"Before you leave for Smallville, I thought it would be nice for us to have dinner," said Lionel as he and his son sat at the dining table.
"Sashimi?" said Lex. "I don't recognize the fish. I notice you're having steak."
"Oh, you know me. I never went for raw fish. I had someone import this . . ."
"I hope this isn't blowfish. If you're going to poison me, it's a bad idea for you to sit at the same table I expire."
Lionel laughed. "Oh, please have some respect for my intelligence. You're my son. Just enjoy your meal."
Lex took the chopsticks left by a servant, dipped a slice of the red flesh into the soy sauce and tasted it. It looked quite a bit like tuna but had a taste and texture closer to kobe beef. It wasn't bad though he'd never admit it to his father. He ate another slice.
"Before you leave, I'd like to tell you a story."
"Is it another parable from Aesop or perhaps something from history or literature like a mad Emperor who exiled a general only to have him come back and overthrow him?"
"No, actually, it's about your mother."
"What about my mother?"
"When she was ill, I looked all over the world for a cure. I didn't overlook even the slightest chance, the wildest idea. I finally heard of a legend."
"What kind of legend?"
"There's an old Japanese legend that if one ate the flesh of a mermaid that one would live forever."
"Mermaids . . . How interesting."
"I was desperate. A man from the Tokyo office told me that he knew a man from his mother's village that supposedly owned the remains of a mermaid. I pressed him for more details. He said he didn't know where the man kept it but he did know his name and location. I went there myself. After I used my . . . various powers of persuasion, the caretaker took me to a cave and showed me what I was after."
"If you found the mermaid then why did my mother still die?"
"Because there's always a catch to these things. It doesn't work for everyone. Only someone special."
"Ah," said Lex. "That figures."
"It was dirty and impaled on a stake but it was still alive . . . Even decades after its capture, it was still alive! He told me that while a few lucky people did gain immortality from eating its flesh, most either died or become monsters. He said that he hid it there because he was afraid someone would try to use it."
"I had several of my scientists experiment with it. It was as the caretaker said. Most of the rats died or mutated into vile deformed monsters. However, there was one rat that didn't die or mutate. We subjected the rat to the most horrendous tests, killed it several times over but it always came back, healing itself perfectly. The only thing that managed to kill it was cutting its head off. I believe they said that only one in a thousand could tolerate the metabolic changes the substance produced and become immortal."
Lex pursed his lips into a straight line. "A wonderful subject for a family dinner, Dad."
"I tried an extract of the mermaid flesh on some of your mother's cells as a test. Sadly, they indicated that if your mother ingested the flesh, she would be a lost soul as the caretaker called people who mutated."
"I would've killed you if you had fed it to her."
"Well, I didn't as you know very well."
"So, what did you do with it?"
"I kept it, of course. You never know when it might come in handy or when someone will come up with a way to deal with all the side effects."
"You didn't try to taste it?"
"No, I would've been turned into a monster as well. I even had some experiments done on monkeys. Similar results. I had to cremate the mistakes en masse."
"That's just . . . beautiful. I'd love to hear your conversations with many of the women you have escort you to all the business functions. I'm sure this type of talk just makes them swoon."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Lex. You're the only one I'd ever talk about this. You're all I have left after your mother and Julian died. That night at Club Zero . . . your stupidity could have easily killed you."
Lex ate the last of the sashimi and said, "I have to go and pack." He left the room.
Lionel looked at the empty plate, and smiled. "I always knew you were special, Lex," he whispered.
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