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A Science Experiment and his Dog

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Objectively speaking, summer in Metropolis was pretty cool. Kon loved the farm, but Metropolis had concerts and a restaurant culture that included all you-can-eat buffets, which was totally the only reason he was bummed about Clark’s stupid work emergency. Clark finished saying something about making up for it later that Kon was determinedly tuning out, because whatever, Clark, when he realized that Lois was going off script.

“No, it’s fine!” she was saying, almost absentmindedly. “Kon can stay here with me.” Clark stared at her with blank scepticism and honestly, Kon couldn’t blame him. Kon liked Lois. She was, objectively, a total badass. She’d snuck him into a Black Canary concert with a press pass and knew all the best restaurants open past two in the morning. She was one of the few people he knew who could hold her own against either of the individuals who happened to have donated half of his genetic material but were totally not his parents, a skill he respected and aspired to. She was also really, really, not the kind of person who volunteered for wayward superteen supervision.

“I’ve got the McGuffin thing, but that should be fine.” She paused for a moment, turning to Kon “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Mind?” he repeated, because he was still a little stuck on the work emergency. Not on the bit where Clark was going into space on a mission of galactic diplomacy with half of the UN. Galactic diplomacy was a thing, and Superman sometimes went along to foster good will and show that Earth was a cosmopolitan, diverse and forward thinking planet many peoples called home, including people that could shoot holes in spaceships with their eyeballs. He also wasn’t stuck on the fact that Clark leaving for space meant being shipped back to the farm for the rest of the summer, because he’d been kind of expecting that since he got the invitation to come to Metropolis. No, the weird bit was that Clark was going as Clark. He’d been assigned to the press pool and was pretty obviously psyched about it. Kon hoped that at some point he’d get tossed out of a spaceship and have to pretend to be asphyxiating.

“So I won’t be here the whole time, but you’re pretty good at entertaining yourself and it’s not like you can’t fly somewhere else if you get bored” Lois continued, and when Clark actually nodded along hopefully instead of being a downer about Kon using the power of flight to avoid boredom or the five different ways he might accidentally set Metropolis on fire in Clark’s absence Kon realized that he really wasn’t being shipped back to Smallville if he didn’t want to be.

“So I could stay here?” he said, and winced. Hopefully that had sounded cooler and less pathetic to people who weren’t him.

Clark and Lois exchanged a look. Kon retaliated by staring at the floor. Clark cleared his throat and said he had to go pack, which Kon was grateful for. Lately Clark couldn’t be relied on to avoid awkward heart to hearts. Manfully enduring the comforting shoulder squeeze on the way out the door was weird enough.

Kon turned his attention towards Lois, who was typing on her phone fast enough that he was pretty sure she had, at a minimum, some kind of low key affinity to the speed force. Unlike Clark, Lois was pretty great about avoiding awkward heart to hearts.

“So McGuffin – he’s an evil billionaire, right? But not one of ours.”

“One of ours?” Lois paused her typing, looking amused.

“Well, I guess he’s kind of one of yours. He doesn’t get into it with capes, does he? Or have like, a tragic backstory or an obsession with Clark. He just makes the world a shittier place in mostly legal ways that I’m not allowed to solve with TTK or punching.”

“You keep up,” she said, suddenly focusing all of her attention on him and whoa, he’d been stared down by Batman without feeling quite so much like his value as a science experiment (and maybe a person) was being appraised.

“You’re right that he doesn’t like to mess with capes” she added, putting her phone down and staring at him, doing some kind of calculation in her head. He tried not to edge towards the door Clark had disappeared through and hoped her results came out in his favour. “You don’t have to put on a mecha suit and try to punch the moon out of orbit to wreak havoc. He’s been hurting people for a long time, and I’ve been trying to shed light on that when I can.” She paused for a moment, looking tired and a little bitter. Kon got that. Supervillain-evil sucked, but evil-evil could be really draining, and it was hard to make people care about it. “That said, I think he’s been planning something a little more flamboyant than usual. He’s been under a lot of stress lately. He has a stupid name. And you know, billionaires.”

“Yeah.” That was just the nature of being super rich, Kon thought. Sometimes you decided to solve your problems with antimatter rays. Or vigilantism that over-committed to a theme. Or worst of all, politics, but he was trying not to think too hard about Luthor’s run at the White House.

