.........."It's good to see you, Miss Lane," he said.
.........."Cut to the chase. What do you want?"
.........."Well, if you're going to be that way, I suppose there's no point in being subtle," said Lionel. "Take a seat. Right next to me - there's no point in us letting this desk separate us. They view is too brilliant to enjoy alone." He swiveled his chair back and around to face the window behind him. Lois picked up the visitor's chair and walked around the desk, placing it next to him but keeping some distance. She would get up close and personal if it was on her terms, not by his invitation.
..........The window showed the view from the top floor of the Luthor Trade Building, a hundred and fifty floors up. Within its view was the golden globe atop the Daily Planet, and out in the distance was the silhouette of his old home, the Luthorcorp building.
.........."The view, the view is simply remarkable," said Luthor. "The things you see up here, when you're standing up on the pedestal of a God, would put the knowledge of mortal men to shame. Now I see things clearly."
.........."I see clouds," said Lois flatly. "Pretty clouds. Abstract clouds. What do you know? That cloud looks like a clown. I must have one on my mind."
..........Luthor gave his devilish grin. "No, I invited you here not to attack you. I really miss your company, all those calm and agreeable discussions on philosophy we shared. Then you stopped coming. I haven't seen you since, oh when was it? It was such a memorable date; I can't understand why it's escaping me. Oh, that's right, it was about that time when the flying man appeared, that's right. Lex has been demonizing him with the press and has called him the Red Menace. I guess he was fortunate you wrote the first story on him and coined a much more positive name that stuck."
.........."Is that all you brought me here to talk about?" asked Lois.
.........."Well, what would a trip to my place be without one of our kind and amiable philosophy chats? You know, after all our discussions, I'm surprised with your choice in names. Superman? Have you finally resigned to my views? Is that why you have not come back for another verbal swordfight, because you have seen my philosophy triumph and walk now with your tail between your legs?"
.........."Don't be so sure of yourself, Luthor," said Lois. "I still don't believe in the Übermensch, but I'm still searching for an ideal example of humanity. I believe Superman is the one, and you haven't met him. He isn't a god."
.........."What is he?"
.........."He's just a friend," said Lois. "And if you can't see that, you're blind. All of you Luthors are blind."
.........."What? No, no Lois, I see you point," said Lionel, turning a little toward her and kicking his right foot up onto his left knee. "It's valid and it's the basis for a new counterargument, now, and your rhetoric is improving. You make me proud."
.........."Mr. Luthor, if you don't have a reason for keeping me here other than to have one of our old conversations, then this is a waste of my time," said Lois. She got up from her chair and headed toward the door. "I've outgrown you, and you're living in the past, thinking that I'm still that insecure reporter who needed access to a big shot to feel important. I'm done here. Goodbye."
..........She reached for the doorknob.
.........."What about your date with this Superman?" said Lionel.
..........She stopped turning the knob. She looked back at Lionel and saw a devilish smile on his rugged face.
..........Great. She would have played dumb, but her pause had already revealed everything, and "I don't know what you're talking about" was the lamest response ever. Even if she didn't hesitate, Lionel still carried through on his hunches, so it didn't matter if he had empirical evidence or if he was just bluffing. It was too specific to be a hunch anyway, too perfect, only just a day after she met him on the rooftop. There was no way out of this.
..........He seemed to sense when she had given up, and he chuckled. It was never good when he chuckled. It meant that she was screwed over. He won, end of story, there was no more need to struggle on her part.
.........."I had my secretary go fetch me my telescope," he said. "I told you the view was great. So I'm presuming, of course, that this was officially an interview, what with your recording device, but I saw how comfortable you two were. You, of course, being as hungry for a story as you are, would have back to the office to create a typo-filled account of your meeting as possible. Yet, what escapes me is, why hasn't this turned up?"
.........."I decided," she fumbled. "I'm still thinking this over. I'm trying to be an ethical journalist, not just someone who sells herself out to anything big that comes her way. People deserve a better reporting system. And I'm just going to publish it anonymously, anyway."
.........."A man can't deny his true nature," said Lionel. "Or a woman, and when a woman makes her mind to do something, she does it."
.........."I am going to publish that encounter," said Lois. "I'm just ironing out the story so that it comes out the way I want it to."
.........."One that doesn't include the dating aspect of it, I suppose," said Lionel.
.........."That's not true at all," said Lois. "There was nothing romantic about it. He came just to tell me what the world needed to know about him. I'm calling you out on the bluff that you saw the details so clearly. I didn't have a recorder with me."
.........."Oh please, don't insult my intelligence," said Lionel. "I merely filled in the blanks with my imagination, but it doesn't take a genius to figure these things out. I saw a man clad in red and blue fly toward the Daily Planet, and when I looked really hard I saw you there waiting for him. This was no accidental encounter. He specifically chose you, out of all the reporters in the world, someone who hadn't had fame and credibility to lend to his image. Imagine the implications: it means that he somehow either already got a glimpse of your personality to know you personally and therefore have a trust in an unknown, or he just picked you out the crowd because of your pretty face. Both are very flattering to you and indicate personal interest, and given that you seem to be a big believer in this ideal man, this Superman of sorts, it doesn't take much to conclude that you like him in return. If I can put the pieces together, Lex will."
.........."Don't call him 'this Superman'; it's impersonal," said Lois. "He's a person, so Superman isn't title but his identity, like a name."
.........."Oh, you continue to betray yourself," said Lionel. "Here, sit down. Let me explain something to you. Okay, stand up for all I care. No here's the point: I'm not out to get Superman. I look at him and he offers something of a challenge to my worldview, but he's not my problem. I'm sure his presence will actually help my business. Yet, my son isn't as apathetic. He looks at Superman and instead of seeing a Big Blue Boyscout he sees a Red Menace. He's jealous, my child, jealous. Lex fancies himself at the top of the food chain, upstaging even his father, and he wants the title of supreme human being all for himself.
