five o'clock at Cadmus," she replied. "Should I bring the car around?"
"Do that, but first..."
"Yes?" she asked when he trailed off in thought.
Xander thought about Superboy and began to grin. "Can you get me a sample of Bruce Wayne's DNA?" 'Let's see Kal-El ignore Superboy while he's being raised by Batman!'
Typing by: Abyssal Angel