August 22, 2018
Luthor picked up his coffee mug. His eyes were fixed on the image on his wall television.
It was a clip of him doing a town hall discussion in Jackson, Mississippi. He wondered what others thought when they looked at him. Power, strength, stability?
He wondered if they ever thought of the word ‘honesty’ when they thought about Alexander Luthor. Because he never lied about the kind of person he was, or what he wanted to do.
He was the youngest senator in American history, and the world’s third richest man. He met with Gates and Buffet on weekends, when either of them could afford it, and golfed with Obama when he was president. As a Democrat, he had to steer clear of the current POTUS due to convention. But he appreciated what the man represented, in terms of setting precedents.
It was time businessmen had a go at running the country. A pity that he was playing for the other team.
“Hello Mr. Luthor. My name is Emily Sands Could you elaborate more on your Humans First position?”
Luthor nodded, smirking politely. He took the mike from Michael Moore, ignoring the disapproving stares from the other hosts.
“Thanks Ms. Sands for your question. I understand that there are many misgivings about my position on metahumans, but you will have to be a bit more specific.”
“Could you elaborate on the measures that will be taken to ensure that privacy and security of superhuman operatives will not be compromised?”
Luthor nodded, his fingers pressed against his lips. He looked at the crowd: some hundred and twenty millennials, with a few older people thrown in for good measure.
“I have the utmost trust in our government, and the agencies that are sworn to its service. We are supposed to treat metahumans as any other normal human. And as such, they will receive the same kind of protection afforded to every other American.”
Michael Moore twisted his underlip, dimples forming. He gestured for another microphone, and once he had received it, he leaned in, one leg folded over another.
“I think what the young lady was trying to say, Lex, is why are you running on a platform that’s essentially built because you decided on a Tuesday that Superman can’t be trusted? You are essentially risking your political career for a personal vendetta that serves no one but yourself.
You say that you have changed, but it doesn’t seem like that to me.”
Lex smiled, the kind of smile that a Mako Shark sports when its hunting prey. “That’s very kind of you, Michael. I don’t know if I have changed, because I have been working on the same issues for most of my life. I am glad you mentioned Superman, but let’s be clear, the only reason we meet and converse so often is because, well, he chooses to drop by my penthouse in Metropolis every other weekend. Maybe he likes me more than you think? But enough about him.
The problem with framing a rhetoric around one individual is that it conveniently sidesteps the larger issue. If you haven’t noticed that this world has changed, and not always for the better, in the last couple of decades, then maybe you haven’t been paying attention.
Somewhere down the way, we stopped looking to ourselves for solutions and started depending upon others to help us. Why do we have to look up to men wearing capes? They aren’t treating this seriously. These are our lives, and we don’t trust cosplayers with our lives, do we?
As good as this long era of vigilantism has done for us, it has, perhaps, done a lot more harm to our moral fiber. Our inspirations have been infected. Since when did we stop looking at the stars and started looking up to big green men? Why do we need aliens to help us defend our turf?
I am sure many of these gentlemen, women and everything in between are perfectly fine individuals. But the fact remains that the metahumans have upended world order on a level unprecedented in human history. There are good metahumans and bad metahumans, just the same as humans. But we don’t need the “good” metahumans, the ones we call superheroes, help us out by being judge, jury and executioner. That’s something that we have to do on our own. That’s why we have courts.
What’s so wrong with America that we need the Green Lanterns Corp to help us? Why do we need the help of alien authorities to deal with dangers that are earthly in origin?
Metahumans have lived with us for at least a hundred years if not more. Clearly, they are here to stay. But they have their own problems to deal with. I am sure all the attacks by Brainiac, Darkseid and Sinestro happened because they had personal issues with some of these heroes. Doesn’t that strike you as ridiculous? Is our life as absurd as a comic book?
Superman might a be good man, Michael. He might be the best man there is. I doubt that, but for the purpose of this discussion, let’s hold that assumption. Even if Superman is better than Jesus Christ, it doesn’t matter. Because Superman, this Kal El, he isn’t Jesus Christ. Superman isn’t God. And thus he is accountable to all of us like every other representative of our local and federal authorities.
There are a million things wrong with us, Michael. But I believe that we can solve those problems ourselves. We can do better by ourselves. It’s what I have worked on during my time as a businessman, and what the fine people at Luthor Corp are doing now that I have seceded control. We can solve the problems of gun control, of immigration and of terrorism by ourselves. And then we have to go out and explore the cosmos, and see what exactly everyone else is fighting over out there.
