#51: A Day in the Life… Mar 22, 2019 16:04:23 GMT -5
Post by Admin on Mar 22, 2019 16:04:23 GMT -5
Issue Fifty-One: “A Day in the Life”
Written by Eric Guptill
Cover by Roy Flinchum
Edited by Mark Bowers
Jimmy laid out the blanket, taking a few seconds to run around and straighten out the corners. There was no wind, a small consolation that did nothing to calm his nerves. It was his real first date with Dana, coffee not counting, and he was excited. His run in with her at the elevator had been a happy accident that she had found charming*. Anyone else who had been bumped by a stranger, throwing their papers this way and that, would have been more angry than intrigued.
He ran back to the car, grabbing the picnic basket and bottle of Moscato. Jimmy wasn’t a big drinker, but Moscato had just the right amount of sugar to make it palatable. He also wanted to impress Dana, and the little something in a bottle was his idea of romantic.
He could see Dana getting ready to offer to help every few seconds, but he just smiled and shooed her away. As he kneeled on the blanket and began carefully placing their picnic items, he realized how quickly everything had happened. From a chance meeting in an elevator, to a quick coffee date…That date had been all that he needed.
It had been just a few days ago that they had stopped for a quick coffee at a locally owned coffee shop downtown. To be honest, Jimmy couldn’t even remember the name, he had only had eyes for Dana. It had been awkward for him, at first, but Dana had no problem. She seemed genuinely interested in him, his mother, what he enjoyed doing outside of work. It was refreshing. People seemed to assume that his life was all about Superman and his job at the Daily Planet, but he had interests and she wanted to know them.
He had started with stories of Superman and their friendship, it was his go to to impress. Dana had listened politely, but then directed him back to himself. She had admitted that Superman was fascinating, but she could read all about him, she couldn’t read about Jimmy. That had caused Jimmy to perk up even more, and between stories about his life, he asked her about hers.
Dana had grown up in New York, but had moved to Metropolis to go to school. New York was what she was used to; Metropolis and Gotham both seemed like cities that she could thrive in. Her parents had said no to Gotham; it had just seemed too dangerous. So it had been Metropolis where she moved to attend college. She was finishing her final year in ancient history and archeology. She usually spent her summers out on digs and loved it. Her parents were not so happy with her choice, but they supported her. They were business moguls, running D cosmetics. Jimmy knew it; who didn’t, it was one of the best-selling cosmetic lines, ten years running. Oddly, the money didn’t seem to have an effect on Dana, to a point. Her parents paid for her schooling, gave her a stipend and paid for her apartment. Okay, the money did affect her a little, but it didn’t change the fact that she wasn’t above grabbing a coffee in a small shop instead of a fancier, and pricier, chain store.
That first date had solidified things for Jimmy. He wanted to see more of her, he couldn’t help himself. She was fascinating, but not perfect. There were little things, like the fact that she was into sushi. Jimmy was definitely a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but not so much a seafood guy. It could be from the fact that he had never tried it, but he was sure he would not enjoy it. It was Dana’s favorite. See, not perfect, but he didn’t mind.
Jimmy finished setting everything up. He had glasses, plates and silverware. Everything rested on cloth napkins with a muted pink rose engraved on them. He had found them in the back of his mother’s linen closet and she had been more than happy to let him use them. In fact, she had even let him use her car and had told him about this place. It had been somewhere his father had taken her. A perfect place, a single tree on the cliffs overlooking the ocean. For all of its glitz and glamour, beautiful views and mix of cultures, the one thing Metropolis didn’t have was a beach; the cliffs bordering the ocean made it impossible. This was the next best thing.
He finished by laying out the food he had packed in the fanciest Tupperware that he had. There was cold edamame, which meant it was fresh, sprinkled with flakes of salt, spicy noodles, chicken (for Jimmy) and the coup de grâce, two finely made sushi rolls. He saw Dana’s eyes light up as he unpacked them. Her smile shone from ear to ear as she kneeled on the blanket, leaned in and brushed her lips against his.
Jose put the finishing touches on his costume. He had spent the last week trying to make up his mind if this was something he really wanted to do. His thoughts had been distracted during the day, but he had not had to worry that his students would suffer; school had been closed since Parasite’s attack* and though it would open soon, he had been granted an extended leave of absence. Jose’s confusion in what he was going to do didn’t stop him from working out the costume.
It had been his unconscious mind telling him, he already had made a decision. He realized that today, as he finished. Gangbuster, that was what he would call himself. Dark browns, blacks and a touch of red made the costume blend in with the surrounding shadows. Superman was a creature of the day, Gangbuster would be the opposite.
