Chapter 1: Huge No
“Puddin’ says you can never have too much Windex…”
Edward Nigma smiled. He’d never had a lair like this, a rented office suite inside a towering office building. The building had a custodial staff whose services were evidently included in his rent, and the Colombian woman who just left happened to leave this industrial-size bottle of Windex behind on the windowsill, reminding him of Harley Quinn’s inane prattle.
“Puddin’ says you can never have too much Windex…” “Puddin’ says you have to always give Batsy an extra clonk on the head after he’s down, or it won’t get through that reinforced cowl of his.” “Puddin’ says Starbucks clerks are bleeders but they sure do make a good cuppa joe.”
He was free of them. All of them. He was looking out at a whole new skyline, a whole new city, one with no Joker, no Harley, no Arkham Asylum, no Harvey Dent, no Iceberg Lounge …and best of all, NO BATMAN.
No Bruce Wayne either, A BOUNCY RENEW! Oh, the downward spiral of his life since learning it was Bruce Wayne under that mask. His criminal campaigns had been lackluster at best, until that 70s idea. The Midnight Special, 8-track tapes, Wolfman Jack, platform shoes, there was no end to the clever conundrums he could have devised, each leading to a spectacularly lucrative heist which would have brought him prominent press as well… And what came of it? What do you get when you unleash the most fiendishly clever criminal escapade Gotham has seen since the actual 1970s? NOBLER KEGS. The vicious killjoy Bat-brute broke his legs!
Eddie had wound up in the Arkham infirmary before and with far worse injuries, but it was always during Hell Month when the place was packed with other rogues laid up with similar troubles. There was an uplifting all-in-this-together camaraderie. It took teamwork to knock an IV stand over onto Joker’s traction rig and jerk his leg just as Bartholomew tripped over the wastebasket, producing the effect that Joker had magically kicked him without making contact… But this time, the only other patient was Harley Quinn. Harley Quinn with “woman troubles” no less, and an endless stream of cheer-up wisdom that all began with the invocation “Puddin’ says…”
He almost didn’t mind the painkillers. And Edward Nigma always minded painkillers. They dulled the brain, and Eddie was very fond of his brain. It was his best companion when he was holed up at Arkham. As a rule, he would prefer to keep his brain running at full capacity and just suffer the pain—but you couldn’t tell them things like that in the Arkham infirmary or they’d think you were crazy! “Patient Nigma may be developing masochistic tendencies. Increase dosage,” and his situation is twice as worse as before.
So he said nothing. He drew a crossword on his right cast, intersecting the phrases HUGE NO and UH GONE at every possible crosspoint. On his left cast he inscribed his parting riddle and let the Vicodin dull the lingering aches in his legs (and the babbling brook of “Puddin’ says” in the next bed) until he could zip through the Fast Track Rehabilitation Program, reaching the crucial Stage 4 on the same day he got his casts removed. At Stage 4, an inmate could be released into the custody of a responsible outsider, and most rogues kept a few homeless people on retainer for the purpose. So it was that, at the very moment Nurse Chin finished cutting off his cast, the papers were already being processed for his release. “George Stubking,” so named because he thought he was King George (although Eddie could never determine which one) and had a pet rat called Stubbles, was more than happy to finally earn his $500 by presenting himself as a responsible citizen and signing Edward Nigma’s way to freedom.
Eddie and George walked out the door together; Eddie paid him in the parking lot and waited for his cab to arrive. He already knew where he was headed, as Nurse Chin might have deduced from the riddle on his cast if she was smart enough to figure it out. “Where do U go before that which sounds small?”
Ha! She would never figure it out. None of them would. Bats might, perhaps, but none of them would think to show him the remains of Patient Nigma’s leg cast. HUGE NO. UH GONE. Where do U go before… It didn’t matter; he’d left his parting riddle. He said goodbye whether that goodbye was delivered or not. It didn’t matter to him; he was free, free of all of them.
