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How to Succeed in Business

Chapter Text

Kara straightened the collar of her shirt, settling it neatly over the lapel of her carnation pink cardigan and pushed through the massive glass doors of the imposing LuthorCorp building. The lobby was vast and expansive, open space going up at least twenty floors and nothing but glass and concrete knit together in modern elegance as far as the eye could see. A modest fountain supporting the LuthorCorp logo was ahead and to the right, but Kara turned instead toward the front desk where a portly security officer greeted her with a surprisingly friendly smile.

“Good morning.” The officer gave a curt nod, “How can I help you?”

Kara rocked back on her heels a bit, overcome with nervous enthusiasm, “Itsmyfirstday!” came out in an unintelligible stream and, at his bemused expression, she took a deep breath and repeated her sentence, picking carefully over each consonant and vowel. “It’s my first day. I’m Kara Danvers, brand new LuthorCorp employee.” She smiled broadly and thrust her hand toward the officer. Her enthusiasm often had a habit of being contagious and he shook her hand vigorously as a grin broke out across his face.

“Welcome aboard Miss Danvers. I’m Saul, you’ll check in with me here each day once you’ve got your badge. For now, I’ll check you into our visitor’s log.” He took her ID and had her sign in on a digitized log book. “Which department will you be joining?”

Kara demurred slightly, but the smile still playing about her lips, “Oh, I’m just in the mailroom.”

“’Just in the mailroom’ is still farther than hundreds of other folks have made it!” The officer replied, encouraging. “Miss Luthor’s hiring policies are strict, she’s very particular about who works for her. If you made it in the front door, you must be something special!” The officer motioned for another security guard to come take his place behind the desk. “Lemme show you to the mailroom. They’ll get you all set up with personnel once you get down there.”

They started to traverse the lobby and Kara couldn’t stop herself from asking, “What’s she like, Miss Luthor? She just got here and already I’ve heard she’s really shaking things up!”

“Yeah, for most, the jury’s still out. Some of the guys are waiting to see if she lasts, but I’ll say one thing for her, she’s no slouch. After all that business with her brother, most of us were convinced the company would tank, but it’s been hanging on.” They turned down a wide hallway and Saul crossed to push a door open, ushering her into another room, bright and cool, with high ceilings. “The stock’s even started ticking back up again. Miss Lena Luthor? She sure came out of the gate swinging. Well, here we are.”

Kara crossed to the stark white desk in front of two large double doors, at least 10 feet tall and greeted the assistant, a round-faced woman with a clear, cocoa complexion and a head of brassy blonde curls. The polished chrome placard on her desk read, “Henrietta Jones.”

“Jonesy’ll take care of you from here.” Saul gave a cartoonish salute, which was, to Kara’s amusement, returned by Miss Jones. “Have an amazing first day, Miss Danvers and welcome to LuthorCorp.”

Saul exited and Kara pursed her lips, apprehensively for a moment, waiting for the assistant to acknowledge her. “Juuuuuust oooooooone mooooooore.” Miss Jones’ voice was husky but high, like wind blown over a split reed. The woman hit the last stroke on her clean white keyboard and looked up at Kara with intent hazel eyes. “Alright now, welcome to the mailroom, Miss Danvers! I’m going to walk you through your paperwork, and then we’ll head over to human resources to finish it up. After that, Miss Twimble - you met her during your interview - she’ll give you the tour and get you started!”

Kara nodded, excitedly and took a seat in one of the white, Eames-inspired chairs after pulling a pen from her bag. She was so ready!

“I heard she fired the whole R & D department because they said something inappropriate, you know, misogynistic or something.” A young woman with a severe up-do wearing a black crepe blouse and grey herring-bone slacks punctuated the last few words with a stab of her salad fork.

“Well, I heard she fired them because she’s a better engineer than their whole department combined.” A twenty-something man with a short shock of brown hair and a bowtie countered between bites of what looked like a BLT.

“I don’t care why she fired them, I’m just glad to see them go,” a third girl tossed off, shaking a head of bright red hair and sipping on her Diet Coke.

Kara approached the group tentatively, lunch in hand, and asked if she might join them.

“You’re the new mailroom girl, right? Have a seat!” The red-haired girl pulled out a seat and motioned for her to sit.

“Alana, Winn, Eileen,” The redhead indicated the severe woman, the bowtie-clad man and herself in turn.