.........."Lois, by the way, you look miserable without a coffee," he noted.
.........."Yeah, just go on with it," she said, her arms crossed. "Go on. Anything left you'd like to throw at me?"
.........."Well, in a moment. I don't have any coffee on me, sad to say. I never believed in introducing chemicals into my system to control my senses on my behalf. I do have some mints in my drawer. Would you be content with those?"
.........."Stop mocking me."
.........."Have you ever noticed how a father can condemn his children by talking down on them? Lois, you have to become a woman now and admit that I am in the right here, which I know is a very difficult thing to do, by I am very patient and understanding. I am not out to get you. I am not out to get Superman."
.........."If these things are none of your concern, then, I suppose I have no reason to stay and enjoy your rudeness," said Lois.
.........."Not true," said Lionel. "Here's where you have to admit that you were wrong: I am not your enemy. In fact, I really want to be your friend."
.........."Now you're just trying to manipulate me," said Lois. "What do I have to do to get out of this?"
.........."Nothing! Absolutely nothing!" said Lionel. "You could have just continued walking out that door and it would have been the end of things. You could do it right now, save for your lack of trust in me, and that's what needs fixing, Lois. We need to be able to trust each other, and I trust you, so that leaves one of us meet the other halfway."
.........."That's different and you know it," said Lois. "I'm actually a trustworthy person. That Superman believes it only proves it. Who do you have to endorse you? Politicians. As far as I'm concerned you're still a mean and manipulative wolf. I'm beyond manipulating now."
..........Lionel smiled. For once he wasn't smug, but it was still offsetting that he seemed to take it as a complement. "A wolf, maybe, but I'm selective in who I target. You're off-limits for me, but maybe not for others, and trust me, you can be manipulated. That tough-as-nails reporter thing you've got going for you is almost perfect, but that's only ninety-nine percent of the story, isn't it? You're just sensitive enough, just vulnerable enough that you fall girlishly for Superman. I bet he recognizes your insecurities and makes them go away. So taking these flaws into account, it occurs to me that you need protection, Lois. I am on your side."
.........."What do you want out of this? Why are you interested?"
.........."Lois, can you for once in your life believe that this is purely because I like you?"
.........."Very well," said Lionel, stroking his beard. "Well, then, that's all I had to say. Just know now that I am doing everything I can rightfully do to see to your protection. You can go now." He opened his labtop, tapped a couple of keys, but then seemed to remember something as he looked up. "Oh, and one more thing. I believe he didn't pick you out because of your pretty face but because he appreciated you already as a human being."
..........He didn't say anything more. He just rested his chin on his right hand as he observed God knew what o his screen. Lois now felt completely dismissed, but in a moment of curiosity pondered what he cold potentially be looking at on that computer. Big shots always flipped their desktops down whenever anybody entered the room, whether they had any secrets or not.
..........Lois left the room and took the elevator on the long way down. The ride seemed to last forever, but the time flew as she focused her energy on reasons she hated Lionel Luthor, that dirty rotten businessman who climbed to the top by stepping on innocent people who didn't deserve to be put down. Of course, nothing could ever be pinned on him, and nobody had ever successfully sued him. Although he didn't make a single effort to hide his unfairness with his chauvinistic attitude, he wasn't an honest man. He used every dirty trick in the book. Who did he think he was to believe she would consider for a moment that he was trustworthy?
..........When she left the building and walked along its shadow, she decided to take a shortcut to the Daily Planet through an ally way. It was suicide, she knew, especially in a big city, but nobody ever actually attacked people in the allies. That was just a stereotype reserved for the incredibly unlucky.
..........Still, Lionel was on her mind. She wouldn't need him anymore, she knew. She had found a new friend to make her feel on top.
..........She stopped and rested against the brick wall. God, Lionel was right. She had crawled to him when he was open to her just to argue off the record about philosophy. In some ways, it really was just that, and the relationship was real, but she couldn't lie to herself and say that their relationship was just about being frienemies and exclusively just that. Now she passed him on exactly when Superman came along. So long as she had someone larger than life in her world, she was content. She really was insecure.
.........."Hey lady..." mumbled a sketchy voice. Lois looked up. There was a man with a load of shabby clothes and an upturned collar. In his hand, no surprise, was a pistol.
..........Go figure. She was one of the unlucky ones.
.........."Bug off," said Lois.
.........."Give me your purse, or you know the rest. Don't try to fight, don't cry 'Superman!' Don't annoy me, either. Just give me your purse."
.........."Übermensch," said Lois.
..........The mugger hesitated for a moment. "What? I'm confused."
..........Lois kicked him in the gut and shifted her weight so that she was both out of the way of the gun and a smaller target. Then she grabbed the mugger by the arm and drove her knee into his wrist so that he let go of the gun. To finish the deal, she kicked him between the legs, grabbed the gun, and sprinted down the ally.
.........."Hey!" he moaned, but he wasn't catching up with her.
..........When she was out of there and had put a couple of blocks' distance from her and the mugger, and when she was on a populated street, she allowed herself to stop and catch her breath. She looked at the gun in her hand, realized how bad that looked, and stashed it away in her purse as fast as she could. Someone had probably already saw. That was no good. Well, she would call the police and report that the gun was in her possession as soon as she could to clear up any confusion.
..........That was, now that she thought about it, exhilarating. Then she thought about it some more. She didn't need protection. Not from Lionel Luthor and not from Superman. She had just stood up to someone who aimed a gun at her point-blank.
..........Well, Lionel was right about some things. She couldn't deny her true nature.