December 25th, 2007
Ma and Pa were never the devout church-going type, but Christmas was always something special to us. My parents would plan sometimes months in advance to find exactly what I wanted, and when I was old enough to start giving back, I'd go to the ends of the Earth- sometimes literally- to do something special for them. As a kid, I'd show off and do something crazy like move every boulder and heavy rock in every acre of our fields and make a statue. As I got older, it became more personal, like learning how to painstakingly restore the old broken pocket-watch that had been a Kent family heirloom since the Civil War. Point being, this is the time of year I go to great lengths to get the people in my life the thing they want or need more than anything else in the world.
Christmas morning in Smallville was wonderful; Ma was up before dawn making breakfast because she knew I'd insist on making it myself when Lois and I arrived. We caught up on all the daily goings-on in the old town and what we were up to in the big city, and exchanged gifts after I put the dishes away. Over the past few months, I'd secretly brought all of the heavy machinery from the barn to my Fortress and had Kelex retrofit them all with menial AI systems to drive themselves, and we surprised Ma with a completely automated self-sustaining farm. She found Pa's old baseball glove and re-stitched it together for me. She was always better at finding the perfect gift than me.
I would have stayed longer, but sadly, my job doesn't allow for holidays. I spend the rest of my morning putting out fires, stopping a few potentially fatal car crashes, and helping Captain Turpin and his men take down the Helgrammite, who had apparently assumed I'd taken the day off and thankfully didn't seem to be in the mood for a fight when I arrived.
With things relatively calm, it's time for my next stop, and the I'm the least certain about trying.
The tower is one of the most imposing man-made structures ever assembled, stretching even higher than the Burj Khalifa. I've been told that with normal human vision, the very top of the spire isn't visible from ground level on a cloudy day. And yet, despite reaching heights that would collapse most known designs under their own weight, the place is shockingly sturdy. Through disasters, bombings, rampages from super-powered criminals and terrorists, and even the Dominator invasion, the tower has never sustained more than cosmetic damage.
I'll say this for Lex Luthor: he's one hell on an architect.
The upper floors of the LexCorp tower blossom out on one end like mushrooms on the side of a tree: layer after layer of helicopter pads and observation decks, added in recent years to accommodate visitors from the sky. For someone who's never been able to stand the sight of me, he sure did go out of his way to make sure I had plenty of places to meet him for our occasional conversations.
Today, as I touch down on the uppermost observation deck, I see he's not out to greet me with his usual smugness. I peer through the layers of reinforced ferro-crete and poly-alloy structure to see him at his desk, typing away at one of several laptops arranged around him. Of course he'd be hard at work on Christmas Day; while I'm sure he's never said it out loud, he's the type of person who's had "bah, humbug" on the tip of his tongue all his life."The door's open, Spaceman,"
he calls out, not even looking up from his desk as I approach the office. I raise an eyebrow at how clearly I'm able to hear his voice- usually the windows in LexCorp Tower are so perfectly soundproofed that even I
can't hear through them. I suppose he's created some way to selectively filter sounds coming in and out of the Tower, similar to my own senses, but that's another question for another day. Today, I'm here for a talk....and to deliver a gift."Keeping your nose to the grindstone, I see,"
I remark as I step into the clean, almost sterile office. Every piece of furniture, every light fixture, every piece of art, was precisely engineered to be in its exact space, giving the room an impressive but soulless air. "I'd read that a few years ago, you'd replaced most of your board of directors with high-functioning AI to handle the day-to-day business at your company.""Yes, well, after the Brainiac incident I soured somewhat on the idea of turning that much work over to software,"
he says, a bitter tone in his voice. "Now, what do you want? Here to scold me on another project that doesn't adhere to your Commandments? Maybe make a few more accusations that I'm some criminal mastermind even though you just can't seem to whip up the evidence to prove it? Or did you come here to blubber and beg me to see the light so we can be friends?""Actually,"
I say, brushing off his rebuke and producing a small gift-wrapped box, "I just wanted to give you your Christmas present."
Lex finally stops typing, one eyebrow raised."Did you bring a soccer ball?""Excuse me?""Oh come now, you have to know about the Christmas Truce,"
he says, looking up from his desk with a mocking smile. "It's 1914, and Europe is in the first stages of tearing itself to pieces. A whole generation of bright-eyed young men are thrown into the meat grinder and empires are broken forever. The destiny of the world hangs in the balance of two lumbering alliances trying to clog the enemy's throat with the corpses of their young. But ah, it's Christmas. So the Germans and French and British all climb up out of their trenches, sing songs, trade trinkets back and forth, and play a friendly game of futbol. It's a tear-jerking story that really shows the inherent goodness of the world and the magic of the season.
"So, I ask you again,"
he says, an edge sharpening the smile on his face, "if you want us to have a little Christmas truce, did you bring a soccer ball?""No,"
I answer plainly. "I thought you might like--""Might like what?"
Lex cuts me off, standing up and rounding the desk to face me eye to eye-- or really, eye to chin for him. "This is supposed to be some gesture to show me that you're not all that bad, right? That maybe, deep down, you really do care? Do you know what Christmas is to me, Superman? Christmas is my old man buying me a new video game I'm never going to play, a new suit I'm never going to wear, or a new car I'm never going to drive, to make up three hundred and sixty-four other days of his fist, his insults, or his indifference. Just like every other higher power that either puts you through hell or ignores you, only to turn around and hope a token act of kindness will make us all forget how awful you really are."
He snatches the box out of my hand, contemptuously ripping off the wrapping paper and digging his hand into the box."So let's see what the mighty and merciful Man of Tomorrow got for the man who opposes everything he believes,"
he says. "Some sappy reminder of happier days, or a souvenir from some amazing adventure, or a........what............what is this?"
In his hand is a small, seashell-like bowl of shimmering crystal and dark dull metal. Inside the bowl seems to be a handful of bright white sand which shifts and stirs with his movements, but never spills out even as Lex turns it upside-down."It's a small matter compiler,
I tell him. "It pulls trace elements out of the surrounding environment and re-configures them on a subatomic scale into any substance you want, once you understand how to operate it."
Lex scowls at it, perhaps annoyed by how interested he is."And how do I operate it?"
he asks idly as he turns it over and over in his hand."I'm not telling you,"
I say with a grin. He stops fiddling with the device and glares. "On Krypton, this was a toy meant to entertain children. I'm sure you can figure out how to make it work with no problem.""Ah-ha,"
he says with a bitter laugh. "So that's your 'Christmas present,' mocking me.""Daring you,"
I correct him. "This little device can only make objects about the size of an apple, but the principles remain the same no matter what the scale. With the right design, you could make one big enough and powerful enough to feed everyone on the planet, manufacture shelters for the homeless, custom-build medicine for the sick, and conjure it all literally out of thin air....""....or build a whole new society from the ground up and rule over it myself,"
he says, his eyes fixed on the trinket. "I could make anything with a device like that, and you're just giving it to--""No,"
I say, deftly snatching it back from him, "I'm letting you look at it, and daring you to make a better one."
There's a long pause in the air between us."Get out of my office,"
he says coldly."Merry Christmas, Lex,"
I respond with a wink."GET OUT!!!!
I duck out of the way to avoid the laptop that Lex hurls at me, which shatters against the bomb-proof window as I leave. Taking to the sky, I find myself wondering if I got through to him. Someone like Lex Luthor won't accept a mere present, or a peace offering, or a token of friendship. But if there's one thing he will
accept, it's a challenge.
We'll see if he ever puts that gift to use. In the meantime, there's plenty of day left, which means there are going to be plenty of people who'll need me to use my own gifts.
All in a day's work, I suppose.