The American Way (Full)
Roleplaying Log: The American Way (Full)
IC Details

New York State Attorney David Archer calls upon the Man of Steel.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: May 27, 2019
IC Location:
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 28 May 2019 20:29
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [*\# None]
NPC & GM Credits: Lovejoy
Associated Plots


"You want me to do who with the what now?"

David Archer shoots an unamused look at his bouncy legal assistant. "I want you, Jyothi," he says, very slowly, "to set up a meeting with Superman."

Jyothi shakes her head with a grin. He still hasn't figured out why he let her get away with her short, spiky haircut. With purple tips. Hardly law office conservative. And yet there she is, with her hair as outlandish as ever.

"Well sure," she said. "I heard that part. But I mean how? He doesn't have a Super-signal, right? Is there a Super-phone?"

"See, that's the beauty of me signing your paychecks," the humorless AG replied. "I get to tell you to figure it out."

So in the end she'd gone to Metropolis, booked a nice hotel and a nice dinner on the city's dime, and had then stood on top of said hotel for a few hours with a big banner reading: HEY SUPERMAN CAN WE TALK LOVE THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF NEW YORK ACTUALLY HIS ASSISTANT BUT IT'S TOTALLY FROM HIM. ALSO HI! BIG FAN!


Hopefully that message worked. And hopefully it led to some sort of sit down. In a location of Superman's choosing. David Archer is perfectly willing to perch on some building in Metropolis to have this conversation if he has to.

An individual standing atop one of Metropolis’s glittering spires is sure to eventually attract attention. No doubt doubly so when wielding a banner. The mid-day crowd created a small foot-traffic jam in one of the skybridges that spans from one building to the next as business-casual gawkers stopped and pressed their faces to the glass to try and read her message.

Cell phones were aimed. Messages were sent. Tagging @dailyplanet and #SupermanHelp. After a half-hour or so as the social-media posts gained some traction those who were having their turn looking at the banner got to witness the stunning climax. As Superman flew passed the window he twisted to one side and responded to the excitement within by giving a broad wave. Then up, towards the roof..
He rises to the top-level of the hotel and steps from air to ledge to rooftop, “You could have just called the Super-Phone,” he says in dad-joke punctuated by casual amusement.

What transpired next was a brief exchange. Superman was relaxed and unhurried as Jyothi explained her boss's need. He didn’t ask many questions; Seemingly aware of the boundaries that might exist between an attorney, a legal assistant, and an open-air conversation.

One might mark him for particularly trusting because he made no attempt to press her for identification or any shred of proof. Perhaps though he just has an unerringly good sense of character.
“General Archer’s a busy man,” Superman replied when she said the meeting could occur in Metropolis, “I’d be pleased to meet with him in his office. What’s a good time for him next week?”

“Great. I’ll be there,” then, “Can I give you a lift down stairs?”

When they finally parted it was with Superman going up-up-and-away. His confident mien cracked a bit once he was away from the public view and for the rest of the day Clark Kent was seemingly more distracted than normal. His immediate fear was that Kara’s actions at the registration site when coupled with the metahuman terrorist actions and the violence at presser event had been too much for his name to bear.

That New York was seeking legal action or at the very least he was to be put on official notice that individuals wearing the Sigil-of-El are subject to the same laws as everyone else. Not wanting to worry his parents – as he himself was worried – or make things worse without having all the facts he bottled his feelings. Once again making clear the need to have a literal Fortress of Solitude to retreat to in times of stress.

So when the day came he flew to New York. Landing outside the State’s Attorneys Office he climbed the steps to hear what it was David Archer needed from the Superman.

Jyothi was excited. She tried to play it cool, the same way any young woman just out of law school tries to play it cool around a celebrity. The problem is she’d said oh my god this is so cool I can’t believe you actually came at least 15 times during this conversation.

That said, there’s a sharp legal mind lurking beneath those purple locks, because she did indeed answer all his questions.

And take the ride.

And try to give him her number.

Jyothi, at least, has no interest in putting him on notice.

David Archer is an entirely different sort of person of course. And there is nothing of either excitement or satisfaction on his face when he opens the door to usher Superman into an office that seems positively barren, if tasteful. There aren’t even any photos on the walls. No degrees or diplomas or newspaper articles to speak of.

The hint of personality comes through his cologne. Masculine and perhaps a little too overdone. By his suit, which is not black, or navy, or charcoal, not conservatively colored at all. Perhaps it offers a hint to why he tolerates the hair, because this perfectly tailored thing is pinstriped purple, and he makes it work for him, down to the crisp white shirt and the cerulean blue tie beneath. The very faint tattoo still on his hand, a coiled snake that didn’t quite respond to the “removal” portion of an obvious tattoo removal, is all at odds with it.

