Villainy on Vacation
The Bug That Wasn't Crushed Beneath Luthor's Heel
by Don Ricciardi
Ted Kord took a deep breath and took in his surroundings. These were his people. This is what got his blood pumping nowadays. It was time for the yearly Metropolis Technology Expo, and this year it was going to be something. Normally LexCorp always managed to have something new and exciting, but after Brainiac 13 had transformed Metropolis, it promised to be a wondrous experience of technological delights. And he couldn't wait to see it all.
Plus he had a program of his own to debut which he took a certain amount of pride in.
Now that he had "retired" from the superhero life of the Blue Beetle, his company, Kord Technologies, had become his life.
His program wasn't what anyone expected. But even so, he had taken great pains to make sure no one would find out what it was before he was ready for them to. He had even set the project at a security level that prevented corporate espionage by companies like LexCorp from even getting a peek at it. The bonus was that he could honestly say it was something that most people would want to have and would be thankful for.
Yep, the Kord Industries booth was empty now but by the end of the day people would be swarming it.
"What do you mean you can't get access?! What do I pay you for?! Well I suggest you find a way if you prefer breathing." He slammed the down phone onto the receiver, glad he had had it installed in his limo just for that purpose.
Hope didn't even flinch. That made him happy. At least he was getting his money's worth somewhere.
That blasted Kord had blocked his every attempt to even find out what the new program he developed did. He had enough security that you would think Kord expected a supervillain to attempt to steal it. Not that he considered himself a supervillain of course. He was a businessman. And it infuriated him that he didn't know what his competition was up to. Especially a measly, unimportant, multi-million dollar only, company like Kord Industries. He wouldn't be taken by surprise by anyone. Not ever.
"Looks like once again, I want something done right, and I have to do it myself."
Ted was busy setting up the stage and didn't notice the three figures as they approached. It wasn't until their shadows were on top of him that he noticed anyone was there. He quickly spun around and found himself facing a finely tailored, very expensive suit jacket. He straightened up and was face to face with Lex Luthor.
Luthor didn't look happy. "Uh, Mr. Luthor, I didn't expect to see you here." Ted said. Indeed he hadn't. Luthor had never put in an appearance at the expo before.
Luthor's expression didn't change any. "I am here, Mr. Kord because you have the singular honor of doing something few have accomplished."
"I stumped you". Ted thought with a touch of smugness.
"You piqued my curiosity." Luthor said, almost as if to reply to what Ted was thinking.
"How so?" Ted asked innocently. He knew Luthor was dirty, but he wasn't about to let on that he knew.
"I want to know what the program you wrote does."
"I'm sorry Mr. Luthor, your just going to have to wait to find out like everyone else."
Luthor's frown deepened, if that was possible. "I don't wait for anything. I wish to know now. If you tell me perhaps we can make a deal. As you know, LexCorp software is used widely throughout the world. I can get you exposure that would stretch far beyond what you would be getting by yourself."
"Kord Industries does pretty well for itself thank you very much. My answer is still no."
"I was hoping it wouldn't come to this. Hope, Mercy." The two women that had accompanied Luthor (and were his body guards) stepped forward and took a place on either side of Ted. He hadn't really noticed them before, but they looked like they could snap him like a twig. They both grabbed an arm and lifted him off the ground.
This is one of the few times he remembered wishing Booster was around. "Strong arming me, eh? I still won't tell you what it is." Ted was pretty sure he sounded confidant when he said that.
Luthor stood there silently for a moment. Ted wondered if he was contemplating having the two ladies rip his arms off. Then Lex nodded to both of them and they put him down. Apparently Luthor bought the confidence act.
"You've impressed me. Do you really believe that your program is that important?"
"I think it's something lots of people will want and many will find invaluable." The facts seemed to support him. The buzz here at the expo was getting crazy, people going nuts wondering about the new program. Kord Industry's stock had soared in the days leading to up to the expo.
"I'll include your program in every LexCorp operating system version from now on, sell it with every software bundle I put out, and program it into every LexCorp PC I make. And I'll pay you one thousand dollars every time."
"But " Ted started to say.
"Fine, two thousand but that's my final offer. But remember, you will be selling far more copies this way. It should make up for any money you might be losing per copy had you sold it yourself."
"What's in it for you?"
"I reserve the right to sell it individually and retain all profits minus what I pay you. Not everyone uses the LexCorp operating system, nor buys my PCs." It seemed to Ted that Luthor was irked by that fact.
"It seems like a pretty good deal. You're right, it would sell more that way. But I still can't tell you what it is."
Luthor sighed, then said, "That is alright, Mr. Kord. They say patience is a virtue." He leaned forward and shot Ted a dangerous look. "We'll see."