“Kara. Danvers.”

“We were just trading office gossip.” Eileen tilted her head, dismissively. “Have you met Miss Luthor, yet?”

Kara shook her head. She was nearing the end of her first week of work and she still had yet to encounter the seemingly illusive CEO, which meant she was hungry for any chatter about her. While Kara did have career designs and aspirations, LuthorCorp would not have been her first choice for employment. She would have been happier over at Catco or some other media oriented company, but LuthorCorp had something vitally important that ultimately determined her current career path: Lena Luthor.

Recent National City transplant and heir to the Luthor family fortune, Lena had relocated after her brother lost control of the company - and himself - flaming out in a blaze of zealous, xenophobic glory, and now serving over 30 consecutive life sentences on cell block X. Though LuthorCorp had always had a National City presence, it took on a new, prominent role when Lena established it as the new main headquarters for her family’s company. A Luthor operating this far outside of Metropolis meant that Superman couldn’t monitor her actions as closely as he’d like and so that task fell to National City’s newly minted hero: Supergirl.

Kara adjusted her glasses and started unpacking her lunch. “Well, I hear you’re Twimble’s new star,” Alana was attacking a particularly unruly cherry tomato as she commented, “so it won’t be long until she has you making the rounds on the upper floors.” Kara had so far only circulated the mail as high as the 15th floor, having shown an aptitude for speed and organization. If super speed and x-ray vision made her an exemplary employee, who was she to neglect her natural talents?

“Well, whatever the reason R & D got overhauled, you should see the new stuff we’ve got coming out since she’s brought in the new team. It’s some next level stuff!” the young man, Winn, offered excitedly.

Kara, mouth full of leftover pizza, chewed thoughtfully, and then, “Are you in Research & Development?”

Eileen sputtered between sips, “He wishes.”

Winn went pink about the ears and absentmindedly tugged at the lapels of his navy cardigan. “Nope. Just a humble IT drone. Making sure the LuthorCorp secrets stay secret and the emails get emailed. You know, fighting the good fight.”

“Our hero,” Eileen reached over and ruffled Winn’s hair playfully and he took the friendly ribbing in stride. Kara treated him to a warm smile and practically shoved an entire slice of pizza into her mouth.

“That’s some appetite you have there.” Alana’s tone was thinly veiled criticism – very thinly veiled - and Kara knew it. She shrugged.

“Crazy fast metabolism.” She swallowed with an indelicate gulp and smiled broadly at Alana whose lips now pulled into a forced smile. “And I need to fuel up. Neither rain, nor sleet or, whatever comes after that, you know? The mail must go on.”

Winn laughed and the other two girls looked vaguely annoyed as they began to pack up the remains of their meal. “Dark of night,” he offered.

“Right. Not that either.” Kara twisted the top off a small green bottle of Pellegrino.

“Well, you kids enjoy what’s left of your lunch hour.” Eileen pulled away from the table and Alana followed suit.

Kara met Winn’s eyes and they both broke out in a case of the giggles.

“I am sorry for them.” Winn caught his breath after a moment and adjusted his bowtie, loosening it slightly.

“They’re not particularly...” Kara hesitated, searching for the most diplomatic word.

“Nice?” her lunch companion offered.

“Okay, you said it, I didn’t. But yes.” Kara laughed, still infected with residual glee.

Winn shrugged, “They’ve both been on diets for the last month. I just chalk it up to hunger.”

“Ah.” Kara nodded.

“You don’t seem to have that problem.”

Kara snorted, narrowly avoiding a spit-take with her fizzy water. “Oh, no, I’m always hungry.”

“That’s my secret,” Winn adopted a comically serious voice, making an obvious quote, “I’m always hungry.”

Kara narrowed her eyes at him, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry,” and there was a split second of silence before they broke out in another fit of laugher.

“The Avengers?” Kara sputtered, “what killjoys!” And from that point on, they couldn’t help but spend the rest of their lunch, and each subsequent lunch break after that, in stitches.

The package in her hands was a lot lighter than she thought it would be. Kara stood, shifting from right to left and back again, turning the small, brown paper covered package in her hand over and over until she knew she’d be able to feel its weight even after it had been delivered. This was it, her moment to finally meet Lena Luthor was happening and all she could do was pour her nerves and apprehension into this tiny brown box. The elevator dinged cheerfully and she stepped into the crisp white lobby.

