I do not own Superman, or any DC character used in this parody for my own amusement.
He didn't look up from the shattered body of the young woman. He couldn't seem to tear his eyes from her. He had faced other deaths before in his long history as a hero and defender of justice. He had been forced to watch others die horrible deaths, some in willing sacrifice, some by mere happenstance. None had ever been easy to accept. But this woman. This death. Like all before her, were so futile. So vain.
He carefully lay the body down as he rose to face the bulky war machine built in man's image. If a man could stand fifteen feet tall, and weigh more than twenty tons. The opaque faceplate hid the operator, but he knew who was there. Who was always there. If not in person, then close by, behind the scenes. Pulling the ever-present puppet strings of his latest marionette.
"No more," he murmured, his voice barely audible. Then again, much louder. "No more," he shouted in a voice like thunder that shattered glass blocks away from the scene of the battle.
"We shall see, alien," the filtered voice mocked him even as he clenched a powerful fist and literally flew at the metal behemoth before him, his torn cape fluttering like some war-torn banner of old.
The bright costume became a streak of blurred color when he went supersonic in less than fifteen feet. More glass shattered, and ears rang as he broke the sound barrier even as his powerful fist hit the center of the metal monster before him. The impact was like the proverbial irresistible object striking an immovable force. For a moment, neither side yielded, and then terrestrial metal groaned and creaked, and then made noises no metal should ever make.
The cloud of debris that erupted from the back of the behemoth flew out to cover nearly a quarter mile before it stopped. Meanwhile, the enraged champion had yet to slow his assault. The first impact was followed by hammer blows of tremendous force even as preternatural ocular powers were brought into play, heating the metallic alloys and critical circuits his fists were pounding into slag as part of a dual attack. It was evident even to the more calloused viewers of this battle that the hero was no longer holding himself back.
"I have had enough," the over six foot champion roared as he now began to literally rip apart the metal creature once his fists had opened fissures deep enough to grab hold of edges intended just for that purpose.
"You fool," the snide voice mocked him. "You don't know what you're doing!"
"I've heard that one before."
"This battle suit is powered by radioactive fusion," the speaker claimed. "If you continue to damage my redundant circuits, most of downtown Metropolis is going to be glowing in the dark for the next 200 years!"
"Then we'll just finish this where you won't endanger anyone else again," the hero spat, and lifted the massive bulk as easily as a mother lifts her child.
"I'll bury you on the far side of the moon," the champion roared, his anger still having yet to vent.
"I get it now," the speaker laughed. "That bitch was someone you liked? Dare I say…loved? Tell me, alien. Were you even compatible? How did you two even manage….?"
His thunderous cry of rage and misery drowned out the voice, and even the whistling scream of displaced air as he hurled skyward with his burden. In less than two seconds, they were high over the city, little more than a flyspeck to those still watching from the ground.
"I should tell you," the voice from the suit continued in his superhuman ears. "That radioactive isotope I'm using to power this remote battle suit? It's something from your own home world," the speaker informed him as the sit began to glow white hot. "Enjoy. However little time you've left, that is," the speaker shrilled with laughter as the hero realized he was now facing his own death as the glowing turned an ominous green.
He could flee the impending explosion easily enough, but to do so would allow the self-destructing suit to fall low enough to explode over the heart of the city, killing millions. With no other choice, he pushed his limits once again, racing against time itself as he struggled to reach the atmosphere before the unthinkable happened.
"My God," Perry White gasped as he stared up at the brilliant green star that had blossomed not too far off in the twilight sky that now covered the city.
"Chief," Jimmy rasped, looking from the sight as he turned to his boss and longtime friend in the Planet news chopper. "Do you think…?"
"Don't sweat it, kid," the grizzled newsman told the young photographer. "If there's anyone that got out of that, it's him. He's been pulling off miracles for more years than I like to think about."
"Hey, there's Lois," Jimmy pointed out as their remote camera zoomed in on the woman laying off to one side of the ruins of the city docks. "Man, she don't look good," he realized as White signaled the pilot to find a landing place.
By the time they reached the scene, emergency workers were at work, clearing up debris, and searching for survivors. Others had the thankless task of stacking the dead like cordwood until they could be processed and claimed by survivors. Today, there were too many of the latter, and not enough of the former.
"She… She's dead," Jimmy realized as he and his boss reached Lois first. "Man, Mr. Kent is going to…"
"I don't think he's going to do anything," Perry murmured as he took the pair of familiar glasses clutched in the dead woman's hands. They were cracked, warped, and covered with blood. But there was no doubt about whose they were.
"Oh, man," Jimmy's voice lowered to a plaintiff croak.
"They were probably both on the scene," Perry realized. "Just like good reporters. Only….there's no telling where he is," he added, looking around at the mounds of rubble, and shattered buildings that lay all around them.