Ted shrugged nonchalantly. "Then it looks like we have a deal."
It seemed to Ted that everyone at the expo had gathered by the Kord Industries booth and in front of the stage, waiting to find out what his big secret was. Luthor had disappeared, but Ted knew he was watching from somewhere.
Finally the spotlights turned on, and the crowd hushed. He had their full attention.
He grabbed the microphone and walked to the center of the stage. "Ladies and gentleman, I'm here to show you the newest innovation from Kord Industries, a program that will soon be on every computer, everywhere. And now here it is " a drum roll played over the speakers.
"The Superhero Searcher!" The crowd was deathly silent. "Um, that's a working title."
Still nothing out of the crowd, but he had expected that. He wasn't worried; he was just starting.
"Many of us have a fascination with those amazing people we call superheroes. We fantasize about being them, try to live by the ideals they represent, and cannot get enough information to satisfy our thirst for them. It is because of this last reason that I have written software that allows you to search the Internet for every superhero related item on it no matter how obscure. It checks every news article, web site and downloadable program that exists and presents it to you."
A large monitor behind him began to show the program in use.
"You can specify your search to a single hero or group. Want to know what mad scientist or alien invasion Superman stopped today? What galactic threat did the JLA stop from annihilating earth? Need evidence that the Batman exists?" He paused for drama. "Need to track down Wonder Woman's home address? All of these and more can be accomplished through our simple and easy to use graphical user interface. Now we can all know all there is to know about the men and women who inspire our lives everyday."
There wasn't a standing ovation; instead a hush fell over the crowd. But again, Ted wasn't worried. The look of delight and eagerness on their faces told him he had a winner.
However, in a limo not far from the expo sat a man watching a monitor who was not happy at all. Sitting next to him, Glory valiantly tried to hide her amusement at the color Luthor's bald head turned when he was furious, something she had seen only a few times, usually when Superman was involved. Fortunately for her, Luthor was too occupied to notice.
"Of all the #$@(!#% things to do. A program about those flashy, pretentious, lying, egotistical "
His face screwed up and turned from red to purple as he tried to think of some more adjectives.
"I'll have his head on a platter! I'll ruin him and his pathetic company!" He turned to Hope and said, "Call Barnsworth in legal, tell him to erase any existence of our deal with Kord. I don't want anyone to know about it. Ever!"
Back in the expo, Ted continued. "And thanks to a deal with LexCorp the Searcher will be available to everyone through its operating systems. For those of you who don't have that or wont be getting it any time soon, it will be available as an individually sold product at all LexCorp owned retailers across the country."
This time there was a loud chorus of cheers and applause. The crowd rushed the Kord Industries booth grabbing the available pamphlets describing the program in more detail.
Ted whispered smugly to himself, "I bet Luthor wants to kill me."
"I'm going to kill him! I'm going to rip him to tiny little pieces and then mail them to his family explaining in detail how each and every piece got separated from his body in excruciating detail!" Luthor yelled at no one in particular.
"Excuse me, sir." Hope politely broke in. "But Ms. Arden from the software division called. It's about Kord's program."
Luthor turned towards the vidphone also installed in the limo and pressed a button. "What is it?!" he snarled. On the screen appeared the face of a middle-aged woman who looked like she firmly believed she wouldn't live to see old age.
"I'm so sorry Mr. Luthor." She could barely squeak out the words, she was so terrified by his angry face. "I thought you might want to know that we are being flooded by requests for the program you bought from Ted Kord. Everyone wants it."
The news changed the color of Luthor's face back from furious purple to angry red. He thought about it for a moment. "Deny it to the major competing retailers but negotiate with the specialty shops and privately owned stores."
Ms. Arden looked extremely relieved. "Yes Mr. Luthor!" and signed off.
Luthor grabbed the knot of his tie and straightened it. "Maybe this isn't such a fiasco after all."
Later that evening Ted arrived at his car and found an envelope sitting on his dashboard, which he found odd because he had locked his doors before and they were still locked now.. Even odder was that anyone knew about his driving a car at all, his usual mode of transportation being a giant flying bug. He opened the unsealed envelope and read the enclosed letter.
Dear Mr. Kord,
It appears you got the better of me today. Celebrate, because few have accomplished that task. But remember, you won't ever do it again. Be careful with who you outwit. You can only dip from the pool so many times before you regret it.
There was no mistaking the implied threat of the letter. He would take that into consideration, but he would also remember that Luthor now had to sell a program that would allow people to learn about the one type of person Luthor has no control of. That thought alone was enough to make his night. His smile beamed.
"God I love irony."
All characters and scanned artwork are © DC Comics
This story is © 2000 by Don Ricciardi
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