“Where do you go before that which sounds small?” he asked the cabdriver before opening the door. “U-Haul of course. Take me to the nearest U-Haul, my good man, for Edward Nigma has had HUGE NO, UH GONE, Enough!”
The cabbie clicked the meter, and the car pulled out of the parking lot. A day later, Edward Nigma arrived in Metropolis.
Lois walked into the bedroom—and let out a low wolf whistle at the sight of her husband wearing a pair of well-worn bluejeans and bending over as if to touch his toes.
“Ah, the Super-tush,” she said dryly. “Funny how that never makes the list of your attributes.”
He turned around, blushing profusely.
“I, eh, didn’t think I could ‘gain weight’ in the usual sense,” he said, feeling the thighs and sideseams of the jeans. “But these seem pretty snug. You don’t think they could’ve shrunk in the dryer, do you?”
“They could have,” Lois said patiently. “Or maybe you actually can put on a few pounds. Four trips to Gotham, Clark. And you know how Alfred feeds you.”
“I know,” he laughed. “He’s worse than Ma. And almost as good a cook. But today is the last for a while.”
“That’s what you said last time,” Lois reminded him. “You promised Selina four days of ‘super-landscaping’ at the Catitat for her taking those tigers off your hands from the Dhumavati death maze, and you’ve given her four days.”
“I know, but today the tigers actually get in. Star Labs is supposed to deliver them before noon, and I just want to look in, make sure everything goes smoothly.”
“For someone who supposedly ‘can’t lie,’” Lois chuckled.
“Okay, I like it out there,” he admitted. “Being away from the city, lots of space, good outdoorsy smells. Kind of like home without the crops.”
“Aha,” Lois smiled, slipping into full reporter-mode. “Like home. That’s why you’ve broken out the jeans you haven’t worn since high school?”
“Something like that,” Clark smiled.
It did feel more natural to him, wearing jeans to trudge through tall grass and mud. He’d remained in costume while there was “super-landscaping” to be done, but it didn’t feel right. Since today’s visit was just that, a visit, he decided to dress more comfortably—or at least what he assumed would be “more comfortably.” The old jeans were awfully snug.
Of course there was a hitch. Eddie never even bothered to unpack in the “ideal” lair Toyman had arranged for him. It was a storefront, that much was true. But he was told it was a toy store, an elaborate toy store with large-scale Lego constructions and giant puzzle displays, i.e. something he could sink his teeth into. But once he saw it... It was no more than a Hallmark store: racks of greeting cards, wrapping paper and snow globes. No puzzle potential at all in the show entrance, and the business end of the lair beyond was substandard: there was no powerdrop for a deathtrap, no upper and lower levels for a multi-tiered maze and the living quarters were cramped. The rent Toyman demanded was outrageous, so Eddie stayed only the one night and set out the next day to find something more suitable.
He found an agreeable place to live at Six Corners, a bohemian enclave where two trendy neighborhoods intersected. He knew the concentration of artists would mean plenty of cheap labor to deck out a lair in appropriately eclectic style, and in this neighborhood something like a lime green door bedecked with question marks could hide in plain sight. The only problem was the size of the space he found. It would do for his personal living quarters, but was hardly a base of operations for a criminal of the Riddler’s stature.
So he moved in and spent the next few days getting to know his new neighborhood, all the while composing rhymes for “Where” and “Lair” and then, after he got bored with that, listing anagrams for “Where to find a lair?” He was distressed at the number of these that included the word “feline,” especially WHAT FELINE I’D ROAR? and WHAT ARDOR I FELINE? Cats had very little to do with his predicament, the riddle of the moment was “Where to find a lair?” He didn’t realize at the time that he passed the answer on every corner.
He started each morning with The Daily Planet’s crossword. This was his one qualm in coming to this city, the most important feature in their principal newspaper was a laughable insult. Anyone paying that cover price, anyone taking the trouble to pick up a pen and read the clue for 2-Across, surely deserved better than “a six letter word for fish peddler.” He found a workaround by the second day: he did the crossword in a mirror. But it still bothered him. What did such a sadly unchallenging puzzle say about the collective intellect of Metropolis? What kind of people accepted being treated like idiots? What kind of people blithely accept such an insult without demanding better?
