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A Corrupt System

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Lex stepped out onto the stage to loud applause. He smiled a slick, oily smile and took his position behind the podium. He stood there for a moment, a smug smile on his face as he listened to the audience roaring before finally raising his hands and gesturing for them to quiet. Once the roar dulled to a low hum, he began to speak. "We did it. They said we couldn't do it, but thanks to you—"

Clark ground his teeth. Just listening to Lex's voice was giving him a headache. The extended election cycle meant it had been nearly two years of Lex's face plastering every billboard and bumper sticker, not to mention the nearly constant campaign ads. This was the last straw, though. Clark couldn't handle listening to him give a victory speech and without thinking he gave into the impulse to blast the monitor with his heat vision, earning a glare from Bruce.

"Was that necessary?" Bruce asked.

Clark looked sheepishly at the melted screen. The destructive burst of heat had released the worst of his anger and frustration, but now he felt guilty about destroying Bruce's monitor. "I'll buy you a new one."

Bruce crossed his arms. "That isn't like you."

Clark ran his hands through his hair and began pacing. "Yeah, I know." He fisted his hands together, squeezing hard enough that he knew he could turn coal to diamond—if he had any coal, at least. As it was, all he accomplished were little half-moon marks where his nails marred his normally impervious skin. "I just don't get it. How did this happen? How did people vote for him? Don't they realize?"

"Of course not," Bruce replied. "The electorate is generally ignorant, and Lex played that perfectly. He chose a popular platform, spent a ridiculous amount of money, and got all the right endorsements."

"And he did it all legally?" Clark asked.

Bruce shrugged. "As legally as any politician. There's a lot of corruption in the system."

"It's not supposed to be this way," Clark said. "The system is supposed to work. Whatever happened to Honest Abe?"

Bruce raised an eyebrow at Clark. "I know you aren't that naïve."

Clark sighed and sat down on a chair. He slumped forward, ignoring the voice of his mother in his head extolling the virtues of good posture and telling him to sit straight. "I remember when I was a kid I used to really believe that stuff. I bet you never did."

"Growing up in Gotham exposes you to corrupt politics at a young age," Bruce said. "Elementary school elections have been known to involve massive bribes."

"Did you know I ran for student body president once?" Clark asked. "Lex helped me with my campaign." He started laughing, a helpless laugh that was more about the absurdity of his life than any actual amusement. "And now he's the actual president. What are we going to do?"

"We watch and wait," Bruce answered. "Being president comes with a level of scrutiny that even he isn't used to, and he won't be able to wield his new power against the League openly. As long as we don't give him an opening, then we're stuck at a stalemate."

Clark sighed. "I don't like it."

"Neither do I," Bruce said. "But short of assassination or overthrowing a democratic election, we don't have a choice."

Clark shuddered as an image of the Justice Lords popped into his head. "Those aren't options."

"Agreed." Bruce stepped forward and clasped Clark's shoulder in a firm grip. "He'll slip up and we'll be waiting. Until then you should get out of here. Go spend some time with Lois and forget about this for a while."

"Lois is in Washington covering the election for the Planet," Clark said.

Bruce frowned and walked over to the console, pressing a button. "Alfred, Clark is going to be staying the night."

"I'll get a guest room ready," Alfred replied, his voice tinny over the intercom. "And inform Master Kent that there are fresh chocolate chip cookies in the kitchen."

"You don't have to—"

"Clark," Bruce interrupted. "You melted my monitor thirty seconds into his victory speech. You are going to stay here and get yourself under control before heading back to the Planet where you are going to be surrounded by Lex news for the next four years."

"I hope he gets impeached," Clark muttered, heading toward the stairs and the chocolate chip cookies. He could really use the comfort at the moment.