Chapter 2

Clark shifted nervously as he waited for the elevator in the Frank Mancuso Penthouse building. This was the address that Professor Hugo Strange had given him for their meeting tonight. This was the most expensive and elite penthouses in all of Metropolis. Behind him in the lobby was a grand chandelier that looked like to would take ten years of his paychecks to buy. Even wearing his tuxedo, he felt out of place and poorly dressed compared to the people that passed him by. The reporter felt uncomfortable being around so much displayed wealth. The fact that Professor Strange could afford such a place spoke highly of his skills in his profession. Why the psychiatrist wanted to spend time with him was beyond him.

As he entered the elevator, the attendant took one look at Clark and softly sniffed. Feeling even more self conscious, the reporter slouched even more and looked down at the expensive carpet that lined the elevator floor. He shouldn’t have agreed to come here. After a long night of being uncomfortable at the party ended with a tiring fight against Metallo, Clark wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and fall asleep. It was strange that he felt sore after his brawl. Normally he would have recovered almost immediately, but the exhaustion and soreness persisted. After his meeting with Strange, he told himself that he would fly to his Fortress of Solitude and get a body scan.

The elevator doors slowly opened and Clark stepped away from the attendant who sneered slightly at him. As he walked down the exquisitely decorated hallway, he told himself that he would not stay long. Clark usually would not have accepted such an invitation, but there was something about Strange that made him feel relaxed and comfortable. It has been a long time since he felt such a connection with anyone.

After finally finding the right door, Clark stood several moments in hesitation before he finally softly knocked on the door.  His hopes that Professor Strange was not home were dashed when the door opened to reveal the older man.

Hugo Strange smiled slightly when he opened the door and saw who was at his door. The door swung open the rest of the way. “I am pleased to see you Mr. Kent. Please come in.”

Clark stepped into the penthouse apartment and stood in awe of the exquisitely decorated room. It looked like something you would see in a magazine. Shelves were built into the walls that displayed sculptures and trinkets that seemed to come from across the globe. As Superman, he had traveled many times across the globe and he could recognize the unique styles of several countries and cultures.

“Please take off your shoes,” Strange said firmly as he closed the front door.

The awed reporter nodded silently as he bent down to take off his dress shoes. The carpet felt warm and soft as his sock covered feet settled on the floor. This was an amazing apartment, he thought to himself.

The Professor led Clark from the entryway in through a door almost immediately to their left. They entered a very large room that the reporter assumed was Hugo Strange’s study.  In the center of the far wall was a large marble fireplace that was lit as the dancing flames cast shadows in the room. A desk with a computer was placed at the opposite end of the fireplace with a large comfy leather chair. Along the third wall was a small bar with shelves filled with every type of alcohol that Clark could imagine. The last wall was lined with bookshelves that were full of books from the top of the ceiling down to the floor. In the center of the room were two plush sitting chairs and a long couch.

“Please, have a seat,” Strange said with his soothing voice. “Would you like something to drink?”

Clark was still in awe as he moved to sit in one of the chairs. “No thank you, Professor Strange.”

The Professor had a slight smile as he said, “I insist that you call me Hugo.” He walked over to the bar and started to pour himself a drink as the reporter sat. “Are you sure you do not want a drink? I so hate to drink alone. I have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks if that is your preference.”

With the intent of politely declining again, Clark looked into the soft grey eyes of his host and suddenly changed his mind. “I’ll have a ginger ale, please.”

As the Professor fixed them both a drink, Clark watched the dancing flames of the fire and sighed as he started to feel relaxed again. The softness of the chair seemed to caress his body as all the tension that he had been holding melted away.

Strange walked to the center of the room holding two glasses and handed on to his guest. Clark gratefully took the glass and took a sip of the drink feeling the sweet liquid on his lips.

“I want to thank you for coming to visit me. I get so few visitors because of my work and it is nice to have someone here to talk to.”

Clark smiled as he looked at the older man. The connection he felt towards his new acquaintance was the most amazing thing. He never felt so comfortable or close to anyone on this level. “You have an amazing apartment.”

“Thank you,” Strange said as he took a drink from his glass. “I decorated it so that my patients feel comfortable and relaxed. The environment is important in my line of work.”

“You did an excellent job,” Clark said softly. He took another drink and sighed softly as the relaxation seemed to melt away his remaining tension. His eyes seemed to grow heavy as he watched the dancing flames of the fire.

“Are you relaxed, Mr Kent?” Hugo Strange said softly as he sat his cup down on one of the end tables.

“Yes,” came the soft reply of the half asleep reporter.

“Finish the rest of your drink,” the Professor commanded in a tone that was slightly harsh.

Unable to think past the heavy cloud that invaded his mind, Clark raised his glass and finished off the ginger ale. Hugo walked over to his guest and took the glass away and placed it next to his finished glass.

