SMALLVILLE/SPIDER-MAN 5: INFINITE

CHAPTER ONE

The bright July sunshine was beaming down from above as Clark Kent and Peter Parker strolled out of the Metro Diner and into the busy, bustling streets of Metropolis.

"Those were, without a doubt, the greatest pancakes I have ever had," Peter said, one hand on his stomach. Then, after a pause, he quickly added, "Never tell Aunt May that I said that."

"I'm telling you man, the Metro Diner is the best breakfast around," Clark replied. He pushed his glasses farther up his nose with his index finger. It was a nervous habit he'd artificially created for his Mild Mannered Reporter persona, but it had become so natural that he did it subconsciously whenever he was wearing that guise. "Next time you have to try the home fries."

"I'm not going to fit into my tights much longer if I keep coming here," Peter said. "These visits to Metropolis every now and then are fun, but some of us don't get their physique from a yellow sun, my friend!"

"You guys went to breakfast and you didn't invite me?" The voice came from tiny transceivers that Clark and Peter wore in their ears. Clark's was specially calibrated so that the sound was so infinitesimally quiet it only registered with his super-hearing. Clark and Peter both rolled their eyes at the same time.

Peter very casually raised his forearm to his mouth, pretending to scratch an itch on the side of his face. "Do you eavesdrop on everyone all the time, or was it just our turn, Stark?" he said toward his wrist.

"Actually, boys, it just so happens I was up here at the JLA Satellite helping J'onn calibrate the new supercomputers that Stark International was kind enough to donate," Tony replied via their earpieces. "We got a ping on the Troublert monitor, and I ran a query to see who was in the area, and happened to catch you two finishing up your breakfast bro date."

"First, are we really calling it the 'Troublert'?" Clark asked, speaking into his forearm as well, as casually as he possibly could.

"You pay for the next cool gadget and I'll let you name it, CK," Stark fired back. "It detects trouble, and alerts you to it. I thought it was clever."

"Okay, okay," Clark replied. "So, what's the situation?"

"First National Bank of Metropolis. It's about twelve blocks away."

"Someone robbing it?" Peter asked.

"Not yet, but the security cameras just picked up a very suspicious couple walking in the front door," Stark explained. "Flint Marko, alias the Sandman; I believe he's one of yours, Mister Parker? And Selina Kyle, alias Catwoman. Usually travels in Batman's social circle."

"Sandman and Catwoman?" Peter raised an eyebrow. "How'd those two get hooked up? A litterbox fetish dating service?"

Clark shot Peter a disgusted look. Then, to Stark he said, "I take it the bank employees don't realize who just strolled in?"

"Negative," Stark replied. "And, as a matter of fact, about ten seconds after they walked in, the security camera footage went into a loop and all the alarms were remotely disabled. Which means, A. They have some tech-savvy outside help, and B. I don't think they're there to apply for a mortgage."

"We'll check it out," Clark said.

Clark and Peter continued walking down the sidewalk. Without another word, Peter casually ducked down the nearest alleyway, and, as soon as he was out of sight, pulled his sweater up over his head, revealing a red and blue costume with a big black spider emblem on the front. Clark, similarly, stepped nonchalantly into a phone booth, shut the door behind him, and ripped open his shirt exposing the word famous "S" shield that had become an inspiration to so many.

Twelve blocks away at the First National Bank of Metropolis, a bank manager with graying hair and a mustache walked up to the couple who had just entered. "May I help you?" he asked.

Flint Marko was dressed in a very sharp three-piece suit and carrying an attaché case. Selina Kyle clung decoratively to his arm, wearing a little black dress and holding a tiny clutch-purse. Her brown hair was in an up-do, allowing a clear display of the extravagant diamond necklace she wore around her neck.

"Yes, you may," Marko replied. "I would like to see your safety deposit boxes, please. My wife needs a secure place to keep her jewelry. I trust that you have top of the line security here?" Selina absently played with the diamonds around her neck, and Marko raised the attaché case slightly in the manager's direction, implying that it contained more of the same.

"Of course, of course," the manager said, practically tripping over himself in his eagerness to assist this couple. "If you would follow me I'd be happy to show you what we have in the way of safety deposit boxes, sir."

