Vista Ski Resort and Spa, Telluride, CO….
Bruce Wayne managed to look surprised when Lionel Luthor approached him, the older man's face was wolf like, teeth bared in what was meant to be a welcoming smile. Lionel opened his arms, and Bruce took a step back, extending his hand to shake Lionel's. If Lionel noticed, he was too experienced in the niceties to let it show. Instead, Lionel merely closed Bruce's hand between his own in a warm greeting. They were in the lobby of the main hotel and most of the guests were elsewhere, but enough were in the lobby, lounging near the fireplaces, listening to the very pretty singer, accompanied by a pianist. The view of the mountains was improved for the guests in the lobby by floodlights, subtly lowered to resemble the most perfect moonlight. Bruce had to hand it to Lionel; the man had perfected the art of illusion.
"When I heard you were here, Bruce, I had to come and welcome you personally." Lionel beamed expansively, and Bruce nodded. "It's an honor to have you here."
"It's a pleasure. What a place." Bruce made an effort to look pleased. The truth of the situation was that the whole hotel, as magnificent as it was, gave him the creeps. And that was no easy thing to do. The proximity to Project 33.1 and the absolute way it had been obscured left Bruce feeling uneasy. How to evacuate the innocent, paying guests in the event the facility was breached, or worse, Oliver followed through with his intent to blow the place to kingdom come. What would the ecological ramifications, what had those been already? Bruce, in his heart of hearts, agreed with Oliver completely about destroying the place, but he couldn't let Ollie follow through on that urge. The goal was to get as much evidence as possible, get the inmates out and to appropriate institutions if necessary and then expose the Luthors for what they were. He blinked as Lionel began to talk to him about investing in the hotel, or hotels, once they were done, and Bruce nodded politely and smiled. He handed his drink to a nearby waiter and slid his hands into his pockets. It was nearly nine o'clock, and he knew Diana and Lex were in the rooftop dining room, and Hal was getting ready for an evening out with Mercy Graves. He wasn't overly concerned for Hal and Diana. They could handle themselves. It was J'onn and Bart that Bruce was worried about. He'd sent them into the jaws of the monster itself. He wouldn't rest easy until those two had returned to the rendezvous point safely. Frowning, Bruce looked out at the mountains, wishing once more that he possessed Clark's ability to see through everything.
"Bruce?" Lionel looked into Bruce's face, almost paternal concern on his face. Bruce felt something inside him turn to stone at the idea of Lionel being solicitous. Thomas Wayne had not liked Lionel Luthor, and Bruce remembered his own mother despising the upstart from Metropolis' Suicide Slums that had destroyed her friend, Lillian, first by marrying her and then by driving her to mental instability. Martha and Thomas had been dead for a few years when Lillian finally died, and Bruce couldn't help but wonder if Lionel had somehow arranged that as well. "Are you feeling well, Son? The altitude can be devastating."
"I'm fine." Bruce nodded, schooling his features into pleasant lines. "More time lagged than anything else. I'm still on East Coast time. It's hard to imagine it's only 9:00. Of course, skiing all day takes it's toll. You've got some top notch runs."
"Thank you, the runs were designed by the same people who lay out the Olympic courses. The time difference takes getting used to, I know." Lionel said, nodding sagely. "But you're a night person, after all." Luthor's tone was confidential, and then Lionel switched tracks, back to that of a worried parent. "All those parties and events you attend. Lex is the same way. Parties until all hours and then in the office bright and early the next morning." Lionel sighed wistfully. "When I was young, I was so determined to make my fortune that I forgot to enjoy it."
"Well, here's your chance." Bruce replied politely, indicating the view. "It's very nearly Heaven."
Lionel's lupine smirk increased, his eyes narrowing mirthfully. "Or as close to Heaven as I might get, eh, Bruce?" He clapped Bruce on the shoulder companionably. "I know and I relish every day I get to spend here." Lionel looked out at the mountain that housed his project 33.1 and smiled. "Every day, I say to myself, 'Lionel, this is your real legacy to the world. A beautiful, restful place that so many will be able to enjoy'."