He filed away those worthy questions as he explored the more prominent Metropolis landmarks. The Museum of Science and Industry was his first stop, the most famous institution of its kind in the world. Eddie was shocked at just how “educational” it was in a few crucial areas: specifically Superman, the power he drew from Earth’s yellow sun, and the nullifying effect of radiation from his home star as it exists in various forms of kryptonite. Eddie was no fool, he had researched all of this before setting foot in Metropolis. That is what the Internet was for! But to actually have Superman’s hometown museum provide all this information, and in such elaborate, user-friendly displays, with samples of four different kinds of kryptonite right there in the case and photographs of seven other kinds, busloads of schoolchildren filing past reading all about it… It was vaguely… perverse.
The Josh Planetarium was next. Founded in 1930 by renowned Metropolis astronomer, Adler P. Josh, it was the first planetarium in the Western Hemisphere. It too was unabashedly informative about all-things-Superman, providing star maps and holographic dioramas of Krypton and its sun, and reiterating the science museum’s lesson (in case you missed it?) about how Earth’s yellow sun fuelled most of Superman’s powers. A crash course, perhaps, for any villain new to town who hadn’t thought to brush up before coming here. They also had a meteor exhibit. No samples this time, but they did have a picture of the kryptonite at the science museum—and a sign informing you that your planetarium admission entitled you to 50% off at the science museum for the next six days.
Eddie decided to pass on the most famous tourist stop: the Skydeck at the LexCorp Towers—the former LexCorp Towers. It was that bitch Talia Head that led him to discovering Batman’s identity in the first place. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her incompetence wrecked the company. The “LexCorp” Towers, most recognizable image on the Metropolis skyline, were the LexCorp Towers no more, for no such company now existed. Wayne Enterprises had bought up several subsidiaries, and the towers were renamed Mascouten and Miami for the Indian tribes that originally inhabited the region. In Luthor’s day, there was no Skydeck open to the public. The Towers were the tallest points in the city, and Lex Luthor alone enjoyed the spectacular views from the very top floors. The top of the East Tower was his office as the CEO of LexCorp, the West his penthouse, and the catwalk connecting them was his private domain for walking from one to the other. Now it was all open to the public. For $11.95, visitors could enter one of Luthor’s private elevators and ascend the one hundred and three floors to behold the breathtaking view of Metropolis and fifty miles beyond… Still, however majestic the view, it was Talia, and Wayne, two people Eddie would just as soon forget. He opted instead for the Observation Deck of the Daily Planet building.
He walked in… And there it was: DESTINY! Destiny hanging in the bustling atrium lobby:
When did they know?
What did they know?
Who did they tell?
And why didn’t they do anything about it?
Five giant questions. Five giant question marks. Looming—literally looming—over the space so that all who entered the building must pass underneath them. It was… beautiful.
Technically it was the cover, front and back, of Clark Kent’s bestseller STRANGE BEDFELLOWS: “the book that sparked the end of the Luthor administration.” While Eddie could have done without the factoid that it spent “14 weeks on the Gotham Times Bestseller List,” the Times was at least one piece of Gotham which had nothing to do with Bruce Wayne or Batman. The inconsequential mention of the city he’d left behind could do nothing to tarnish the beauty of those larger-than-life question marks.
Rather than proceed to the observation deck, he headed for the rental office and learned that yes, there was office space available. Quite a lot in fact. Wayne Enterprises hadn’t bought up all of LexCorp, after all. Many divisions and subsidiaries had been shut down completely, leaving entire floors vacant in the former LexCorp Towers. Many longtime tenants of the Planet’s had moved to the vacated spaces. The Daily Planet was still considered the most beautiful and significant architectural landmark in Metropolis, but it was built in 1922. Despite four renovations, there was no pretending it could offer the state-of-the-art facilities of the newer towers.
