Chapter 2: Monday Afternoon
It was a Monday afternoon in Smallville.
Lately, that meant that Lex Luthor was trying to destroy the town.
Or at least its most famous resident.
"Come on Lex," Superboy said as he dodged a punch thrown by a giant robot. "This is getting old." He fell silent long enough to fly inside the robot's reach and deliver a punch of his own to one side of the huge device, then added. "Every Monday for the past month you've trotted out the next big thing in Giant Robot development. We go a few rounds and then I break your toy. Aren't you tired of this game?"
As the robot recoiled from the blow, Luthor's latest upgrade went to work. While the new hydraulic accumulators captured and stored the energy from Superboy's punch, the robot's computer brain (invented one month back) processed data from the wavefront of Superboy's air displacement (in a process perfected one week ago) and derived a prediction of the Boy of Steel's immediate future location. This location was then passed to the arm's gearing mechanism (invented by da Vinci in 1504, refined by Luthor two weeks prior), as the energy stored there was released.
The result was a precisely delivered blow that would have crushed a small mountain.
As the giant fist swatted Superboy from the air, the voice of Lex Luthor blasted from the robot's speakers. "Not yet!" he cackled as the boy he had not so long ago called a friend went flying through a wall of the Smallville courthouse. "I'm not tired at all," Luthor assured his adversary from the safety of the hiding place from which he was remotely controlling the robot. "In fact, I'm just getting started."
The giant robot turned and moved towards Superboy's momentarily limp body. The contraption was fast for its size, but not fast enough. By the time it reached the Boy of Steel, he was standing, wearing a partial grin.
"That was a good shot, Lex," Superboy said before returning to the air. "Not bad at all. But really, you're falling into a rut. It doesn't become you."
Luthor responded with some of the new vocabulary that he had picked up since he'd begun spending so much time in Reform School. The frivolity of the blasted alien always infuriated him. This was a battle of good versus evil! Why couldn't he behave accordingly?
"I mean," Superboy said as he circled the hunk of exotic metals and microcircuitry, "what's up with this every Monday thing? You keep making me miss the start of Gunsmoke."
Luthor gritted his teeth. "Sorry," he answered without the levity of his enemy, "it's just the development cycle I'm on." He was about to say something else when a burst of heat vision popped a weak weld on the robot's otherwise heavily reinforced left leg. Luthor exploded in a torrent of curses as his mechanical monster began to tumble and fall.
"Then let's put a crimp in that cycle," Superboy said to himself, and before what was currently the world's finest achievement in robotics hit the ground, the Boy of Steel was seventy-two miles to the northwest. A last curse was rolling off Luthor's lips when he heard a crunching sound behind him. His eyebrows climbed halfway up his smooth head as the rear wall of his hidden laboratory was twisted forcefully. He shook with rage as Superboy stepped through the gaping hole.
"Time to go, Lex."
Luthor didn't know whether it was the hands-on-the-hips pose or the disapproving tone that so infuriated him. The criminal genius-in-training started to reach for a nearby laser, then realized that he had left it a good two feet away. Much too distant to reach before Superboy did. A vein in Luthor's forehead throbbed with anger, a minor portion of which was self-directed. He'd been too confident that his lead-lined headquarters and method of randomly scattering and reintegrating the robot control signals (invented three weeks ago) would keep him secure from these ... rude interruptions.
Luthor shook his head and let loose another string of profanities that could almost make a Kryptonian under a yellow sun blush. "C'mon, Lex," Superboy said, "knock it off. I've listened to enough of that talk for one day." The next thing Luthor knew, he'd been scooped up and was airborne. "What would your mother think of the way you're speaking?"
Luthor almost growled. "I suspect it's the least of her worries," he said as they soared away. Superboy frowned, and thought about whether to give talking to Lex about his self-destructive behavior another try. It didn't seem to help, after all. It just seemed to make him madder. Especially when he tried to point out to Lex what his criminal ways were doing to his parents.
Still, he had to make the attempt. A friend would.
"I saw your parents the other day, Lex. They're worried -"
Luthor cut him off with a slicing motion of his hand. He looked away and said, "Don't. Just ... don't."
Superboy looked closely at the friend who had chosen to make himself an enemy, and realized, for not the first time, that there were things for which no super-power mattered.
The remainder of the quick trip to the Small County Reform School was spent in silence. When they'd touched down in the courtyard, Lex asked, "So how did you find me?"
Superboy frowned again. It seemed the only way they could communicate anymore was when they were fighting, or talking about it afterward. "What you're doing with the control signals is good Lex. Very clever. I'm sure the military would pay you a lot of money for the process. You wouldn't need to steal anymore."
"I don't need to steal now," Lex snapped.
Superboy sighed and nodded. "Well, like I said, it's very clever. But you seem to forget that you're not the only one who knows some physics."
It was Luthor's turn to frown. "What does that mean?"
"It means that from gauging the response times of that big hunk of metal that I've got to go clean up, and factoring in the travel times for your transmissions, it gave me a general area in which to look for you. The rest was easy."
"Really!" Luthor said with disgust-tinged sarcasm. Then he shook his head. "No. That's ridiculous. There has to be more. Some fluke that tipped you off. You couldn't have found me otherwise."
Superboy shrugged as he handed Luthor over to the guards whom had hurried out to receive their wayward prisoner. "Like I said, you're not the only one who knows some physics."
Then he leapt into the sky, and tried not to feel overly pleased with his coyness. Given the rivalry between them, and especially given Lex's disrespect for Superboy's intellect, it was hard not to detail for him exactly how he'd won. But unnecessarily tipping him off, Superboy knew, wasn't wise.
What he'd told Lex about narrowing down the search area was true enough. However, he hadn't mentioned how challenging it was to accomplish this in the middle of a fight, and that he truly hoped that this defeat would cause Luthor to abandon his control signal research. But more importantly, Superboy kept to himself the fact that he had pinpointed the boy genius by listening for those profanities he was spewing. He didn't want to point out to Luthor that while his electronic scrambling worked exceptionally well, and his use of natural lead deposits for x-ray shielding was very proficient, he had neglected to ensure that his hideout wasn't leaking sound energy through the plumbing and drainage pipes. That Lex in his brilliance tended to overlook relatively simple flaws in his schemes was an edge that Superboy didn't wish to endanger.
Given Lex's still bitter attitude, there was too good a chance that he would be needing it for a while.
One repair of the courthouse wall, and one giant robot cleanup and slagging later, Clark Kent walked through the back door of Kent's General Store. As was usual after a battle with his former friend, he was feeling down. It had all been such a mess with Lex ever since the incident eight months ago, and he had ran out of ideas about what to do about it. He still hadn't stopped wondering what he could have done differently though, and more and more, he was beginning to fear that Lex might not grow out of this. The thought chilled him. Lex seemed to hate him so. For both their sakes, he hoped that things would not be this way between them forever.
But Lex was so angry.
Clark was planning to talk to Pa again about Luthor, but saw that he had a customer. When he heard the man's heartbeat, he realized that the conversation would have to be postponed. Indefinitely.
This wasn't just any customer.
This man had come a long way to see him.
|STRANGE VISITOR Copyright 2000 Samuel Hawkins.  All rights reserved. This story is neither authorized nor endorsed by DC Comics. Superboy and all related previously established characters are TM DC Comics & © DC Comics, Joanne Siegel, and Laura Siegel Larson.|