"You're very modest." Bruce observed dryly, watching Lionel's eyes scan the expert run. "Your legacy may yet be waiting to be discovered. Luthorcorp has so many things in development. Any one of those projects could be the one that changes the world, for the better."
"That's very true." Lionel rubbed his chin thoughtfully, still looking out the window. "But my aspirations are so much more humble." Lionel's phone chortled pleasantly and he excused himself to answer it. It the call was over some issue or another, Lionel gave no indication. Bruce listened as he gave brief and obscure instructions to whomever it was that had called, and then hung up. "I'm so sorry, Bruce. The perils of running a hotel, I'm afraid."
"I completely understand." Bruce nodded, looking at his watch. "If you'll excuse me, Lionel, I've got some work with me that needs my attention. I may be young, but I promise, it's not all fun and games."
"By all means, my boy." Lionel shook Bruce's hand again. "I hope you'll give my proposal some consideration. It would be wonderful to have you as a business partner in such a worthwhile venture."
"I will." Bruce nodded, and moved away, watching Lionel take out his phone again, dialing a number quickly and stalking off, talking rapidly to someone. Hearing footsteps behind him, Bruce turned, and then nodded, seeing Diana. Forgetting at times that Diana was beautiful, Bruce found himself speechless seeing her now. Diana glided toward him, dressed in a diaphanous blue gown, cut low in the neck and clasped at the shoulders with what appeared to be leaves made of pure gold, scattered here and there with diamonds. Diana appeared to have stepped off Olympus itself, and Bruce wondered if that effect had been intentional Similar golden and bejeweled leaves held her hair away from her face, hinting at the crown that would have been hers had she not left her island home.
"I'm not late, am I?" She asked, looking a bit flushed and harried. "Lex insisted on dancing one last time." The Amazon Princess scowled at Bruce. "Lex Luthor is a practiced liar. It was difficult to decipher what was truth and what was falsehood."
"You're not late." Bruce said neutrally, refraining from complimenting her. "And there's Hal." Hal waved at them a little, looking around to see if Mercy was in the lobby before he approached. "We're just waiting on Bart and J'onn." Bruce's phone rang. He took it out and answered. "Wayne."
"We're out." J'onz' voice was flat, but Bruce felt himself relax a little.
"Well done." Bruce nodded at Diana. "We're waiting for you here."
"Understood. Will join you shortly." The Martian ended the transmission, but not before Bruce heard Bart's voice in the background. Relieved, nodded at Diana, who smiled, resting her hand over her heart.
"Okay." Hal hurried to them. "What's the deal?" Hal was dressed in jeans and boots, the going out clothes of Telluride. "I don't have much time, Mercy will be looking for me."
"Team B is on the way back here now." Diana sighed, and Hal nodded, smiling.
"That's good news." Hal said, turning to see Bart and J'onz walking toward them. "Do you think they found anything?"
"We'll soon find out." Diana smiled, holding out a hand for Bart. "I am reluctant to admit it, but I was worried about you, Bart."
"Aww, baby." Bart took her hand in his and kissed it. "You didn't have to dress up for me. I love you in anything you wear." He winked at her, and Diana let herself smile at him.
"We were able to obtain a current listing of inmates as well as a schematic of the mountain facility. There are no longer any inmates in the hotel itself. That arrangement was temporary." J'onn handed Bruce a small zip drive.
"Until they went underground in the actual Project 33.1 facility." Bruce nodded. "You have a full list of inmates? Anyone I know?"
"Those that were transferred here from Arkham are listed. The ones you were especially concerned about are still under high security surveillance." J'onn continued. "As for the remnants of the planet Krypton, there is a vault containing several varieties and it is used in many processed forms through out Project 33.1. There also appears to be a containment cell designed for holding a Kryptonian. Your concerns were justified, Bruce Wayne."
"That vault is just chock full." Bart said, folding his arms over his chest. "Big Blue gets anywhere near it and he's toast. I found this." Bart took out a disc of his own. "Experiment results. They're refining that green kryptonite with metal…unbreakable, even by Clark."
