Disclaimer: In case you haven't figured it out yet, I don't own Young Justice. All DC Comics-related characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property of Greg Weisman, Brandon Vietti, and Warner Bros. Entertainment.
June 20, 07:43 EDT
"Smooth jazz if you don't mind, Mercy," said Lex Luthor, and the cyborg silently complied as their limousine departed Lex Corp's Metropolis headquarters for Washington, D.C.
Beyond the enjoyment of some of the best saxophone playing a $200,000 sound system could produce and a rather intriguing update from L-1, however, the trip was relatively uneventful.
He did send a reminder message of his own to Mark Desmond, on the all-too-likely chance that the good doctor had forgotten all about the planned visit to Project Cadmus in his "zeal" for his own personal work…but beyond that, there really wasn't much to say.
June 20, 12:11 EDT
"Remain with the car until I return," Lex told Mercy, who nodded curtly.
Straightening his tie, Lex confirmed his arrival with Doctor Desmond via his off-the-grid tablet and entered the above-ground section of Project Cadmus. Immediately his nose wrinkled in mild disgust at the place – perfectly sterile and sensible, with nary an iota of imagination throughout its numerous halls and laboratories.
It irritated Lex, sometimes, that millions of perfectly good R&D dollars were forced every year to go to the upper two levels of Cadmus, merely to put up appearances; to maintain the illusion of…what was Savage always calling it? The "calcified order"?
Well in any event, it was a rather tragic waste of good money, in his estimation. Because of the way he had allocated Cadmus' human capital the upper levels rarely if ever produced a product that wasn't just a "clean" version of the sublevels' ages-old tech, what with their subjugation to society's arbitrary and aimless "ethics" laws. The sublevels didn't have such ludicrous restrictions weighing them down, and were all the better for it; after all, who else on the planet had managed to crack the code of flawless human cloning as early as 2007?
With that thought in mind and a calm smirk on his face, Lex stepped into what was ostensibly his Program Director office and caught a hidden express elevator down to Sublevel-26.
Exiting the elevator a few minutes later, Lex was immediately greeted by a younger man in heavy armor and a golden helmet, who bowed silently at the behest of the Genomorph-Gnome perched upon his shoulder.
"Guardian," he acknowledged, not breaking his stride. It really didn't make much a difference, since the G-Gnomes were under strict orders to repress any memories Guardian might have of the "Cadmus Board of Directors"…but that was still no excuse for rudeness.
Continuing onward past the long halls of G-Elf pods (and the occasional G-Dwarf performing maintenance work), Lex couldn't resist peeking in here-and-there at the fruits of his funding. Even limiting himself solely to this Sublevel, Projects Livewire and Titano seemed to be progressing smoothly, and of course Project Parasite, long-since released into the world, remained probably Cadmus' greatest success story so far.
…The operative term there being "so far," of course.
"Mister Luthor? I've been sent to escort you for your scheduled appointment," uttered a monotone voice from behind him, and Lex smirked again as he withdrew his face from the nearest lab and turned to face Cadmus' sole G-Goblin.
"A pleasure as always, Dubbilex," Lex replied, offering his hand. There was a few seconds' pause before the Genomorph took it, his expression as unchanging as ever…which was really the essence of his charm, if unintentionally. "I trust Doctor Desmond is finally ready to ordain me with his presence?"
"That is correct. He is currently waiting for you in the chemical lab of Project Blockbuster," Dubbilex explained, motioning for Lex to follow him.
"I see that things have been…progressing well since my last visit," Lex observed after a brief silence. He knew, strictly by the protocol he himself had drafted, that trying to strike up "small talk" with a Genomorph was strictly verboten, but at times like this he couldn't really help himself. The potential insights to be derived from the one nonhuman Genomorph presently possessed of the power of speech were sometimes enough to make even his mind boggle.
"Yes, I suppose so," responded Dubbilex, still in that delightfully fascinating monotone. "The G-Sprites have been working overtime to compensate for the increased productivity. Or rather, forced to work overtime."
Lex took note of the G-Goblin's emphasis. "Are you suggesting that they should not be made to serve their function?" he asked, placing a hand upon Dubbilex's shoulder.