Selina slowly untwined herself from Marko's arm. "I'll be along in a minute, darling," she said. "I'm going to go powder my nose." Then, to the bank manager, "Where might the little girl's room be?"

The manager politely pointed out the location of the facilities, and Miss Kyle excused herself.

Once she was inside the women's restroom, Selina opened the clutch purse and took out a compact. She held it up at eye level and carefully opened it. What appeared to be a tiny insect flew out of the compact and buzzed around her head for a moment. Without batting an eye she admired herself in the compact mirror for a brief moment before promptly snapping it shut again.

Suddenly, the tiny insect enlarged to a six-foot tall man wearing a suit of black and yellow armor. The man began coughing and dry-heaving forcefully, leaning forward and holding his stomach.

"Lynns! Are you fucking kidding me?" Selina snapped. "I don't know how it is that our mysterious benefactor was able to secure the very last Yellowjacket model suit in existence, or why he entrusted it to a flame-obsessed sociopath like you, but I do know that restoring yourself to full size in the women's restroom is the stupidest thing you could do right now."

"Blow me, Selina," the man in the Yellowjacket suit spat. "I just spent an hour and a half inside your goddamn compact. I'm hyper-fucking-ventilating."

"Shrink back down NOW before someone walks in here, you moron!" she hissed.

"You always this much of a bitch?"

"No, believe it or not, you're still on my fucking good side."

Lynns raised a clenched fist at Selina. A metallic cylinder extended out from his wrist, the one major modification made to the prototype Yellowjacket suit from its original design. A foot-long red-hot arc of flame shot out of the end of the barrel; essentially an onboard acetylene torch. The flame came inches from Selina's face. She did not flinch.

"Careful, Selina," Lynns said, menacingly. "You play with fire, you're likely to get burned."

She narrowed her eyes and cocked her head to the side. "And you mess with the kitten, you'll get the claws. Are we going to trade clichés all day or are you going to get to work?"

Lynns just stood silently for a very long moment, letting the sparks from the torch shower down around Selina's face, illuminating her features in a glimmer of red and orange. Then, finally, abruptly, he shut off the torch, grunted, and shrunk back down to insect size. He took off into the air and buzzed around the room a few times. Then, still annoyed, Selina punched the automatic door button with the side of her fist, prompting the bathroom door to slowly swing open.

The bug-sized Lynns flew out the door, darting up and down and left and right as he swooped over and around the heads of the bank customers. Anyone who paid any notice to his presence assumed a fly had gotten into the building and made an absent-minded swat in his general direction at most. He flew behind the row of bank tellers who were patiently assisting their customers, around a corner, straight past the right ear of the gray-haired bank manager and directly into the vault.

The manager stuck his index finger in his ear for a moment and swished it around, momentarily distracted by the brief buzzing sound he had just heard. But then, just as quickly, he shrugged it off and returned his attention to the man with the attaché case. He made a grand gesture toward the rows upon rows of safety deposit boxes.

"What size box did you have in mind?" he asked. "We have several different sizes to accommodate any valuables you may wish to store."

Before Marko could answer, there was a quiet "thwip" sound from somewhere over his shoulder. Then, he felt the briefcase rip quickly from his fingers and shoot off behind him. Flint closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He didn't even have to turn around to know what had just happened.

"Sandman!" a familiar voice called out behind him, with a touch of joy as if running into an old friend. The attaché case sailed through the air on a webline, then landed carefully in the hands of Spider-Man himself. Spidey began nonchalantly whistling the tune "Mister Sandman." Spider-Man made a close inspection of the case. He stopped whistling. "Samsonite!" he exclaimed. "Boy, I was way off!"

"What is the meaning of this?!" the manager demanded.

With a flick of his wrist, Spider-Man whipped the attaché case against the wall. The locks on the case broke, and it clattered to the ground, spilling out its contents: a small plastic device that looked not unlike a fishing bobber. It was a bright neon green and orange. At the top, it had a small antenna with a blinking red diode on the end.