"Incoming," a fireman shouted as they all heard the low whistling of something falling fast.
The fireball cut through the growing night sky over the harbor, and landed not too far off the ruined docks, sending up a huge wave that helped put out some of the more dangerous fires closest to the water. Perry and Jimmy still ran to the water's edge, hopping over debris, and ankle-turning rubble to try to make out what had fallen. Both knew what they had seen, and both hoped they had been wrong.
The fireball, they knew, had looked very much like a man's silhouette was inside its center.
"There," Jimmy shouted as his video camera's bright light picked up something floating nearby.
"Oh…. Oh, God," Perry rasped, his chest tightening as he stared at the torn scrap of brightly colored cloth. "No. No, no, no. It just can't be."
"Chief," Jimmy gaped as he stared at the familiar sigil on the torn, red cloth. "Maybe he just…I don't know…got stunned."
"Hey, you," Perry turned, shouting at several of the emergency workers. "You got any divers here? I think that was Superman that hit the water! And he's not coming up!"
"We aren't prepared for any of this, mister," one of the fireman shouted back. "And if it is him, I pray to God he can get out on his own. We just don't have the resources to handle an underwater search just now."
"Damn! Let's get back to the chopper. We can call in our own people if we have to. We need to get someone looking for him. And," he said, looking grimly around him, "We have to get this story out."
"Right, chief," Jimmy nodded as he looked over at where Lois was now being carried off to the growing numbers of dead stacked nearby.
"Hey," Perry called out as they headed for the men. "We know her. She's…."
"We know who she is. But right now we can't do anything for her. Sorry, Mr. White," the harried fireman told him. "That's just how it is. I just wish these super-types would take their fights someplace else for a change. It's always us reg'lar guys that end up paying in the end."
Perry said nothing as they put Lois down among the dead, and walked away, seeking more bodies to add to the growing body count. "He didn't mean it, chief. He's just…"
"We have a story to get out kid. You get the pictures. I'm headed back to the chopper to call this in, and to see if we can get some more help out here."
"Stay tough," he told the young man with an understanding nod as he wiped away a tear from his own eye.
"Nothing. Not so much as a sign of him," Perry said as he looked down at the banner that screamed from his own paper's headline.
"Is Superman Dead?" the headline asked. For over a week, there had been no sign of the Kryptonian anywhere in Metropolis. Gangs, thugs, and all the usual scum were having a true heyday despite the others who stepped forward to fill those bright red boots, but nothing like the familiar red and blue hero showed up anywhere.
The dive teams that finally got to the harbor to check for a possible body were too little, too late. With the tides, undersea currents, and the general turmoil created by the other debris that had hit the water, any bodies or debris could have been carried anywhere. And the Atlantic was a big anywhere to be looking. There was no sign of the hero anywhere.
Perry White, long a hardened newshound that knew how to get the story no matter the cost, still couldn't shove aside the despair for what this story cost them. Among the dead and missing were two of the paper's top reporters, and some very dear friends. No one had found a trace of Clark Kent, but there were more than one missing person on the lists who could have been crushed to pulp, or vaporized in that horrible battle.
And all the while, the one man responsible sat up in his ivory tower, untouched, and untouchable. Everyone knew it was him. His battle suit. His vendetta. His crime, and his guilt. Yet no one could touch him because Lex Luthor was legally innocent. There was nothing that could tie him to the battle suit, reportedly stolen, or the remote operator that would have detonated a radioactive fusion generator over the city. They had been fortunate that Superman had gotten it just outside the atmosphere, or the fallout would have been devastating. As it was, the paper's secondary stories were filled with cases of radiation poisoning, and mysterious burns.
And once more, Luthor got away unscathed.
Lex, born Alexander Luthor, smiled at the headlines of a dozen international papers lined carefully across his wide desk. His favorite was the local Daily Planet. It seemed the alien bastard was finally dead. There was no doubt about it this time. He knew, because if he had survived that little surprise Lex had masterminded, he would already been crashing through his windows, demanding explanations, as if he had the right to question anyone he wished.
Sanctimonious xeno. He wasn't even human. He had no rights, Lex fumed. Not on this planet. His planet. Then he calmed himself. The obituaries were still running a full week after the incident, and only one among them all truly affected him.
The woman had kept her name after marrying that priggish Kent, who had ironically died in pursuit of the same story that had cost her her life. A shame, really. Not about Kent. He was a dolt. A peasant. But Lois had been an exquisite, spirited creature that he had enjoyed pursuing at odd moments. He had known from the start he could never claim her. She was too independent. Too willful. But the pursuit had been…interesting. He would miss it. He would miss her.
But the prize. The true prize, was just too wondrous to mourn at all.
The Kryptonian bastard was finally gone. Finally cast back into oblivion where he belonged. And while they could prove nothing, certainly could not charge him with anything, everyone knew he had died at Lex Luthor's hands. That was but the proverbial icing on the cake.