His eyes are grave as he offers his hand. “I appreciate you coming, Mr. Ah. Superman.”
Really, modern etiquette hasn’t caught up to this nonsense of running around with funny names and funny costumes at all. An opinion which seems to briefly flash in the lines of his face.

“Kal-El, it’s a pleasure General.” Superman says with a slight nod of understanding for the look that flashes across David Archer’s face. It was the media who labeled him as ‘Superman’ a moniker he has neither actively tried to distance himself from nor wholly embraced. Once a nickname reaches a certain level in the public consciousness it's impossible to shake it without seeming a bit eccentric. He counts his blessings that in the realm of all the things he could have been called that Lois Lane went with ‘Superman’.

The Man of Steel is tall. Dressed in his full heroic regalia he’s a bit under six and a half feet tall and physically robust enough that feats of strength like stopping a runaway locomotive seems fitting for his physical stature. A keen observer of human personality would pick up that there’s more to him.
He does not carry himself as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders. The shock most laypeople experience upon meeting him for the first time can quickly abate because of the relaxed sag of his shoulders and relatable mein.

Superman takes David Archer’s hand in a professional clasp that belighs no extraordinary capability. If Archer has a firm shake he would find that Kal-El’s hand squeezes inward slightly at the man’s force.
“I was happy to come,” Superman says earnestly, “I’m sure you have better uses for your time than spending a day commuting to Metropolis.” He blinks and his blue-eyed gaze breaks away for a second as eyes wander the office for a moment with a slight turn of his head before coming back to David.

“Regrettably, I’ve not made it down since the Chitarui incident. I’m glad to have an excuse to take in some of the sights.”

“I don’t know about better things to do,” David says easily. “But it certainly takes me longer.”
There’s no malice towards metas here. In fact, there’s no malice in this man period. Plenty of irritation. Plenty of dry-tinder crankiness just waiting to be sparked. But the man who got his own fame prosecuting The Winter Soldier, losing, and being labeled by Mother Jones as “The Most Heartless Man in America,” with podcasts like Undisclosed leaping in to lambast him, is absent of any outward hate.

He gestures towards a seat. “Please,” he says, even as he returns to his side of the desk and sits down. He looks Ka-El in the eye. “I have called you here because it’s my duty to build a case. I think you might be able to help me do that. As one of my witnesses.”

Kal-El moves around the chair and reaches behind his back. The movement at his rear flips his cape slightly so that when he sits it’s not pulled tight underneath him in a way that would appear uncomfortable.

Once settled, blue-sleeved elbows go to the edges of the chair’s arms with hands that fold together and rest casually at his lap. When Archer looks him in the eye the Man of Steel comes forward in an attentive gesture.

“Okay,” is Superman’s response. The revelation does nothing to downplay his earlier fears that Kara may somehow be involved in this case that is being developed but his continued concern is all-but absent from his features, “If I’ve witnessed something or know something that will be helpful I’m happy try and support you however I can,” Superman doesn’t seem guarded though there is unmistakable curiosity to his gaze.

“It’s less about what you’ve witnessed. Though you know, I suppose now that I think on it you might well have seen some things that would help.”

He picks up a pencil and taps the eraser end absently against his desk a few times. “The State of New York is being sued in Federal Court over the Registration act. Now I know you may be no more thrilled about that law than many are. May not think it’s right, or how it’s being enforced is right.”

He shrugs. “But the issue at question is not moral right or wrong. That’s for philosophers. It’s my job to defend the constitutionality of the law. And now, you’re probably wondering, well, so, how the Hell do you think I could do that, Mr. Archer? Or why I’d even be interested in doing it, when this damned law could move to Delaware and maybe screw up my life, or the lives of people I care about?”

He points the pencil at the brightly-clad alien. “We’ll get to the first. Let’s talk about the second. You’ve gone on record saying you’re all about The American Way, right? The principles of democracy, of a society governed by rule of Law and a social contract?”

Superman’s attentive demeanor becomes a shade more serious as the topic of conversation shifts from what he may have witnessed or a specific incident to something that is somewhat more abstract. He leans slightly away at then and his thumbs shift gently in their place atop his knitted hands.

“The American way. That’s right,” he answers the question and then explains, “In my view, my personal opinion on registration is unimportant to the debate itself because I’m not a citizen of New York State. I feel that it’s natural for someone with celebrity and a particular opinion to feel compelled to take up some sort of advocacy for their beliefs but I also think that it’s a disservice to a foreign electorate to try to change their minds on a local matter that doesn’t present an immediate danger to the well-being of others.”