The stark whiteness that seemed to wash over the entire building initially took some getting used to: the clean brightness, the way it seemed to refract the light, giving the building’s interior a sort of ethereal quality from the mailroom to accounting to the waiting room of the CEO’s office. Kara tugged the sleeve of her button-down, white with maroon pinstripes, and smoothed her wine colored chinos before crossing to the empty receptionists’ desk. She waited for a moment, unsure of how to proceed, seeing as no one was currently occupying the desk immediately outside the imposing double doors. She waited for a minute, another minute, before inching her way toward the doors and knocking softly.

“Come on in, it’s open.” A voice called, muffled by the closed doors. Thankfully, Kara had excellent hearing, more than excellent actually - yet another skill put to good use on the job.

Kara entered and immediately genuflected. “I’m so sorry Miss Luthor, I don’t mean to interrupt, but there wasn’t anyone outside.”

“It’s more than alright,” the CEO stood from behind her desk and crossed toward Kara, waving her hand as if to brush away the idea of inconvenience. “I just lost my assistant – or rather, she was poached by Cat Grant - and it seems her temp has wandered off again. No matter, who might you be?”

Kara had been at LuthorCorp for almost a month and, aside from a few catty girls with low blood sugar, she was constantly surprised at the general attitude of warmth embodied by most, if not all of her fellow employees. Now she saw why: that kindness started from the top down, its origin point: Lena Luthor’s warm, open face.

The woman before her was ever-so-slightly shorter than she, with dark hair tucked into a series of intricate knots and curls, the color of which made Kara think of high fantasy novels and words like “mahogany” and “rosewood.” The CEO was in a delicate, sleeveless blouse of white organza - with a limp bow tied just below the hollow of her throat - that disappeared into a pair of high-waisted, wide legged, black slacks. As the Luthor heir crossed closer, Kara was most taken aback by the startling, icy green of the woman’s eyes, lined, as they were, with thick dark lashes and framed by perfectly arched eyebrows, just as dark. Her skin, so pale, and features, so dusky, it was a startling contrast. Kara, admittedly, got a bit lost in the moment until she realized the CEO would most likely want an answer to her question.

“Oh, um, I’m Kara Danvers. Of the mailroom.”

“Well, you’re a long way from home,” Lena Luthor drew closer and Kara had the distinct impression she was being appraised, “Kara Danvers, of the mailroom. What might I do for you?” The woman smirked and crossed her arms across her chest.

“Oh, right. I was tasked, by Miss Jones, to hand-deliver this to you and none but you.” Kara thrust the package into the woman’s arms unceremoniously, grateful to have something to do with her hands, if only for a fleeting moment.

“My prototype.” The woman exclaimed, smiling earnestly now, and began to tear away the brown paper and open the package. Kara had to admit, she was a bit curious as to what might be inside. As it turned out, the package contained a small device, which closely resembled a computer mouse and had some sort of modified LuthorCorp logo stamped on its top-face.

Kara fidgeted, unsure of how to proceed, “I can go, Miss Luthor, if you don’t need anything else from me.”

“Oh, but I do, come here Kara-of-the-mailroom, and let me show you something amazing.”

Kara couldn’t seem to help herself as her feet brought her closer to the head of the company. Miss Luthor leaned against her desk, casually, and something about the way she stood, the way she looked up under those dark lashes, so intent, made Kara’s face feel a bit warm.

“What is it?”

“It’s an alien detection device.” The CEO was obviously proud of the device, she beamed as she held it up, “This is one of our first functional prototypes. See?” She laid her thumb against a receptor pad for a moment and a small light flashed green, “It uses a simple skin test to determine who among us is not actually one of us.”

Almost immediately, Kara experienced a genuine rush of heat and hoped her boss couldn’t detect the sudden change.

“Here, now you try,” and Miss Luthor turned the device toward her.

Kara threw up her hands in protest and knit her brow delicately. She understood that the political climate was tenuous, what with more aliens coming out of the woodwork and the president’s new bill offering amnesty and citizenship on the very near horizon, but now, right now, in this office, she was threatened in a very real way. Not only was she worried that, despite evidence to the contrary, Lena Luthor was just like her brother in her anti-alien sentiment, but she was faced with the very real and very immediate threat of exposing herself to her potentially xenophobic boss.