But there was still that proverbial cake he intended to enjoy as well. If he could just find it.
Dr. Hamilton had died before he could be convinced to reveal the location, but Luthor knew enough to start in the right area. Very soon, his handpicked team was going to find the alien's lair. And when he did, he would make LexCorp the most powerful force on the face of the planet. Kings and nations would bow to him, as was his due. And not one man, meta, or otherwise, would be able to stop him. Not once he had the secrets of Kryptonian's science and technology in his hands.
After today, he was going to become a god.
Sixty years, he thought as he stood on the ice shelf and marveled at the sight before him. It had been sixty years since anyone had even come this far south, and here he was. Standing in the irrefutable presence of alien life on their world.
Of course, the alien life in question was more a legend now, than a xeno from some silly holovid fiction. The Kryptonian's fortress had been impenetrable, and silent, for years. The few who had tried to brave its defenses had either been turned back, or vanished without a trace. Still, considering the environment, the fortress might have had little to do with the latter. After all, the south polar climate was one of the deadliest in the world.
Now he, Dr. Jacob Parker, stood on the threshold of greatness.
Less than a week ago, rumblings had disturbed the polar cap, and it hadn't taken satellites long to detect the subtle shifting. The alien fortress was no longer silent, or hidden. It was rising up from under the ice cap. It was actually moving of its own volition. Its central spire rose like a great tower, piercing the ice and snow long before the sleek, lower structures of the fortress had appeared. By the time Parker had arrived on the scene, commissioned by the global federation to learn what was happening, the fortress was hovering above the ice shelf, its former hiding hole now an abyss that loomed beneath it like some dark moat to protect the gleaming crytstalline spires from invasion.
There was no evidence of other activity. No evidence that anyone else had been here. Not that the upturned sheets of ice, shattered rock and frozen earth gave away much. Still, from general observations it looked as if the fortress had simply started rising out of the earth on its own initiative. He turned as he heard the shrill whine of an air shuttle approaching, and turned to spot the private vehicle. He had no doubt who was within. The logo of the NAF president was unmistakable. The North American Federation was, after all, still one of the most powerful in the global federation of governments that rose out of the last multinational shakeup.
"Mr. Luthor," Dr. Parker nodded to the lean, bald man, making no attempt to shake his hand. "I'm honored you came all the way here to oversee our work."
"This isn't about honor. My own daughter was one of those that vanished here some sixty years ago. I'd like to finally learn my own answers concerning this final mystery of the alien's presence on our planet," the seemingly ageless man remarked, always mindful of the ever-present holo-cameras surrounding them. This was, after all, a public event.
"Well, sir. My sonar scans indicated a single land bridge not far in that direction," he pointed, "That has somehow remained intact. It's almost as if we're being invited. I've had my geology team checking the bridge to ensure its stability before we attempt it, though. Considering the depth of the chasm beneath, I prefer caution to premature action just now."
"A wise course, doctor," the most powerful man on the planet complemented him. "I understand Ms. Wayne is here with you, too?"
"Yes. As the foremost authority on alien contact, and cultures, I felt she was too valuable a member not to enlist, considering."
"Of course. Of course."
Jacob smiled, knowing he looked good on camera, and intending to show he was a man who could get the job done even under pressure. Playing up to the NAF president didn't hurt at all, either. It only added to the ratings he might yet secure, and the chance of a greater share of the percentages involved with this salvage and research venture which certainly wouldn't hurt his career either. After today, he was going places. He was positive.
"Dr. Parker," a shapely brunette approached him, seemingly heedless of the chill as she wore her parka open, with the hood down. "We've established the bridge is stable, and definitely artificial in structure. It was purposely built. We're sending a rover across now on autopilot. Just to ensure there are no surprises waiting on the other side."
"Excellent," Parker nodded at her. "How is it going?"
The woman looked down at her right hand, which held a small remote device with a digital screen. "It's nearing the structure now. It looks as if… Oh, wow," the woman gaped as she stared at her remote.
"Oh, wow," Luthor mimicked, clearly unimpressed.
"Sir," Jacob exclaimed. "Look!"
Even from across the distance separating them, the dark hole that had opened up in the side of the towering spire was evident. On the remote screen, it was quite clear. The robotic rover had not only reached the alien fortress, it was being allowed inside. Its cameras continued to operate as it entered the open port that had just flowed open before it, and on the remote screen was the very clear image of two peculiar looking robotic drones that hovered in the air before the rover.
"Greetings, Terrans," the first of the pair of floating inverted teardrops spoke through the remote link. "You are welcomed within. However, please note that you will be monitored at all times. No access is allowed to the primary control systems, or private chambers. Also, no terrestrial tech is permitted within. Enter if you wish."
At which point, the rover simply backed out of the fortress as if controlled by another, though the portal remained clear and open.
