Lois Lane, Superman, and all related characters are property of DC Comics. Not sure what’s happening? Be sure to check out Chapter 1 right here!
Margot leaned against the kitchen table as she watched Lois carefully apply the dye to her hair. Lois’ naturally dark hair would soon be a memory as she attempted to temporarily become a blonde. “Hey, Lois,” Margot said, startling her roommate, “Whatcha doin’?”
“Going blonde.” Lois’ voice was muffled as she answered through the long, wet hair that hung around her face. “Don’t suppose you’d want to give me a hand?”
On cue, Margot began a slow clap.
“So very funny,” said Lois.
Margot shook her head. “Why are you doing this?” Lois began to answer the question but was cut off, “No, I know why you’re doing it. Maybe a better question is what makes you think this will work?”
“Because it’s kind of my last ditch effort. In a little more a week I’ll be wearing my cap and gown and life at Metropolis University will be over. If I can’t get this Luthor interview I’ll be forced to start in the mailroom at the Planet or, God forbid, take a job at the Tattler.” Lois literally shuddered at that thought.
“So your plan is to, once again, take the identity of Tess Mercer. And this time, instead of simply using her ID card, you’re trying to look like her as well.”
“Exactly. I have my 4-inch heels ready to go. They won’t make me quite as tall as she is, but they should get me close enough to the man to at least get a word with him,” Lois said as she pulled her hair back with clips. “And now I wait half an hour.”
“Hey, can you tell me the story of last time you tried to steal Mercer’s identity? Actually, just skip to the part where she revealed herself as Luthor’s personal assistant slash bodyguard. That’s my favorite!”
Lois rolled her eyes and walked past Margot and into the living room.
“Lois, I just wish you could understand how stupid this whole thing is.”
“Please, don’t hold back,” Lois said, “Tell me how you really feel.”
“It’s a wonder that you haven’t been arrested yet. How many attempts have you made at getting at Lex Luthor? Eight? Ten?”
“Eleven. But I got really close last time!”
“Close, apparently, doesn’t count,” Margot said. “I’ve got to go.”
“Wait!” Lois called out as Margot left the room. “You’re not gonna try and talk me out of this again?”
“What good will it do? You didn’t listen to me the first eleven times. Just be careful. Try not to get yourself killed.”
“You really think I’d put myself in a situation where my life was in danger?” Lois asked.
“You really want me to answer that?” Margot replied. “Bye, Lois.”
Lois watched as her roommate left the apartment, then sat down on the sofa and surfed through the cable news channels and saw that one name dominated the morning news cycle: Lex Luthor. The latest reports to break overnight stated that Luthor had made a bid to take over the largest telecommunications corporation in the country. Assuming the sale went through, and Lois knew that it would, Lex Luthor would not only be able to provide the communications hardware that everyone was already using, but he would be providing the wireless service, as well.
The man may have been a mystery to most of the world, but one thing everyone knew was that he was powerful. And he was becoming more powerful with each passing day. This is why Lois needed to land this interview. This is why landing this interview would get her any job she wanted in the field of journalism.
Throughout the past few months, Lois had not simply been attempting to gain access to Lex Luthor. She had not simply failed to do so eleven times. No, she was also learning everything she could about Ms. Tess Mercer.
Lois knew that Tess rarely took a lunch break. When she did happen to go to lunch, Tess liked to sit on the same bench in Centennial Park and read. She had a tendency to gravitate toward political thrillers but also seemed okay with working Harry Potter into the rotation.
Lois knew what streaming services Tess had subscribed to and what shows she liked to regularly binge, The Office being at the top of that list.
Lois knew that Tess was a graduate of Ivy University where she received a bachelor of science in psychology. She went on to earn her MBA from Gotham State University while holding down a demanding internship with Wayne Enterprises.
Lois also knew about Ms. Mercer’s various extra-curricular activities. Tess held black belts in Taekwondo and Krav Maga. She was even an instructor of the latter at an upscale gym that overlooked Hobbs Bay.
Most importantly, Lois had been able to track down Tess Mercer’s home address and personal cell phone number. Armed with this crucial information, Lois knew she would be able to lure Tess away from her billionaire boss just long enough to talk him into an interview.
It wouldn’t be easy, that much was certain. There were a lot of moving parts that all needed to fall into place perfectly in order for Lois to pull this off. And a lot of it hinged on the acting abilities of Tess’ young neighbor, a 14-year-old girl named Katie.
“Here’s 50 now,” Lois said to the teenager, handing her a crisp bill three days ago. “And if you manage to keep Tess occupied for at least 20 minutes on Friday, I’ll give you another one.”
Katie sneered at the 50-dollar bill. “You know, $100 doesn’t go as far as it did back in your day.”
“Back in my day?!” Lois was insulted. “I’m about five minutes older than you, kid,” she huffed, rolling her eyes. “Look, if you don’t want to play along, that’s fine. I’m sure I can find someone else who would be grateful for the chance to pick up an extra hundred bucks.”
“Not if you don’t want Ms. Mercer to know about your little plan.”
“You’re really trying to blackmail me?”
“I prefer extortion,” said the girl, staring Lois down.
Lois just shook her head. “You’re gonna be dangerous when you grow up. Fine, a hundred now and another hundred when it’s all over. Final offer.”
Katie plucked the second 50 from Lois’ grip and told her thank you.
“You’re clear on the plan?”
“Sure, a baby could do it,” said Katie, “I call Tess on her cell phone, sobbing uncontrollably… I can’t find my mom! The apartment’s a wreck! I think something happened to her! I didn’t know who else to call! She shows up to help me out. I keep her busy while you do your thing, then I get another $100.”
