Chapter 7: Fallen Heroes
Clark Kent adjusted his glasses as he walked into the bullpen of the Daily Bugle and made his way to his desk. He sat down and began looking over what he had to accomplish for the day. "So how's Ms. Monroe?" an icy voice spoke from behind him.
"Oh, hi, Lois," Clark said, turning to the brunette.
"Was she disappointed when your Farmboy code kept her from staying the night?" Lois cocked an eyebrow as she sat on the corner of his desk.
"How do you know she didn't?" Clark asked deadpan, just as Peter walked up.
Lois' jaw worked up and down. "Ask Lana all about how innocent I am, Ms. Lane, I might be able to teach you a thing or two." Clark grinned innocently.
"Oh boy …" Peter gulped glancing back and forth. "Hey, CK, care to come with me for a sec," Peter said grabbing Clark, pulling him from the seat and on toward the elevator leaving Lois still dumbstruck at Clark's desk.
"Are you nuts?" Peter asked as the elevator doors closed and it began rising toward the rooftop. "I don't care how invulnerable you are, she will find a way to kill you if you piss her off enough."
"I've actually got it down to an art form. It's kind of entertaining," Clark grinned as the elevator dinged. "I take it you didn't pull me out of there just to warn me about Lois?"
"You're right," Peter said glancing out to make sure they were alone. "Rhino's hitting a bank downtown, and he usually gives me some trouble, care to help?"
"Sure, that's what I'm here for," Clark said as he pulled open his shirt to reveal the symbol on his chest.
"How come I can't be that cool?" Peter sulked as he shucked off his jacket and tee shirt revealing his Spider-suit underneath.
A few moments later swinging and flying above the streets, Superman and Spider-Man raced toward the bank. "So how many folks know Mr. Mild Mannered Report and Big Blue are one in the same?" Spider-Man asked as he swung through the air.
"Ma and Pa, Prof. Xavier, a few of the X-Men …" Superman grimaced, "And Lex and Lana Luthor," he finished and Spider-Man almost fell out of the air.
"THE Luthor's?" Spider-Man asked in astonishment, "Why in the name of Captain America's Star Spangled boxers do those two know?"
"Lana, Lex, and I are … old friends," Superman sighed, "Lex was … different back then, Lana was too…"
"I can understand that … I've had a few friends of mine that went baddie on me too," Spider-Man said as he spun in the air before firing another webline.
The two arrived at the rooftop overlooking the First National Bank. "Rhino, huh? Really strained himself to come up with a name, did he?" Superman commented as he hovered near Spider-Man watching the massive man in a mechanical rhino-like battle suit. "You want a break from the action, Spidey?" Superman asked his masked friend. "I got this one."
Superman floated down toward the chaos. "Excuse me," The Man of Steel said with his arms folded over his chest. The Rhino turned and glared daggers at the floating hero. "There are much better ways to release frustration and stress, Sir." Superman said with a quirked eyebrow.
"Oh yeah, I'd say I just found one," Rhino sneered, sitting down the large bag of money and ran toward Superman just as he landed softly on the asphalt.
Superman effortlessly caught Rhino by the horn, "Hm… that suit looks expensive." Superman noted looking over the mechanical titan towering over him. "Is that hydraulics?" He said before firing a blast of heat vision through the metallic joint of his knee.
"Wha?" Rhino asked in shock as his knee lost power. Superman then snapped the horn off, before catching him by the arm, tearing the arm from the suit, before doing the same to the undamaged other leg.
"Lie down and take a rest, Friend." Superman said, lifting what was left of the Rhino suit with the man still inside before slamming him down so hard it caused nearby car alarms to go off.
The Police quickly surrounded the Knocked-Out super villain and gathered his discarded loot. "Thanks for the help, Superman," One cop said with a smile.
"It's why I'm here, Sir," Superman saluted before flying back up.
"That wasn't so bad," Superman smiled as he rejoined Spider-Man on the rooftop.
"I really need better powers," Spider-Man snorted before the two started back toward the Daily Bugle.
"No you don't," Superman said to his friend, "Yours are fine. You do far more for the community than you think."
"Wish I got some appreciation for it…" Spider-Man sighed.
"I hear everything, Spidey," Superman said as they entered the back window of the Bugle. "Not everyone thinks you're a problem, Jonah just drowns them out around you."
"Hang in there, Pal," Clark said as he the two began to redress in the storage room. "Good things come to those that never give up."
