A/N: For anyone who is still reading about Superwoman, I began this story a long while ago and it is finally near enough to done that I feel comfortable beginning to post it. It continues to follow Hudson during her first few years in Metropolis as Superwoman, taking place about a year after "Identity". This time around, she meets a fellow crimefighter: Batman. If you get a little feel of the "Justice League" mixed with the recent Batman reboot, you're not far off from my world. :) I will be posting another chapter in the next couple of days. There is also artwork:
Quintessence – The pure and concentrated essence of a substance;
the most perfect embodiment of something.
Lex poured a second glass of brandy before setting the decanter down and picking both up, fingers barely clenching the rims. He eyed his guest silently for a long moment before making his way across the airy boardroom and placing one glass down on the table before sipping at his own. The temperature in the room was a little hotter than usual; a cheap ploy to make his business associates uncomfortable, but it generally worked. Unfortunately, Bruce Wayne looked entirely content, leaning back in the black leather chair as if he might have been enjoying an evening at home, legs stretched out in front of him, slim fingers tapping lightly on the oak surface of the tabletop. He flashed Lex a gracious smile at the glass of brandy before lifting it to his lips to take a sip.
"That's what I like about visiting you, Lex," he smiled as he swirled the beverage in his glass. "Nothing but the best."
"Of course," Lex drawled, smiling thinly as he turned away, moving back down the length of the table toward the far end where fifteen foot windows looked out over the city. He kept his back to his guest as he took another sample of the brandy, contemplating his next move. "So, tell me, Bruce, other than the brandy, what brings you to Metropolis?"
He heard Bruce chuckle, and turned in mild aggravation to face him, wondering how it was this undisciplined playboy could run a company that was currently out-earning Lexcorp.
"Stopping in to see an old friend isn't reason enough?" Bruce asked, flashing an all-too charming smile that Lex recognized from years past. "Come on, Lex. It's been a while. I was curious to see what you were up to." He paused, turning his gaze to the glass beside him for a moment before asking, "It was Halloween, wasn't it? Eight years ago–that seems like ages ago. You were there with that adorable Tinyville girl–"
"Smallville," Lex corrected through clenched teeth.
Bruce smiled again as he looked up. "Smallville, right. Hudson. Hudson Kent. I hear she's a journalist now."
Lex's grasp tightened on his glass, and he had to force himself to breathe for a long moment before relaxing, even managing a smile. "Yes, she is. Divergent paths, I suppose."
"Hmmm. Sad. Thought she might have been the one to put a little chink in that Luthor armor of yours," Bruce commented before taking another sip of brandy. "From what I understand, a few of her articles have caused Lexcorp's stock to plummet." He smirked as he held up his glass. "Here's to a woman scorned, eh, Lex?"
Knowing it would not reflect much better on his stock to toss the CEO of Wayne Enterprises out the 95th floor of Lexcorp, Lex chose to ignore the remark as he set his half-empty glass down. "You were about to tell me why you requested this meeting…"
"Was I?" Bruce asked in amusement before shaking his head, chuckling. "Ah, Lex. You still aren't one for teasing, are you?"
"Not when I have a company to run, no."
Sobering at his serious tone, Bruce nodded as if in momentary agreement, and seemed to shift into business mode. "Very well, then. Enough with catching up. I'm here because Fox brought something quite interesting to my attention the other day, and I'm looking to get a little bit of clarification to it."
Lex slipped his hands into his pockets as he leaned back against the table. "And that would be?"
"Apparently, there's been some organization making quite a few rather large real estate inquiries into Gotham," Bruce began. "Fox looked into it, and it appears that the company is a subsidiary of Lexcorp." Bruce shook his head and smiled as he glanced over at Lex. "And I couldn't, for the life of me, come up with any viable reason as to why Lex Luthor would be interested in owning property in Gotham."
It was Lex's turn to be amused. He had not gone out of his way to make it particularly difficult for Bruce to learn the identity of the buyer on purpose. After all, if he had made it too hard, people might have thought he had other motivations behind the interest. By the time anyone of note figured it all out, it would be far too late for Bruce to move in and block the property buy-out.
"Some analysts predict that Gotham will soon be the next hot property on the market," Lex began explaining with a short shrug. "There's talk of it being bigger than Star City over the last decade. Just thought I'd try to get in on the ground floor beforehand."
Bruce laughed. "You don't expect me to believe that, do you? Come on, Lex. Gotham still has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. I don't see that changing any time soon. And no one wants to live someplace where you can't walk your dog for fear of both you and the dog getting mugged."
"Perhaps," Lex nodded in agreement. "But Batman seems to be taking care of that little problem.
His guest promptly rolled his eyes. "Please. He's little more than a vigilante. A lone nutjob in a giant batsuit. His only accomplishment has been in making the crime rate in Gotham worse."
Lex grunted. He had to agree with that sentiment. Lately it seemed as if every nutcase in Middle America was appearing in Metropolis to take on the famed Superwoman. Unfortunately, it was near impossible to get the populace to see that. They were so taken by the news reels of her saving kittens from trees and helping little old ladies across the street that they were completely blind to the danger she represented. Never mind the amount of personal destruction she had caused to Lexcorp.