"Call me crazy, but I think that will fit into one of the small boxes just fine," Spider-Man said, sarcastically. He crouched down and examined the small device, turning it over slowly in his hand. "Transceiver," he observed. "Emitting an override signal that's allowing someone to patch into the security cameras and alarm system. Explains why it didn't kick in until you walked through the door… it had to be in close enough range. Pretty high tech device, considering it looks like it was made by Fisher Price."

On his right forearm, Spider-Man wore a silver metal armband that extended from his wrist to his elbow. It bore the JLA insignia – Justice League Avengers. It also allowed communication with the JLA Satellite. Spider-Man held the transceiver near his armband for a moment, certain that Tony would be able to perform a quick remote scan of the device.

"Who are you working with, Sandy?" Spider-Man asked.

But Flint Marko wasn't responding. Instead, his fists and teeth still firmly clenched, he was changing form. His flesh was transmuting right before their very eyes as his body dissolved into living sand. Sand that began to quietly swirl around him, kicking up simple dust clouds at first, and then gradually picking up speed and force as more and more of his body transformed. Within a matter of a few short moments, Flint Marko had become a living sandstorm, a whirlwind of sentient sand that spilled out of the room and began whipping violently around the whole bank. The bank patrons screamed and covered their eyes, ducking for cover.

No sooner had this sandstorm reached full force than another whoosh of air burst into the bank; a red-and-blue blur that began streaking around the room in the opposite direction, trying to counter the gale force winds of sand.

Slowly, ever so slowly, this new counter-wind began to reign in the sandstorm, sucking it gradually toward the center of the room instead of allowing it to rage free across the entire bank. Papers and pens flew off of desks and got caught up in the wild updraft of this sand tornado.

Spider-Man glared across the bank, the lenses of his mask protecting his eyes from the sandstorm. There, on the other side of the room, he spied what he was looking for. Though it was hard to see through the windstorm, he managed to make out the red outline of the emergency fire alarm. He aimed carefully, steadied his hand, and then, as he had done so many times before, expertly pressed his middle and ring finger into the center of his palm, triggering a burst of webbing. His web struck its target, and, with a quick jerk, he pulled the handle on the alarm.

The sprinklers overhead released a torrent of water, showering down all over the bank. The entire sandstorm seemed to shudder. The tornado of sand quickly retreated into itself, and the red and blue blur came to a sudden stop as well.

As the wind subsided, Superman now stood in the center of the bank, wearing his classic red and blue costume, and also sporting a silver JLA armband. Objects that had been blown off of bank tellers' desks came clattering to the ground all around him. The sand, now saturated with water from the sprinklers, fell to the ground as huge clumps of mud. There was an audible groan as the mud slunked and slithered across the room, slowly and disgustingly pulling itself back into the form of a man. Flint Marko now appeared weak and bloated, unable to pull himself up from his knees. His sand form had taken on so much water, that even now that he had re-assembled himself and become human again, his insides felt like they had turned to mud as well.

"How did I get here before you?" Spider-Man asked, nodding to Superman. "You're the one with super speed, not me."

"Sorry," Superman shrugged. "I stopped to help an old lady across the street."

Spider-Man laughed. "Ha! Good one," he said, shutting off the fire alarm and allowing the torrential downpour from the sprinklers to stop. "You almost said that like you were… oh. You're serious, aren't you?"

Just then the door to the women's restroom was kicked open. Selina Kyle exited, her arm around the neck of some poor young woman who had ducked into the bathroom seeking refuge from the sandstorm a few minutes earlier. Selina held a sharp, jagged piece of glass from the restroom mirror, which she had pressed against the throat of the young girl. There was sheer terror in the girl's eyes. She wanted to scream for help, but she dare not make a sound, lest the pointed shard of glass press any further into the soft flesh of her throat.

Superman and Spider-Man stood perfectly still.

"Miss Kyle…" Superman said, slowly. "I don't think you want to do this."

Selina laughed, throwing her head back as she did. The young woman winced and whimpered as Selina's hand shook ever so slightly.

"And what makes you say that?" Selina asked.

"I've read about you. The Catwoman of Gotham City," Superman said, calmly. "You've got a pretty long rap sheet, but it doesn't include murder. I don't believe you've ever killed anyone before. And, I don't think you want to start now, over a botched bank robbery."

Selina cocked her head to the side, thoughtfully. "No," she admitted. "No, I really don't."