The elevator dinged in the bullpen of the Daily Bugle, and several men close froze and stared as the exotic young woman stepped into the crowded office. She was dressed in form fitting black trousers, a sleeveless white blouse, and her long snow white hair tied up in a multicolored scarf. "Excuse me?" She stopped, turning her crystal blue eyes on one of the office workers. "I am looking for Clark Kent, can you help me?"
"Right down there, fifth desk on the left," he stammered, pointing down the lines of desk. "I think he left with Parker a while ago, but should be back soon."
"Thank you very much," She said graciously before continuing on toward the desk, a sack held firmly in her hands.
She stopped at the desk and looked around for a moment before sitting down in his leather chair. She smiled when she saw the pictures that decorated the rather neat workplace. There was one of him and a furry farm dog, and another with an older couple she assumed was his parents. "That's cute," Lois' snide voice broke her from her thoughts. "Bring Smallville his lunch, Ms. Monroe? Did you remember his jelly on the peanut butter sandwich?"
"Good afternoon, Ms. Lane," Ororo lifted her chin and looked to the reporter with her eyes turning cold, some noticed some dark clouds forming above the building. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"Just trying to figure out what your game is," Lois said leaning against Clark's desk.
"I am afraid I don't quite understand your meaning," Ororo frowned.
"I'm not as blind and naïve as Clark," Lois narrowed her eyes. "I know who you are, Storm. You work for Charles Xavier and his Mutant school."
"I see," Storm sat the lunch bag on the desk and rose to face her. "I had heard some bad things about you, Ms. Lane, but this is the first signs I have seen of you being against Mutants."
"Don't have a thing against Mutants, Monroe," Lois growled, "I'm double jointed and left handed, by the time those idiots in Washington get done, that'll be considered a dangerous mutation too. But what I do have a thing against is people using others for their own benefit."
"I am afraid I'm still a bit confused…" Ororo blinked.
"I know you're not dumb," Lois snorted, and punched Clark's desk, "Back in Smallville, Lex Luthor and Lana Lang played him like a concert piano. Then when they used him up they threw him out of their lives like bad leftovers. I will not stand here and let you and Xavier play him so you can get a reporter to give you good press."
"I assure you, that is not the case," Ororo said, crossing her arms. "I am with Clark because I honestly care about him and I enjoy his company."
Lois snorted again, and Ororo was quickly growing annoyed with the sound. "Really? I'm sorry but I don't see what an exotic beauty like you could see in the Hayseed Farmboy from Kansas. What is it? The whole 'awe shucks' thing get you hot and bothered? Got a flannel fetish there?"
"Perhaps I do," Storm countered with a raised chin. "He is a great comforter, probably more so than your space man always flying up into space for General Fury." The X-Man saw the reporter falter for a moment, and moved in for the kill. "Clark is far more than, as you put it, a Hayseed Farmboy from Kansas. I could see how you would mistake it for naivety but, let me assure you… Underneath that gentle, humble exterior is a strong and powerful man; the kind of man that would cause any woman to tremble in anticipation and continue in his wake."
"You know what I think," Ororo smirked and quirked an eyebrow. "I think you just don't like the fact that Clark Kent isn't at your beck and call. I think you're jealous."
"What?" Lois exclaimed and blinked.
"You are not the only one with protective feelings toward him," Ororo narrowed her eyes as thunder bellowed outside the office window. "What you did last night was low and very unprofessional of a reporter of your standings. Destroying Clark's notes was disgraceful! And the way you kept glaring at me, and shoving your lover in Clark's face. What or who are you feeling threatened by?"
"Or is it your current life you consider the threat?" Storm pressed on, cornering Lois against the desk. "Tell me, did Clark come to save you often in Smallville? That's what he does oh so naturally to everyone, so I wonder are you waiting for him to come and save you again from the life you're in?"
"Look here, Little Ms. Superhero," Lois snarled, reaching out to grip Ororo's blouse, "I'm pretty happy with my life like it is right now, and I don't need Lone Hero from Smallville High swooping in and helping anymore. I'm a big girl and can take care of myself, and…" She closed the gap to hover her face a few inches from Ororo's. "I am bitch enough to take care of you too."
"I came here to spend some time with MY Boyfriend," Ororo growled, closing the gap farther till their noses almost touched. "But rest assured… if you start something now, Ms. Lane, I. Will. Finish it."
"Ro!" Clark's voice rang out, and the two women stepped back, smiling back to Clark as he approached with Peter. "What are you doing here? Lois wasn't bothering you, was she?"
"Heavens no, Clark," Ororo smiled, placing a hand on Lois' shoulder. "We were just having a friendly discussion."
"Thought I'd give her some of the scary stories of you as a farm brat, Smallville," Lois replied with just as bright a smile as Ororo's.