Not long ago, when the citizens had looked for a savior for Metropolis, they had looked to him. After all, he was personally responsible for creating more than 150,000 new jobs in the metropolitan area, cleaning up the Suicide Slums district and developing enough shelters and rehabilitation clinics for every homeless person in the city. It did not matter that the Daily Planet enjoyed referring to such places as 'sweat shops'; he had made a difference here. The city's economy was up, production was sky-rocketing, and Metropolis had become a shining beacon of the American Dream for the rest of the country. And in the middle of it all, towering over everything, gleaming like two silver pinnacles of humanity's ingenuity, stood Lexcorp Towers.
And then she appeared.
Snapping out of his reverie, Lex was barely able to suppress his frown in reaction to Bruce's mention of her name. "Pardon?"
If Bruce was surprised by Lex's momentary lapse, he did no't show it. "I just mentioned that you have your own form of crime fighting here in Metropolis… in the form of Superwoman."
"Hmmm." Lex walked back toward Bruce, taking a seat in the chair beside him. "Don't tell me she's fooled you as much as she has the rest of the world?"
Bruce raised an eyebrow in obvious curiosity. "I take it you don't like her?"
Shrugging, Lex leaned back in his seat, index finger absently moving over his lip as he considered his response. "She's good for tourism. Ridiculous little shops have appeared on every street corner, selling Superwoman merchandise, of all things. Other than that… "
He trailed off, allowing his frown to reappear as he leaned forward, elbows settling on his knees as Lex focused his most earnest expression onto Bruce. "Beyond her do-gooding self, have you ever really sat down to consider the threat she poses to humanity?"
"Threat?" Bruce pursed his lips in thought. "Nothing I've seen indicates her as a threat. In fact, she seems quite docile."
"Consider, if you will," Lex began. "That you're talking about someone here who is virtually unstoppable. Her strength and speed are beyond anything we can imagine. She can shoot fire from her eyes. She can freeze things with her breath. Her body is impenetrable to any substance found on this Earth. And what if… just, what if she woke up on the wrong side of the bed one morning, huh? Think about that. Where would humanity stand against such a powerful being? With the amount of good that she can do in day, picture the amount of evil she could accomplish. If she ever desired it, she could enslave our entire race, and there would be no one to stop her."
Lex watched silently as Bruce seemed to contemplate his words, a frown slowly overtaking the usually relaxed visage. His guest cleared his throat after a moment before commenting, "You, uh, paint quite the frightening picture, Lex."
"Few are clever enough to realize the danger she represents to all of humanity," Lex told him. "Luckily, there are leaders within the community–such as you and I–who have the ability to look out for our fellow citizens of Earth."
"Well, I don't see how. You just pointed out that there is no way to stop her."
Lex smiled slowly. "Oh, but I said there was nothing found on this Earth that could stop her."
Bruce's gaze narrowed slightly as he returned Lex's stare. "Just what are you hinting around at, Lex?"
"I happen to be in possession of just the sort of material that Superwoman is indefensible against. From what I have been able to ascertain, it is the last of its kind available."
"That's… " Bruce paused as he reached up to rub at his chin for a moment. "You're sure of this? That you actually have a way of taking down Superwoman?"
"Yes." Lex's smile grew. "I am on the one person on this planet who could have control over her."
Bruce's expression suddenly changed, lips pursing once more as he leaned forward in his chair, mimicking Lex's stance as he dropped his voice to a whisper. "And just why, may I ask, are you sharing this with me?"
"The Batman," Lex responded, more than pleased that Bruce had jumped at the bait dangled before him. "I want you to get in touch with the Batman for me."
Bruce broke out into laughter, sitting up as he waggled a finger at Lex. "Oh, you had me going there for a moment, Luthor. I thought you were serious."
"I am serious, Bruce."
His guest shook his head. "What makes you think I could ever get into contact with him?"
"Because you're Bruce Wayne," Lex pointed out. "Your family has owned Gotham for a very long time. Whatever the Batman's intentions may be, he has to be bright enough to at least recognize this. I'm certain that if the Bruce Wayne were to demand an audience with him, the Batman certainly couldn't refuse."
There had been a brief time when Lex found himself wondering if Bruce were not, in fact, the infamous Batman. Stranger things had happened. He had even put Mercy and Hope on his trail, to get hard evidence to the fact. What better way to blackmail Bruce Wayne than to threaten to expose proof of his nightly escapades as the Batman? Unfortunately, none of his theories had come to fruition, and eventually Lex had to accept the realization that his imagination had simply run away with him. The truth of the matter was his old schoolmate was nowhere near brilliant enough to come up with such a plan, let alone get away with it. Bruce had barely made passing grades in school, using his charm and his family's well-respected name to get away with things other students could never have achieved. Lex had always resented him for that little fact, among an assortment of other reasons.
"I don't know, Lex," Bruce responded after a few moments' contemplation. "Personally, I have no interest in having a face-to-face with this bat character. Besides, what do you need him for anyway?"
"I could never get close enough to Superwoman for the weapon to be effective," Lex admitted with a slight shrug. He tapped one finger on the tabletop for emphasis. "But a fellow crime fighter? Well now, that's another story entirely. Superwoman tends to be extremely trusting and fairly naïve. She would consider the Batman as having the same ideals as she."
Bruce raised his eyebrows in question. "And how do we know he wouldn't?"
"I think once he acknowledges the kind of danger she represents to humanity, he won't have any choice but to be on our side."
In this, Lex was completely confident. For the moment, Superwoman seemed to the world like some celestial savior. It would only be a matter of time before they learned the truth.
And then he would step in, to clean up the destruction.