"I suggest nothing of the sort, Mister Luthor," Dubbilex answered shortly, though Lex's eyebrows raised in mild suspicion nonetheless. Sensing that he wasn't likely to squeeze any more information than that out of the Genomorph, however, Lex shrugged and followed his guide into the home of Mark Desmond's "personal project."
It took a little while for Desmond to even realize Lex had arrived; ultimately, judging by the glowing of his G-Gnome's horns, it appeared as if it had noticed him first. Still, its signal did not come in time to prevent the geneticist from remarking, "I told you I wasn't to be disturbed for anything less…than…"
His derisive reprimand petered off into nothing as he turned to face Lex Luthor, who just smiled.
"Err…my apologies, Mister Luthor," he amended, wringing his hands nervously. "You…arrived earlier than I expected."
"It's actually nearly ten minutes past our appointment time," Lex pointed out. "Didn't you get any of my messages?"
"Messages?" Doctor Desmond repeated, his face contorting in confusion before it clicked. "Ah, you mean electronically. Err, no…I'm afraid I've become rather reliant on my G-Gnome for communication these days. I check my e-mail…infrequently."
"Understandable," said Lex, absentmindedly petting the Genomorph in question. "But let us not get distracted on a tangent. I understand that you have some project updates for me?"
"Yes…yes, of course," Desmond replied. "Follow me to Sublevel-52, then."
The pair entered another elevator, Doctor Desmond holding a clipboard with a thick packet of notes. "Before I show you our latest…developments on Project Kr, there are a few miscellaneous updates I'd like to get out of the way."
"Go ahead, then," Lex stated evenly, unsure whether he was actually going to hear something useful or just some impractical prattling. He never could be sure with Desmond.
"Let's see…Mister Crock visited last week to drop off some intelligence regarding Project Arrowhead," Desmond read off. "Looks like there's an induction ceremony of some kind set for the Fourth of July. He thought you and the…rest of the Board would want to know."
Hmm…genuinely useful information. Who knew?
"In addition, your associate Mister…Brain also paid visit last Friday," Doctor Desmond continued, adjusting his glasses as the ticker above the elevator doors reached the 40s. "He expressed great interest in Project Blockbuster, on an academic basis at least. He's requested a shipment to our new Santa Prisca outpost as soon as it tests operable."
"Really? That's twice I'm surprised, then," commented Lex, though he did not elaborate aloud. Inwardly he'd had little-to-no faith in Desmond's pet project, given that the steroid it produced was already inferior to the Venom drug Kobra was now supplying them…but then, perhaps Brain saw something in the formula Lex didn't. It was the reason Savage had brought him into their circle, after all.
"And now…the pièce de résistance," Doctor Desmond announced dramatically as the ticker finally settled on Sublevel-52 and the elevator doors slowly cracked open. "Project Kr, in the flesh."
Lex was about to comment on the thickness of using a French term immediately after discussing the Brain, but the remark quickly died in his throat as his eyes finally laid themselves upon…him.
Lex sauntered up to the cryogenic pod as quickly as he could without risking his dignity, placing a hand on the cold glass and running it along the "S" emblazoned across the Weapon's chest. "A solar suit?" he called back, and Desmond nodded in confirmation. "Interesting…even without flying capabilities and full vision powers, the increased intake of solar energy supercharging his metabolism should help to even out the fight. If it should ever have to come to that, of course."
"Would you…like me to run down its progress, Mister Luthor?" Desmond asked, clearly a little wrong-footed from the intensity with which Lex was regarding Cadmus' greatest creation. But he could not help it. That soulfully smooth Kryptonian skin…those short, wispy black locks that could doubtlessly stop a bullet on their own…those rippling muscles human males could work their entire lives for and never attain…
In short, one might say that he was the alien in miniature…but no. No, that wasn't true at all.
For the most part, yes, the similarity was uncanny…but then there the little things. The way his nostrils flared on every third breath like clockwork as he slumbered in that pod; a small irregularity in proportional finger length between the middle and index digits; the slightest flaking of the skin around the wrists and forearms, evidence of a minor congenital defect.
Individually, none of the signs were at all distinctive on their own – but it was hard for him to miss the points where it appeared as if he was looking in a mirror.
