DISCLAIMER: I do not own these Messrs Luthor or Manners. Just playing. Don't sue.
COMMENTS: Written in response to The Smallville X Titles Challenge. http://www.debchan.com/livia/smallville/xtitle.html
Los Angeles, 1992
Holland's three o'clock appointment was the kind of client who would have reduced any lesser lawyer to a puddle of nerves. Since his two o'clock, however, had been a vampire, and his two thirty had been a premenstrual Kankanath demon, Lionel Luthor, even royally pissed, seemed fairly manageable. It was all about context.
Luthor slammed the contract down on the table and gave Holland a smile that would not have been out of place on a great white.
"Prosperity," he said in a carrying voice. Luthor was the sort of client who always played to the crowd; even though the crowd in this case was limited to Holland Manners and several dozen hidden cameras and microphones. This man, Holland reflected, probably brushed his teeth with theatrical flair. "Was I, or was I not, promised unhindered prosperity in all my ventures? I'm paying you people enough to make damned sure that it's only the very best demigods in the business that I have any dealings with, and yet lo and behold, Green Industries is suddenly besting me at every turn. Have you seen the value of my stock recently? Are you aware of the unmitigated fiasco over in Gotham last week? Or the money-pit that the Sunnydale Insurance Company turned out to be? What am I actually paying you for, Mr Manners?"
Holland Manners smiled.
"The thing is, Mr Luthor, that the deity in question feels that you haven't actually kept your part of the bargain." Lionel Luthor stared at him, but as Lionel possessed only one pair of eyes and they didn't show any signs of glowing, this was frankly inadequate to intimidate Holland. "You are contractually obligated to sacrifice the finest thing you have gained in any given year to the goddess Artemis, in exchange for which she ensures that your star will continue to rise."
"I am very well aware of this," said Lionel dryly. "How exactly does that bitch consider me in breach of promise?"
"While the regrettable destruction of the Littlefield plant was an admirable gesture, it did not actually fulfil last year's criteria."
"Mr Manners, the Littlefield plant was the single most valuable asset I acquired in all of 1991. I have all the documentation to prove it. Are you trying to tell me that it - accidentally - burned down for nothing?"
Holland smiled placatingly and picked an invisible fleck of lint from his lapel.
"Hardly for nothing, Mr Luthor. The insurance money you received was really quite considerable; but Artemis isn't one to worry about details like insurance. No, the problem is that your most treasured acquisition for 1991 is something a little more, how shall I put this - organic. You must be familiar with the story of Agamemnon, Mr Luthor? The delays that kept the Greek fleet in port until he made good on his bargain with Artemis? The circumstances are very similar."
Lionel Luthor stared at him and Holland watched unwilling comprehension dawn on his face. The man looked suddenly sick.
"Julian is not part of this deal," said Luthor evenly. "Absolutely out of the question. There's a loophole somewhere, damn it; and if there isn't, then you can damned well create one. I'm paying you enough. My child is not an option."
"Mr Luthor, I can assure you that we have looked into this most thoroughly. By the terms of the contract -signed in blood and witnessed by beings from three separate planes of existence - you are bound to sacrifice the most valuable thing you have gained in any given year. The wording is very specific. Should you choose to remain in breach of contract you will stand to lose not only all the assets gained over the years since you first pledged your allegiance to the deity, but you are also - if you would care to check paragraph 47, section 2(a) - due to forfeit 50% of your original wealth."
"You can't do this."
"Mr Luthor, Wolfram and Hart has no intention of doing this. I am simply reminding you of the terms of your contract with Artemis. I'm afraid that we have found her to be most - assiduous - in the past when it comes to such matters. Agamemnon and his daughter being a case in point."
For once Lionel Luthor seemed to be at a loss for words. Holland watched the man pacing back and forth and wondered idly whether his three thirty appointment would use the door or try to impress him with a flashy materialisation routine.
"You were wrong about the prophecy two years ago," pointed out Luthor, his eyes glittering. Holland had rather expected this.
"Mistakes were made, it's true, and Wolfram and Hart sincerely regrets the damage to your other son. As you know, the department responsible has been - dealt with. Permanently. However, although the wording of that prophecy was a little ambiguous, all the translators maintain that your son is destined for greatness and that a great power will be forged in -" Holland flicked a glance at his notes, "Smallville, Kansas. Moreover, there is still every indication that the meteorite in question is indeed this 'alkahest' that Paracelsus cited as the true Philosopher's stone. A fifth element, if you will, with immeasurable powers of transformation."
"I've heard all this before. You were wrong about the translation - no avatar came hurtling from the stars to act as my protector. We combed the fields. Nothing. You cannot be right about this, Mr Manners. I am not prepared to kill my own son just to guarantee my continued wealth. What do you take me for?"
Holland Manners smiled.
"I take you for a man of sense and vision, Mr Luthor. If there is any way in which Wolfram and Hart can assist you, don't hesitate to call us at any time of night or day."
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