“To your question, I view the ‘American Way’ as an ethos that encourages the citizens of this country to position our society in such a way that it values the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness equally for all of its citizens.”

“I believe that this is an ideal state but I also know that it’s unrealistic in the near-term. So I do support a social contract that requires all individuals to give up certain liberties to provide benefits to society as a whole. One of those benefits its security.”

Archer nods in a solemn sort of a way, and something in his eyes shifts to respect. “Yes. And if this were not a federal case now we’d never be having this discussion, you and I. But one way or the other, the way the courts rule on this case and every battle to follow will decide how the balance of liberty and security is applied. And for the record I personally have no attachment to the outcome. What is important to me is that it is tested via the process. And to do that, I have to argue this case as though I wake up every morning breathing and eating Registration as a fundamental good.”

He stands up and moves to the window, looking out it. “If I win, I am right. If Murdock wins, I am wrong. That is what the entire damned system is for. To be a check and a balance on the whims of personal opinions and short sightedness and political grandstanding.”
He turns towards Kal-El again.

“How much can you lift on an average day, Kal-El?”

Kal-El's appreciation for David is reflected in an understanding smile. As a believer in the ‘American Way’ the Man of Steel also has faith in the systems that ethos has designed. Laws change as people’s ideals progress and so less important to him is the specific details of every piece of legislation or judicial finding. What concerns him is when the system itself is filled with bad-actors who seek to somehow place their thumb upon the scale of justice.

“I appreciate that,” Superman says, “The greatest quality any public servant can have is integrity and respect for the role they have been elected or appointed to play.”

As he looked out the window David would hear the chair creak as Kal-El also stands. His steepled hands fall loosely to his sides and a roll of his shoulders causes the cape to re-settle properly down his back.

When Archer turns and asks about his physical capabilities the Man of Tomorrow’s brows arch in slight surprise for the suddenness of it but after a beat this passes and without hubris in his voice he replies candidly, “I don’t know. It’s been nearly fifteen years since I thought there was anything on this planet that I couldn’t lift if it meant protecting another person.”

He looks down then as elbows bend to bring his hands up just slightly above his waist. For a moment he gazes at his palms and fingers flex slightly their incalculable power deftly concealed beneath an all-too-human appearance. His hands fall to his sides once more and he looks up at David.

“How do you think that makes people feel?” Clark wonders.

"Depends on the person. Depends on the circumstance," David says, with a shrug. "I suppose if you just stopped me from getting run over by a truck or crushed by a satellite or caught a missile I'd been improbably strapped to so you could get me off of it, I'd feel nothing but extreme gratitude for it.

There are others who are going to be indifferent to it, for the most part. The somewhat ironic part of this entire law is that I'd say probably 60% of the populace doesn't care one way or another, as long as their paychecks keep coming, as long as they can keep themselves fed and sheltered and clothed, and their children."

He shrugs his shoulders and spreads his hands. "But others…they might wish to exercise their right to stay as far from you as possible."

David slides his hands easily into his pockets, looking down at Superman's hands. Then up into his eyes. "You fly. And you're fast. You also shoot lasers out of your eyes, am I correct? Or could, if you wished, use some manner of X-ray vision. What can that be used for? X-ray vision? Does that work like a TSA scanner, or is it a little more precise?"

Superman gently exhales at David’s explanation and his face adopts a smile of casual understanding to the figure given, “Even when the polls are open to all, people have shown themselves too slow to exercise their voting privileges,” he says, “Martin Luther King.”

“You’re right,” Kal-El then says, “and it’s a difficult problem to solve for because like it or not the desire to survive from one day to the next is at the core of us all.”

Yet, solving the world’s ironies is not the purpose of this meeting. Superman himself had observed that David was a busy man. He appreciates Archer’s frank pragmatism and doesn’t dwell on matters of idle philosophy.

“Lasers,” Superman repeats the word without correction but seems to give a moment’s thought to the next question, “X-Ray is a misnomer. The best way I can explain it is, well; Imagine you’re standing here reading a book..” Superman shifts position to stand next to Archer and raises his hand so the flat of his palm hovers about a foot in front of their face, “and then Jyothi walks in. Even if you lower the book your eyes have to refocus in order to see her clearly and then your book is out of focus.”

“That’s exactly what it’s like for me except that I can focus through the object. In effect I wouldn’t need to lower the book it would just become invisible to me..” he drops his hand away.