"Ahem…the Weapon remains in perfect health, with no major metabolic or symptomatic shifts since the report I sent at Week 7," Desmond read out. "The artificial aging process is holding steady at a rate of approximately one biological year per week; as such, the clone is currently the biological equivalent of a fourteen-year-old human. Obviously, should this rate remain consistent, the Weapon should reach maturation in a matter of months."
"And how about his mental state?" Lex asked without turning back, still unable to avert his eyes from the clone.
"Well, on that front..." said Doctor Desmond, biting his lip, "I suppose I have good news and bad news. The good news is that the educational programming you selected is being delivered by the G-Gnomes on schedule. The clone already possesses intimate knowledge of history, chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, world affairs, finance, politics, and several dozen languages."
"And the bad news?" Lex demanded without missing a beat.
"The Weapon has recently gotten into the habit of…breaking pods," Desmond admitted, casting a nervous glance at the sleeping clone. "Based on our measurements of brain activity, we believe it's taken to…well, I suppose you could call it 'dreaming.' Of what, we are not yet sure, but it's an unforeseen complication nonetheless and that rarely bodes well."
"Oh, I'm not sure that I agree," Lex replied, now sounding rather intrigued. "Dreams can be wonderful things, my dear Doctor Desmond. A single dream can bestow the breath of life where there previously was none; give purpose to an existence that is otherwise aimless. Or, to put it another way…the boy's growing up."
"And you…consider that to be a good thing?" asked Desmond bewilderedly. "That thing is a weapon, not a person! It's not supposed to 'dream'! It's not supposed to have a life or a purpose, beyond serving Cadmus! It's not supposed to…!"
The geneticist was cut short in this diatribe, however, by the hand of Lex Luthor shooting out and closing tight around his windpipe.
"First of all, Doctor Desmond…don't attempt to lecture me. I find it rather droll," Lex said, still not bothering to look his subordinate in the eye as he tightened his one-handed grip. "It's not up to you to decide what the Light intends for the Superboy."
The CEO released Desmond as quickly as he had grabbed him, and he fell to the ground rather ungracefully, rubbing his neck. "F…Forgive my presumption, Mister Luthor," he choked out as he slowly pulled himself back to his feet. His G-Gnome, knocked off his shoulder by the impact, crawled back to its perch with the same blank expression it always displayed. "But, with all due respect…how on Earth could the Light in any way find increased autonomy on the Weapon's part a useful development?"
"We all have our little ways of spinning these sorts of things, Doctor," Lex replied cryptically, though he did not explain further. "I will say this, however…have you been wondering why I chose this particular day to visit Project Cadmus?"
"I…I'm afraid I don't follow," Desmond told him, taking a couple nervous steps back. "Is there something…special about today?"
Lex laughed dryly. "I suppose that answers that question, then," he returned. "Papa Desmond must be languishing around in disappointment right now – no card, no gift. And I'll assume you haven't even bothered calling."
It took Mark Desmond a few moments to process these words before he understood their meaning. "Ah, I see. Father's Day. It's not a holiday I feel much cause to celebrate…believe me," he intoned bitterly.
"Well, I suppose I can relate," Lex said with a small smile. "But since dear Lionel can't be with us today, I figured I might as well take the opportunity to pass the burden of celebration…"
He rapped his knuckles lightly against the glass.
"…onto the next generation," he finished.
"Next genera…you mean, the clone?" Desmond exclaimed, before he could stop himself. "But…err…it's not…"
"My DNA helped spawn him," Lex rejoined pointedly. "I certainly think he qualifies."
"Again, forgive my presumption, Mister Luthor, but…I've actually been meaning to ask about that," Desmond appended. "Why did you decide to personally donate to Project Kr? If you'll recall, I advised against it…"
"And I ignored that advice," Lex stated with a smile. "Oh, I assure you, I took it all into consideration. Bridging the gaps with the DNA of Kobra's oh-so-personable Mister Flinders, or some of the leftovers from Project Arrowhead…even that short-lived 'Project Meach' of yours…"
"I do still think there is some potential down that avenue, Mister Luthor!" Doctor Desmond protested. "Doctor Fries has informed me that he has some of the Batman's blood in cold storage, and a genetic composite of the world's finest heroes – under the complete and total control of the Light, of course – could still be…"
"…A pipe-dream," Lex interjected, narrowing his eyes. "This is always your problem, Desmond; you aim so high that you fail to notice victory when it is right under your nose. What good would adding Batman's DNA to the mix do, really, beyond the admittedly amusing poeticism? I suppose his gray matter is fairly…admirable, but of course transferring such traits isn't as simple as taking a few droplets of blood. Brain might have a bit more success, this being his area of 'expertise'…but ultimately, I don't think it matters."