Humans are adaptable. I believe that we can ascend past our limitations, like we have done every time before. But to do that, we need to focus on ourselves. And that means putting humanity first, and everyone else a distant second. The Kryptonians have Krypton, or at least they had it, as far as I know. The Thanagarians have Thanagar, and The Green Lanterns have Oa. It’s time to declare that the Earth is for humans, and all visitors, no matter how long they have been here, must eventually leave.
I mean, they can always come back here on a visa,” Luthor paused, chuckling, letting the audience laugh with him. “But that process should be official and by the books too.”
Luthor paused the video. He had seen more than enough. The next question was about the Mueller investigation, and although he had given a pretty entertaining answer to that, he wasn’t interested in reliving that experience.
He had found the clip on Reddit, in the r/humansfirst subreddit. It was populated by thousands of people who shared his own sentiments, and it was fast growing. He snickered when he browsed upon a comment that wondered if Lex lurked on the sub.
He did more than just lurk. He was getting enough data off Reddit to model a working simulation of the American voting population. Of course, he could do that in his sleep, but he appreciated the human interaction, nonetheless.
Luthor continued to work in silence, reading economic reports and making some routine plays in the NYSE, shorting the stocks of a clothing manufacturer whose factory in Bangladesh had just gone up in flames. He wondered if he should feel pity. Perhaps, he should at least try.
“Mercy, can you see if we can do a meet and greet event for the victims of that factory fire in Dhaka?”
Mercy stepped inside, her eyes squinting.
“Is that something that we really need, Mr. Luthor?”
“Depends on who you are asking. Lex Luthor doesn’t have much to gain from a photo op in the middle of nowhere. Senator Luthor, however…”
Mercy perked up when she realized Luthor was letting the words hang for her benefit.
“…Senator Luthor has much to gain, since he can show that he cares about external shareholders, no matter who they are and where they come from.”
“Yes, clever girl. Give yourself a raise.”
“I would rather not, but I will take that under consideration. You ready yet for your run at 6:15?”
Luthor took a look at himself. He was bare-chested, and all he wore downwards were boxers and socks. He looked for his clothes lazily; he grabbed hold of his trousers upon finding them. He lowered them before putting them on, one leg at a time.
“I should give you some privacy when you get dressed,” Mercy said, moving towards the door.
“I am almost done,” Luthor insisted, putting on a pair of sneakers before grabbing a shirt.
“You still need to let me know if you are going to Kansas, by the way.”
“To Kansas?” Luthor asked, pausing. “What for?”
“Your sister’s son is sick.”
“Send her a fruit basket or something.”
“He has stage IV cancer, Lex. Apples aren’t going to help him.”
Luthor’s eyes wandered. He drew on his jogging shirt, and as he fastened his smart watch, he wondered if he could help Lena’s son.
“What type of cancer, Mercy?”
“That’s a difficult one. Luthor Corp is probably ten years away from finding a cure. Schedule a few appointments with a few independent researchers, Mercy. The ones who actually know what they are doing.”
“I wasn’t asking about that, Lex. I was asking if you were going to go and meet your sister. Who is probably about to lose her son.”
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” Luthor rhymed, limbering up as he prepared for his run. “You say that as if I am some monster. Schedule a week long visit, about four or five days from now. Whenever I am less busy.”
Mercy nodded, tapping away at her phone. “That’s very generous of you. Bryan will be happy to see you too.”
“He better be. I am probably going to save his life.”
“In five days?”
Luthor smiled, as wide as he could. He wondered if it was wide or as charming as Superman’s was. “Please. I will do it in three.”
Mercy took a deep breath, angling away to let Luthor pass. She looked at the state of his office, which looked neat to the untrained eye, but was, in reality, brimming with chaos. That made sense, since almost everything in Luthor’s was in a similar state; balanced, but ready to explode at a moment’s notice.
Mercy moved towards the living room, but found it empty.
“You are early, by the way,” Mercy said, to no one in particular. It was just like Lex, after all, to come and go as he pleased.
“I trust that everything is to your liking?” Quintum asked. Clark nodded, eyeing his Justice League teammates.
“I am not really a foodie, Leo. But Hal is.”
“And so is Jessica,” Hal said, pointing to his colleague, who dimpled awkwardly. “Honestly, I have had better.”
“Yeah, we have definitely had better space food,” Jessica said, finishing her meal.
“Better future food too,” Conner chimed in, dabbing at his mouth with a napkin.
“We will take your feedback under consideration,” Leo noted. He turned to his left, looking up at a pale, willowy woman who was, to Clark’s estimation, at least seven feet tall, if not taller. “Deena, make sure we do a proper eval of our food by next week.”
“Of course, Leo.”
“Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, can we please discuss why you travelled here from the future?” Clark asked firmly, leaning in.