There was a long beat of silence. No one in the entire bank dared to move, scarcely even dared to breathe.

"Then… why don't you drop that piece of glass, and let the woman go?" Superman asked.

"Because," Selina said with a slight shrug. "I'm stalling for time."

Just then there was a deafening KRASHOOOM as, behind Selina, the entire bank vault lifted up out of its moorings and crashed upward through the ceiling of the bank. Left behind in the footprint of the vault was a ring of tiny, smoldering flames, where the base of the vault had been burned away by a microscopic blowtorch.

Everyone stared in shock as they watched the huge vault lift upward into the sky. Through the gaping hole in the ceiling they saw a helicopter soaring high above the bank. Perched on one of the skids was a man with black hair. His hands were outstretched, a look of strained determination on his face as he forcibly levitated the metal vault through sheer force of will.

"Who's the Low-Rent Magneto?" Spider-Man asked, a hand across his brow shading the midday sun as he looked up.

"He's one of mine," Superman replied. "Name's Seth Nelson. We actually went to high school together. His powers have definitely increased since then."

"Small world," Spider-Man replied. "How about I take your high school buddy, and you catch that vault when it comes crashing down?"

Superman nodded. Without another word, he took off skyward.

Spider-Man leapt toward the hole in the ceiling, firing off a webline as he did.

Selina dropped the shard of glass and released her choke-hold on the woman's neck. She gently patted the terrified young lady on the shoulder. "Sorry, sweetie. Wrong place, wrong time." The young woman ran away from Selina as quickly as she could.

Selina started making a beeline for the front door. Then, almost as an afterthought, a quick burst of webbing fired down from above and splotched around her left foot, anchoring her in place. "Oh, come on!" she muttered, trying in vain to pull her foot free.

High above the city, feet firmly planted on one of the helicopter's skids, Seth Nelson's face was contorted with strained concentration. Although he'd honed his powers significantly since the days of stealing chump change from cash registers at places like the Talon, attempting to levitate a bank vault full of cash was definitely testing the limits of his abilities.

He was so focused that he barely noticed the quiet thwip of a webline hitting the helicopter door just behind him. A few seconds later, an acrobatic man in red and blue spandex swung up from somewhere below and perched himself carefully on the skid right beside Seth.

"Hi," Spider-Man said, with a slight wave.

"What the-?!" Seth, startled, lost his composure for just a fraction of a second. The vault, which was already nearly 500 feet in the air, made a sharp drop. Superman swooped up beneath the vault and caught it, stopping its sudden descent abruptly. A few hundred dollars' worth of bills spilled out of the vault and floated down to the streets below like autumn leaves. Superman hovered in midair, hands planted firmly shoulder length apart holding the massive vault above his head.

Seth, regaining his composure, began to levitate the vault again. It lurched skyward, dragging Superman upward with it. He dug his fingers into the vault, trying to pull it back down to earth, but the vault was so huge, and being in midair with nothing to leverage against, he found it extremely difficult to yank it free from the invisible magnetic force that was pulling it skyward.

"Sorry, didn't mean to break your concentration there," Spider-Man said to Seth. "Say, you wouldn't mind just setting that vault gently back down where it goes, would you?"

Seth didn't reply, instead putting all of his focus into trying to keep the vault aloft.

"Didn't think so," Spider-Man continued. "Say, who's flying this bird, anyway?"

He grabbed the helicopter door and slid it open, leaning in and glancing into the cockpit. There was no pilot. Instead, Spider-Man was surprised to find a Speak & Spell with wires protruding from it, hooked up to the main console. Numbers representing latitude and longitude quickly flashed on the screen every few seconds.

He climbed the rest of the way into the helicopter cockpit for a closer look. "Who jailbreaks a Speak & Spell?" he said to himself. Once again, he held up his wristband toward this odd sight, hoping that Stark was monitoring what was going on and could provide some insight.

Just then his spider sense began to tingle. He looked around. If being on the side of a helicopter with magnetically-powered supervillain hadn't triggered it in the first place, why was it going off now? He didn't notice anything, other than a tiny bug that was buzzing around his head. Certainly a fly or mosquito wouldn't be enough to set off his internal warning sense?