"Shall we go in," Dr. Jacobs asked Lex Luthor with a wide smile. He didn't even have to address Kala Wayne. She was already headed for the land bridge.
"Indeed," Lex murmured as he glared at the young woman's quick pace. He could easily have overtaken her, but he had no desire to show off just now. He had other concerns on his mind. "Let's go," he nodded agreement as his four bodyguards accompanied him. Dr. Parker, and the other three members of the survey team toward the looming fortress.
"I suggest no one slip," Kala called back when she stopped halfway across the bridge and looked down. Then she went on ahead of the others, obviously anxious to be the first to enter the mysterious fortress.
"No kidding," one of the bodyguards accompanying the president muttered as he looked down at the gray-black abyss below them. They were literally walking over a bottomless pit, or so it seemed.
"How does it maintain its position," Luthor wondered aloud as he considered the sheer mass of the fortress compared to its stabilization and power needs for levitation.
"The power source must be beyond anything we've ever imagined," Dr. Parker noted as he eased carefully along the bridge, constantly conscious of his footing. "For its size, we would have to use fusion generators the size of a city just to generate the power that must be needed to sustain this thing."
"Yes," Luthor remarked wryly. "At the least, the Kryptonian science must be something far beyond what even our most recent advances allow. Imagine finally being able to learn just what the alien was truly capable of," he declared, "And how it might benefit all mankind," he added for the sake of the nearby holo-cameras still following him.
"Terrestrial technology is forbidden beyond this point," a robot informed them with a remarkably human voice as it met them at the still open portal.
"Ms. Wayne, I see, had no trouble shedding her equipment," Jacob noted as he spotted the small mound of scanners, and other devices laying atop the woman's parka that lay just outside the door.
"She has always been an…intriguing woman. I am surprised that you managed to secure her for this project."
"She practically volunteered from the first day, if you would like the truth," Jacob told Luthor as his team divested themselves of the equipment they carried.
"No terrestrial technology…. Correction," the robot addressing Luthor stopped in mid-sentence. "Scans indicate your life functions require the cybernetic devices implanted in your augmented endoskeleton. You may proceed."
"How kind," Luthor drawled, eyeing the doctor and his men who were in turn eyeing him. Years of denial and careful planning had kept the truth of his longevity a secret. Until now. On live holo-vid, the alien robot had just informed the world that Lex Luthor was a cyborg. While it wouldn't disturb him overly much in the long run, it just might upset some delicate negotiations he was conducting. Not all of which were completely legitimate. Not that Lex had ever concerned himself with more than the illusion of legitimacy.
"Just one more sin at your door, Kryptonian," he thought coldly as he dropped his own parka and the few external devices he carried alongside the others' growing mounds of equipment at the entrance to the alien structure. "Or at your grave," he snickered privately as he proceeded into the fortress.
"You may proceed," the robot told the last of the men as they entered the fortress at last.
The moment they did, the portal cycled closed. Lex watched in amazement as the metallic alloy of the apparently crystalline structure just seemed to flow like a liquid before reforming a solid wall. There was no evidence of a door, or any indication of how to even activate it.
"Who is running this fortress," Dr. Parker asked the obvious for all of them as they followed the two robots up the long corridor to a maze of tunnels and corridors lined with the vague impressions of doorways here and there.
"The master is currently distracted with other matters, however Dav-El will be present to answer all questions once you are ready to join him."
"As I recall, the Kryptonian was named Kal-El. Did he have an heir," Lex asked, fairly demanded, of the robot leading them toward a huge chamber that seemed to serve as a hub for the fortress' walkways.
"Dav-El is the fourteenth heir spawned by the Master after his decision to create a new race of Kryptonians."
"Correct me if I am wrong," Dr. Parker asked. "But if Kal-El was the last Kryptonian, and there were no viable females on this world, how did he breed any heirs?"
"Lord Kal-El is the last true Kryptonian," the robot agreed as they stopped before a door. "But such obstacles were not difficult to surmount once Kryptonian science was focused on the problem of gestating viable embryos."
"You mean, he was the last Kryptonian," Luther corrected even as he absorbed that statement.
"Negative. He is the last true Kryptonian. His children are hybrid Kryptonians, born of genetically-altered human host cells."
"Which human host cells," Luthor demanded, thinking of his own long lost daughter even as he absorbed the robot's claims.
"During the past three-score years, various Terrans have attempted to infiltrate the Master's fortress. Not all of them were of value, but those that were viable cell donors were allowed entrance, and used to begin breeding the Master's heirs in the gestation chambers."
"My God," Parker rasped. "If I remember it right, there were at least forty different women who vanished down here over the past sixty years."
"Forty-three females," the robot replied as it glanced at the indentation of the door panel ahead, and the metal flowed open before the nine men and women following the strange machine. "Of which only thirty-four proved viable. The remainder were too damaged by exposure, or other injuries incurred in seeking to breach the Master's residence."