Night, especially in Suicide Slum, was dangerous. Superman took care of things here and there, but the slum was never much on his radar. Jose didn’t blame him, Superman saved the whole city, even the world, he couldn’t be expected to handle some of the smaller crimes. Those were the crimes Jose heard, saw or knew about in his neighborhood. The people here were close, but the drug dealers were close as well. They knew how to hit up the next generation and continue growing their operation. Those were the people Jose needed to stop.
He had been forming a plan, though it still wasn’t ready to be fully implemented. He would start in one neighborhood, not his own, though. Whatever neighborhood he started in would garner the most suspicion, at first. From there he would move to a neighborhood next to the first, coming back to the original every few nights. Then he would expand. It would move like a circle, radiating out. At least, that was how he was envisioning it.
There would be a few practice runs, he couldn’t count that out. They would be in random parts of the slum, hitting easy targets. A pusher here, a robber there; he would make sure he was comfortable in the suit and the shadows. He was a good fighter, mixed martial arts being a passion of his, but using it in the real world had never occurred to him until recently. He needed to practice, get comfortable and not rush in. Well, not rush in too fast. Who was he kidding, taking a week or two was rushing in, but rushing with a purpose.
He had debated talking to someone about it, but didn’t have anyone he could trust. Lois and Clark had been one idea, but they were reporters. He barely knew them, but after Jerry nearly being killed by the Parasite, they had grown closer. Honestly, it was more of a fear that they would talk him out of it than they would turn him in. Jose believed they would understand why he wanted to do it, but wouldn’t approve. He couldn’t take that chance, their disapproval would be enough to turn him off of his plan.
His last chance had been two nights ago. He had met them for dinner, an odd invitation for him, but he had agreed. Clark had called him, sounding exhausted and Jose could understand. Superman had had a busy week, fighting four different villains and ending up at S.T.A.R. Labs. It had been all over the news, bleeding and covered in scratches, many thought he would die. He had pulled through and that was enough for Jose and the city. Lois and Clark had spent that same week following him and documenting his exploits. It would drain anyone, Superman seemed to be everywhere some days.
Jose had said yes. He had always kept to himself, maybe it was time for that to change. Those two had taken an interest in him in the hospital. They weren’t friends yet, but he could see the beginnings of a relationship, one that he was willing to nourish. It would be a first for him, having real friends, but he knew he could not do better than those two love birds.
They had met at a restaurant downtown. It had been a chain, burgers and steaks. It made him feel comfortable. Both of them had experience with upscale cuisine, something he did not. Clark had looked like death warmed over. He had scratches on his face, though they were nearly healed. He was covered in bruises and a black eye. Jose couldn’t hide the shock and asked why they had wanted to have dinner.
Clark had been a bit of collateral damage in the battle between Superman and the Jaguar.* Jose had offered to cancel the dinner, but Clark was insistent. He had wanted to talk with Jose, get to know him. Both Lois and he had felt a connection. Maybe it had been the shared guilt over Jerry, maybe it was just watching the Whites’ struggle with the fact that their son may die. He didn’t know, but he had felt the same way.
The dinner invite had been to ease their minds over current events; drink, eat, laugh. They had all needed it. It had also served another purpose; Lois and Clark were leaving to Smallville the following day to see his mother and other family members. They hadn’t wanted to leave without seeing how Jose was holding up. It was a kind gesture and had almost been enough for him to tell them about his plans. Almost. Instead they had spent the night laughing and having a good time.
Jose knew that he would see them when they returned and he looked forward to it. But for now, he had other ideas. Tonight would be his first foray out as Gangbuster. He would get his practice in, not having to worry about work, at least for a while. He would do this and do it well. There was room for more than one hero in Metropolis.
Lex lay on the gurney, ready to be wheeled in. The hospital gown that covered him was made from the softest silk, as was the blanket that lay over that. He may have been going into surgery, but he wasn’t going to be uncomfortable. Jerry was in the same gown and blanket as him, though the Whites had protested. Lex would have none of it.
They weren’t even at Metropolis General, no, he had insisted that the kidney transplant would occur at his private clinic. The best specialists had been flown in. He was Lex Luthor and this was going to be done the way he wanted it done.
There had been protest after protest, mainly from Perry. Alice had been willing to go along with it, mainly from the guilt. For Jerry’s whole life she had been under the impression that Lex had raped her, but recently realized it had been Lex’s father, Lionel. That bit of evil had been enough to get Lex on board. Jerry was his half-brother. He would do whatever he could to save him, well, almost anything. It was a big deal, giving this young man a kidney, but a risk he was willing to take.