It wasn't a fly or mosquito. Without warning the "insect" changed size, growing to six feet tall in an instant.

"You should've stayed out of this, Spider-Man!" the man in the black and yellow armor roared.

"Where did you come from?!" Spider-Man gasped.

Garfield Lynns, the man in the Yellowjacket suit, responded by igniting the blowtorches on his wrists. Now both forearms were spouting arcs of red-hot flame. He swung a fist at Spider-Man, a trail of fire following behind the haymaker. Spidey ducked in time to avoid the fist and the flame. Lynns swung a second time, and Spider-Man once again deftly dodged the blow.

"Lynns, are you nuts?!" Seth called from just outside on the skid. "You're going to tear this chopper apart!"

"He's got a point, Sparky," Spider-Man said.

"Shut up!" Lynns yelled. He thrust his fist at Spider-Man, who leapt up and clung to the ceiling of the helicopter. A shower of sparks rained down on the control console, just missing the jury-rigged Speak & Spell that was navigating the 'copter. Lynns swung both fists upward and criss-crossed them, trying to shiskabob the web-slinger. Spider-Man dropped back down from the ceiling, falling perfectly between the two intersecting arcs of flame, and landing at Lynns's feet. He delivered a punch to Lynns' stomach, knocking him off balance. He stood up and followed with two more quick punches to the head. Lynns raised his arm again and then swung it downward, as if trying to cut Spider-Man in two. He missed Spider-Man, but sliced open part of the console. Sparks flew everywhere.

"Lynns!" Seth yelled. "Knock it off!"

"Don't tell me what to do!" Lynns was sounding more and more unhinged. The possibility of their big payday being botched was sending him over the edge. Everything had been planned so carefully, executed so precisely, and now they were on the verge of losing everything. He was freaking out.

Lynns increased the power of his wrist-torches. Now instead of foot-long flames, they were closer to two feet. He began swinging wildly at Spider-Man, who dodged every blow with acrobatic precision, but there wasn't much room to maneuver inside the helicopter. Lynns started taking chunks out of the ceiling and floor as his manic motions were sending sparks and flames everywhere.

"That's enough!" Seth yelled. He spun toward the cockpit and reached out one hand, refocusing his magnetic powers to freeze Lynns in place by immobilizing his metal suit like a statue. This change in focus caused him to completely lose his mental magnetic grip on the vault, which once again plummeted about a dozen stories downward. Superman, startled by the quick change in direction, took a few seconds to bring it to a slow stop. Again, loose change and dollar bills spilled out of the safe and headed for the streets below, where onlookers began racing around to scoop it up.

"What are you doing, you little shit?" Lynns roared at Seth.

"You need to calm down!" Seth snapped. "You're going to get us all killed!"

"I kind of have to agree with Magneto Lite," Spider-Man chimed in. "This isn't really the best scenario for anyone right now. What if we just—"

"I thought I told you to shut up!"

"A lot of people tell me that," Spidey replied.

"I swear to God, if you cost us this job…" Lynns snarled at Seth.

Seth gritted his teeth. Then, he attempted something he had never attempted before. Keeping his right hand outstretched toward Lynns, he very slowly turned his gaze back down toward the vault below. Cautiously, he began reaching his left hand out in the direction of the vault. He gradually stretched out his fingers, squinting his eyes with intense focus.

Down below, Superman was slowly, steadily floating back down toward the bank with the vault suspended above his head. Suddenly, there was another violent jerk upward as the entire vault was nearly yanked from his grip. He dug his fingers further into the metal to steady it.

Seth's hands were trembling. He had never had to split his focus like this before. Creating two separate magnetic fields, one to immobilize the crazed Garfield Lynns, and the other to try to levitate a massive bank vault, was almost more mental strain than he could bear.

Suddenly there was a low, metallic creaking sound that made all of their stomachs sink. The helicopter began titling ever so slightly to the left.

"Um. What's happening?" Spider-Man asked.

Then there was a clanking sound from the cockpit. Spider-Man spun around and ducked inside it. The control panel was still smoking from the damage it took from Lynns' blowtorch, and now everything had begun shaking so much that screws and bolts were starting to jostle themselves loose. The Speak & Spell was no longer spitting out coordinates. Instead, it simply read "ERROR."