"I brought you lunch," Ororo said taking the bag from the desk, and handing it to Clark.
"Great, I'm starved! Want to eat on the roof? I know you love the outdoors, Ro." Clark smiled, kissing her on the cheek.
"That sounds lovely! You go on up. I'll grab us some sodas and be along shortly," Ororo smiled, and Clark nodded and headed to the elevator. As soon as the door was closed she turned back to Lois with a confident smile.
"This isn't over," Lois growled as she followed Ororo to the soda machine near the desks.
"I did not suspect it was," Ororo said, looking for change in her purse.
"You ready, Captain Jameson?" General Nick Fury said as he, Captain America, Col. Danvers, and a busty young blonde in a suit and sunglasses escorted the astronaut through the SHIELD Helicarrier decks.
"Too bad Lois couldn't be here to see me off," John said with a smile. "It was hard leaving her this morning…"
"I'm sure it was," Fury smirked.
"Wow… it's … it looks different than I expected," John said as he looked at the strange shaped space craft.
It was a massive shuttle-like craft, seemingly half metal and half crystal. "Once you leave orbit, the modular Star-fortress can be transformed into a new, mobile space station." Col. Danvers explained to Captain Jameson as they approached the rest of the ship's crew.
"Alright, Captain, you and your crew will take the craft into orbit. You will then shift the craft into space station mode and do a full weapons test on the select targets," Fury instructed, "once we sure it works, you will remain in station mode for twenty four hours before shifting back to shuttle mode and return home. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," Jameson nodded, before saluting and going entering the strange craft with his crew.
"Go get with the others," Fury turned to the young blond, "Be ready in case someone comes after the prototype."
"On it, Dad," she nodded, before turning and walking away.
"Dad? Doesn't she notice the … difference?" Carol asked curiously.
"She's adopted," Fury smirked, "Poor Linda was traumatized from a young age… has no memory of her life before she was fifteen."
"Isn't there laws against what you did to her?" Carol asked, crossing her arms.
"She's legally adopted, so she didn't remember what planet she was born on… And it's not like she's human," Fury snorted, "And besides, the reaction of solar energy on her body makes her quite useful to SHIELD."
"You act like he's never done this before," Jimmy Olson complained as he and Clark watched Lois pace in the control center at the STAR Labs space program command center.
"Well, it is a prototype," Lois replied worriedly. She had been invited by John to view and report the launch from the command center. She 'asked' Jimmy and Clark to accompany her, as 'nicely' as possible. She only gave a few minor physical threats about them being her moral support while she would be the one responsible for the article on the launch and mission.
The room exploded with cheering and applause as on every overhead monitor images of the high speed shuttle lifting off for the heavens. "See, Lois, not a problem at all…" Clark drifted when a loud whistle, higher pitched than any human could hear.
"Kal-El!" Vision's voice spoke through the whistling.
"Vision?" Clark whispered out loud, stepping away from Lois and Jimmy.
"Kal-El, the space shuttle the humans just launched," Vision said in a grave tone. "They have mixed the human's technology with that of Krypton!"
"It's in the hands of the United States," Clark whispered, "If it was Dr. Doom, I'd be worried but…"
"Kal-El, if they bring the Kryptonian and Human technology online. They cannot operate together without proper power alignment… It is highly unlikely the humans are aware of the effects…" Vision replied.
"Oh no…" Clark breathed, turning toward the door.
"Best case scenario it simply fries the computer systems, temporally trapping them till the systems can reboot, worse case it throws the ship off and it crashes into the atmosphere…" Vision explained.
"No scenario," Clark said as he quickly walked out of the command center, pulling open his shirt as he went, revealing the symbol on his chest. "I've got it."
"General Fury," a radar operator spoke up, grabbing the attention of the SHIELD Commander from where he stood watch.
"What is it?" Fury asked.
"Something's flying on a vector with the space fortress," the operator replied, then pulled up a satellite feed.
"Superman…" Fury pressed into his ear piece. "Ultimates, hostile in route to the fortress, intercept the alien."
Captain America stood on a hill side near the launch pad, and looked out with his binoculars. "It's Superman, won't hurt him but give him a warning shot anyway, Hawkeye," the Living Legend ordered the purple clad archer beside him.
"One warning shot coming…" Hawkeye activated the scope in his lenses and got a good look at the Man of Steel's face. "I'm out. You guys can take him on if you want, but I'll have no part of this one."
"Hawkeye?" Captain America looked surprised. "We have a threat on our hands."
"Take my word on it," Hawkeye waved, "We don't."