He had always hated his father, always hated what he represented. He was evil, though many accused Lex of that same failing. Those were people that never knew who Lionel truly was and this was the last act against people who Lex had looked up to as a young man. It solidified why he hated his father, one of many reasons.
It was also why he was doing this. Jerry was now family. He would do for him what Lionel would never do for Lex. Jerry and Lex’s daughter were now the two people in all the world, well three, that Lex would do anything to protect.
It was odd, lying here, waiting for the doctor to come in and give him the anesthesia. It was a true risk to his life, this was the sacrifice that proved he was a hero. Lex knew it, those around him knew it, now Perry White would know it. But that wasn’t enough. Lex needed to do more than just save Jerry’s life, he had to impact it on a much grander scale. That is where the deal had come in. The deal to save all of Jerry.
Lex wanted more than to save his life, he wanted to save his soul. That meant more to him than a kidney. He didn’t know Jerry, but he could see himself in him. It had been a deal that had nearly killed Perry. For a kidney, Lex wanted time with Jerry, time to get to know his brother. It seemed reasonable to Lex, but when he had proposed it, Perry’s face had lit up, veins popping out of his neck. It had been Alice that had calmed him down before he blew. Alice, whose guilt Lex knew would not allow her to say no. He didn’t want her to feel guilty, she had done nothing wrong, but she would not hear him. Instead, she said yes. Though there had been a caveat; Jerry could never know that they were related. Perry was Jerry’s father and that was final.
Lex didn’t mind. He didn’t need Jerry to know that they were related, only that he would be given the opportunity to help shape the young man. It had been agreed that Lex would spend time with Jerry Monday through Friday. It seemed a lot, but Lex knew how to work a negotiation. Public school had nearly killed Jerry, Lex would remedy that. Jerry would attend one of the most prestigious private schools in Metropolis, at his expense.
Again, this was an easy sell to Alice. She wanted Jerry safe. It was fresh, her pain, and may have clouded her judgement. Lex didn’t care as long as he got results. The school was only a block from his office. Lex had had a hand in getting the Chancellor of the school the position, he could come and go as he pleased, taking Jerry with him. After school, Jerry would spend a few hours with Lex. The requirement that all students had to live at the school during the week made it easy for Lex to meet with Jerry. The Whites would have him on the weekends, but Lex was okay with that.
Perry had finally given in. Lex knew he would. He even began to see the benefits of it; safety, great education, he just hated that Lex was paying. Lex couldn’t erase that stain, but it was fine. After a few weeks of Jerry loving the school, they would forget all about it. He would even have the grant become a scholarship, appeasing Perry. With his influence, it would be no problem to push Jerry into getting good grades. He would shape him, that’s all he wanted to do.
Aww, to be young again, but Lex’s mind digressed. It was nearly time. He could hear the doctors talking as they moved toward him. He knew that this was not foolproof. One or more of them could die, well, just one of them. Lex wouldn’t die, he was too strong, too in control. He would survive, even if there were complications. He willed that same strength to Jerry; he wanted, no, needed him to pull through.
Steve Lombard slammed open the door to his apartment with one arm, the other supporting a very intoxicated Ron Troupe. He stumbled in, not quite sober himself, and deposited Ron on the couch. He landed with a slight giggle and began to turn over. Steve stopped him, took of his shoes and then allowed him to continue rolling onto his side. He moved, first to the linen closet then to the kitchen, grabbing a blanket and metal pot. The first was placed gently over Ron, making sure that he was covered, the second on the floor, near his head. Then he moved to his room, grabbing the wall here and there to steady himself.
It had been a happy coincidence that Ron and he had ended up at the same bar. It was actually quite a few blocks away from the Daily Planet, that is why Steve chose it. There were many other choices that were closer to the Planet, but he didn’t want to run into his co-workers. He saw them enough on a daily basis and didn’t need the hassle of meeting them after work. They were reporters, after all, and nosy by nature.
The bar was a sports bar, one he frequented. It wasn’t about drinking, it was quiet and they had some of the best burgers he had ever had. He didn’t know why they weren't on the map for them, but appreciated that they weren’t. He could have a cold beer and a burger, something he treated himself to twice a week. He wasn’t a football legend anymore and didn’t want the spare tire syndrome, that afflicted retired players, to affect him. He worked out frequently throughout the week and did watch what he ate, except for his Wednesday and Friday burgers. He drank, but only once in a while and socially. It wasn’t about the calorie count, but he wanted to look good. He was in his forties and it was a battle to defeat the bulge. A battle he was happy to be winning at the moment.