"That can't be good," Spider-Man sighed.

The helicopter continued to tilt further and further to one side, so much so that Spider-Man now had to brace one hand against the wall to keep his balance. He slowly made his way back to the door and poked his head out.

"Seth!" he called, reaching a hand out. "You've got to stop this! The opposing magnetic fields you're creating are going to tip this chopper right over!"

Seth wasn't listening. He leaned out farther, as if he could somehow grab the vault and physically pull it to himself. He was leaning out so far that it looked as if he would fall off the skid at any moment. The helicopter continued to tilt to one side, the magnetic field that Seth was creating to levitate the vault actually now tipping the helicopter toward it.

What no one had noticed was that the helicopter had been drifting closer and closer to a nearby skyscraper. The rotors tore into the face of the building, shattering windows and sending shards of glass and metal everywhere. With the rotors now damaged and the controls effectively useless, the helicopter began to plummet straight down, still taking huge chunks out of the building as it went.

Seth now completely released his magnetic hold on both the vault and Garfield Lynns, instead now instinctively using his powers to cling himself to the helicopter as it plunged.

Spider-Man braced one foot against each side of the inside of the door, then fired a webline from each wrist in different directions. The twin weblines found their marks on a couple of nearby buildings, and quickly went taut. Spider-Man braced himself as forcefully as he could, trying to stop the helicopter's rapid decent. His legs felt like they were about to break under the tremendous weight. The copter slammed into the side of the building again and again, its decent now slowed by the weblines, but not stopping. The webs stretched and stretched until finally they snapped, and the helicopter began hurtling once again toward the ground below.

With only seconds left to change his strategy, Spider-Man leapt out the helicopter door and grabbed onto one of the skids. He pointed his wrist downward and began spraying out the widest, thickest stream of webbing that he could. He swung his arm frantically back and forth, creating a makeshift net of webbing several stories below them. He prayed it would be strong enough to cushion their fall.

There was a whoosh and a blur of red and blue, and, just as suddenly as their descent had begun, it was over. Superman had caught the helicopter, and then, ever so carefully, brought it down to rest on the web net that Spider-Man had made.

Spider-Man stumbled out of the helicopter, rolled off of the web net and fell dramatically to the ground. Seth was still physically clinging to the side of the helicopter, his eyes wide with shock and fear. Lynns was nowhere to be seen.

"Wasn't there one more guy?" Superman asked, hovering in the air with his arms crossed.

"Oh," Spider-Man said, gasping for breath as he lay on the street. "He can change size, I guess."

"Ah." Superman squinted his eyes a bit as he used his super vision powers to scan the area. Then, after a moment, he went into a quick burst of speed, and plucked something from the air. "Got him," he said, delicately holding the tiny version of Garfield Lynns between his thumb and index finger.

A few minutes later, after Spider-Man had managed to catch his breath, he walked back into the First National Bank. He burst out laughing when he saw the state that Superman had left the vault in when he returned it. In his haste to go catch the falling helicopter, Superman had awkwardly jammed the vault back into its frame off-center and at an odd angle, so that it didn't quite fit properly back into the footprint of where it had originally been.

Superman walked in behind Spider-Man, bringing with him a now fully-sized Yellowjacket and a still shell-shocked Seth, both of whom had their hands webbed behind their backs. Superman looked at the vault too, and shrugged. "Hey, I didn't want to keep you waiting again," he said to Spider-Man.

"I appreciate it, buddy," Spider-Man replied.

What no one noticed was, now that Flint Marko had pulled himself together, he sat in a corner near the safety deposit boxes and enacted a backup plan that had been instructed to him by their mysterious benefactor as a failsafe in case they were caught. He quietly transformed his hand once again into living sand, and then reached for box 451. His hand, and, in fact, entire left arm quickly became a torrent of sand, blasting its way into the keyholes of that particular box. He continued to blast the small box with as much sand as he could pour into it, until it eventually started to expand. The sides of the box started to swell and pop, the sheer volume of sand being suddenly jam-packed into it becoming more than it could hold. After only a few seconds of this, the front of the box burst open, causing its contents to spill out onto the floor. Its contents, quite simply, besides a large volume of sand, happened to be one green glowing meteor fragment.