“Of course, of course. Deena, if you would be so kind as to begin the presentation.”
Deena nodded. An underling came to her side, holding a pill box. “Thanks Heelo. Please distribute the memory pills to the gentleman and women.”
“Yeah. It’s going to be pretty exciting,” Leo said. “We calibrated the dosage so that they don’t get too overwhelming for your minds.”
Deena and Heelo went to each member of the Justice League, handing out the pills and glasses of juice and water. “Do you guys have cranberry juice?” Kara asked, scrutinizing the pill in her hand intensely.
“No, but we have something that tastes like Cranberry juice,” Deena replied.
“I will take it,” Kara said, waiting for Heelo to come back with a new glass. Once it was there, she took the glass, holding on to it patiently as she awaited instructions.
“Alright, you guys should take your pills…” Leo paused for dramatic effect. “Right about now.”
Clark downed his pill with water. His mind exploded with information; the data multiplied in his head triple fold every ten picosecond, and then stopped, settling in, guiding his mind towards understanding.
“Everyone doing okay?” Clark asked.
“I don’t know, Clark. This feels like three Hiroshimas in my head,” Hal said. Simon grunted affirmatively in response. “But I am getting the gist of this.”
“What are all these images, guys?” Kara asked. The playfulness in her voice was gone.
Clark gulped. His mind was struggling to understand the scale of destruction he was seeing.
“How many wars did you guys have?” J’onn asked Leo, who laughed nervously.
“A few too many, obviously,” Leo replied.
“Guy would have loved to be here, you know,” Simon said, looking at the other Leaguers for direction. “I mean, it’s sad, a lot of it, but it’s kinda beautiful too.”
“Death tolls in the trillions,” Kara said, her face expressionless. “And that’s in the first few years.”
Clark heard what Kara was saying, but his mind was occupied elsewhere. He could see that someone was coming here, to his world, to do something. To take something perhaps, or to cause untold harm. He didn’t really know.
“Leo, do you know who this is, or why he is coming here?” Clark asked, nursing his temple.
“I think we do. You need to look at the last few messages we received, after we investigated the distress signal. We know who this is. I think we all do.”
Clark stood up from his chair slowly. Everyone turned to face him, because they too had realized who it was, and what this this was.
“J’onn, send out an alert. We need to move very fast. We need to move right now. Connect me to Bruce.”
J’onn complied. In the space of less than a second, Clark’s mind was conversing with Bruce’s. It was as though both of them were standing in the batcave, both of them dressed in their uniforms.
“How?” Bruce asked.
“I don’t know.”
Clark sighed. “We need you, Bruce.”
“I will be there. Give me a moment.”
Clark nodded. He waited patiently for Bruce to arrive. For his Kryptonian senses, it was taking Bruce an eternity to arrive.
And considering the threat they were facing, he wasn’t sure if he had eternities to spare.
Lex paused, mid run. A giant shadow had appeared in front of him, and he knew enough about giant shadows to know what that meant.
“What can I do for you on this fine morning, Superman?” Luthor asked, looking up at the sky.
And sure enough, it wasn’t a bird, or a plane.
It was Superman. The man glided down, his cape billowing gently in the wind.
“You look like hell,” Luthor said. He wasn’t wrong. The cape was scorched in several places. When Superman drew nearer Lex was surprised to see that he was sporting a five o clock shadow. “What happened to you?”
Superman sighed. “I could ask you the same, Lex. It’s 2019. Less than a year away from the presidency. The things we did together. The things we will do together. I wish you knew.”
There was a tiredness in the Kryptonian’s eyes. Luthor didn’t understand what was happening. Did Superman actually consider him a friend?
“You don’t even know who I am, do you?” Superman asked.
“Kal-El. That’s your name isn’t it? Why is that important?”
Before Superman could answer, streaks of red slammed into him, carrying him off into the horizon. The Flash stopped for a few seconds by Luthor, while Wonder Woman and Batman materialized by his side.
“Did he do anything, Luthor?” Batman asked, his voice cold and unfeeling.
“No. That’s not him, right? That’s not the one we know.”
“No. No, it isn’t.”
“How are you going to stop him?” Luthor asked.
Wonder Woman grimaced. “That’s for us to know and for you to find out.”
She drew her sword and shield, leaping off the ground, flying fast.
“Call your security detail, Lex,” Batman said. “And get yourself somewhere safe.”
Batman disappeared, teleporting elsewhere, leaving Lex to wonder what was happening, and where it was happening, too.
Whatever the case, he was probably going to hear about it on the TV if it lasted beyond five minutes.
“Houston, we have a problem,” Luthor said, calling Mercy from his smart watch. “And his name is Superman.”