Clark stuck his head back into the living room. “I’m good to go,” he said, looking guilty. Kon, trapped between reciprocal guilt for making Clark feel guilty, satisfaction that Clark was feeling guilty for ditching him (the jerk), and a feeling Kon didn’t want to examine too closely in case it turned out to be sadness, opted for what Cassie called shoving your feelings down the emotional constipation hole and Tim called compartmentalization. He paired it with a casual nod in Clark’s direction, which he thought was a nice touch. Clark didn’t seem to notice. He was busy making heart eyes at Lois, who stretched up on her toes to kiss him. It was nice, the way they were together, but also not really something Kon wanted to see or think about. Clark smiled at her helplessly before turning back towards Kon.

“Have fun! Try not to let her get you into too much trouble.”

Lois punched his arm, then winced, shaking her hand out a little.

“Relax,” she said “We’re going going to have a great time. With you off on your own, reporting on the mysteries of the universe, I could use a new sidekick. If you’re up for it?” she added, grinning at Kon.

Kon blinked at her in shock, and then barely controlled the urge to fist pump. “That sounds cool,” he said, aiming for responsible and chill. Taking down an evil billionaire during the work week? Totally awesome. Tim would agree, he was pretty sure, but Tim got to do cool shit during the week all the time because Gotham was a merry-go-round of psychos, corruption, and gang warfare. Some people were born lucky.

“Oh God,” said Clark, clutching at his suitcase and looking horrified “Please have fun in a safe, legal way and call Ma if you need anything. Or Bruce, but try not to need to call Bruce. And don’t get Kon arrested. Or shot at with Kryptonite bullets.”

Kon tried not to be offended, but failed “I get shot at with Kryptonite bullets on the weekend. For fun and like, educational purposes. And no way are we calling Batman. We can handle ourselves.”

“Hear hear,” Lois added, yanking a long range camera out of the closet and pulling a bunch of boxes out after her. Kon used his TTK to catch them before they could hit her and put them down carefully.

“Thanks” she said, looking satisfied. She reached back to grab more stuff from the back of the closet. “See? We’ve got this.”

Clark shot her an unfairly worried look as he reached for the door. He hesitated and turned around.

“Actually, try to avoid being shot at at all. No shoot outs!”

Lois waved a dismissive hand at him and rolled her eyes, but the gesture was softened by the way she couldn’t help smiling. “We’ll be fine. Go do your actual job. And remember, everything you do reflects on me, so be awesome.”

Kon didn’t even bother trying to hide his grin once Clark was gone, because there was playing it cool and then there was pretending to be the kind of loser who wouldn’t want in on whatever Lois was planning. “I’m not actually a sidekick, you know.”

Lois was looking at her phone again, a pile of mysterious and awesome stuff lying at her feet, but she was still smiling. “Call it what you like, kid. We’ve got work to do.”

It turned out that being Lois’ maybe-sidekick involved a lot of cross referencing boring documents looking for inconsistencies and visiting a bunch of different records departments to requisition, threaten, and bribe with donuts. Which was mostly kind of fun, actually, and had given him the chance to impress Lois with how cute and charming he could be in the face of angry old ladies who were mostly impervious to donuts. Still, the coolest part was definitely that there was also a lot of sneaking out in the middle of the night to investigate McGuffin’s shadier properties, which was different from breaking in or trespassing because they didn’t get caught. Much.

“Holy shit.” Kon said, skidding around the corner of a top-secret subterranean facility (the official blueprints hadn’t matched how much dirt they’d had to dump during construction; score one for boring cross referencing) “Are those super dogs? Are we being chased by super dogs?”

“Just keep running!” Lois yelled. It really was very weird that she could move that fast without superpowers. In heels, no less. Kon added another mental check to his tally of evidence for her connection to the speed force.

“Should I maybe just, you know, try to punch through the wall and fly us out of here?”

“There are five different clubs over our heads and each of them will have a line stretching down a few blocks” she said, grabbing his arm to lead him to a ladder “and cameras everywhere. Not to mention phones.”

“So? I could be a Lantern. Lots of people can fly.” Hopefully superdogs couldn’t fly, he thought. Or climb. Maybe they were mutant superdogs with opposable thumbs.

“Maybe, but those people aren’t connected to me in their civilian identity.” She shrugged expressively “I don’t think we’re that desperate yet.”

A particularly vicious howl broke out right as Kon realized that they’d hit a dead end. It sounded closer than it should be if the dog was still a floor beneath them. Lois cursed inventively.