“Sounds good enough to me,” Lois said, “And don’t forget, timing is everything. She needs to be out of the LexCorp building no earlier than 8:45 but no later than 9:00 Friday morning, got it?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Katie trailed off, already walking away from Lois.
“I’m out $100 and I’m pretty sure that brat is not gonna deliver.”
But Katie did deliver. She was as good as her word and Lois was clear to make one final attempt at landing the story of the year.
In past attempts, Lois had done her best to get as close to the upper floors of LexCorp as she could. This time, she decided to bide her time, waiting in the underground garage. This was where Luthor’s personal limousine was parked. If Lois’ contact on the inside had been correct, the man himself would be stepping off the elevator and walking toward his car at 8:55.
Lois heard the distinctive ding that announced the elevator’s arrival as she looked at her watch. 8:54… Not bad, she thought. From her hidden position, Lois watched as Lex Luthor strode confidently toward the back of his waiting car and a tall man wearing sunglasses opened the door for him.
Why are you even wearing sunglasses? We’re underground! Lois thought, her mind wandering. No! Don’t get distracted. You can do this… Breathe…
Once the tall man had closed the car door and moved away from the limo, Lois began to make her way to the driver’s side. She hoped that she was far enough away with her face slightly hidden to the point that the bodyguard would just see the blonde hair and assume Tess had arrived to drive Mr. Luthor to his next appointment.
Lois was unsure about whether she was actually pulling off a level of certainty that Tess would have exhibited in her place. But she did her best. She walked quickly, but not too quickly, to the driver’s door. She opened it up and climbed inside, remembering to breathe while her heart felt as though it would beat through her ribcage.
“That was quick,” Lex Luthor said, just as Lois had managed to pull the car door closed.
She stole a glance in the rearview mirror through the open partition at the bald CEO of LexCorp, whom The Wall Street Journal had dubbed the “Metropolis Marvel.” Lex had spoken, but he had not even looked up from his LexPad tablet.
“To be honest, I assumed I would be sitting here for at least five or ten minutes before you managed to make your way over here,” said Lex, finally looking up and pausing for only a second, “Ms. Lane.”
In that instant, Lois knew her cover was blown. She was finally face to face with Lex Luthor himself and it would all be for nothing. He would have her arrested for trespassing or stalking or violating some sort of restraining order that didn’t exist. She ran through dozens of excuses in her mind in the space of only a moment before Luthor continued.
“Don’t worry, Ms. Lane,” Lex said, noticing the panic written all over her face, “Our meeting has been on my books for some time now.”
At first, Lois couldn’t find her voice. Her mouth was suddenly dry. This meeting was in Lex Luthor’s books? For how long? What did he know that she didn’t? These are questions she wanted to ask but somehow couldn’t.
“Speechless? From what I understand, that’s a new look for you.”
Lois shifted in her seat, turning to look Luthor dead in the face, rather than meeting his gaze through the mirror. “How did you…?”
“Know about your repeated attempts to approach me?” he asked. Lois nodded. “I’m no fool, Ms. Lane. And neither is Ms. Mercer. She’s been on to you since your first encounter. Oh, she certainly didn’t see every trick you’ve pulled coming in advance. That pizza delivery scam really caught her off guard. She was beating herself up for days.”
Lois couldn’t help but laugh a little at that memory.
“But I digress. Tess knows that you have been following her. She knows that you’ve been in communication with her young neighbor. And, having access to quite a bit more cash than you, she was able to easily convince little Katie to tell her everything she knew about your plan for today.”
Lois suddenly went from being frightened to confused. “So I’m not in trouble?”
“Ms. Lane, why would you be in trouble? I find it flattering that a journalism student at the top of her class at Met U would be willing to do anything to land an interview with the wealthiest and most mysterious man in Metropolis.”
“So I’m not in trouble?”
Luthor took a deep breath. “Ms. Lane, I admire your ambition. I admire your perseverance. If I had not possessed those same qualities, I certainly would not be where I am today. I will grant you this interview,” Lex began.
Lois interrupted him. “Oh, Mr. Luthor, thank you so much! I’m ready to begin right now if that’s okay. I have so many questions…” Lois spoke so quickly that she had not noticed the billionaire’s finger touching his lips in an effort to quiet her.
“I have a condition, Ms. Lane,” he finally said in a voice so commanding she could not help but shut up. “I have no doubt that your theory is correct. You will interview me. You will have gotten your story of the year. You will land your dream job at The Daily Planet… which, by the way, I don’t understand. Print media is a dying animal, Ms. Lane. But the Planet is still a respected publication that carries a great deal of weight with a number of key influencers. My condition is this: somewhere down the road, you will kill a story of my choosing, no questions asked.”
The way Luthor made this statement was with an air of certainty. Of finality. “You will kill a story of my choosing.” In this man’s mind, it was a foregone conclusion that, if he granted Lois this interview, she would be compelled to obey his command, no matter the cost.
Lois couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “I’m sorry, Mr. Luthor, but I have integrity and I won’t just throw it away because…”
Lex interrupted her again. “Very well. Good luck in the mail room.”
Lois closed her eyes just as Tess Mercer opened the driver’s side door. Lois could feel Luthor’s personal assistant staring at her back. All the while, she was processing the possibility of actually making a deal with the devil that sat in the back seat of this limo.
“I’ll do it,” she said, ashamed of herself in that instant.
“Very good,” Luthor smiled. “Why don’t you come back here and get comfortable. We’ll let Ms. Mercer do the driving while you ask your questions. I’m giving you one hour, Ms. Lane. Don’t waste it.”