He gestured to the pod. "This does," he said.
"With all due respect, sir…you still haven't answered my question," Desmond pointed out.
"Very well, then. Allow me to tell you a story," Lex replied, again turning to face the features so dissimilar to his own…and yet so subtly reminiscent that it drew every ounce of his gaze.
"Once upon a time there was a young entrepreneur, climbing the corporate ladder with few advantages but a keen mind and a healthy dose of ingenuity," he related in slow, deliberate tones. "Metropolis was a hard place to live even for its native bred-and-born, and for an out-of-town young man with nothing but the clothes on his back, it was almost worse than the poorest face of Gotham."
Doctor Desmond raised his eyebrows. He'd been in Lex Luthor's employ for over three years, and never once had he ever heard the CEO relate information regarding his past.
"So I struggled," Lex continued. "I made deals, and brokered alliances, and fought my numerous enemies to their last. I took a battered-down storefront I purchased with pennies and transformed it singlehandedly into the corporate headquarters of one of the largest conglomerates on Earth. I made sure that every person in the world knew the name 'Lex Luthor.' I moved the world."
Lex pinched his brow and closed his eyes briefly. "Then…he showed up," he murmured, his tone changing significantly. "Nietzsche's Übermensch is one of the worst-understood concepts in political philosophy, you know? Unsurprising, given the term's appropriation by the Nazi Party…but it has absolutely nothing to do with physical attributes – not blond hair and blue eyes, nor super strength and heat vision. As such, I'll readily admit, I was…irritated by all the papers who deigned him with that title when he first debuted. He even received its direct English translation as a moniker, for a time…but 'Overman' rolled off the tongue a little less than 'Superman,' so the latter is what stuck.
"But I digress…somewhat," he added with a dry, humorless chuckle. "My point is this: when Friedrich Nietzsche described the Übermensch, he envisioned a man quite thoroughly of Earth; an icon not because he distracts humanity with flitting trinkets of the stars and the supernatural, but because he showed them what they themselves could do with their own two hands. In a world absent God, Heaven, and souls, he shows humanity by example what they are truly to value. He is not, contrary to popular belief, absent morals; he simply doesn't allow purely metaphysical prattle like 'truth, justice, and the American way' to define his morals for him."
"In short…he's you," Desmond chimed in.
Lex stared at the geneticist for a few moments, and then laughed again; this time much more heartily.
"Well, I'm glad you said it and not I," he quipped. "But that was the general gist of what I was going for, yes. And that's my greatest problem with the alien: he has all the physical might to do true good for the world, but none of the will. The most he ever does is put out a few fires, literally and metaphorically…but never does he even begin to address the root problems of society's ills. So with every flood or earthquake that is mitigated by the Superman – with every mugging or bank robbery that is foiled by the dozens of so-called 'heroes' he has inspired – we become a complacent people. An idle people. A weak people."
Lex pulled his phone out of his pocket and stared at a picture for a few, silent moments. When Mark Desmond tried to take a peek, however, the CEO slipped it back into his pocket with a glare. Desmond recoiled immediately.
"I've seen things, Doctor Desmond. Things the writers of comic serials and cheap science fiction never even dared dream of," he whispered, in a tone that Desmond couldn't immediately identify. "I saw what humanity means – what life means – on a much grander scale…and while this is something I never thought I'd hear myself say…"
For the first time since setting eyes upon Project Kr, Lex finally turned his head to stare Desmond in the eyes and finished, "It scared me."
As if on cue, a hairline fracture appeared on the nearby pod, and both men's attentions snapped back to the Superboy as his jaw clenched in an unmistakable fury.
"Doctor Spence, get over here now!" Mark Desmond shouted into his com, blanching in embarrassment at the inopportunity. "I want a new pod here this instant, do you hear me?"