"Clark can never go in there." Diana whispered, pulling her hand away from Bart. She grasped Bruce's arm. "We have to keep him from this place until we can clean it out."
"I can't make any promises, Diana. We'll do what we can, but Clark isn't going to rest until he sees this place shut down." Bruce replied, looking at his watch and then at J'onnz again. "Was that all?"
"For the moment. I'll be returning to my part of this mission." The Martian told the others, and seeing the expressions on Diana and Hal's faces clarified. "I am seeking out others inside Project 33.1 who will join with us on our quest."
"And?" Hal asked, frowning, folding his arms. "I don't want to sound suspicious, but how do we know these people can be trusted? Tortured, psychiatric patients don't strike me as the most trustworthy." Diana nodded, frowning, her pretty face still full of concern for Clark.
"They aren't all psych patients, Hal." Bruce turned to look at the pilot. "There are many who are being held against their will, victims of freak accidents or genetic mutations." Bruce shook the Martian's hand. "Thanks, J'onn. Be in touch."
"I will." J'onnz walked away, a long figure in black and the remaining four watched him go in silence. After a moment, Bruce looked at the zip drive in his hand and then passed it to Bart.
"Okay, Impulse, get this to Oliver and Chloe in Metropolis. I'm calling them now." Bart took the drive and slipped into his pocket. "Diana, I know it's a lot to ask," Bruce shook his head. "Can you keep Lex diverted for a little longer?"
"Consider it done." Diana nodded solemnly. She glanced at Hal, who shrugged slightly. "I hope your mission isn't as unpleasant as mine."
"I'll let you know in the morning, Your Highness." Hal grinned. "I'm on my way to meet her now."
"Okay," Bruce took out his phone. "Calling Oliver now. Keep in communication, people. Once I get the final analysis of the info on that drive, phase two will be a go." He dialed Oliver's number as Diana moved back to the elevators and Hal made his way over to where Mercy Graves stood waiting near the bar.
Sullivan-Queen Residence – Metropolis…..
"He just got here." Oliver told Bruce as Bart and Victor got off the elevator. "A.C. is with Lois and Clark is out on patrol, I think. I was going to go out, but now that you sent the intel, I'll stay here with Chloe and the guys and get this looked at." Chloe shut off the television and went to stand by Oliver. "I'm looking for a weakness we can exploit, Bruce. You and the Martian focus on getting the inmates out of there. Clark and I will play demolition crew when you're done, and hopefully I can deal with the kryptonite without Clark getting anywhere near it. Okay. I'll call you when I know." Oliver hung up and kissed Chloe's temple. "Bruce says hi. Okay guys, let's get to work." Victor sat down at the master command center and began to upload the information from the little drive and Chloe stood behind him, watching as the actual schematics began to appear before them. Bart had disappeared into the kitchen and returning with a large bowl of stew and half a loaf of bread.
"Good chow, Chloebabe." Bart praised from around a mouthful, and Chloe rolled her eyes. "Oh..oh..Slow up, R2," Bart stood, pointing on the monitor. "See that? That's the vault where they have all that meteor rock locked up, and not just green either. Luthor's got it in every way you can imagine, liquid, crystals, powder…"
Oliver frowned. "Well, hell." He ran a hand through his hands. "There's more than green kryptonite? How many colors does it come in? Does it all affect Clark?"
"Yes, all of it has some kind of effect on Clark." Chloe said, and Bart nodded, taking a huge mouthful of stew. "The green you already know can make Clark weak and sick. Then there's red, and Clark on RedK is hard to handle. He's aggressive, dominant and forceful, in every way." Oliver folded his arms and nodded as Chloe thought. "We've seen silver kryptonite once. Clark got a splinter of it in his skin and almost went crazy. And then, there's black kryptonite. I don't know much about it, Oliver, I've never even seen it. I'm not sure what it will do to Clark if he's exposed." Oliver put his arm around Chloe's shoulders and gave her a small, reassuring squeeze.