Flint Marko drew the sandpile from the floor back into himself and allowed it to once again become his left arm. Then, he grabbed the hunk of kryptonite and stood up.

He looked toward the row of tellers. There, standing near the front was the man he had been instructed to look for if things went south. A large, muscular bald man wearing a gray trench coat. The man nodded to him. This was it.

Without so much as a word, Flint tossed the green meteor rock to the man in the trench coat. The man smiled as the rock sailed toward him. He reached out and caught it with one hand. He gasped with surprise the moment it touched his skin. He had never felt anything quite like this before. The hand that held the kryptonite turned green first. Then, the green color, and crystal-like texture, began to spread down his arm, across his torso, down his chest… soon, his entire body had transformed, and he became a living man of kryptonite.

People who were near the man began to scream and back away from him. This finally caught Superman and Spider-Man's attention.

"That's-! That's-!" Spider-Man stammered, pointing.

"The name's Carl Creel," he said. "You can call me the Absorbing Man." He ripped off his trench coat and threw it to the ground, just to further show off his new green physique. "Or, maybe, you should call me Kryptonite Man! What do you think, Supes?"

Superman couldn't even speak. The painful, physical reaction when he was around kryptonite was so intense that it actually made his throat start to swell shut. He backed away from Creel slowly, eyes wide, as his own skin became flushed. The veins on his hands began to swell and turn green. He stumbled as he backed away from Creel.

"Here's how this is gonna work," Creel continued, green radiation steaming from his skin as he walked slowly closer to Superman. "You're gonna let me and my pals here walk away. No questions asked. Sandman. Catwoman. Yellowjacket. Magnetic Boy or whatever the fuck his name is. And me. We get to stroll out that fucking door, right now, and you don't say shit about it. Or, I'll fucking kill you. What do you say to that, Superman? Huh?" Creel spit at Superman's feet. Even his spit was green and glowing.

Spider-Man stepped in between Superman and the Absorbing Man. "No, that's not how it's going to work, shithead," Spider-Man shot back. "You want to get to Superman, you're going to have to go through me. And the fact that you're green and glowing doesn't scare me."

Behind him, Superman stumbled and fell to the ground.

"Haw, haw, haw!" Creel laughed. "Guess what, stupid? Looks like I don't even have to be close to 'im to kill 'im with this stuff! So go ahead, get in between us, wall crawler. All I have to do is stand here. So you sure you don't want to rethink what you just said to me?"

Superman staggered to his feet, took a few uneasy steps backward, then ran out the bank door. He took off into the air and flew up into the sky, away from the bank.

"Would ya look at that!" Creel howled. "I got Superman on the run!" He turned and looked around at his colleagues in crime, grinning from ear to ear. Selina began clapping and cheering, while Marko and Lynns just laughed and laughed. Even Seth, who was starting to come out of his state of shock, managed a smile and a chuckle.

Spider-Man turned towards the door and looked out after his friend. He could still see Superman, hovering high in the sky, backlit by the midday sun. He stretched his arms out at his sides, and just hovered there, motionless.

"All right, you web-headed jerk," Creel said, shoving Spider-Man. "Get out of our way. Or did you still want us to go through you first?"

Spider-Man pointed and nodded toward the hovering Superman. "Wait for it," he said.

"Huh?"

Creel and a couple of his cohorts gathered near the door and looked out.

Off in the distance, approaching Superman, flew a familiar looking armored figure.

"Is that Iron Man?" Lynns asked.

As the armored figure got close to Superman, the arms, legs, torso, and helmet all opened up, revealing that it was just an empty suit of armor. It quickly latched itself onto him, encasing his body in a protective suit.

The group of villains started backing slowly away from the door.

Superman flew at full speed back toward the bank. He came down for a dramatic "hero pose" landing, hitting the ground on one knee with his clenched fist striking the ground. Then he stood up, giving the villains their first good clear look at the suit of armor he now wore. It resembled Iron Man's Mark VII suit, but it was red and blue instead of red and gold. And, on the chest, was the classic "S" shield logo. His cape still billowed behind him in the wind. The sight was awe-inspiring.