"Y…Yes, Doctor Desmond," came the small voice of Amanda Spence on the other line. Without someone to blame and rail against, however, this quick resolution seemed not to have satisfied Mark Desmond…and he demonstrated it by aiming a kick at a nearby G-Dwarf, which flew across the room.
Lex Luthor, however, seemed perfectly at ease with this course of events. "Now, as I was saying…" he resumed without missing a beat, "…this is the true danger of the Superman. I have seen the great heights to which humanity might aspire, the nigh-infinite potential we hold as a species in the wider cosmos…but we'll never reach that lofty perch if we do not have the drive. And that's the harm the alien and his Justice League friends wreak: they set a ceiling for our progress. So long as we are reliant on their aid, we as a species will never be anything more than what we are now. So long as Superman exists, there can be no true Übermensch."
"This…this is all well and good, Mister Luthor," Desmond said delicately, his attention still focused on the minuscule crack in the glass. "But what does any of this have to do with the original question? With…this?"
He gestured to the slumbering clone, whose breaths were beginning to grow slightly erratic.
"Well, I may not have spelled it out point-by-point…but I think I covered the essentials," Lex replied with a raised eyebrow. "As I said, there is much good to be done with the powers of a Kryptonian. But a grounding is needed. I won't risk unleashing another Godlike coddler of the status quo, looking over us all from on-high and silently judging. If this planet is to host a Kryptonian protector who truly sees the Light…they must know humanity. And although Professors Morrow and Ivo have done their best to convince me otherwise, I believe quite firmly that the lifeblood of humanity is an essential component to that."
Doctor Desmond opened his mouth to point out that Lex still hadn't addressed the original question, but the other man held up a hand to preempt him. "And yes, my dear fellow…the particular human donor was key," he explained with narrowed eyes. "I cannot tether the Superboy to the people he guards with a particularly strong man's DNA; what is the point, when that strength will always be outclassed a hundred times over by the alien's? Speed, agility, endurance, fortitude…it's all irrelevant. Even my own – shall we say – vaunted intelligence is not the reason why I considered myself the perfect candidate."
"Then why…?" Desmond began to ask, but Lex held up his hand again.
"It appears that you have a new stasis pod to install, my friend," he told the geneticist, pointing over his shoulder at the G-Troll carrying the replacement pod and assorted other equipment at Doctor Spence's direction. "And I am quite satisfied with today's progress report. A good day to you, Doctor Desmond. I – and the rest of the Board – shall be in touch."
"But…" Desmond murmured, before slumping his shoulders in resignation. Lex smirked at this as soon as he turned away. For men like Mark Desmond, the acquisition of knowledge was the absolute pinnacle of pleasure they took in life; as such, he had to admit some amount of petty amusement at teasing him with that small peek into the soul of Lex Luthor, only to pull away at the last moment. And really, he took so few pleasures in life himself, these days…
Lex took one last look back at Doctors Desmond and Spence, offering each a genial smile…and then at the Superboy, his face still twisted in the rage that accompanied mortal battle…
And with that, Lex Luthor exited Sublevel-52 of Project Cadmus.
June 20, 16:07 EDT
"Turn off the music, Mercy…and tint the windows," Lex requested, and as silently as she did everything else the cyborg did as instructed. "And with that out of the way…contact all available members of the Cadmus Board of Directors."
Mercy knew this procedure well, even if L-4 and L-6 were the only members she had ever actually met in person, and so it only took a few seconds for complete silence to overtake the rear portion of the limousine and for six high-definition monitors to lower in a half-circular formation.
For a few moments, a swirling white haze was all Lex could see on each monitor…but one-by-one, all six soon displayed faces. Finding a time that simultaneously fit France, Bialya, and Atlantis was often a difficult proposition and there were a fair few meetings where the entire Board couldn't quite make the conference call…but it appeared a progress update on their much-vaunted "Weapon" was enough to warrant a full response.
"Good afternoon, Luthor," said Vandal Savage, sounding – as he always did – as if he was committing murder simply by speaking. "I believe you have some information to share with the rest of the Light."
"Yeah, how's our new toy coming along?" rang in the high-pitched voice of Klarion the Witch Boy, one hand petting his cat Teekl and the other adjusting his webcam so that it was slightly crooked. "Can't wait to see how much fun we can have with a working Stupidman knock-off!"