Eddie didn’t care. He immediately selected a large suite of offices from the list of available spaces. The excited agent was pleased to tell him that this particular suite had once been occupied by LexCorp when the company was first started. Eddie considered this for a moment before signing on the dotted line. On the one hand, the LexCorp history brought another unpleasant whiff of Talia Head, Bruce Wayne, and all the Gotham dramas he was trying to put behind him. On the other… it rather appealed. To him, Lex Luthor was neither a great entrepreneur nor a disgraced ex-president. He was Superman’s great foe. To move right into one of Luthor’s former bases in Metropolis seemed to catapult him instantly to the stature a villain of his standing deserved. And those question marks in the lobby did seem like Fate pointing the way. He nodded to himself, picked up the pen, and signed with a flourish.
Oswald Cobblepot had never been a neat freak. He charged for breakages, that was just good business. But he’d never waddled around his office obsessively straightening all the knickknacks, not before this week. He’d never buffed the fingerprints off his business ledger before—and then his other business ledger—and then the brass handle of the desk drawer where both sets of books were kept. It wasn’t concern for the fingerprints as evidence; it was… those smudges, they were driving him kwak-kwak-crazy.
It wasn’t like him. Sure, if there were crumbs on his office floor, he’d call one of the girls in to sweep up with a dustpan, but now he’d bought a mini-vac to do it himself after they’d left, just to be sure. Kwak! Gina especially didn’t do a very good job. And a fastidious bird like himself wanted to be sure. Kwak! While he was at it, he dusted the antique parasols. He’d never dusted before. What kind of a crimeboss dusted? What was going on?
Bruce was quite aware that his colleagues in the League, and actual friends like Clark—even those who loved him, like Selina and Dick—made the occasional joke at his expense. He could only imagine the hilarity that would ensue if they knew his thought this morning: too happy. How could anyone, even the brooding Batman, have a problem with happy?
Bruce wasn’t a sadist. He wanted Selina to be happy. The joy she found in living had brought a light into his life that he never could have imagined. And, of course, she’d been excited about the tigers finally arriving at the Catitat. But that was days ago, and she’d greeted their arrival with… with a normal degree of pleased excitement. When he suggested a quick cruise on the Gatta afterwards, she’d responded with her usual delighted enthusiasm. When he got home last night with the news that he’d captured Killer Croc, she’d greeted him with a normal degree of pleasure and contentment.
This morning, however, she was… entirely too happy.
It started out an ordinary morning. Feline as always in her sleeping habits, she’d lingered in bed when he got up to shower. When he returned, she was gone, along with a pastry and mineral water from her side of the breakfast tray, and her exercise music pulsed discretely from her suite across the hall. He thought nothing of it until he passed the door on his way downstairs and heard her singing along with the music. Singing in the shower, he could understand (he was even coming to terms with her talking to her reflection), but singing while exercising? Bruce had seen her workout; it was everything you would expect from Catwoman, physically demanding to say the least. To waste breath that way trilling along with the Vivaldi was absurd.
When he saw her later, she was arranging flowers in the morning room. He hadn’t seen her go near any of the flowers since the Poison Ivy affair, now she was fussing over them like they were the prettiest things she’d ever seen. Then she saw him. She greeted him with a moist, passionate kiss—complete with throat purr—that harkened back to their earliest rooftop indiscretions. Then she said she’d asked Alfred to make his double-chocolate cookies for Clark, as “a thank you for the tigers and all his hard work at the Cattitat.” And now, now she’d come down to the Batcave, bringing him a plate of those cookies and a cup of tea in a Cat-Tales mug.
“I had Alfred give me a refresher on his special way of making it,” she reported with an impossibly pleased grin. “Just to make sure I remembered it all.”
