"Nice little place you've got here, Kidder. Very tasteful. You must give me the name of your decorator."
"I do it all myself. Thank you."
"You said you're an artist," said Tempus, glancing around the room. "These paintings and ...bric-a-brac, would you call them?... are they your work?"
"Some. You like?"
"Quite a bit, actually. The artist is obviously quite insane..."
"Most are, you know."
"If you say so. At any rate, it works. Now, tell me about your 'fundamentally different plan' to beat Superman."
"Momentarily. But first, you are my guest. I must play the gracious host. In fact, I am that, if something more as well. Would you care for some refreshment? I have just about anything you might care to name."
"I expect a spot of tea wouldn't be so bad. Earl Grey, I think."
"Certainly. I'll be right back. Make yourself comfortable, in the meanwhile."
The Kidder returned a minute later to find Tempus sitting on the couch and reading the Daily Planet.
"Not much of interest for 'our friends' to write about these days, is there?"
"No," said the Kidder. "It's such a pity, isn't it? Been like that for weeks now. But at least they've had some time to relax together. They deserve that, as hectic as their life normally is. But I'm nonetheless happy to say that the dry spell is now come to an end, with your escape. Before long, they should be at the asylum talking with your doctor. Luckily, we should have plenty of time to put our plan into action before they can get anywhere in their investigation. Not that they could get much of anywhere, if I didn't want them to do."
"And just what is our plan?"
"You know, I read the Planet every day, wherever in the world I happen to be. I like to keep up on things, especially things involving and/or written by Lane and Kent. And so I noticed last week that it had been some time now- not long for most people, but for them it was- since anything of interest had really happened to them. Or Superman, for that matter. I got to thinking that they might be starting to get a little bored. I had an upcoming business trip to Metropolis planned, and it occurred to me that it had been some while since I'd had much excitement myself, especially out this way. So I thought maybe I'd do something to liven up all our lives. But then, well, you know how the mind wanders, free association, stream of consciousness, and all that. My mind tends to wander far more than most people's..."
"As does your dialog."
"Yes indeed, I do tend to ramble. I generally rather like that about myself. At any rate, while I was thinking about boredom, what I'd heard about the 22nd century came into my head. That's how you'd describe it, hmmm? Boring?"
"To say the very least. Volumes could be written about just how unremarkable my time is."
"Mmm. Well, so my mind wandered to the 22nd century, and you. I realized I'd never met you, as much as I've wanted to. I started thinking about how Superman had affected the future, made it the peaceful, wonderful, boring utopia that it will be. And then I started thinking about Supes himself. Is he boring? I asked myself. Largely, yes, I answered. But certainly not quite as boring as you've described the future as being. After all, he grew up on Earth- in America, no less- in the same time as lots of folks. I'm sure he enjoys our culture. Television, movies, books, plays, music, and whatnot. And a good deal of that stuff contains the sort of things he fights against. Bad things, things that happen in both real life and fiction.
"You know, they say fiction reflects the society in which it is written. They say that bad stuff in fiction can maybe influence some people to run out and do these things in reality. Many people don't believe that, and I don't entirely believe it myself. But then I got to thinking, hmmm, but that reflection of society thing... that means that even if fiction doesn't cause reality, reality causes fiction. People see these things in reality, and then they run out and write about it for TV and movies and books and everything."
"You're rambling again. Or did you ever stop?"
"Probably not. The point is, I started wondering more about the future. You say it's boring. Now, to a lot of people, all they excitement they need is vicarious, through their entertainment. Some need the real thing. Me, I like a bit of both. But I assume when you say the future is boring, you mean the reality of it."
"Yes. But to answer your next question, the entertainment isn't all that stimulating, itself."
"That's what I thought. The fiction reflects the society. They society causes the fiction. Boring reality, boring fiction. But I wonder, how can so many people in the future be happy with the state of their existence? All that technology, but what do they do with it?"
"Why are they happy? I don't know if I'd call them happy, exactly. Content is more like it, or complacent. They're born, they live long lives without any real problems, and finally they die. I suppose some of them may fancy themselves entertained, but that's just because, generally speaking, they've lowered their standards. Their tastes for both reality and entertainment have been dulled."