He had just about finished his burger when Ron entered the bar. He was fairly new to the Planet and had yet to get to know everyone. Steve recognized him and waved him over. Ron had grimaced a little, Steve’s reputation had preceded him.
Steve continued waving until he came over. Ron was new, he didn’t mind the company this once, but thought he may have to find a different bar. That little bit stung. Ron had sat and ordered a burger, at Steve’s insistence. He had loved it.
That had been the beginning of their drinking. They had talked a little about work, Ron commenting that he was much better than Steve, having not been thrown from a building. Steve had laughed, though it still bugged him. He had been having nightmares of falling for the past week and wanted nothing more than to forget it. He would never admit that, but it was there.
He had regaled Ron with stories from his past, twisted, dirty and totally inappropriate. Ron had taken it in his stride. He found Steve funny and deeper than he had imagined, deeper than the mask he wore at the Planet.
The night had gone on, into the wee hours of the morning. The patrons had began leaving, one by one as Steve and Ron got drunker and louder. Then it had been closing time and they had no other choice but to leave. Ron, much drunker than Steve, needed support.
Steve had asked where he was headed, but Ron’s answer was unintelligible. So he had made a command decision, as he was want to do. Ron would crash at his place. Ron agreed, or at least, it seemed like he agreed, so on they went. The subway ride was uneventful, except for the requisite nausea turning into the requisite vomit. Ron had been kind enough to turn his head away from Steve, which Steve appreciated. The smell though, that had been too much and Steve had lost his cookies. Then they had moved to another car. It was lucky that they had been the only occupants.
Steve had wondered, how many people actually get sick on the subway, he imagined it had to occur quite often. Either way, they were in a new car, stomachs empty and waiting for their stop. From there it had been a few blocks and they were at his place.
He peeked out of his room at Ron, making sure that he was fine. He was, snoring loudly as sleep had taken him away. Steve closed the door, stripped down to his underwear and crawled into bed. There was a slight chill as he huddled under the sheets. He pulled his body pillow closer and hugged it. Sleep began to take him as he thought about the fun he had. Ron was a good kid and he looked forward to working with him.
Kitty was overjoyed that Emil had found a way to control her changes into Rampage. In hindsight, he had had a busy week, working with Superman, helping her and then having to save Superman's life; which he had done after his final fight with the Leopard.* In between his bouts at the fortress and back at Metropolis, he had been able to extrapolate data and turn it into something useful for her.
She could never thank him enough. After all, Superman had been able to stop her, and only Kitty, Emil and Superman knew that Rampage had been her. She had taken it in her stride, not too upset about the fact that when exposed to sunlight she would transform.
It had been the fact that the creature seemed to be intelligent and may have retained some of Kitty’s personality and memories that sold her. As the week had went on, Kitty began to remember everything that had happened. She was positive that if she transformed again, she would be in control. That first time had just been disorienting. She figured that if it happened in the future she could handle it, with Emil’s help.
And he had helped by creating a set of bracelets for her. They were copper and gold, and looked like they had been made by a fine jeweler. Their purpose, other than looking nice, was to siphon off and slowly discharge energy that was building up in Kitty’s system. There were some caveats, she needed to wear them in the sun, both of them. They were small in size and could only bleed off a bit here and there. They were draining off just enough to keep her in her true form. If one malfunctioned or if she was in the sun without them, she would change within minutes.
Kitty was aware of that and happy with the results. Between her and Emil, she was confident that they could find a better solution, given time. Emil was confident as well. He had been glad he could help Kitty, and just in time, too.
She did wonder where Superman went to after he had talked with Emil. She really didn't know what they said and Emil was keeping mum. She wouldn't push him. She was just happy that she had some semblance of control. She would continue in her free time, working to make sure that she could completely control or cure herself of the transformations. Kitty Faulkner had been lucky.
They still had some work to do, looking over the Leopard's tests, but they had at least been able to counteract the liquid kryptonite his body was producing. It had required the removal of glands that were producing the poisonous material. In fact, if they had stayed in, they would have killed the villain. It was ingenious and a level of genetic engineering that she did not think was possible.
Kitty yawned. It was getting late and she still had a train to catch back to her appointment. She took a last look at the bracelets and smiled. Another yawn snuck up on her. She took off her lab coat, grabbed her backpack and left the office.
Read Superman #7 in two weeks.
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