Bruce sipped. It was perfect. He had a cookie… He thought about asking why she was in such a good mood, but that seemed… imprudent. A good mood shouldn’t require an explanation, and asking for one like it was a cosmic anomaly would just provoke Felinity. He wanted to know, but the only way to find out was to ask her and asking would probably make him a cat-toy for the rest of the day.
Nevertheless… she was singing again… very softly while she rubbed his neck… which felt wonderful… but still… singing… in the Batcave.
Riddle Me-Tropolis! That was the way to announce the Riddler’s arrival in a new city. Since the police here were too backward to provide a convenience like the Bat-Signal, Eddie decided on a more flamboyant way to lay down the gauntlet with Superman: a full-page ad in the Daily Planet.
The proximity of his lair to the newspaper’s nerve center was an unexpected bonus. It made the whole process downright simple: a computer, wires, and time. Within two days, he had infiltrated the DP network and told their sales department that an ad had been purchased by Nonnenum Enterprises. He was especially proud of that touch. Came to him out of the blue as he was typing away in the advertising database. Out of the blue, BUT FLEE OUT HO! That’s what comes of a pleasant change in scene. Nonnenum Enterprises. He was out of his Bat-slump! His brain was working again.
Then he went into Accounts Receivable and told them the ad buy had been paid for, clearing that final flag… paid for by Enterprises, Nonnenum, henceforth to be tagged EN, that was even better. Enterprise Nonnenum—how quintessentially Edward Nigma!
The soft hum of the mini-vac sounded again behind Oswald’s office door. Sly took a deep breath before knocking. The hum died away, and Oswald kwaked for him to come in.
“Purchase orders and a couple invoices for your signature, Mr. Cobblepot,” he announced, handing over the papers.
Rather than take them at once, Oswald stared malevolently at Sly’s shoulder. He held up the mini-vac like a fencing foil, switched it on, and then pointed it dramatically at Sly’s torso.
“Hold still,” he ordered.
“Uh, Mr. Cobble—”
Too late. Oswald was apparently trying to vacuum something off his breast pocket. Sly backed away, and Oswald followed.
“You have a stain,” he announced with all the menace he would have once directed at a hesitant bank teller at umbrellapoint. “Mustard, I think.”
Sly looked down. There was a dot of brownish yellow on his shirt. When the mini-vac failed to remove it, Oswald scratched at it with his fingernail. Then he told Sly that he should go home and change before customers arrived.
“Um,” was the best reply he could come up with at first. Then he remembered that vodka is a good stain remover and told Oswald he would try that first. Rather than squawk at the waste of precious Iceberg spirits, Oswald kwaked enthusiastically and told Sly to bring some for the armchair when he was through. There was a stain on the upholstery that was making his nose itch—kwak!
Sly reminded him of the purchase orders and handed over the stack of papers with sticky “Sign here” and “Initial here” arrows attached at all the relevant points. Sly watched in bewildered horror as Oswald removed each one and refastened it at a perfect 90-degree angle to the edge of the page.
Lois rolled her eyes as Perry White’s voice echoed through the DP bullpen. Clark looked at Perry’s office door the way a ransomed virgin might approach the dragon’s cave, then he gamely went inside. Lois bit her lip. Their editor had never been an easy man to work for, but he was reasonable and fair—until four days ago, when he’d gone to lunch his usual grouch self and come back snarling like a six-headed razor beast from Apokolips.
The door opened and Clark walked out, looking shaken. Lois knew it was an act, but even knowing that Superman had faced the real six-headed razor beast, she found the performance utterly convincing—until he winked as he passed her desk. He knew! Somehow he’d figured it out what was wrong with Perry. That sneak! For 3-1/2 days Lois had poured all her reporter’s investigative knowhow into the mystery, and all she got for her trouble was one spectacular ass-chewing and a punishment assignment profiling Morris Kendel, state inspector of water reclamation facilities and quite simply the most boring man alive!
Lois marched over to her husband’s desk and asked, in her unique tone blending loving wife with piqued professional rival, What? Clark? Knew?
“I’ll tell you later,” he said mildly, never looking up from his computer screen as his fingers blurred over the keyboard.