“Can you imagine the experiencing something like that for the first time? It’s like being born all over again. It takes an infant weeks and months of constant trial and error to master their vision. What about an adult that can suddenly see through walls or shoot,” pause, “lasers?”

“I wouldn’t wish for anyone else to have to go through that alone," stepping aside and turning to face David again he solemnly adds, "it was terrifying.”

David nods thoughtfully. "Not to be prurient, but could someone unscrupulous, with the same power, use it to violate another individual's bodily privacy?"

Is there sympathy, for this early imagined terror? Perhaps. He's not a man completely without compassion, no matter what the papers say. His eyes are steady, and he nods thoughtfully.

"Especially if you thought you had to remain hidden. Keep it to yourself. Versus having any infrastructure in place to teach you. One might say it might have benefited you to have abilities and powers right out in the open where anyone could talk about them. Seek training for them."

“Sure,” Superman’s reply comes without hesitation or the need to qualify his own behavior.

“David,” Kal-El says, “I don’t think the benefits of education can be overstated. The one thing I tell every new member of the Justice League is that we don’t exist to stop global crisis we exist as a support network for each other. However powerful anyone may be the psychological ramifications of catastrophe cannot be conquered by physical strength or heat-vision. It’s important that those who would help others have a place to decompress about the stress they have endured because safeguarding their sanity is just as important as safeguarding others.”

His chest swells then and the Man of Steel gives a soft sigh, “I think that most conflicts arise from a lack of understanding. If we all took the time to understand someone before deciding whether or not we agreed with them the world would be a much more peaceful place.”

“Quite possibly you are right,” David says, with an incline of his head. He goes back to the desk, leans against it, crosses his arms over his chest and his legs at the ankle. He looks right on the verge of addressing a jury in that pose. Right here in this room.

He nods, coming to a decision. The course of this conversation not only tells him Ka-El would make a good witness, but that he can ask him questions and get answers that support his case.

“Are you willing to testify as a witness for the defense?”

After the disaster of the Trial of Two Centuries, David Archer was given to think he’d never try a hostile witness ever again. The strategy had seemed so clear when he’d conceived of it, but it had fallen apart spectacularly.

This time he will have the willing aid of his witnesses, or do without.

There’s a beat where the Man of Tomorrow reflects upon the question before responding, “I’m willing to do my civic duty,” Superman replies matter-of-factly, “If I’m called to testify I can promise that I’ll try to honor my oath to truthfully answer whatever question is asked of me.”

“I know you’re obligated to defend one side of all this, David,” Kal-El says, “but from my perspective I feel like the whole point of this is to make sure we all wind up with something that does what it’s intended to do: To make the world a safer place by providing accountability and opportunity that didn’t exist before.”

“Is that helpful?”

"It is," David says, accepting that answer. He walks over to his computer, tapping a few keys. Changing 'Superman' to Kal El, not realizing it's hyphenated. "All you have to do on the stand is tell the truth." All he has to do is not get tripped up in questions which could damn him or his case. Or introduce any issue Murdock can tackle on cross, he supposes.

Reluctant but willing witnesses. The reluctant part isn't ideal, but it's workable.

He prints it all out and signs it all, then holds it out to him. "Can I have some contact information? We will probably need to conduct one or two more pre-trial meetings."

Kal-El nods in affirmation.

‘Trust the process,’ has been his counsel to those who view the political process with a jaundiced eye. In the course of generations, an inconvenient truth will do more to bring good into the world than a position staked by half-truths because it will withstand the winds of change and the light of discovery.

Superman accepts the subpoena his eyes dropping upon the single sheet of paper and then coming back up to meet David, “Kal-El,” he says, “It’s hyphenated,” to correct the record for the future.

Folding the sheet neatly in half he holds it at his side and then says, “Sure,” he responds to the request, “We’ve been trying something in Delaware. A network of powered individuals working with the city,” he takes the pen Archer had signed his subpoena with and writes upon one of the desk’s pads, “It’s not perfect; but when people need us it’s better than the old way of standing on rooftops or shining spotlights into the air.”

He finishes writing and puts the pen next to the pad. Upon its surface are the words ‘Justice League’ with an address and phone number, “If you need me just call and I’ll be happy to setup time to meet with you again.”

Facing David then Superman offers the man his hand, “What else can I do for you?”

David shakes it firmly after quickly drawing the hyphen in. “Justice League? Interesting. Sounds a lot more legitimate than ‘Avengers.’”

But he shakes his head. “I’ll be in touch,” he says. In tones of satisfaction. If he handles this correctly, his case has just gotten that much stronger.

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