"Hold it," Lex spat as he hesitated outside the brightly lit chamber that had opened to them. "Are you telling us that Kal-El, the last alleged Kryptonian, still lives?"
"Affirmative. He is the Master," the robot told them as a tall, dark-haired man filled the door.
"Please, enter," the man greeted them with a bland expression. "I am Dav-El, and I welcome you to New Krypton."
Lex looked up into a face that still haunted his dreams and nightmares for more years than he cared to count. Yet he wasn't the Kryptonian. He wasn't the alien bastard he had thought he had brought down all those years ago. Still, the young man looked remarkably like that alien bastard. What, he fumed silently, was going on here?
"So you are Kal-El's son," Luthor remarked as they entered the chamber behind the young man in a green and black Kryptonian bodysuit. Only his head remained uncovered, unlike the bodysuits Lex had once seen represented on a recreation of true Kryptonian garb. But the sigil on the man's belt was unmistakable.
The stylized 'S', the sign of the House of Jor-El, was there for all to see.
"I am the fourteenth son born to Lord El in the gestation chambers," Dav-El nodded to him. "He will be pleased to see you, Mr. Luther. Father has oft spoken of you over the years."
"He has, has he," Luthor remarked blandly as Dav-El led them through a virtual maze of corridors that seemed little more than a series of identical halls of flowing doorways.
"Yes. He often speaks of you as his primary motivator for the development of New Krypton."
Lex scowled at the young image of his most hated enemy. "So, he has been alive all this time? Hiding down here while the world mourned his passing?"
"Hiding implies fear, or other negative connotations. I assure you, Mr. Luthor, that is far from the truth," a new voice cut in as they entered a true chamber that seemed larger than even his private offices.
Lex turned to gape at the speaker who had interrupted him. "Greetings, Mr. President," the tall, shapely brunette in a Kryptonian bodysuit nodded to him. "I am Lan-El. I am to be your guide from this point on."
"Our…guide," Lex swallowed thickly, staring at a superhumanly perfected image of his own long lost daughter, Alexis.
"Your…mother," he asked quickly staring at the statuesque redhead with blue eyes. "Who was she?"
"Mother," the young woman frowned. "You suffer from an misconception of Kryptonian reproductive processes, sir," the woman informed him. "We are all born originally of genetic matrixes created in the gestation chambers from specific host cells augmented to create viable life matrixes."
"I…see," Lex murmured. "Then you have no idea who your…donor was, then?"
"I believe most of the original hosts still survive in cyber-static sleep. However, I must confess I have had little curiosity as to the source of my own host cells. It was, after all, merely a genetic contribution that helped create me. Hardly something to create emotional attachments over."
"Spoken like a living computer," Dr. Parker remarked. "And speaking of living computers. Has Ms. Wayne been through here already?"
"Affirmative," Dav-El spoke then. "She has been taken to our father. He wished to speak to her alone for reasons of his own."
"And just what is this tour we're about to take," Dr. Parker asked, guessing they would not be told anything concrete until the master wanted his plans revealed. Or perhaps the mysterious Kal-El, if it were truly him, planned some grand entrance.
"The initial tour will give you an overview of the developments we have created here, and the resources we offer in exchange for a location of our choosing for the expansion of our city. New Krypton is growing, Mr. President," Lan-El told him as she now led them to a new door. "And it is time for us to reach out and join the universe around us."
"Colonial expansion," one of the female scientists with Jacob murmured. "Now there is a notion that finally makes sense. But who gets to play big boss? Us, or the aliens?"
"That is an incorrect assumption," Lan-El replied, proving her hearing was at least as good as her fabled father's. "We do not wish to subvert, or overthrow any existing government. But I will not encroach upon my father's domain. He shall speak to you regading these matters when you meet him. Now, through here, is the…"
"You say the original hosts of your father's breeding experiments are still here? Still alive," Lex demanded curtly, cutting her off.
"That is correct," Lan-El nodded as she led them to another chamber. "There are still thirty-two living hosts in cyber-stasis at this time."
"And are you intending to keep them there," he demanded, thinking of his own daughter. More than that. His daughter, used by that damned alien to reproduce his own kind. Was Alexis truly among them? He had to know.
"That is my father's decision. He does not necessarily share all his concerns, or his plans with us. Now, if you will follow me, I will show you the library."
The library proved to be so astonishing that even Lex had to focus on the tour for a moment though his mind was locked on concern for his beloved Alexis. If she was still alive, still whole and healthy, he had to know. He had to see her.
Yet the holographic library was so astonishing he almost forgot her for a few moments as they were shown the basic function of the holo-books that were displayed in the library. Simply downloading files as Terran tech allowed was child's play compared to this library. The technology used by the Kryptonians allowed one to actually enter a virtual environment representing the era of the book being displayed. Lex could actually smell the odors of gunpowder, and hear the shells exploding in the air as the images of the late seventeenth century war in France was played out before their eyes.