"It's purplish-black." Bart confirmed, nodding. "The Luthors have a small amount of that compared to the green, and the red. I didn't see any silver k, either."
"Well, this vault is lined with literally a ton of lead." Victor said, reading the information from the blueprints on the monitor.
"Lead." Oliver looked at Chloe. "Clark is shielded from the effect of the kryptonite by lead, right?"
"Yes." Chloe nodded, biting her lip as she looked the screen. "He can't see through lead at all, Oliver. If the Luthors wanted to make sure Clark never found that stash of meteor rock, hiding it in a mountain and encasing it in lead was the best way to do it."
"Bart, give me that disc, the one with the results for those metallurgy experiments." Victor said, and Bart fished the black disc out of his pocket and handed it over. "Combining lead and meteor rock then might make a substance Clark couldn't break through."
"Lead is one of the softest metals around. It's not that hard to break." Oliver said, and Victor nodded.
"Yeah, for you and me. But if Clark already has limitations because of it, mixed with the green meteor rock, they could leash him up like a puppy and he'd be too weak to break free." Victor pointed to the containment cell on the blueprints. "Lead lined. I guarantee that lead has been infused with the green-k. They've been working on this for a long time."
Chloe grasped the back of the chair Victor was sitting in, feeling the world spin just a little. One of the Luthors had figured out how to capture and restrain Clark. They had a cell all ready for him, and the idea that it was Lionel chilled Chloe to her very soul. Chloe looked up at Oliver and he sighed. It was clear that he was worried too, and Chloe loved Oliver for it.
"I don't even want to know what they planned that room for." Oliver said. "As a matter of fact, that's the first room to get the crap blown out of it when I get down there. Vic, print out all of that…everything Bruce sent. Narrow down the facilities weakest areas. I want to figure out how to exploit them."
"You got it." Victor nodded and set to work.
"Chloe, call Clark. Whether he's sulking or on patrol, I need him here now. He needs to see this. Bart…" Oliver turned around and saw Bart asleep on the couch. "you sleep." He laughed. "Call A.C., too, Chloe. Get him back here. I have a feeling we're going to be moving on this sooner than any of us thought."
Metropolis University - Dormitory Building C - Metropolis….
Lois sat cross legged on her bed, sorting through the file Perry White had given her earlier, while A.C. cut into the pizza they had picked up on the way back from the Metropolis Journal.
"You ready to eat?" A.C. asked, and Lois shook her head, her long ponytail dancing around her shoulders. "What do you have there?"
"Background material for a story my editor wants me to work on." Lois replied, around the pencil in her teeth. She looked up at A.C. "How do you and your father get along?"
"Fine, I guess. The Captain is a pretty cool guy." A.C. shrugged. "Why?"
"Fine as in if you ever decided to run for Senate, he'd support you?" Lois asked and A.C. shrugged again.
"I guess, sure, far as a Coast Guard Officer's endorsement could get me in a Senate race." He nodded. "I'm still not following you."
"Lex is looking to run for the U.S. Senate. His father has publicly been supporting Martha Kent." Lois replied, frowning over a picture of Martha and Lionel together at some charity benefit. She turned the picture around. "Why would he do that if his own son is planning to run?"
"Lex is pretty powerful on his own." A.C. pointed out, handing Lois a slice of pizza. "He doesn't need his father's support. Martha Kent does."
"It's a conflict of interest." Lois said, dropping the picture and taking the pizza. She sighed. "I can feel it...there's more to this story, and IF I can figure it out…"
"When you figure it out." A.C. laughed, taking a bite of his pizza. "No ifs. Come on, where's the extra confident Lois Lane that can do anything?"
"Right." Lois laughed, tossing a stuffed duck at A.C., giggling harder as he deflected it while trying not to drop his pizza. "Lately I feel like I don't know anything."
"Good." A.C. smiled. "You're on the road to wisdom, then." His phone rang. "Uh-oh. Better take this." His smile widened. "My coach is coming to town."