"He's headed for the prototype, we can't risk it…" Captain America bit his lip, feeling something was off but there was no way he could allow the prototype's technology to fall into the wrong hands. "Tony, you're up!"
"Alright," Iron Man stepped up, "It's like skeet shooting…" He said as his chest plate opened to reveal an Omni cannon.
Superman barely was able to brace himself before the beam of repulsor energy slammed into him. He shook his head just in time to roll with the punch from the Golden Avenger. "You don't understand!" Superman rolled in the air, crossing his arms to shield himself from Iron Man's repulsors.
"Don't know what you want Fury's new toy for, Big Blue," Iron Man said, firing another volley of blasts, "But you ain't getting it!"
Superman ducked as the flying shield aimed for his head. "Cap!" Superman cried out, turning his attention to Captain America. "The crew of that ship is in danger!"
"We know," Captain America caught the shield, "Hence why we've stopped you."
"I'm not the danger here," Superman replied, "I don't have time for this, Captain, its life or death."
"A perfectly stable ship with no signs of trouble continues its mission," Captain America frowned, "or let the flying man who took the Hulk go up after it? Pardon me for being a little suspicious."
"I grew up reading about what you did during World War II," Superman stated, holding hard eye contact with Captain America. "What if you accepted the reports that last German castle was fully secure? I know you received orders to stand down… what if you did that, Captain? What would have become of this country?"
"Don't listen to him, Steve," Wasp said, glaring up at the hero. "He's playing with your head!"
"Iron Man, Wasp, stand down," Captain America said loudly.
"Sorry, didn't read you," Iron Man said, taking to the air and flying toward the Man of Steel.
"DAMN IT, STARK!" Captain America called out after the Golden Avenger.
"I don't want to fight you, Iron Man…" Superman said as Iron Man flew toward him.
"It's not going to be a fight, Cape-Boy," Iron Man said, opening his hand and fired a repulsor blast point blank. Iron Man hesitated when he realized someone was holding his hand. "Huh… I was right…" Iron Man whimpered before Superman spun and sent the armored hero hurling toward the ground.
Superman shot toward the ground and caught Iron Man before he slammed into the ground. "Forgive me for this, my friend," Superman said as he used his heat vision to melt the main joints of the armor. "I've wasted too much time…" he said before flying back toward the sky.
Before the Man of Steel could get too high a hard fist slammed into his face sending him staggering backwards before a bolt of lightning hit him dead center in the chest.
"Thou shalt not pass!" Superman heard before he looked up to see the two floating in his way.
"Hit him again, Thor," White leotard and red cape clad Power Girl smirked, "I don't think he's learned his lesson."
"The crew of that ship is in danger!" Superman stated, glaring up at the two.
"Doth thou think the Son of Odin a fool?" Thor asked, flying forward and slamming Maijor into the Man of Steel's face. "I smite thee with mine mighty hammer!"
"I've been waiting for a chance to cut loose for a long time!" Power Girl grinned, before she finally caught sight of the symbol on Superman's chest.
"I will always be with you, my son. Take care of each other …" He said placing the crystal to his forehead for another moment then placed with the baby then sealing the pod. "I love you both my children … now … fly … fly …" He said falling back from his injuries as the rocket's engine took to life and shot into the sky.
"What?" Power Girl breathed, before a beam of red concussion energy slammed into her back.
"What tis the mean of this?" Thor asked, turning to see the X-Jet making a pass. "AHH!" He cried out when a bolt of lightning struck his hammer.
"Superman!" Storm cried out as she flew toward the fight. "GO!"
"Thank you…" Superman said, smiling at the X-Man, before disappearing in a flash of blue and red.
"C'mon, Kent, faster…" Superman whispered to himself as he flew toward the ship.
"This is Mobile Fortress One to Houston," Superman heard Jameson speak from the cockpit of the ship. "Preparing to bring full systems online…three seconds till black systems activate."
"NO!" Superman called out and pushed himself more than he ever had before.
He was less than a few feet away from the craft, when it exploded brightly and violently.
"Oh God no…" Superman breathed as he saw the pieces of jagged burning metal plummet back into orbit. He quickly used his various types of visions to scan the falling wreckage for any signs of survivors, and a deep sick numbness washed over him as he found none.
"I'm sorry…" Superman whispered before turning back and flying back toward the command center.
He landed outside where the group was watching in a mix of hope and horror. "I'm sorry… I did what I could…"
"You did what… you… IT'S YOUR FAULT YOU FREAK!" JJ screamed, pointing a finger at him. "I'll have you hunted down!"
