Anyway, there is more of the Silliness. Thanks again to supacat for beta-ing.
Day 3 Maintainance callout
Clark did a lot of sneaking in the next twenty-four hours. He rather enjoyed it. It reminded him of the old days in Smallville with Chloe.
First, that evening, he flew past Lex’s penthouse. Of course it was tricky because of the security system, but superspeed and x-ray vision came in very handy. After a couple of passes he was reasonably confident that Lex was still in residence. He’d got good at reading the signs over the past year: when Lex was out of town the staff set the window dressings slighly differently. Plus, the half-finished glass of scotch on the nearest coffee table was a bit of a give away.
He considered hanging around until Lex got home, but decided he didn’t need to. Besides which, Lex had a habit of staying out late and not coming home alone, which usually resulted in more information than Clark needed. Not to mention the fact that Superman should use his powers to fight evil and protect the weak. Clark wasn’t sure spying on Lex’s sex life really fell into that category.
He moved on to a patrol of all the LexCorp facilities he knew about. To say that Lex’s business interests were diverse was an understatement. Clark still had no idea what went on in some of the factories on the edge of town. An increasing number of them were tell-tale black room-shaped holes when he scanned them, evidence of lead-lining. And nearly all had some form of kryptonite security system. But that didn’t mean that a patrol was pointless: hints of new or unusual activity at any one of them could be useful background for a more conventional investigation.
On his return to his apartment, Clark rang Chloe. She was out but he left a message on her answering machine.
The next morning, Clark got to the office extra early. The bleary-eyed night team had the percolater going in the kitchen and were trading jokes. Clark wanted to join them but then he saw that Colin, one of the sub-editors was there. He’d avoided Colin ever since that embarrassing apostrophe incident. He’d just have to find time for a coffee excursion later. First, he had business to take care of.
Clark opened the door and switched on the light to the copy room. The light panels in the ceiling flickered into life one after another. He pressed the auto-sleep button on the largest of the machines. There were three, as well as the Xerox and the special design printers for the magazine divison. Clark didn’t have the codes to turn those on, but it didn’t matter. He figured the major copier would be enough, and grinned again about his plan.
Clark tugged on the double doors; they opened to expose the machinery. He crouched and peered inside. He was going to have to be careful – nothing too obvious. There were several handles, numbered, which allowed you to open further panels. Clark tried one after another, undoing the machine like a set of Russian dolls, until he got to the innermost workings. This was better. He focussed his eyes and took aim. The metal fused. When he finished, there was a bit of a strange smell, but he figured it would blend in with the toner fumes once the machine was running.
Lois hijacked the rest of Clark’s day. She was good at it.
‘Hey! You’re early! That’s great!’
‘So are you. How did that happen?’ Lois wasn’t exactly a morning person.
‘It’s called dedication, Smallville. That can’t be your excuse though.’
‘Well I thought I’d get some reading done before you got here, while it was still quiet.’
‘Yeah, right. Whatever. Listen, I need you to do something for me? Can you go to the council offices for me? I want you to get the file on the planning permission for the Met U Institute. Just call me when you’ve got it, ok?’
Just like that. Clark spent much of the rest of the day pouring over residents’ complaints and the council’s responses, punctuated by impatient calls from Lois on his cell phone. He had to admit that they uncovered some pretty interesting findings: the construction of the Institute broke council height regulations for the district, and it appeared LexCorp had bought the silence of more than one resident who had challenged its construction. More than one troublemaking resident had moved to a ritzier suburb or completed a stalled renovation on their home. No direct links to the University, of course. Convenient.
Clark had a few pangs of regret that he wasn’t in the office to see Lex make the maintainance call. But then, the helpline technicians rarely made it out on the same day of the call: there was probably still plenty of time.
Back in the office everything seemed quiet. The late afternoon sun slanted into the building almost as far as Clark’s desk. It increased the glare on his screen, which made writing even more exhausting. Clark leaned back in his chair, stretched out his arms behind his head and yawned.
‘Well, I see I came just in time.’
Clark jerked upright and whirled his chair round, banging his knee on the filing cabinet as he did so. He hoped there wasn’t a visible dent.
Lex was looking amused. ‘I’m just about to do a coffee run. You want anything?’
‘Whatever did we do without you, Alex?’ Lois was perky. She ran on caffeine. ‘Make mine a strong macchiato, two sugars.’
‘Nice!’ Alex gave her an approving look. ‘Clark?’
Alex? When had he started thinking of him as Alex? Clark’s mind spun.
‘Uh, latte. Thanks.’
‘He wants hazelnut.’ Lois handed Lex a note. ‘My shout, Clark.’
Clark watched Lex walk to the elevator. What was going on? He checked his email again: no, nothing from Alex. So what had happened? Clark was sure he’d done a good enough job. He decided to check out the copier room.
He paused in the doorway.
There was a new copier. Plastic sheeting and heavy polystyrene littered the floor. The copier took up nearly a whole wall. It was already working, humming quietly and spitting out a series of stapled and folded pamphlets.
To one side of the doorway, on top of the reems of copy paper, was a clipboard with paperwork attached. Clark picked it up. It was a contract from Canon. Clark flicked through the papers quickly and found a copy of an invoice to Canon. He checked the model number. He checked the new machine. He stared at the bottom line of the invoice and whistled softly. That was a lot of money.
But Clark knew one person who could afford to throw that type of cash around. He flipped the papers back in place and replaced the clipboard. He was just in time.
‘Excuse me.’ A technician wearing a Canon ID tag and a disgruntled expression pushed his way past Clark.
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I’m in your way.’
The technician grunted by way of reply. He was tucking the clipboard under one arm and bending to repack the opened toolkit on the floor in front of the copier.
‘Excuse me, can I ask you something?’
‘You just delivered this today, right?’
The guy straightened and threw Clark a bored look. ‘Ye-es.’
‘The Daily Planet… we didn’t have this on order did we? I mean, it was only arranged today, right?’
‘Right. Look, I got other calls to make, ok? I’m just here to do set-up. The training guy will be here tomorrow. You can talk to him about it.’
‘The training guy?’
‘Yeah. For the inservice training? Oh, look, talk to your manager about it, ok?’
The technician, toolcase in hand, left the room. Clark turned to watch him go and saw him cross paths with Lex, on his way back with a cardboard tray of coffees.
‘Oh there you are, Clark.’
‘Just on my way back to my desk.’
‘Uh huh.’ Lex handed Clark his coffee. Their fingers touched briefly, awkwardly, as Clark found his grip on the foam cup. ‘Hazelnut latte. You never used to drink those.’
‘Yes, they do.’ Lex was smiling. Clark didn’t know what he thought he had to smile about. ‘So, do you like the new machine?’
Clark straightened. ‘I’ve really got to go, Lex.’ He took a step a way.
Lex pouted in mock sympathy. ‘Lois got you on a leash, huh?’
Clark glowered and turned his back on Lex.
Lex’s smile lingered in his memory, but it didn’t matter. Let’s see if you’re still smiling tomorrow, Luthor!