"Oh, right. Olympic trials." Lois nodded, looking back down at the black and white photo of Martha and Lionel. "Go ahead."
A.C. got up and went out into the hall to take the call, coming back in a minute later to grab his coat. "Lois, I have to bail on you, I'm sorry. My coach is here and wants me back at the hotel. I start training tomorrow." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "See you later, okay?
"Bye, athlete." Lois kissed him back, and then frowned. "I thought you said you didn't start training so soon."
"I wasn't supposed to." A.C. covered smoothly. "My place in the trials got pushed up, the coach just told me. It's a good thing. Better chance of making the U.S. team. I'll call you tomorrow though."
"Okay." Lois said, not seeming very convinced, but she got up and walked A.C. to the door. "Thanks for bringing me home and for the pizza."
"Anytime." A.C. pulled on his coat and waved, walking down the hall as Lois' dorm room door closed and locked behind him. Chloe had made it plain that he needed to get back to Oliver's as soon as possible.
Clark had been sitting on the golden replica of Earth that sat atop the Daily Planet. It had become one of his new favorite places to watch the city from. Diana still hadn't called, and Clark was starting to worry. He knew she could handle herself, of course. It was just that were Lex was concerned, Clark had a small, overwhelming fear that somehow his former friend would find a way to hurt Diana. A sharp whistle cut through the night and Clark looked around and when the whistle sounded again, he looked over at Oliver's rooftop. Oliver Queen stood there, waving. Clark grinned and leapt over, landing beside Oliver easily.
"Atlas is supposed to be holding the Earth on his shoulders, Clark, not resting his ass on it." Oliver grinned, and Clark laughed.
"I was wondering about Diana. Did you hear anything?" Clark asked as they made their way downstairs.
"We did. Bart's back, asleep on my couch right now. Listen, Clark, we need to revise the plan a little. Well, a lot. You need to not be on the saving team, but on the demolition crew with me. Chloe and Bruce were afraid that the Luthors had gathered enough kryptonite to really be a problem for you, and it turns out that they were right to worry." Clark stopped on the steps, ready to protest. Oliver shook his head. "I'm telling you, that's only half of it and Clark, I joked about Bruce being cautious, but damn it if he wasn't right to worry."
"I'm going in, I don't care with which team, Oliver. I need to be part of shutting 33.1 down." Clark replied, and Oliver nodded, closing his eyes.
"I was hoping I could convince you to stay behind with Chloe, but I guess that's not going to happen. Victor is going to stay here in Metropolis, as back up, and I'd sure feel better if you did too." Oliver said, watching Clark's face as it hardened into marble. He turned, going down the rest of the stairs. "Consider yourself warned, Clark."
"Warning noted." Clark smiled. "Thanks for being concerned, Oliver. But you know I have to go."
"I understand." Oliver pulled open the door. Chloe stood there, ashen, holding a printed list of names in her hand. "You scared me, Goldilocks. What's up?"
"Well, I finally got a chance to really look at the inmate list. Aside from some familiar faces from the good old Smallville High days, Clark, there's someone on here that you needed to know about, Oliver." Chloe shook her head. "Your friend, Dinah. She's at 33.1." Chloe handed Oliver the list. "It says she's part of the biosonic weapon testing group. Along with a good friend of ours, Clark, Mikhail Mxylpltk."
Oliver stared at the list, a bitter cold stretching up his spine. "There's no mistake, Chloe? You're sure?" He looked down into her face, and the distress he saw there convinced him that there had been no mistake, and not a moment where Chloe had even considered keeping that information from him.
"Not unless there is another girl with the name of Dinah Lance who can emit hypersonic shrieks." Chloe reached out and took Oliver's free hand in hers. "I'm so sorry." Clark took the list from Oliver and read it, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Lex cleaned out Belle Reve, too." He looked at Oliver. "We need to get out there. Your friend is in trouble and if these people from Belle Reve are enhanced at all by Lex's experiments, they'll be even more dangerous than they were before they were admitted."
"Yes." Oliver replied, pulling Chloe close. "Let's get things organized. It's time to roll."