Lois stood over him, hands on hips.
“Oh, but I insist,” she said, the ‘loving’ wife in her tone morphing into the ‘sleep on the sofa’ version.
Clark twisted slowly around in his chair, sliding his glasses an inch down his nose so he could look up at her over the top of the frames.
“I’ll tell you later,” he repeated.
“Ah,” Lois said, and left.
So that was it, she could tell from the eyes. Clark hadn’t figured out anything. Superman did. What an unfair advantage he had, as a reporter, with that X-ray vision. He could just scan Perry’s appointment book and see where he’d gone that day right before… before… Ha!
So could she! She had no X-ray vision but so could she!
Lois went straight to Jimmy Olsen and said she’d need a diversion—not pulling the fire alarm this time—just get Perry out of his office for ten minutes. She didn’t care how as long as it didn’t bring any more fire marshals like last time.
She waited… She heard Perry’s phone ring. She heard him squawk “What?” “A paralegal” “A subpoena?” “Assault on a police officer?” “Extradited to Massachusetts for unpaid parking tickets?” and then his office door swung open and he was stalking towards the elevators wondering aloud what Grant had got herself into now.
Lois grinned to herself and slipped into Perry’s office, opened his appointment book and… blanched.
He was seeing a doctor?
Lois felt her heart leap into her throat. If Perry had gone to a doctor quite his normal self and come back in this terrible mood, what if there was something really—no. No, Clark had winked. If there was anything really serious wrong with Perry, Clark would never be so impish and playful about knowing. It must be something… hm… Lois scrutinized the desk for some additional clue… and found it in Perry’s coffee mug. A thin brown crust on the bottom of his mug—a bone dry crust—meaning there hadn’t anything liquid in that mug for at least a day.
The possibility leapt up at her from the crusty coffee-smelling gunk: Did the doctor make him give up caffeine? Newsmen lived on coffee, nicotine, and lust to scoop the other guys. To make someone like Perry White give up caffeine was like asking Jeff Gordon to win a race without gasoline. No wonder he’d modified his trademark “Great Caesar’s Ghost” to an exclamation about Caligula’s horse that had sent half the news staff rushing to Wikipedia (and then returning to tell the other half that they really didn’t want to know).
Lois was especially nice to Perry for the rest of the day, which only made him angry and, before he went home, he suggested she make her Morris Kendel story a two-parter.
That night at dinner, Lois preempted Clark’s announcement, telling him she’d already solved the mystery: Perry had been to the doctor, was ordered to give up caffeine, and was into some serious withdrawal.
“Caffeine and cigars,” Clark added.
Lois’s mouth dropped open, not just at the news but the implication. Clark hadn’t scanned Perry’s appointment book, he’d scanned Perry!
“I didn’t mean to snoop,” he insisted. “I just happened to notice Perry’s blood pressure was down and his body temperature was up, so I took a closer look. All of a sudden he’s got normal levels of oxygen in his system and no carbon monoxide. I tried to think why that would be, gave a little sniff, and that grungy soot smell was gone. I hadn’t even noticed. So then I took a look around his nasal passages and sure enough, the nerve endings are growing back. Lungs aren’t very pink yet, but that’ll come and…”
“Stop right there,” Lois said, setting down her fork. “I have heard you describe the Super-Eye view of smoking before, remember? And it is not dinner conversation.”
“Sorry. You brought it up,” he pointed out.
“I thought we were just talking about caffeine,” she insisted.
“Ah,” he grinned.
A setback. To be sure, the Daily Planet ad was something of a setback. Eddie had assumed a full-page ad with the words RIDDLE ME-TROPOLIS and nothing more except a big green question mark was self-explanatory! Never, never should one underestimate the collective inanity of a large population.