"Remember that 'fun' isn't the reason we've invested so heavily into Project Kr, mon ami," the Brain stated pointedly. "The Weapon is meant to replace the Superman should he perish; to destroy him, should he turn from the Light."
"Pheh…killjoy," Klarion shot back, rolling his eyes.
"Are you finished?" Queen Bee demanded, impatiently drumming her fingers along her forearms. "I'd rather like to get on with Lex's report. I'm overdue for a public execution of sixteen…dissidents as is."
"Then I'll try not to drag on," Lex replied with a smirk. "In short, progress appears quite…promising at this stage. The Superboy is approaching the biological age of Project Match with no sign of mental degradation; indeed, anecdotal evidence from Doctor Desmond suggests that his mind is expanding beyond our strictly programmed parameters."
"I take it, from your tone, that you don't foresee this jeopardizing our long-term plans for Cadmus?" Ocean-Master asked.
"Not in the least, Prince Orm," Lex answered, inclining his head slightly. "So long as we maintain telepathic control through the G-Gnomes – though perhaps placing Bee's lieutenant Psimon on retainer as a back-up plan might be prudent – greater intelligence and ingenuity on the part of the Superboy can only be an asset. Frankly, in a head-to-head confrontation with the alien he'll be at a physical disadvantage under any circumstance; strategy, then, will be his best option should the League force our hand in such a way."
"I'll discuss it with dear Psimon once he returns from his surveillance mission in Qurac," proffered Queen Bee. "Now, any other news?"
"About the Superboy? Not particularly. All goes well with him…assuming Doctor Desmond presented me with full intelligence," explained Lex. "He did pass along a nugget of information from our friend Sportsmaster, however…about an induction ceremony of some kind taking place on Independence Day. Cadmus'…firstborn will be one of the guests of honor."
"Yes, Mister Crock mentioned something to that effect in passing," intoned Ra's al Ghul, who stroking his beard pensively. "He understands that I expect a much…fuller report within the week."
"Very well, then. I suppose he's really more in your domain than mine," Lex tossed off with a light chuckle. "Anything to report to me?"
"Well, as I believe I…'texted'…you all this morning, I'm pleased to announce that Count Werner Vertigo of Vlatava has accepted my proposal," Vandal declared. "Should circumstances force too many of us to stray from the shadows that conceal our Light, he has agreed to serve as our…proxy. If any of you have submissions for the membership of his poetically, if unoriginally, titled 'Injustice League," contact Vertigo through private channels. He has been cleared for full identity access."
"Ooh, I'm so bringin' on Wotan!" Klarion cried out gleefully, causing Teekl to meow. "Wait, Wotan's busy stealing the Amulet of Aten so he can block out the sun? Did I already know that?"
"Forgive me, but…why in Neptune's Bounty would he be trying to block out the sun?" Ocean-Master couldn't help but ask.
"Distraction," Klarion told them with a smile, and the remainder of the Light wisely chose not to inquire further. It was Klarion, after all.
"…In any event, I believe that concludes our meeting for today?" Ra's offered after a few seconds.
"Indeed," said Vandal. "Ra's, feel free to take point on this…'Independence Day' project. I'll expect another meeting once you have debriefed Sportsmaster."
And with that, the six figures all nodded and signed off of their viewscreens nearly simultaneously…all except one.
"I thought you had somewhere to get to, Bee," Lex reminded her with a smirk. "I'd hate for those dissidents to miss out on their ruler's…beneficence."
"They can wait," Queen Bee hissed dismissively. "You have something else on your mind, and I'd like to find out what."
"Oh? And what makes you say that?" Lex posed to her, choosing to play dumb for the moment…though inwardly, he was applauding her perceptiveness. She really was a gem of a political mind – she had to be, to rise to power in a predominately Muslim country as a single woman. Vandal and Ra's had been old friends centuries before the Light was even conceived, and Brain and Klarion had somehow managed to forge a strange sort of "odd couple" relationship as well…but for Lex, the only "associate" he could honestly say really understood him on a day-to-day basis was Queen Bee of Bialya.
