Richard doesn't have time to think about Clark for the rest of the day.
Superman is the story.
There are two more robberies; one of an armoured money truck, and one of a diamond exhibit at the Metropolis Museum. Personally, Richard thinks holding a diamond exhibit in Metropolis is just asking for them to be stolen, but the only diamond he’s ever owned is the one on Lois Lane’s finger, so what does he know?
Superman shows up for each one, and he looks progressively worse. He doesn’t waste time negotiating, or letting bullets bounce off him as he’s prone to do on occasion (showing off, Lois says affectionately, and Richard always tries not to be jealous). He just takes the guns off the crooks and hands them over to the police. He doesn’t even stick around for a comment before he shoots off into the sky.
Perry is already planning the Health and Lifestyle section.
“’Superman Sick’,” he says, hands tracing the headline in the air. “Is the Man of Steel suffering a relapse from his time in hospital? What do dieticians recommend?”
Richard doesn’t have to look at Lois to know she’s raring for battle.
“Chief, this isn’t a matter of regular diet and exercise,” she said. “It’s that kryptonite those crooks threw in his face!”
“True,” Perry said, without missing a beat. “That’s why you’ll be covering that in your article. What does this mean for Metropolis when kryptonite can be found on every street corner? Should it be banned as an illegal substance? Run with it, Lois, and trust your instincts. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.”
Lois is already scribbling notes on her pad.
“Richard.” Perry points at his nephew. “I want to know where that kryptonite came from. Geography of the island, where it washed up, which countries are most likely to feel the effects.”
Richard frowns, making a note.
“I’ll see if I can get hold of an oceanographer…”
“Uh… Chief? I was just wondering… should we be publishing this?”
Everyone in the room looks at Jimmy. He shifts his feet uncomfortably under their scrutiny.
“Well, it’s just… if everyone knows about kryptonite, then Tom, Dick or Harry could get hold of it. Plus we’d essentially be mapping out the location for them to go find it.”
Richard can’t believe he didn’t think of that. He shares a quick look with Lois, who has the same look of suppressed horror on her face. Despite the friction between them these days, their agreement is unanimous on one subject: a little boy who is fragile enough without being exposed to that poison.
“He’s right, Perry…” he blurts out at the same time Lois speaks up;
“He makes a good point…”
Perry holds up a hand and they fall silent. Perry rubs his forehead.
“You realize the competition will come to the same conclusion?” He says. Lois bites her lip. Richard is squeezing his pen so tight, he’s vaguely surprised it doesn’t snap and splatter ink everywhere.
“Maybe we could present it in another way,” Lois says. “As in – they’ve wounded him, but he’s still managed to foil two burglaries in the meantime. Kryptonite as unpredictable and fairly useless.”
The smile returns to Perry’s face.
“I like it. Go with it. Richard, cancel that oceanographer.”
Richard has already blacked out the name on his pad.
They spend the rest of the afternoon slaving over that edition. It is a battle with Perry, as Perry wants the kryptonite to be up front and center, while Richard and Lois are trying to make it into an interesting but fairly irrelivant sideline. In the end, it falls somewhere between, and Richard resigns himself to having to be satisfied with that.
“It doesn’t make sense though.”
Lois says this on their way to pick up Jason, driving through the streets of Metropolis.
Richard’s not really paying attention, trying to calculate the odds of their son (Superman’s son) accidently being exposed to kryptonite in Superman’s city. Maybe they should move.
“How they got hold of kryptonite. Only one person in the world knows for sure how to identify and process kryptonite and he’s supposed to be dead.”
“Missing,” Richard corrects her absently. “Missing presumed dead. And if Lex Luthor figured it out on his own, I’m sure some other entrepreneur can do the same.”
“No, you don’t understand.” Lois’ expression is one of reluctant admiration. “Lex is brilliant. Evil, twisted, repugnant… but brilliant. I doubt there’s even a handful of other people in the world who would have made the connection between Superman and a meteor that fell in Ethiopia.”
Lois has uncanny instincts when it comes to journalism, and Richard has learned to trust them. Part of it lies in her inability to just accept blanket assumptions. She always has to question things and pick them apart. It blindsides her in many ways, like her continuing obliviousness to Clark’s infatuation. It has endangered her and Richard’s relationship more than once in the past, and is doing so now. And yet, once she makes her decision, Richard will be more secure in it. Lois would only stay with him if she was absolutely positive that he was what she wanted. It will mean that she’s thought through it, right down to the nitty gritty details. She’s incapable of doing anything with less than a whole heart and that’s why he loves her and why it will break his heart if she leaves him.
He stops for a red light, and turns to look at her.
“So you think Lex Luthor’s behind this?” He says.
“Maybe.” She’s tapping her fingernails on the door handle, forehead creased in thought. “Involved somehow. I just need more information.”
That’s Lois on the scent of a story, and he leaves her to think over it.
Jason’s in a good mood when they pick him up, chattering away about the house he drew for art. Richard checks his face for signs of fatigue – an impulse that has become habit over the years – and is relieved to find none. Although Jason has shown a marked improvement over the past year, there is little as of yet to set him apart from other children. Displays of superstrength so far only occur when he is extremely agitated or upset.
Superman had said that he is probably just entering another stage of growth, during which some of his powers manifest. It will happen again in another few years. Apparently there are seven stages for kryptonians, like the four stages of human growth, and there is no telling how widely Jason's will vary, and what will come when.
“Speed will probably kick in about nine or ten,” he says. “That’s when it was for me. But then I was lifting cars at three, so he may be on a later schedule. Honestly, there’s just no telling with Jason. There’s no precedent for a half human, half kryptonian.”
Puberty is a headache none of them want to think about just yet. Kryptonite carries the sort of horror that arsenic once did. Superman’s fairly sure that Jason will eventually become immune to most physical threats except that one, and possibly even that one too. Jason was tense on the boat, but Lois isn’t sure whether he’d been reacting to the kryptonite or the scary man waving a green pipe at them.
Either way, they will stave off that threat as long as they can.
At home, Richard makes dinner whilst Jason watches a cartoon. Lois is looking up something on her computer. He belatedly remembers Clark whilst he’s putting the peas on, and gives him a call. He only gets a dial tone. Richard hopes that means the man’s konked out on cold medication, not tracking down a source in down-town Metropolis.
He makes a mental note to check on Clark in the morning and takes the peas out of the microwave, shielding his hands with a tea towel.