"Yes, but they're still human beings. And one would think that their minds would be more advanced than ours, being from the future. Yours is."
"I'm not saying I'm the only one who isn't content. There are a few trouble makers, but most of them aren't too clever, and are easily dealt with by the authorities. Despite the fact that the authorities in my time would be considered largely ineffectual and incompetent by contemporary standards. Which is why I was able to escape. You know, I think I'd actually rather spend my entire life in prison in this time than free in my own."
"Okay, but I'm still wondering how the majority have become such sort of cows. And the only thing I can think of is conditioning. Why does any society hold the values it does?"
"Originally, I'm sure I don't know, but in the end, it has something to do with the previous generation's values, and those of preceding generations for a long time before. There will of course always be differences from generation to generation, and they may seem large to the specific generations involved, but if you look at the big picture, any such differences are actually quite insignificant. Real change happens only very slowly. Once in a great while there'll be a major factor that acts as a catalyst, speeding up the change process. The Industrial Revolution, for example. Sometimes one person will affect great changes, someone, say, like Superman."
"Exactly. He changes things. Not instantly, of course, but he puts the seeds of change out there. You've used technology from the future that was created for evil, and later outlawed, so that shows that it takes time, but still. He puts ideas out there... or perhaps makes very old ideas seem more plausible to new generations..."
"And each succeeding generation gets closer to those ideas, until finally, society at large is those ideas."
"Exactly. And once that happens, society is going to stay like that for a very, very long time. Because their mindsets won't allow them to be otherwise. The whole cycle is just a huge, subtle form of super-long-term conditioning. Conditioning a society, rather than an individual."
"Well, this all makes for a very interesting psychohistory lesson, I'm sure, Dr. Seldon. But-"
"You've read Asimov?"
"They do allow a little bit of classic literature from the times when people knew how to write, in the future. Generally for small children. But what I was getting at was, how does all this help us?"
"For one thing, all this, when presented to Kent, might seem a shade too Orwellian for him. But perhaps not. Perhaps he'd struggle with his conscience for a little while, before ultimately deciding that the ends justified the means, or something. I don't know. At any rate, that's not my plan. Remember, I said he was a part of this society, and enjoys it. Enjoys the entertainment, and, I daresay, somewhat enjoys the excitement of his own personal reality."
"So, my dear time traveller, I propose we show him the future. We show him how utterly boring the entertainment of it is, as well as the reality of it. To date, all he knows of it is hearsay. What he's heard you say, and what he's heard Wells say. We know who has thus far presented the more compelling argument. But now, you'll change your strategy. You'll stop trying to kill him, and instead present your case in a less hostile manner. Show him just why you're how you are, why you're so desperate to change things. Between him and you lies a great societal dividing line. I don't think he really understands that. He thinks of you as coming from a different time and a different society, but not from a fundamentally different society, a different mindset. We'll show him the full extent of his influence."
"Well, so we make him think a bit. Maybe puff up his over-inflated Super-ego even more than it already is. How does this help us? Surely you don't mean to suggest that knowing how boring the future is is going to affect some reverse-Dickensian change in his personality?"
"Maybe not, but it's worth a try. I honestly don't think he'll like the future quite as much as Wells has led him to believe he would. He might just change himself slightly enough to make the future slightly less peaceful, and a lot less boring."
"I still don't see how that helps me gain control of the world."
"Maybe it doesn't. But at least it would make your world a bit more tolerable, wouldn't it?"
Tempus sighed. "Well, it's a start. What the hell, I've tried everything else. Just one more question. How do you propose we get ourselves, much less Superman, to the future?"
The Kidder smiled. "Obviously, they have time machines in the future, yes? But how did they come by them? Their advanced technology? Their advanced minds? Maybe, but I don't know about that. After all, were they the first time travellers?"
"Well, no. Presumably, that distinction goes to Wells."
"Who is from the past. If someone from the past can do it, how likely is it that it would be beyond the capabilities of someone from the present?"
"Are you saying that you, or someone you know of, has created a time machine?"
"Perhaps. I'll tell you more when we get to my secret hideout, tomorrow. How's the tea?"