Lara tried to focus on the piece in front of her. She made her fingers trill along the piano keys even though she really did not want to. In fact, she wanted to be anywhere but here right now. Batman had warned her as such, as had all of her teammates, that she would not like school and that she would not be able to shirk it whenever she felt like. But mostly, she liked school. Lara liked going and learning new things about the world, and there was an entire hour every day when they let her go and practice piano. It was not school that bothered her. It was Superman.
Thoughts of the arrogant, outrageous man gushed up inside of her, and she banged on the keys in her frustration.
“Oh and you were so close to the end!” Lara looked to see the man she had noticed out of the corner of her eye a page ago. “I really thought you might finish before you boiled over in rage. I would take it again, from the Adagio, and work your way back through.”
“Are you a piano instructor?” she asked.
“I could be,” he replied, moving his shoulders in something far more dignified than a shrug.
“Well, Mr. Luthor, I had heard you were a man of many talents, but I never pegged piano as one of them,” Lara replied, turning back to her music book. She flipped the page back to where the Adagio was, as she heard him softly snorting, and making his way toward the stage.
“You’ve done your research?” he asked, as she began to play again.
“I would be a fool not to,” she replied. “Considering you are the primary shareholder in Cadmus Labs and you were funding their underground projects. And you hate Superman, and well, I thought that would be enough.”
“Enough for me to want to kill you?” he asked. “I would rather do something much more useful, like convert you.”
“The dark side is a religion now?” Lara asked, turning her eyes back to the book. She had been observing him for a moment, and wished she could do more as he laughed. He was different from Superman, even though he stood tall and proud just like the man of steel. Superman always had this air of importance, and a tenseness in his body because he bore the weight of the word on his shoulders. Lex Luthor stood very calm and relaxed as he lit up a cigar, like he was watching the world burn.
“I wonder, then, if you have done your research, you know why I’m here?” he inquired. Lara’s fingers paused up above the keys for a moment, before she continued to play out the song, passing the point where she had exploded before.
“I looked at all of the research, the stuff that Batman recovered, and some of the stuff that he didn’t,” Lara confessed. “It confused me that they couldn’t make a stable clone for years, and then suddenly, they had a solution.” Her fingers rolled against the keys as she finished the song and she looked up at him. “They added your DNA to his. And what a combination, Lex Luthor and Superman. And it would be stupid to think that you haven’t been watching me when you get the chances, especially now that I’ve started school, and I have an identity now.” She narrowed her eyes. “What do you want?”
“I have to want something?” he asked.
“You’re Lex Luthor, you always want something.” He laughed again.
“You really have done your research, haven’t you?” He pulled a chair from the wings and sat down forming a triangle between her and the edge of the piano. “I authorized that anything be done to complete your project. I did not know at first that it meant my DNA would be used. When I found out I was furious, and began to have you monitored, when I could find you. You actually remind me much of me when I was your age and the more I observed you, the more I realized that.” He leaned back, dabbing his cigar against the edge of the plastic chair. “There is one line I vowed never to cross, Lara, and that like was becoming my father. I thought I would solve that by never having children. But here you are, and you cannot be ignored.”
“Try telling that to Superman,” Lara said, brushing a stray hair out of her face. Luthor laughed again.
“Ah, yes, he is a stubborn one isn’t he? But Clark always was. He’ll realize he’s wrong soon enough and start paying attention to you. Maybe he’ll even go so far as to dote, especially if I’m around. He’ll want to prove that he’s the better father.”
“And what exactly will you do to prove you are the better father?” Lara asked.
“And what makes you think I will?” Luthor asked.
“You already said you’re going to get involved, and you love pissing Superman off, especially if there’s nothing he can do about it, and I would guess that you’re willing to go as far as genetic testing to make sure that he can’t,” Lara replied.
“You think like a villain.”
“I am half and half after all.”
“Does the rest of your team know about this?”
“Yes, and I left the files out for Batman to see. I imagine he’s told Canary and some of the other league by now. But probably not Superman.” Lara shrugged. “At least, I don’t think he’s told Superman yet. I imagine there would be a much bigger fit pitched and we all would have heard about it.”
“How do you like your school?” Luthor asked.
“I picked it out,” Lara said. “So, no, I don’t want to change.”
“And what about college?”
“Batman said he would cover anything that went above a 2000 on my SATs,” Lara replied. “He hasn’t offered to buy me a car yet though.”
“Why would you need a car?” Lex asked.
“To look like a well-adjusted normal teenager.”
“You’re asking a lot from a vehicle, but if Batman says you can, I have an old Ferrari I’ve been meaning to get rid of.”