"Ms. Lane… I'm… I'm sorry…" Superman said, turning toward the once strong reporter who was barely leaning against a wall with tears running down her face. "You won't have to worry…" he said as he glanced back to Jameson. "You won't have to worry about it. I'll be letting the real heroes handle it from now on…" He said, taking to the air.
"Superman, wait!" Lois looked up, but the Man of Steel never slowed. "It's not your fault…"
Hours later Ororo Monroe walked briskly through the apartment complex in New York. She stopped at the door and waited a moment. "I know you know I'm here, Clark, open up." She said, firmly knocking on the door. "Open this instant!"
"Hey, Ororo…" Clark said with a forced smile as he opened the door. "Maybe you should come back later… I'm not much for company right now…"
The X-Woman crossed her arms and shook her head. "I'm not leaving until we talk." She said, letting herself into the apartment.
She glanced at the kitchen isle and the Daily Bugle edition lying on the table. "You can't let Jameson's words get to you…" reading the headline made her want to strike the old fool down with lightning till he was nothing more than charred ash. 'Alien Murderer Shows True Colors'. "That's bullshit."
"It's not like with Peter when he makes up things to defame him… this was my fault…" Clark said, sitting down roughly on the couch. "That was my technology on that ship. I should have known he had it. I should have stopped it before it even got into orbit… It's my fault Lois is at home crying her eyes out right now, screaming in pain right now. It's all my fault."
"It's Fury's fault for misusing technology he did not understand," Ororo replied, sitting down on Clark's thigh. "Look at me. It's not your fault. You did everything you could. You did more than anyone else could." She smiled softly as she touched his face. "You can't quit. What is it Peter likes to say… with great power comes great responsibility."
"I'm only getting in the way, 'Ro," Clark sighed, "Better let the real heroes like you and the Ultimates do their thing. They might have been able to help if I hadn't distracted them…"
"You truly cannot see the gift that you are on this world, can you?" She asked with a shake of her head.
"Didn't seem much of a gift today…" Clark sighed, blinking when she pulled his glasses off his face.
"You are to me," She said softly, "And every day since the day we met," She whispered before kissing him soundly.
As the kisses deepened and hands began to explore, Hawkeye lowered the binoculars. "Go Clark…" he smirked before turning and walking away.
"This was a mistake…" Fury sighed as he sat at his desk.
"Capt. Jameson's father has given us the perfect way to cover ourselves, General," one of the members of SHIELD Oversight stated over speakerphone.
"Excuse me?" Fury sat up, "Jameson is blaming Superman for attacking the ship and destroying it…"
"Indeed, he is," came the response.
"Are you sure it's wise to make an enemy out of someone who can take on the HULK one on one?" Fury asked, shaking his head.
"Superman's psych profile as well as his statements after the disaster shows he will likely be a nonissue from this point on. We will likely never be troubled with him again."
"This is dirty…" Fury growled.
"No worse than what you've done to keep your team together, General, Oversight out."
"General…" Fury sighed and looked up to see Captain America with his mask pulled back and an angry expression on his face.
"Rogers…" Fury replied, glancing up at the Living Legend.
"With all due respect…" Steve said, calmly walking toward the desk, before punching a dent into the top of it. "This is Bull Shit, Sir."
"This isn't the forties, Rogers," Fury replied, "Truth and Justice have been dead and buried since before I was in grade school, and the American Way is now to bury anything that makes us look bad in piles of horseshit."
"This is wrong…" Steve shook his head, "First Banner, then Pym, and then Superman… The first two I let go because they were partly responsible, but this. Nick, this is sick."
"Are you sure they were responsible… or did I just tell you that?" Fury asked, crossing his arms. "Go ahead, go and try to fight against this, be my guest, but you got an uphill battle, and you won't win."
"Fine," Steve said, pulling his mask back on and stomped out of the office.
Fury just smiled, "Good man…" He turned to look out his window. "Hulk is contained, and Superman has quit, and Cap has his fire back," Fury whispered to himself, "Maybe things will get back to how they should be…"
Just outside the orbit of Pluto large ships flew quickly through space. "We will be at the target planet in a few days," the digital voice spoke from the computer.
"You hear that, my dear?" the man on in the command chair smiled, "We have tracked the Son of Jor-El, and soon the last of the House of El will fall."
"Yes, General," the woman beside him nodded.
"Yes… and all those pathetic insects native to this Earth…" The General smiled to himself, "They will all… kneel before Zod."
To Be Continued…
Next chapter: Superman has given up his role of a hero, but as the forces of General Zod invade, the world needs him more than ever… coming soon Chapter 8: Ultimate Zod