Metropolis Home for the Criminally Insane
Tempus lay on his bunk in his cell. It was the middle of the night, and dark. A stranger appeared outside his cell. The man grabbed a chair from a nearby desk and set it in front of the cell. He sat.
"I say, Temp, are you awake?"
"Of course I'm awake," he said, without turning to look at the speaker, or even opening his eyes. "I do tend most nights to lie awake plotting new ways of killing Superman, and taking over the world, you know. That's the sort of thing we super-villains do, isn't it?"
"Is it really? Funny, I don't do that sort of thing terribly often. Just usually when I'm bored, or when inspiration strikes me by surprise. But then, I suppose I'm more successful at it, so I can afford to spend my time doing other things."
Tempus opened his eyes, waited a minute for them to adjust to the dark. Then he sat up and turned to face the stranger. "I don't think I know you. Just who are you, anyway? You're not from Metropolis, are you?"
"No. I spend some time here, now and then, but I make my home in Gotham City. You've heard of it, I suppose?"
"Of course I've heard of it. Superman may be largely responsible for the tediously boring state of the future, but he's hardly the only goody-two-boots crimefighter who remains celebrated in my time. We remember others, too. Like your own town's chief do-gooder, Batman." Suddenly, Tempus smiled. "And we remember Gotham's villains, as well as those of Metropolis, and other places. You, however, don't look familiar to me."
"Well, I'm a somewhat minor villain, by my own choice. Many have never heard of me, and I intend to keep it that way. Besides, I'm not so mad or bloodthirsty as some. I have my good side. I try not to kill unless absolutely necessary, and a good deal of my fortune is made legitimately. I run a completely legal business, plus I'm an artist and a scientist- I'm on the board of STAR Labs, you know- and I'm on the board of directors too of LexCorp."
"Though that last doesn't quite fit in with the other jobs you mention."
The stranger grinned. "Well, not always, no. That oft times comes closer to some of my more clandestine operations. But still, I don't commit quite as many crimes as some of my friends, for I'm pretty much content with my life. But I don't want to be a world leader or the richest man in the world or even go down in the history books. And apparently I haven't. Sometimes I'll cut loose and break a few laws, just for kicks... sometimes just so I can go to Arkham for a while. Fun place, that. Lots of friends there. And I like playing with the psychiatrists' heads."
"There is always that," agreed Tempus. "But just who are your friends?"
"Oh, I've lots. Mostly criminals, of course. Madmen like myself, though somewhat moreso. One of my closest friends, and my former mentor, is the Joker."
"I've never heard of him having an apprentice."
"It's not been widely advertised, no. But I'm known to most of the important folks, on both sides of the law. And I know them better than might be healthy for most folks."
"Secret identities and such, you mean."
"Yes. And such. But I've no great interest in revealing such secrets to those not in the know. I wouldn't even tell Joker who Batman is."
"But you do know? And how would that be?"
"Oh, I'm in some ways a bit cleverer than some evil geniuses. Such things aren't too hard to figure out, usually. Hell, I could kill any of them any time I wanted. But I don't want. ...But now we're coming to why I'm here."
"Ah, I was wondering when you'd get to that."
The stranger leaned in closer to the cell. "I've heard about you. I've studied everything I could about you, about each time you've caused trouble around here. Some of it was easy to obtain, matters of public record. Some of it required a bit of snooping, as into the personal journals of our friends Lane and Kent, who often are the only ones who know what really goes on. Still, I can't find everything I'd like to know."
"I suppose you'd like me to fill in the gaps."
"Well, come to think of it, that might be nice. But what I really wanted to say was this: I like you. You seem to be about the brightest villain around. Perhaps some of that has to do with your having the benefit of hindsight, coming from the future. But not all of it. I like your style, too. That time you first showed up- that glasses thing you did, about Superman and Kent- I've always wanted to do that myself. I never did quite understand why it isn't obvious to everyone, particularly close friends of both Clark and Superman. But still, I say nothing. Really, though, you do sometimes remind me so much of myself, Temp."
"Well, thank you. I think. I'm beginning to like you, myself. But perhaps that's just because I've always liked to hear my own genius praised; and for once, it's not my own voice I'm listening to. But do go on."
"I'd like it if we could get to know each other better. I'd also like to help you with your problem, although I'd suggest a different tactic. You've been going about this thing entirely the wrong way. The obvious way, yes, and certainly you've been more clever about it than most. But still you fail, and I think if you tried it my way, it just might work. Because my way will solve the real problem motivating you, but in a fundamentally different manner than you've tried so far."
"In other words, you don't want to kill Superman." He sighed, "Very well, tell me more."
"Not now. We've wasted more than enough time talking already. Now it's about time I break you out of here. We'll continue this conversation at my apartment."
"What? No secret hideout?"
"Oh, I have several of those. And we'll go to the one here in Metropolis, eventually. But I have to keep up appearances, don't I? I'm on a business trip just now, as I often am, so I keep an apartment here."
"Of course. But how do you intend...?"
The stranger stuck his hand in his pocket and pulled out a card key. "Sometimes the simplest methods are the best." He opened the door, and Tempus followed him down the hall. As they passed the guard asleep at his desk, the stranger returned the key to the guard's pocket. "Everyone in the building is out right now. They'll wake up in a few minutes. The automated surveillance equipment is temporarily out of order, as well."
As they got in the stranger's car outside, Tempus asked, "I don't think you've mentioned your name, as yet?"
"Oh, sorry about that." He started the car, and turned out of the driveway. "I'm the Kidder."
"My, how I love you 20th century villains and your noms de crime."
The Kidder smiled. "Your name rather fits you well enough to be a pseudonym, yourself, n'est-ce pas?"