“Are you sure you don’t have a Mustang?”
“Do I look cheap to you?”
“Mustangs are not cheap, trust me, I’ve looked.”
“Maybe if you’ve done something evil by the time your birthday rolls around,” Lex told her. “By the way—”
“July fourth,” she said. He almost rolled his eyes, but stopped like he remembered he was too good for it. “It was the day they woke me up.”
“How about pretty things, how do you feel about those?”
“I lean toward silver, lapis and moonstones,” Lara replied. “And I was planning on going shopping with a few of my friends this weekend if you are feeling particularly generous.” Lex pulled out his wallet and handed her a handful of one hundred dollar bills.
“I play piano, I’m sixteen. My hero is Tori Amos; I enjoy the works of Florence + the Machine, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and H.P. Lovecraft. My best friend is Eureka Jones, and you are not allowed to touch her no matter how mad you get at me. She’s convincing me to make and record my own music, though I think I still need to write and compose more. I think I want to do something with art, but I’m backing it up with business savy. My favorite food is sushi and I like elephants. I leave the rest for you to figure out if you really care.”
“Lara! Allie, allie, all come free!” Eureka called as she entered the stage from the green room. “And hello?”
“Hello,” Luthor replied. “I believe you must be Miss Jones.” He held out his hand to her and she accepted, shaking it firmly.
“You are Lex Luthor,” Eureka observed, letting go of his hand.
“Indeed. Well, Lara, it looks as if I’ve kept you. I’ll take my leave and contact you another time.”
“Sure thing, Lex,” Lara replied, waving to him as he strode off stage. Eureka patiently waited for Lara to collect her things, before she attached herself to the other girl’s arm.
“How exactly do you know Lex Luthor?” Eureka asked.
“It would seem my friend, that everything about you is complicated,” Eureka observed. “One of these days I’ll have to figure out your secrets so that way you can tell me everything.”
“So, Lex Luthor visited me at school today.” It took a moment probably due to her casual tone, but everyone froze in place.
“Could you repeat that?” Kid Flash asked. “I thought you just said that Lex Luthor came to see you at school today.”
“He did. He was quite…amiable. He really had me going for a while, especially about this part where he told me he didn’t want to become his father. And he wants to buy me things.”
“It’s a trap,” Robin said.
“Of course it’s a trap,” Lara replied. “I’ve been expecting it since I found out that he’s my second donor. He takes a personal interest in me and then does some crazy midwarp to make me evil. He even admitted that he wanted to convert me today.”
“I believe we should tell Batman,” Kaldur said.
“Oh, Batman knows. He’s listening,” Lara informed them. “I also think I’m getting some kind of super hearing.”
“Nice,” Artemis told her. “So, you’re completely aware that you are walking right into a trap.”
“Yep,” Lara replied.
“Lara are you doing this just to make Superman angry?” M’gann inquired.
“No, I am only doing it in part to make Superman angry,” Lara answered. “The other part is finding out what exactly Luthor has planned for me, and why he wanted a clone of Superman in the first place. Aside from, you know being able to destroy the world and all that.”
“Also, we could probably get that control device that’ll make you evil,” Robin pointed out.
“Absolutely not.” They had not noticed that Batman had entered the room until he spoke. “You will rebuff Luthor and come to me if he does not cease and desist.”
“Then he’ll get custody of me, and then where would we be?” Lara asked. “I do share half his DNA and it’s not like the other half is going to claim me any time soon. Not even if you try and make him.”
“You should not attempt to elicit his attentions,” Batman warned her.
“I’m not,” Lara said. “He is eliciting mine. I piqued his interest today, I could tell. He says that I remind me of him, or something like that. While it may not be the best sentiment in the long run, he’s interested, and I don’t think that interest is going away. I might as well try and find out what exactly he has planned, because whatever he’s going to do to me is going to affect the whole team. I’m trying to think in advanced.”
“The plan does have merit,” Kaldur pointed out. “If we know that Luthor will attempt to lure Lara into a false sense of security, than perhaps we can be more watchful of both of them. There are of course…flaws, but we can work them out.”
Batman stayed silent, thinking for a moment before he said,
“You will not speak with him until we have decided a course of action and you will accept no further monetary gifts from him. You will begin to wear your comm link to school, and when you arrive at a situation you cannot handle on your own, you will contact me, immediately. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Batman,” Lara replied. Batman turned on his heel and left the room.
“You should listen to him, K-girl,” Robin said. “I think he doesn’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to get hurt either,” Lara agreed. “That would kind of suck.”