“We must have taken a wrong turn.” She kicked the wall. “What is it with powerful, emotionally disturbed men and underground labyrinths?”

They started running back the way they’d come, barrelling around a corner and freezing in the face of a huge dog growling as it stalked towards them. At least there was only one, Kon thought nervously. The dog was a pure, unearthly white, like the snow outside the fortress. It pulled its lips back in a snarl to reveal that it’s teeth were also huge and blindingly white. Great. It had a whole thing going on.

The only splashes of colour were the red of its mouth and a thick collar, gleaming like a green tinted oil slick and wrapped around the dog’s otherwise pristine neck. When the dog lunged for them Kon grabbed it with his TTK, shoving it back to the ground and trying to hold it there. The collar squeezed around the dog’s neck, and holy shit, it was bubbling.

The dog let out a sound somewhere between a howl and a scream. Lois swore again, and grabbed him.

“Come on.” She said “We’ve gotta risk it. You have to get out of here.”

The dog desperately tried to lunge towards them again. Kon felt sick. He’d seen a lot of messed up stuff since being decanted, but something about the way the dog snarled and whined made him want to throw up and set things on fire at the same time. He swallowed, and let the dog go, shoving Lois away from them as the dog leaped towards him again, its teeth bared. Desperately, he reached for the collar with his hands.

Time slowed. He could hear Lois yelling in the distance, but he couldn’t make out what she was saying. The collar felt disgustingly slimy and against his skin. Worse, it felt alive. It pulsed like a living heart. He gagged as it writhed in his grip and pain ripped up his arms. Hunt, he thought, the compulsion moving through him with the pain. Hunt, and rip their throats out. The dog snarled again, his muzzle contorted with rage, but he wasn’t biting. Kon focused on that.

The dog wasn’t biting. The collar was hurting them both. He had to save the dog. He heard Lois shouting again as she raced back towards them, and then she was there, her hands over his, trying to pry him loose. Reality snapped back into focus. He reached for the collar with his TTK and yanked, sagging with relief when he felt it snap into two pieces. He tossed it against the wall and collapsed, and oh gross his stomach was heaving. The dog was standing over them, panting. Kon reached up to let him sniff his hand.

“Good boy.” he said, and the dog licked his cheek. He laughed, dizzy with relief. He tried to stand up and found that there was some straight up dizziness mixed in there too. Shit. Something still wasn’t right. Lois put a hand on his shoulder.

“Kon,” she said carefully “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“It’s fine,” he said, reaching out to scratch behind the dog’s ears. It gave him an indignant look, like ear scratches were beneath its dignity, but its tail wagged enthusiastically.

“He didn’t really want to tear us to shreds, did you, boy? It was the collar. It was hurting you.”

The dog stuck his nose in Kon’s ear. Kon thought that was pretty obviously a sign he agreed.

“Okay,” Lois said in the same careful, controlled tone, reaching over to her purse to pull out what looked like disposable chopsticks and a couple of containers. “But does that make it a good idea to pet the recently traumatized super dog?”

She looked at them. The dog had sat down and was back to licking Kon’s face and Kon was maybe, from some perspectives, cuddling with it. Whatever. The poor dog had clearly been through some shit and also had instigated any of the cuddling that totally wasn’t happening. Lois pressed her lips together and went to pick up the two halves of the collar with the chopsticks, dumping them in the containers and sealing them. The dizziness disappeared.

Lois looked over at Kon “Feeling better?”

“Yeah. Are those things lead lined?” Kon was impressed.

“Never leave the house without ‘em.” Some of the control had slipped from her voice, and in its place was a tight, angry brightness.

“Speaking of things we never do, how about grabbing the obviously Kryptonite infused dog collar instead of getting the fuck away from it? What were you thinking?”

She was staring at him again, and her eyes were bright with feeling. He didn’t know what she wanted to hear.

“Uh,” he said, because he’d been thinking he’d save the dog and also the day, but sometimes adults got unpredictably weird about that kind of thing. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.

“Never mind. We don’t have time for this. We need to get out of here.” The dog woofed excitedly and stood up. Kon decided to let that distract him from the way his stomach had tightened again, no Kryptonite needed.

“I couldn’t leave him.” It was suddenly really important that she understand that.

Lois’ face softened. “I know.”

And that was good, that was great, that was basically what he’d needed to hear, so Kon cleared his throat and decided to talk to the only person present who hadn’t made it weird yet.