“Doesn’t the development of this device go against everything the president has been proposing in recent legislation? Wouldn’t something like this force aliens back into the very shadows where the president is attempting to shine a light?”

Kara’s expression was pained, and she was trying desperately to shift her face into a more neutral position, with little success.

“If aliens want to become citizens, that will soon be their right, but if humans want to know who among them isn’t truly one of them, that’s their right too.”

Kara was failing beautifully at arranging her face into a mask of neutrality and her efforts were not going unnoticed.

“You have further thoughts, Miss Danvers?”

“I...” Kara weighted the value of holding her tongue against the heaviness in her heart and ruled in favor of the latter, “I do.” She moved to one side of the round white desk tucked toward the corner of the room and couldn’t help fidgeting as she tried to compile a tactful argument. “I haven’t been working for your company for very long, but it’s become very clear that when you came in and took over LuthorCorp, you made some serious changes. Why?”

Lena Luthor cocked her head to one side. She still wore a smirk and seemed now to be weighing whether or not to reward the boldness of this somewhat green employee. “I wanted to make this company a force for good. The Luthor name has become somewhat tainted with my brother’s misdeeds,” Lena turned her gaze to the city below and Kara stole her chance to fry the circuits in the prototype with a quick zap of heat vision. Better safe than sorry. “I want to take all of its potential and remove the bile. I’m even considering re-naming the company. To strip it of its Luthor name completely and allow it, and me, the opportunity for a fresh start here in National City.”

“Then why would you introduce something like this device?” Kara crossed closer to the youngest Luthor, “Something that potentially profiles aliens and could be seen as supporting and continuing your brother’s agenda. Would it make your company boatloads of money? No doubt. Would it also compromise your chance for a clean slate by essentially pouring gasoline on the already roaring flame of the human/alien conflict? Again, I have no doubt.”

“That’s bold, Miss Danvers.”

“But you know it’s the truth. You’re in the business of making money, Miss Luthor, but you also seem to be in the business of rebuilding this very broken company.” Kara was stepping into her own mouth with expert speed and efficiency, well aware that she was rapidly over-stepping her bounds. “You’re smart enough to know the difference between a balm and a bomb. You know which this would be without my telling you.”

“I do. Thank you Miss Danvers, that will be all.” The CEO’s face registered an unsettling combination of professional warmth and startling, impersonal coldness. “Wait, just a moment.”

She crossed to Kara, coming closer than she had been thus far, and held out the device, the thumb pad angled toward the girl. The bespectacled blonde gulped and placed a tentative thumb on the receptor, challenging Miss Luthor by unflinchingly holding her gaze. After a long moment that, for Kara, seemed to stretch into eternity, the device beeped and flashed green.

“See? Works perfectly.”

Kara turned and fled toward the elevator, not quite knowing how to interpret her first meeting with the Luthor heir, or her own actions, to be fair. She turned it over in her mind, examining it from all sides and was still just as confused upon exiting the elevator and crossing the hallway back toward the mailroom as she had been a few moments before. She had been far more honest that she had intended, but how could she not be? Why did she so desperately want Lena Luthor to be unique among her family? Why was it so important for her to be different, to be good?

Clark had been so cynical when he had tasked Kara with “keeping an eye on her” stating that, in his experience, you can never trust a Luthor. Why was it so important for Kara to be able to prove him wrong and trust Lena? She’d been chasing every scrap of information about the dark haired woman over the last few weeks, work habits, hiring practices, even scanning the gossip pages in Catco for any indication as to how the CEO spent her time. She realized that she wanted Lena to have the fresh start she desired. She wanted the woman to be a force for good. It seemed like the most important truth in Kara’s life right now, though she didn’t know why. She was still in a slight daze when Miss Jones called her name at the threshold of her department.

“Miss Danvers, you’re to gather your things and report to human resources.”

Kara shook off the bewilderment and tried to process what she just heard. “Wait, what?”

“Gather your things and head up to HR, immediately.”

“Am – am I being fired?” Kara blinked, a deer in the headlights.

“Quite the opposite. Whatever you said to Miss Luthor just now must’ve made quite an impact; you’re being promoted.” Miss Jones let that land for a moment before continuing, “You’re not fired; You’re Miss Luthor’s new assistant. Though with the hours she keeps, you may wish you had been.”