"A deliberately selected piece to impress upon you the viability of our library resources. Naturally, the files encompass Kryptonian, Terran, and one hundred and nine other known alien worlds' history and culture."
"Just what is the point of showing us this," Dr. Simms, the other male scientist in the company asked.
"This is part of the technology being offered for trade for what my father will be discussing with you soon. It is just a sample of the technology and scientific knowledge available to us here. I wished to display its viability before you spoke with my father."
"I see," Dr. Simms murmured, looking around as realistically ragged men and women in period costumes charged a high wall with simple weapons.
"Computer, end program. Now, if you will follow me…"
"One question," Dr. Marilyn Vance, the woman that had spoken earlier about colonization cut her off. "Just why show us all these toys? Are you seriously telling us that all this is up for grabs if we…accept whatever deal your father has in mind?"
"It is not my place to reply. Now, if you will accompany us…"
"I would like to see the gestation chambers," Lex cut in. "And the stasis equipment. If we might?"
"It is not on the tour. You might take that up with my father once you see him, though."
"Then let me ask you something you might know. What does this father of yours intend to do with the women he still holds captive in his stasis chambers?
"Is he keeping them to continue breeding new clones, or what?"
Lan-El actually scowled at him. It was the first sign of emotion he had seen on her face. "I can assure you of one thing, Mr. President. First of all, neither I, nor my siblings, are clones. And my father ceased to utilize the Terran hosts some years ago after our population increased to support a viable breeding population of our own. He kept the original hosts in stasis for health, and security reasons. He did not wish to have them running to and fro about the citadel, or rushing off to your media which seems to specialize in mindless sensationalism."
"What about the health issues," Dr. Robin Carter, the other female member of Parker's team asked her quietly. "Are the women in danger without stasis to support them?"
"Those that were, have long since expired. We now only have thirty-two hosts in stasis as I informed you a moment ago. The others expired."
"Expired," Lex hissed.
"Easy, Mr. Luthor," Jacob tried to calm him. "I suggest we give the lady a chance to finish her spiel before we confront the host of this show."
Lan-El said nothing as she simply turned and led the way out of the library. She showed them contained gardens that grew a variety of foodstuffs that could replace meat as a primary source of protein without sacrificing vital minerals, or other nutrients. She showed them educational materials that could virtually implant critical lessons into a mind, even to the point of repairing mental handicaps or instabilities that even modern rehabilitational practices couldn't help. She showed them a host of wonders and technological marvels that left them all drooling, and wondering what was being held back. For by her own admission, there were things that her father felt could not be offered to Terra just yet.
And then Kala Wayne showed up, heedless of her absence in their minds as she simply approached Dr. Parker and handed him a small box. "The cure for virtually every known disease, Jacob," she told him. "It's in there. A simple, universal antitoxin that can cure virtually anything that still plagues us."
"And you were just handed this wonder," Lex asked her.
"Ah, Mr. Luthor," she smiled at him. "It's a goodwill gesture. After your tour, Lord Kal-El wanted to show you that he was earnest in his coming offer."
"Then, you know what he wants," Lex asked her curtly.
"Lex," she smiled knowingly. "We both know Lord Kal-El and my father shared a…unique relationship. The truth is, I have been working with him for years."
Dr. Parker's jaw dropped. Even Lex, schooled to conceal any sign of weakness, nodded his momentary admiration to the woman. "You are as formidable as your father ever was, I see. I should have insisted you join my science team when you graduated, instead of letting you go your own way."
Kala smiled right back. "And do you think you could have kept me from going my own way, Mr. President," she asked him.
"It would have been…interesting…to say the least."
"Father is ready to see you all now," Lan-El finally cut in, her features stern.
"This should be interesting, to say the least," Dr. Vance remarked as she followed after the others.
One of the bodyguards glanced at her before he replied. "So, this Kalie guy used to be some kind of meta human hero?"
"Not quite," Dr. Vance told him. "He was the pinnacle of humanoid evolution in his day. His body was literally a living solar battery as I recall it, and he had powers that would make even our meta-humans today seem like weak children. He could fly. He was practically invulnerable to anything, and I mean anything. Plus, he had other abilities that made him quite literally the most powerful creature on the face of the earth."
"And we're just walking into his house?"
"We were invited," Marilyn reminded the anxious bodyguard.
"So…if all that is true," the man remarked, proving his ignorance of history. "Do his kids have all that power, too?"
"I wouldn't doubt they have something similar that he probably passed along in the genes," Marilyn nodded.