“What’s that boy? Do you know the way out?”

Lois pinched her nose, laughing a little. “Kon, the dog isn’t going to-” But the dog had started to trot back the way they’d come, pausing to bark impatiently at them. They looked at the dog, and then at each other.

Lois shrugged. “Sure. Let’s follow Superdog.”

“That’s a terrible name. We can’t call him Superdog. We don’t even know that he’s a superdog for sure.”

Literally, anyway. He was definitely super cute once you got used to the size. And the teeth. Just looking at him made Kon feel better about everything, which was a pretty stark turn around from fifteen minutes ago, when looking at the dog had mostly made him feel like death was a thing that could happen to him tonight. The dog led them to a seemly random spot on the wall, and then shoved his nose against a panel. The wall pulled aside to reveal an honest-to-god secret passage, then looked back at them pointedly. Kon stepped in and whistled. Lois, upon following, made a choked off noise that could have started life as a laugh or a scream.

There were actual sconces on the wall. Straight out of Game of Thrones, except for how they all had falcons carved on them with kind of an art deco vibe. The elaborate, gilded carvings decorating the rest of the room had a similar theme. Kon, having read the zoning application, knew for a fact that ground hadn’t been broken on this facility until 2010, but supervillians liked to commit to esoteric and deeply stupid aesthetics. Cassie’s theory was that it was because they were mostly sad little people who were boring on the inside. Kon felt like that was also a decent explanation for several superheroes, but he hadn’t voiced the thought in front of Tim.

Lois poked at one of the sconces gingerly “McGuffin has definitely gone full supervillain. Superdogs with Kyrptonite collars are one thing —we are in Metropolis— but no one breaks out the period inappropriate torches until they’re ready to commit to a life of weird evil.”

Kon nodded. “Oh, yeah, he’s definitely getting ready to unleash a really, really ugly death ray. And using freaky kryptonite collars on dogs to make them guard his stuff wasn’t really his prior M.O. I mean, you can get them to guard stuff without evil, alien looking tech. And I still say we don’t know for sure he’s a superdog. He could be, like, a batdog, trained by ninja assassins on a mountain somewhere.”

The dog took that opportunity to bark again, zooming up and down the passage and at what was definitely not standard (or even specially trained by ninjas assassins) dog speed before sitting down in front of them and looking up quizzically. He looked like he was wondering what was taking them so long, and also if they were maybe too stupid to understand how running worked. Kon sighed. This was probably going to complicate things. He reached down to pet the dog again and decided to try explaining the situation.

“Lois can’t go that fast, so you’ll have to slow down for her, buddy. Can you do that? Yes you can! Yes you can!”

Lois stared at him in horrified fascination. The dog’s tail thumped against the ground, but he got up and started walking at a slower pace. They followed. Lois was frowning thoughtfully.

“So McGuffin is either in possession of alien tech we’ve never seen before, or he’s capable of creating or purchasing totally new stuff on his own.”

Kon thought about it “Do you think his death ray will be all done up to look like a catapult? Or he’ll have a power suit that makes him look like a knight from Medieval Times?”

Lois seemed unsettlingly into the idea.“Maybe he’ll have a real catapult, but with nukes. One time Sportsmaster had a literal nuclear football. Hack work, really, but I won’t lie and tell you the headline wasn’t satisfying. At least Superdog probably isn’t radioactive.”

Kon decided to focus on the important part of that sentence. “We’re still not calling him Superdog. It was bad enough when it was Clark. Has anyone ever told you you’re not great at names?”

Lois glared at him. “First off, no, because I am the greatest at names. Secondly, we can call him Superdog for now.”

“He needs real name” Obviously. Dogs learned their names and everything. You couldn’t just go changing the dog’s name on him. Being randomly given a new name was really disorienting, especially if it was accompanying a bunch of major lifestyle changes. Kon could speak to that. It would probably provoke some kind of doggy identity crisis.

Lois stomped up some intricately bedazzled stairs. “And once we’re out of here, and we figure out which League member runs the SPCA for super animals, I’m sure he’ll get one.”

Kon stopped in his tracks, horrified. The dog stopped too, leaning up against him and trying to nudge him forwards.

“There’s no SPCA for super animals, Lois! We can’t just hand him over.”

Lois winced, then looked back towards him. She visibly steeled herself, which was how Kon knew he was really going to hate whatever she had to say next.