He was a victim of his own success, that’s what it was: He was The Riddler. Question marks were his signature. Green was his color. The whole world knew that! So complete had the associations become that green was now the color for question marks, anybody’s question marks. It was the color for riddles, anyone’s riddles. And no one realized that HE, the one true Riddler, was the one behind the ad. He was announcing his arrival in Metropolis… and they all thought it was a clue in some global scavenger hunt that Microsoft was holding to promote their new operating system.
It was a setback.
But it was only a setback, Eddie told himself as he sat down to dinner in the famous Oven Grinder restaurant. He was only announcing his arrival in Metropolis, not sending clues heralding a crime. So what did it matter if they misunderstood. He’d get ’em next time.
Bruce closed his eyes, concentrating on the sensation as Selina’s thumbs stroked insistently up the back of his neck… A part of him would never really accept this—he was in the Batcave. Granted, it was day, he wasn’t in costume and hadn’t been working on anything important. He was just cross-referencing a few old log entries on Waylon Jones after last night’s Croc encounter, but still. He was in the cave and Selina was… she was making it very hard for Batman to go on with what he’d intended.
“Can I ask you…” he murmured. He hadn’t intended to speak, it just slipped out as the neck rub relaxed him. This was wrong. He was always in command in the cave. The way he felt, they should go upstairs. If he couldn’t conduct himself as Batman, this really wasn’t the place for…
“Ask away,” Selina whispered, her breath hot and moist on his ear.
“It just seems like you’re in a very good mood today,” he said, trying for Batman’s gravel. “Singing and everything. I wondered if anything in particular had happened.”
“Yep,” she said, the seductive tone brushed aside by a merry laugh. “Catwoman robbed a bank.”
The Metropolis Pizza and Oven Grinder Company. The building itself inspired him, situated across the street from a famous gangland shooting in the 20s, it was rumored to have been a lookout post for gangsters in that heyday of Metropolis criminality. There was no Gotham equivalent for a landmark like that. Oh sure, they had a park nearby, with a zoo. They had skyscrapers with great vistas. They had colleges and corporate headquarters. But Gotham didn’t go putting up restaurants on the site of notorious gangland massacres. Sure, if a mobster was gunned down in front of a steakhouse, it would go on being a steakhouse. It wouldn’t close its doors. But if it was just an ordinary brick house to start with, nobody would think to open a restaurant there once they’d cleaned the blood off the sidewalk. But in Metropolis… How could you not be inspired by a city that had such respect for its criminal history?
Now the food… Eddie had to admit the food looked a little heavy for his taste (pizza pot pie???), but he ordered a salad and set to work finding a worthy target for his first Metropolis escapade. It was disheartening to see just how many tech firms had been swallowed up by LexCorp over the years—and consequently ceased to exist or wound up in Bruce Wayne’s hands when the company tanked. The last thing Eddie wanted was a WayneTech target, but there was one shining beacon of non-Waynedom in the Metropolis high tech corridor: S.T.A.R. Labs.
Eddie tapped away on his pocket browser, researching his quarry until his dinner came. Science and Technology Advanced Research or S.T.A.R. Laboratories… Looked like it was their founding mandate that kept them out of Luthor and Wayne’s hands. Created by scientist Garrison Slate to operate independently of both government and commercial interests. Well… Good for them. Seemed to have their fingers in everything too, from rockets to software, that was a good sign… But S.T.A.R.’s real claim to fame was their monopoly on Phantom Zone technology. They were the custodians of all equipment, patents, and underlying tech for accessing the alien prison dimension, period.
Hm. That would be worth a pretty penny on its own… Any company other than WayneTech would kill to get their hands on that capability. If they broke the monopoly, there was no telling what else the inter-dimensional portholes could be used for…
Eddie’s salad arrived. It would easily feed a family of four. He nibbled.
The Phantom Zone technology was also dangerous enough that he could ransom it back to S.T.A.R.… or to the City… or to Superman himself. Anyone with an interest in keeping the PZ under wraps.
All right then, that left only the devising of a suitable riddle. Phantom Zone. Phantom…
My god, Phantom Zone! The clue wrote itself.
To be continued...