"Greetings, ladies and gentleman. Mr. President," the man that now spoke cut in to draw their attention as they entered a huge, high-ceilinged chamber covered with endless rows of monitor screens that showed images that covered not only most of the planet, but quite a few other worlds as well judging from the backdrop that showed views of space even some of their most advanced telescopes had yet to reach. "Welcome to New Krypton. I trust Lan-El wet your appetite for hearing our offer?"
"What offer," Lex demanded as he looked up at the man hovering some fifteen feet over their heads as he studied several monitors while simultaneously speaking to them.
"Oh…my," Marilyn murmured, staring up at the six and a half foot godlike creature in a full black bodysuit that covered an obviously perfect body. Across his broad chest was the silvered sigil of his house. The stylized 'S' that had once earned him a rather pretentious name in some minds, before he had fallen. Rather than a green robe his offspring wore, he wore a red one that contrasted sharply with his bodysuit.
"So, you are alive," Lex spat as he glared up at the Kryptonian who showed not one sign of the years that had aged him to the point that only his genetic manipulations, and cybernetic replacements kept him alive and healthy.
"You didn't actually think that little toy of yours had killed me, did you, Lex," the alien bastard smiled down at him in his most condescending manner.
"It was enough to drive you away for over sixty years. That was more than enough, I suppose," Lex replied curtly.
"I take it…you have a history," Dr. Parker asked him cautiously.
"That's an understatement," Kala chortled. "You people aren't much on history, are you?"
Marilyn glanced at her. "I know the histories. All of them," the biologist informed her.
"That's nice." Kala simply turned and looked up as Kal-El floated down to the floor to join them.
"You offered them the immunity serum?"
"I…I have it," Dr. Parker told him, holding up the small, silver case.
"A token of trust, Dr. Parker. Despite your need for power and prestige, I am sure even you would realize the need to control the sweeping epidemics that still plague your world."
"Ah, yes," Jacob nodded, staring at this man as if God Himself had just stepped down out of heaven.
He knew a few of the stories, having studied up on the histories when he had been handed this assignment. But to actually face a man credited with the feats he had read about. It was…humbling.
"What's the real offer, Superman," Lex demanded. "Or do you no longer use that appellation?"
Kal-El smiled thinly, his expression barely changing at all. "The apellation you refer to was a creation of your media who didn't know of my symbol's true significance at the time. I have preferred the use of my birth name since I withdrew from human affairs."
"Human affairs? So, what are you doing now, then?"
"Offering payment for a lease on property," Kal-El informed him. "As I understand current governmental politics, the NAF owns most of the satellite you now call Luna. However, little of its surface has been colonized due to….inferior technology and ever dwindling resources."
"Old news. What's the point," Luthor demanded.
"The technology I have allowed you to see demonstrated is part of the payment I will offer for the use of the lunar satellite as a location to build, and expand New Krypton. Naturally, those Terrans already on the satellite are invited to stay, and we will allow certain limited interaction with our colony as it grows. Under specific guidelines, of course. After all, we wish to remain an independent, and separate entity from your…global federation."
"You don't want to lord it over us lowly humans, and help us solve our problems any longer?"
Kal-El didn't even blink at Lex's taunt. "There is nothing of Terra that holds my interest, other than its immediate interaction with my plans," he replied impassively.
"And if I say no," Lex asked, testing him.
"Then there are four other federations with holdings throughout the solar system that I will attempt to deal with in turn," he replied.
"And the serum," Jacob asked, clutching the small sample.
"That is a gift to demonstrate my sincerity. It is not part of the token payments offered."
Jacob nodded as he continued to hold tight to the potentially valuable serum that could make the right person millions. Billions!
"You could treat with other federations, but they would all defer to my guidance," Lex informed him.
"Which is why I approached you first, President Luthor," the Kryptonian informed him formally. "While I am now neutral in human affairs, I am not ignorant. I have kept up with your world's progress."
"So I see," Lex nodded, glancing up at the literally hundreds of monitors all around them.
"I would like an answer. We are quite busy. Raising the citadel took considerable effort, and we still have to fine-tune the gyro-thrusters for the impending launch."
"Launch," Dr. Simms asked.
Kal-El looked down at the man with a wry smile. "Rather slow for a scientist of your stature, are you not? If we wish to build New Krypton on the lunar surface, then, of course, we have to move the citadel there, do we not?"
"But…the power required to launch a massive structure like this safely into orbit, let alone carry it all the way to the moon…? And the stress on the citadel itself…"
"Those are not concerns," Kal-El told him with a casual wave that dismissed Dr. Simms' points.
"I'm curious about one thing," Lex asked. "Well," he smiled thinly. "Many things. But there is only one thing that concerns me just now."
"And that is," the impassive alien asked him as if he had lost all emotional expression sixty years ago.
"Where is my daughter?"
"Your daughter?" He looked up at one of the monitors. "Yes, of course. Scan, Alexis Luthor."