"Your choice of words, naturally," Bee returned. "'Him' instead of 'it,' 'the Superboy' over 'the Weapon;' if nothing else, it is clear that you and Savage aren't exactly…on the same page regarding this project."
"Savage regards everything with the same level of detachment. He has to," said Lex. "I mean, have you ever imagined what it must be like for him? To have lived through fifty-thousand years – truly lived it…even Ra's wouldn't quite be able to comprehend the worldview that brings, I think. He can't attach himself to anything less major than the cosmos itself, or he'll go mad…but it's different for us. We're defined by our mortality."
"Because we have a limited period in which to accomplish our goals?" Bee guessed.
"Because we're obsessed with legacies," Lex corrected her. "Find me the man, woman, or alien who isn't and I'll show you a liar. And how do mortals maintain a legacy?"
"Well, off the top of my head, great works, edifices, contributions to the canons of art and science…" she began murmuring, before something clicked. "Wait a minute. You mean…?"
"Ah, you caught on far more quickly than Doctor Desmond did. Not that that's surprising," Lex replied.
"Do you really think of it…him…in those terms?" Queen Bee whispered, now leaning forward slightly.
"I didn't until today," Lex answered, a little more emotionally than he had been intending. "Not until I saw that face, slumbering safe within his cloning pod. Not until I saw the…traces…"
There was quite a long silence that followed these words…but eventually Queen Bee broke it with the words, "I…wish you luck on that front, Lex. We shall speak again soon, I'm sure."
She nodded respectfully, her ornate earrings lightly clattering…and then she signed off, and the last viewscreen retracted into the limousine's ceiling.
Lex Luthor sat for a while in the darkness, not bothering to request that Mercy un-tint the windows; it was still a few hours until he would reach the outskirts of Metropolis, after all. Instead he took out his phone and again stared at the picture he had been hiding from Desmond earlier.
The picture had been taken three years ago, and was the only one Lex possessed that featured his father. "Lionel Luthor – Husband, Father – Born October 6, 1935 – Passed June 10, 1980" read the stone beside him.
Lionel hadn't been a horrible father, he supposed; "adequate," perhaps, was the better word. He'd paid the bills, put food on the table, driven his sister Lena to soccer practice and him to science fairs…and of course, without the generous life insurance policy he'd had the foresight to take out when Lex was very young, it would've been all-but-impossible for the budding CEO to attend Yale or MIT.
But that was the limit of it, really. Lionel would always transport Lena and him to childhood events, true…but he never stayed to watch them. He only rarely laid into them with anything resembling "verbal abuse"…but he was just as reticent to bestow praise. He was always there, prior to the accident…but not there for them.
He didn't move the world for his children. If he cared one iota that the world they grew up in be any better than the one he did, he never showed it.
He was weak…and he made no effort to prevent his son or his daughter from being the same way.
There had been quite a few reasons why Lex had ultimately accepted Savage's offer when he and Ra's had first approached him about their vision for Earth. Immediately, there was obviously a great profit to be had in allying with two immortals, both of whom had access to agents and technologies far surpassing Lex Corp's in so many areas; more broadly, as he had alluded to with Desmond, there really was quite a bit of accord between the way he saw the world and the way they did, especially once they had opened his eyes to a few choice pieces of history the general public wasn't privy to.
But when Brain had first proposed, in the wake of Project Arrowhead's initial success, that Cadmus might try its hand at a super-clone; when Project Match had proved an abject failure for the purposes the Light intended of it, and the both of them had concluded that introducing human DNA to bridge the sequence gaps was the only way to maintain control; when Lex had held a few blood samples in his hands, his eyes reflecting off the sterile laboratory glass as the half-formed idea to test one more potential donor for viability started bubbling up…
When he had finally seen today, for himself, indisputable proof that Project Kr truly wasn't a clone of the so-called Superman, but rather…
Well, in any event, there was certainly now another reason to bring Phases One and Two of their many overlapping schemes to fruition…another reason that the moment when not just Earth, but the wider cosmos finally saw the Light could not come fast enough.
The glorious apex of humankind's evolution was fast-approaching, and more than he ever had before, Lex Luthor was ready to stand at its forefront – a ready guide to utopia.
And as to the Superboy…Lex hoped that he would come to see that perfect future as a gift, soon enough.
A gift…from a father to his son.