“I want you to focus on the relaxation that you are feeling, Mr. Kent. Take deep breaths in and out as all your worries and cares are let go with each breath.”

The Professor smiled as Clark followed his instructions. It seems that his preparations for this assignment were going according to plan. The hero was putty in his hands and it was time to take the first step to reshape him as instructed.

“As you feel all of your stress and worries disappear, you will realize that Hugo Strange is your friend. You can trust him with any secrets and he will become your closest confidant. Whenever you return to this place, you will feel just as relaxed as you do now. When you are not here, you will feel stressed out and uncomfortable. You will desire to come back to talk to Hugo Strange about anything that is bothering you.”

Professor Strange watched intently as his instructions were relayed to the dazed superhero. He had known Superman’s identity for a few weeks now. He used his skills as a psychiatrist as well as his studies of villains such as Mad Hatter and Poison Ivy to enhance his mind control skills. With an alien like Superman, he wanted to make sure that the hero did not stand a chance.

“I want you to stand to your feet, Mr. Kent.” Hugo ordered softly.

He watched with a triumphant smile as his prey obeyed his orders. The hero slightly swayed as his awareness was focused on the soothing voice that commanded him. Strange walked up to the hero and started to unbutton his shirt revealing the red and yellow ‘S’ shield that lay beneath his dress shirt.  

The Professor softly traced the ‘S’ as he looked at his helpless prey. “Remember that you can trust Hugo Strange with any secret.” He said soothingly to his newest patient.

The slight touch across his chest caused Clark to moan softly. He stood swaying slightly as Strange buttoned his shirt back up and pushed him back down on the chair.

“Now you will come back to being aware of your surroundings, Mr. Kent. The relaxation that you feel will stay with you as long as you are in this apartment. You will remember talking with me for hours and will be glad that you have a new friend.”

Clark’s eyes slowly opened back up as he finally stopped looking at the flames of the fire and up to where his host was carrying the empty glasses to the bar.

“I want to thank you for keeping me company tonight, Mr. Kent.” Hugo said warmly as he set the glasses down on the bar and returned back to the other chair. “I’m afraid that I must turn in for the night. I have a busy schedule tomorrow.”

Feeling disappointed that their time together must end so soon, Clark forced a smile on his face. The closeness he felt for the older man made him want to hang out with him more. “Thank you for inviting me to hang out tonight. I would like to come back and talk with you some more, if you don’t mind.”

Professor Strange smiled and extended his hand. “You are welcome to come back anytime, Mr. Kent.”

Clark took the hand and shook it. “Please call me Clark,” He said earnestly. If they were going to be as close friends as he thought, they had to be on a first name basis.

“As you wish, Clark.”

As Strange escorted the reporter out of the penthouse apartment, a smiling Clark turned and shook his new friend’s hand again. He had not felt this good in a very long time and hoped that Hugo will prove to be a close friend and confidant.

The Daily Planet was a bustle of activity as the media station’s hundreds of employees worked tirelessly to bring the most up to date news to the citizens of Metropolis. To a person watching, it seemed like the newsroom was utterly chaotic and disorganized. However the Head Editor, Perry White ran his media center with an iron fist and he never failed to get the latest news out on time.

Clark sat at his desk trying to focus on the journalistic piece that he was working on. Ever since he got home last night, he had been in a bad mood. He could not remember the last time he felt so completely stressed. Every technique that he knew could not relieve him of this pressure. Perhaps he should make a quick trip to his fortress during his lunch hour and get the check up that he had put off last night. Tension rose throughout him as he tried to type the information from his assignment last night. It should have been an easy task for him since it was about the fight between Superman and Metallo, but he had a very hard time concentrating due to his stress.

“Hey Clark!,” a soft but hard female voice said behind him.

Annoyed Clark turned around and glared at the love of his life, Lois Lane. “Can’t you see I’m busy?” He snapped peevishly.

Lois arched an eyebrow and looked critically at her partner. “Well excuse me,” she said tartly.

Clark realized that he just snapped at the woman he loved and wiped at his eyes. “I’m sorry, Lois. I didn’t mean to snap. I have been really stressed out lately and don’t know how to relieve it.”

“Something must be up to make you snap like that, Clark.” Lois said with worry in her eyes. “I haven’t seen you snap like that in the five years that I’ve known you. Do you want to talk about it?”

Shaking his head, Clark sighed heavily. “I’ll be fine, I think I need to take an extended lunch is all. Tell Perry that I will be back this afternoon.”

Lois patted her friend’s should. “No problem, I will cover for you.”

Clark grabbed his coat and walked out the door. There was only one person he felt comfortable talking to and he found himself heading there now.

 

Todd Fleming

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