“Look, Kiddo, I know you’re getting attached. But we don’t know where he came from, or who made him, or how the collar worked. He has superpowers. He could be –”

And that was basically all of that Kon could stand to hear. He looked down at the dog’s happy doggy face and focused really hard on not crying.

“It’s not his fault, Lois. He’s just a dog. Somebody made him or experimented on him and either way it wasn’t because they wanted him. They were just trying to build a weapon they could use to hurt people. He’s helping us. They’re just going to lock him up. Or if whatever shell company or contractor actually owns him hasn’t done anything too illegal, they might even have to give him back, and then they’ll just put that collar back on him, or something like it, and they’ll say it’s a safety precaution. They don’t care about him. They.”

Abruptly, Kon realized he was shouting some pretty revealing shit at his genetic donor’s girlfriend in the middle of an evil labyrinth because he was over identifying with a recently mind controlled superpowered guard dog and shut up. This wasn’t Lois’ fault. She’d been really nice, and taught him how to break into secret underground lairs without using his powers. But he couldn’t abandon the dog. The dog had exactly one person he could count on, and that was Kon, and he wasn’t going to let him down. He looked up at Lois. She looked like she was going to stab someone, or maybe stab more than one someone.

“Yeah, okay, you’re keeping the dog. Give him a name.” Lois said, and her voice sounded kind of rough and scratchy, like when he’d caught her watching The Land Before Time on Netflix at four in the morning.

He’d definitely managed to outdo himself on the making it weird front. Good job, Kon. He tried to think of something to say, but he came up blank.

“I said you can keep the dog, Kid” She sounded a little more like herself. “I meant it. Anyone who says otherwise can go through me.” He’d seen Lois go toe to toe with the City Council, and Luthor, and on one memorable occasion Batman. He was going to keep the dog.

“Okay.” He looked at the dog, then back at Lois. “How about Krypto?”

“Krypto?”

“Yeah” He turned to the dog. “Do you like that boy? Krypto?” Krypto shoved his hand under Kon’s hand and wuffed contentedly, showing once again that he was a great dog with excellent taste.

“His full name can be Krypto the Superdog” Kon offered, because he was feeling about equally generous and trollish.

Lois’ mouth twitched. “Okay. Krypto the Superdog it is. We are still,” she said “calling the League, and asking how supershots work. And we’re going to have to get him registered. Metropolitans will probably overlook the size, teeth, and superpowers, but an off leash dog with no tags or collar is asking for an angry mob.” She looked distraught “Clark is never going to let this go. He left me alone with you for a week, and now you have a dog.”

No good could come from her thinking too long and hard about that. Kon was about to remind her that Clark had said no shoot outs or getting arrested and totally failed to mention dogs in any capacity whatsoever when the roof ahead of them abruptly caved in. Probably on account of the lightrail car that had been thrown through it. Kon blinked. He could see streams of people dressed up for a night out through the hole in the tunnel, but instead of moving between clubs and bars they were screaming and running away from a guy in a giant power suit that looked like some kind of Renfair meets the Roaring Twenties abomination.

He looked over towards Lois, but she was already clambering up out of the rubble towards the power suit, Krypto at her side. He floated up beside her.

“I’ve gotta change and get up there. Can you take care of Krypto?”

“Sure. I want to grill this asshole about where he got the dog, anyway. The city can be kind of picky about provenance.”

Kon smiled at her, suddenly feeling shy for no good reason. “Want me to try and take some pictures while I fight him? Since I’m kind of here as your sidekick.”

Lois stopped scrabbling up rocks and turned to face him, hugging him fiercely, and he could admit to himself that that was pretty cool of her. He hugged back because he wasn’t a jerk with the emotional maturity of someone his chronological age, Tim.

“What do you mean, kind of?” She said, breaking the hug and starting to climb again. “You’re absolutely here as my sidekick. Get me some front page shots and knock him down so I can interrogate him before the cops show up.”

Kon cracked his knuckles. “Oh, that I can definitely do.” The chance to selfie while punching out the kind of dilweed who was mean to dogs and wore a tabard to terrorize downtown Metropolis didn’t come around too often, even in his line of work.

He heard Lois shout, and looked back to Krypto, flying up to meet him. Kon waved down at her and shot her a thumbs up, feeling suddenly, overwhelmingly happy. He was going to fight a supervillain with his dog, who could fly. Being Lois’ sidekick was totally baller.