The armored Superman strode confidently back into the bank. Without so much as a word, the slit over his mouth opened, and he unleashed an arctic-cold blast of freeze-breath directly at Creel. Creel screamed, raising his arms over his face to try to block the brutal cold that seared his skin. A gigantic chunk of ice began to form around Creel, slowly trapping him inside it. As the ice took shape around him, his skin began to transform, taking on the properties of the ice rather than the kryptonite. His body shifted from green to a translucent shade of light blue. Within moments, Creel was not only entombed in ice, but he himself had become a frozen statue inside of it.

The stream of freeze breath stopped.

"Anybody else?" Superman asked, casually.

The other four villains all shook their heads meekly.

"Nicely done, Boy Scout," Stark chirped over the earpiece. "By the way, you know I get royalties every time you wear that suit, right?"

"Hey Stark," Spider-Man jumped in, pressing a finger to his ear to hear the earpiece better. "You get anything from those doohickeys I showed you?"

"Way ahead of you, web head," Stark replied. "That radio transceiver you snagged from Sandman's briefcase was broadcasting a signal back to an address in downtown Metropolis. 1580 Lieber Street. Superman, at super speed you should be able to be there in—"

"Save your breath, shell head!" a new voice piped in over the communicator. "I can be there and back before Supes can tie his shoelaces!"

There was a woosh of air and a surge of static electricity that caused the lights in the bank to flicker for a moment. Standing in front of them as if they appeared out of nowhere were Bart Allen, . The Flash, and a portly gentleman that he had apparently dragged there with him. The Flash wore a bright red costume with a yellow lightning bolt insignia on the chest, and sported a metal JLA armband just like his compatriots. He shoved the other man unceremoniously to the ground. The bespectacled gentleman with the long greasy hair was someone Superman recognized immediately.

"Winslow P. Schott," Superman said, crossing his arms. "Also known as the Toyman. So you're the mystery man who put this group together."

"Really?" Spider-Man asked. "There's a Toyman? That's a thing? I didn't even know that was a guy."

"By the way," Flash interjected, putting a hand on Superman's shoulder. "The Metro Diner is solid, but, if you really want the best pancakes of all time, you have to hit up The Original Pancake House in Niagara Falls, New York. Freshly squeezed orange juice, too." Then, in a burst of speed, he was gone again.

Spider-Man tapped on his armband in frustration. "Is everyone listening in on this thing all the time?"

"Kinda," Stark replied over the commlink.

Superman grabbed Winslow Schott by the arm and hoisted him to his feet. Schott looked around frantically, confused as to how he had suddenly appeared here.

"Why go to all this trouble, Winslow?" Superman asked. "Why put together a group of villains like this?"

"Ha! Are you kidding?" Schott replied. "I didn't have a choice! Ever since you heroes all joined up to form your little Justice League, we criminals HAVE TO work together if we want to have ANY hope of pulling anything off!"

Superman set Schott back down on the ground. Schott dusted himself off, then gestured dramatically at himself and the other five villains gathered behind him.

"I give you… THE SINISTER SIX!" Schott proclaimed with a flourish.

Superman and Spider-Man exchanged glances.

"First of all, that name's been used," Spider-Man informed him, pretending to stifle a fake yawn. "And second of all, declaring the name of your villain team AFTER you've just had your asses handed to you? Not very impressive."

Winslow's face fell. Somehow he seemed sincerely disappointed by this.

"Quick update, gents," Stark piped in over their earpieces once again. "SHIELD has some transport units on the way to pick these guys up. They're even sending the special unit they designed for Victor Fries, so they'll be able to keep Creel on ice."

"Sounds good. Thanks, Tony," Superman replied.

"Wait. There's one other thing," Stark continued. The tone in his voice had changed. "Kent. Parker. I switched channels. I'm coming through just your comms now. No one else can hear this."

"Oh, NOW he does that?" Spider-Man exclaimed, annoyed.

"Guys. Listen," Stark said. "You won't believe who just popped up on the radar for the first time in months."

Superman and Spider-Man looked at each other.

"Who?"

"The Bald Eagle himself," Stark said. "We've finally got a location on Lex Luthor."