Extinction

by mobiusklein



"So this museum wing is devoted to extinction," said Chloe as she looked at the exhibits. While nominally closed until its debut the next week, the doors always opened for anybody accompanying the man who both designed and provided the money for the wing. In one corner, there was a stuffed dodo. In another case, there was the passenger pigeon, in another there was the Tasmanian tiger. There were even pictures of various indigenous peoples whose very existence were threatened or had already been wiped out. There was an exhibit dedicated to Ishi the last Yahi Indian. In the center of the museum wing, there was a skeleton of a whale.

"Yes, it is."

"Why extinction?" she said, pulling out her tape recorder.

"Every year, species go out of existence whether due to natural processes, habitat destruction or over predation. Humanity is the one species on this planet that has the ability to create its own destiny and affect the destiny of other creatures. I consider what I created here to be both a tribute and a warning."

"In what sense?"

He took to her to a large hall off to the side.

"Look."

Chloe looked and read the exhibit title before turning to Lex, restraining herself from slapping him. "It says Kal-El, last Kryptonian. What is it that you're planning on doing?"

"As far as anybody knows, he is the last surviving member of his race. In the unlikely event that he were to die then everything that he knew about that planet would disappear with him." Lex gave her a dark look as he saw the suspicion in her expression. "You think that I want to stuff him like a dodo."

"Even the citizens of Metropolis know that you've had your differences."

"Really, I thought you were more observant than that. Take a good look around."

Chloe looked at the exhibits that lined the hall. She noticed that there was a hologram of a planet that was like Earth but not Earth with several moons. There were pictures of people wearing robes with unusual symbols embroidered on them. One exhibit involved wearing goggles and seeing a vast city scape as if one was standing on top of a tower more than a thousand feet tall and seeing a panoramic 360 degree view. Another exhibit had vocal recordings of the Kryptonian language ranging from common words like "hello" and "goodbye" to the poetic saga of two brothers who fought over the imperial throne. There was also a picture of a man and a woman holding a child as they stood next to a small ship not much bigger than a cradle. There were dozens of others including one that showed the planet literally shaking itself to pieces before exploding with a small commentary that even a people more technologically advanced could still make decisions that lead to their own demise. "You . . . had a lot of help in making this."

"And there's only one person who could've possibly helped me . . ."

"Why would he help you?"

Lex looked at her, amused. "You must think that I am Ahab to Kal-El's Moby Dick, a man just obsessed with harpooning him."

"I hope you're not trying to say that I don't have reason to think along those lines . . ."

"When you look at a skeleton of a whale, what do you see?"

"I see a lot of bones."

"Precisely."

"And that explains . . . oh so much."

"All you see is the framework of the animal but you're not really seeing the animal. Look at the stuffed dodo bird. That's as much the real animal as a stuffed teddy bear is a grizzly."

Chloe decided that she better ask the question she wanted answered before he went off on some wild tangent that was bound to include obscure references to ancient mythology. "As I said, why did he help you?"

Lex sat down on a nearby padded bench. After Chloe sat down as well, he said, "There have been times when there is only a handful of people who know the `old' ways or even just one survivor of his tribe like Ishi. Kal-El is the last of his people . . . well, as far as we know. The past five years . . . he's nearly died a couple times. A year ago, my brother . . . do you remember Lucas?"

Chloe paused in thought before exclaiming, "Oh, yes, he was Rachel Dunleavy's son."

"I'm glad someone remembered," said Lex. "He died in a car accident. He . . . it was so stupid . . . He had picked up a couple young women from a club after he had bought them a few drinks. He was driving pretty fast. It was dark and it was raining and then there was a truck . . . and the women were really pretty and distracting. It was a mess."

"I'm . . . sorry to hear that," she said.

"That night . . . after the funeral, Kal-El came to visit me. When he appeared, my first thought was to shoot him because I was in no mood to be chastised. The funny thing is that he had come with something for me to eat, not another list of things I had done wrong. He said he had noticed I hadn't eaten all day. I told him that he should leave me be, that it wasn't smart of him to keep the last Luthor alive. He put the plate down on my desk and said that he knew that as big an irritant Lucas was that he knew I didn't want to be the only one left, to be the last Luthor . . . He told me that he knew what being the last was like . . . Maybe it was the scotch but we ended up talking about making . . . this," said Lex, gesturing around him. "He thought that at any time, the next super villain might actually succeed in killing him and there would be nobody left who knew anything about Krypton. I guess he wanted to tell his story the way he wanted it to be told."

"I'm surprised he trusted you with that story."

"I asked why he didn't ask someone like Bruce Wayne but he said that he wanted it in his hometown, not in Gotham and that he knew I couldn't resist while Bruce had other priorities. Besides, if he didn't like the exhibits, it's not like he couldn't tear them down. It is after all, going to be on public display. So . . . I asked him if it didn't strike him as ironic that he wanted me to make a room devoted to him when it was a similar room that destroyed our friendship."

Chloe blinked. No, she thought. No way . . . She didn't dare react too much. Too many years of caution made her keep a poker face even though he claimed to know. "Room?"

Lex smiled. "Clark froze and I told him that I knew. He asked me when I knew. I asked him if it really mattered any more. I was about to tell him to forget it, that it would never work, that it was a failure from the very start . . ."

"But here it is," said Chloe.

"Yes . . . Yes, it is."

"I understand why he wanted to do it but you . . ."

"Because I'm the last of my family as well."

She frowned. "You could always have . . ."

Lex shook his head. "No, there won't be any more after me. There's a reason why I haven't had any children despite the fact I've been married more than a dozen times. I spent too much time in the laboratory, took too many risks, exposed myself to too many things . . . There won't be another generation."

"Oh . . ."

"We both figured that we shouldn't be in a hurry to destroy each other. Well, he insisted that he never wanted me destroyed but I have my doubts about that. . ." said Lex. "As for my legacy, it seems like my involvement with him will be the one that lasts the longest, the one that everyone will remember . . ."

"There's an exhibit that's empty," noted Chloe, remembering a room that had nothing in it.

Lex chuckled. "He and I have a running bet. Whoever survives the longest gets to use that empty room to talk about our long and strange . . . relationship, I guess that would be the best word for it. So, he better plan on living a long, long time if he doesn't want me to strip off the uniform and lay him bare, figuratively speaking, that is."

Chloe sighed. Some things never change, she thought.

The End

Epilogue:

It was a year later when that last exhibit room was filled. Inside was the uniform, bloodied and torn. There was plaque that stated the time and date and circumstances of Superman's death. There was a computer that would show every single piece of text ever written and every single piece of video ever taken of him.

There was just one more thing in the room. It was a letter.

It is strange that I once desired your absence. Yet your absence itself fills this room more than anybody else's presence ever could. Time has slowed until it seems that an eternity has passed between each tick of the clock and the earth might as well stand still considering how sluggishly the sun moves across the sky. Time that was once water now moves like crystallized honey.

This does not mean that I agree with you now or that I think that I was always in the wrong. I still think that you could easily have become the despot that I always envisioned in my nightmares because I know the frustrations that an imperfect world gives a regular man but what about a man who could do almost anything? And I've seen a side of you that not everybody has seen, a side that not everybody wanted to acknowledge. The same strength that you used to save the world could also have destroyed it.

However, your death means that there's nobody worth arguing with anymore. I never thought I would say this, especially after everything that has happened, but I miss you.

Alexander Joseph Luthor

The End



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