And now for something completely different (and yes, this is pretty much in the Monthy Pythonesque vein of random drive-by silliness).

Among other things, Lex considers skin mags, the importance of names, the merits of earplugs, trenchcoats designed by Lagerfeld, and the language of flowers.

The Legend of Nightshade

by Sylvia


Lex often considered designing a secret identity for himself. Not that it would fool his arch-nemesis for so much as a moment, but when everyone else was romping around in skin-tight spandex using childishly descriptive comic-book names, why shouldn't Lex? He might not have the kind of solidly muscular build that made Superman and Batman look as though they'd stepped straight from the pages of a glossy magazine with a title like "Kinky Comixxx" or "Latex Fantasies", respectively, but that was no impediment. He was fit and had no need to hide his sleekly muscled body. Not everyone's tastes ran to the unsubtle butchness of bodybuilders, after all.

Names were important in the super-villain business. "Brainiac" was already taken, but it was a silly name anyway. Granted, it was obligatory for such nomers to be silly, but Lex felt that he had to uphold a modicum of dignity even when displaying his package for the world to see. "Mastermind" was out too; Lex did not feel like being compared to a cheesy 70s board game. He'd have to go with something more generic, such as "Dark Shadow". It didn't have anything to do with what Lex considered his own personal superpower, but it did have the advantage of being appropriately melodramatic – foreboding in a darkly romantic way.

And if it came to that, there was always "Devilicus". He'd have preferred "Warrior Angel", of course, but that slot was already filled. Maybe Lex could design some kryptonite-tipped stainless steel strap-on horns. There was much to be said for symbolism.

As for the color scheme, venomous green would have been most fitting, but vivid greens made Lex look washed-out and sickly. Black was better. It was a dramatic color on Lex, and he imagined his costume as being made of black, skin-tight and durable, yet flexible suede (leather would be too rigid). Thigh-high boots, to go all-out on the kink factor. Silver buckles all the way up, maybe, or lacing up the sides. The obligatory tool belt, of course – Lex could easily miniaturize a computer with satellite modem or some such. Perhaps a small array of lead vials holding a selection of kryptonite, the right variety for every occasion.

No emblem on the chest – supervillains shouldn't have to engage in branding. No cape that would only get caught in doors, windows, or fists. Gloves to match the boots, designed to grant full sensitivity and dexterity while leaving no prints. A high collar, reinforced with steel. A full mask and cowl, hiding his distinctive skull as well as his nose and mouth, designed to allow unimpeded vision, hearing, scent, breathing and speech while providing full protection at the same time.

The costume would be armored, of course, in case the wearer was punched or thrown into objects or walls. Fire-proof, needless to say. It would boast an integrated jet pack, to guard against the possibility of injury when being dropped from great heights. Most important of all: It would be equipped with instantly deployable earplugs, so the wearer wouldn't be forced to listen to self-righteous tirades and recriminations. Perhaps they could be designed to activate automatically on the utterance of certain key terms, such as "responsibility", "conscience", "consequences", "limits", "the man you wanted to be", and of course "your father".

It would be worth it just to see the expression on Clark's face. It might also be worth it for the extra seconds gained while Clark recovered from his startlement. With some projects, every second counted.

"Tell me, Superman," Lex drawled, interrupting Clark in mid-rant. Clark looked put out, but shut his trap, perhaps hoping for a tear-filled confession, or even a speech of contrition to match Clark's accusatory oration. "How do you feel about the pseudonym 'Nightfall' for the arch-nemesis of one of this world's greatest immigrant heroes? It has that certain ring to it, but is it too much?"

Clark made like a fish.

"I know, I know, it doesn't allude to any special power. I haven't gotten that shadow-thrower out of the early beta stages yet, and it's designed mostly for agricultural purposes in hot climates, anyway. Making a portable version would be a waste of time. But come on, Batman has absolutely nothing in common with a bat – which reminds me that I want you to speak to him about my new echo-locating implant. I can sell him the exclusive rights if he contacts me within the next two weeks. He can go ahead and do it through Wayne Industries, it's not like I don't know. Back to the subject, I have never seen a bat wearing latex, the Joker isn't even remotely amusing, and you're not a man. So give me one good reason why I can't call myself Darkshadow if I want."

Clark attempted to cover up his confusion by giving Lex a good shake. The collar ripped off of Lex's brand-new cashmere trenchcoat, sending him plummeting four stories before Clark caught up with him again. Damn it, that coat had been a Lagerfeld, designed exclusively for Lex. That decided the matter – Nightshade's uniform collar would not only be reinforced with steel, but attached to a harness fastened around his chest. Underneath the suede, or on top? With some silver studs as decoration, it might not look at all bad. Though if he wanted a name to match the outfit, he'd pretty much have to go with Bondage Boy if he went that route.

"You ever go clubbing, Superman?"

All right, maybe that was a bit out of left field. Clark fluttered his eyelashes in a way that made Lex want to lick them, spat forth some additional moral exhortations, and courteously flew Lex to the balcony of his penthouse before taking off with a last threatening – if mildly perplexed – glare. Martha Kent had taught her boy good manners.

He'd send her some star of bethlehem, bell flowers, and virgin's bower in the morning... maybe even a cabbage rose or two. By then, he'd know which name to sign to the card.


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