"Affirmative," a remote voice replied. "Alexis Luthor, File number 8764320-L. Subject was born…."
"Her current status, if you don't mind," Lex spat at the man and the machine.
"Noted," the robotic voice accepted his comment without so much as a word from Kal-El. "Subject is currently located in cryo-static suspension. Health nominal, and mental processes remain adequately viable...."
"She's…aware," Lex asked, horrified.
"Not consciously," Kal-El told him, pointing at a monitor that had just shifted views. "Cryo-static suspension was created by Dan-El, an ancestor of mine, over two centuries before Old Krypton exploded. However, he quickly learned that simply suspending the subject could lead to mental complications such as madness, and emotional instability. The latter being a genuine concern on a planet of scientists, as you might imagine. Therefore, cryo-static suspension was adapted to allow the mind to enter a fugue state similar to dreaming. The subject subconsciously creates their own mental world to dwell in, remaining mentally and emotionally healthy though they are unaware they are actually sleeping in stasis."
"Your offspring said some of the women you had in stasis died due to injuries. Is she…whole?"
"Physically? She is quite well," Kal-El gestured as he gestured at the monitor that focused on a row of body-sized metallic coffins, for lack of a better description. Only a frosted glass panel allowed any inspection of the occupants.
Lex focused immediately on the woman with dull, red curls around her pale face who slept in one of those coffins.
"However, she did lose some body parts due to severe frostbite," he remarked so blandly that Lex's blood turned cold.
Lex actually looked horrified. "How bad was it?"
"She was involved in tunneling down to the fortress, seeking an entrance, as I suspect you know. However, at the time, her equipment was inadequate for the task at hand. The ice corridor collapsed, and killed most of her team instantly. She was trapped in a small chamber that allowed her to survive for a short time, but by the time my service drones found her, frostbite had already set in throughout most of her extremities, and she was in hypothermic shock. We were able to save her arms, but not her hands. She also lost one ear, and her legs up to mid thigh."
"My God," Lex choked, his old grief for his beloved daughter reawakened by the clinical medical report.
"She is physically and mentally quite well, though. She could be awakened at any time, if you would prefer to take her with you."
"How could I wake her up to that…that state? She was beautiful, and fit, and as intelligent as I am. How could she face…?"
"You are proof that human physical limitations can be overcome, Lex," Kal-El told him blandly. "It would be simple work to create cybernetic replacements for her lost limbs."
"But they wouldn't be human. She wouldn't be completely human. She'd be a monster. A machine. A…."
"Then you prefer she remain in stasis?"
Lex actually trembled with rage. He glared up at the man, and shook his head. "I want her. You will never know how much. But, no, it is best she remain in whatever dream world succors her."
"As you wish," the cursed alien nodded complacently.
"Have you finally lost even the illusion of your humanity, Kryptonian," Lex demanded then, his composure finally stretched beyond its limits. But then, the alien had always been able to get under his skin as no one else could.
"I cannot lose what I never truly possessed. Now, can I, President Luthor," Kal-El asked him in the same casual tone.
"I have a question," Dr. Carter asked. "What about those other people that were mentioned? Are they physically fit, or did they lose body parts as well?"
"Some lost minor pieces of anatomy," Lan-El replied after a nod from her father. "A few fingers, toes, that sort of thing. However, a few did lose major extremities, facial viability, and such body parts as mammary glands, or external dermal coverings. This is, after all, a harsh environment for your species."
"Skin," Marilyn choked. "They have no skin?"
"They do now. We are not without our own medical capabilities. But at the time, they had lost much of their dermal covering," Lan-El informed the biologist.
"So, how many are currently…whole," Marilyn asked.
"There are twenty-four host bodies in viable physical states of repair at this time," Lan-El told them as Kal-El continued to work at the monitors that claimed most of his attention.
"Twenty-four," Lex spat. "And if we decide we want those people freed," he asked Kal-El directly.
"Then I would do so. I am prepared to return all the women to you, if you wish," he replied without taking his eyes off the console he now worked at as he glanced at first one monitor, and then another.
"And would you provide the technology to keep them in stasis if it were deemed necessary?"
Kal looked over at Lex. "As in your daughter's case? No. Not because she is your daughter, but because the underlying technology is still too advanced to allow you and your people to have it," Kal-El replied in the same maddeningly passionless tone. It sounded to Lex as if he were being lectured. Him! Lectured by the alien who had ruined so many of his plans over the long years.
"So…if we consider if best to leave certain women in stasis….?"
"Then they would have to be left in our care," Kal-El informed Dr. Vance, who asked the question.
"What if they don't want to be left," Robin Carter asked. "Have you thought of that?"
"It had not occurred to me," Kal-El remarked as casually as ever. "However, since you are now here…you may ask each of them yourselves.
"Lex, you have four hours until timing becomes critical. At that time, you either leave the citadel with those who might wish to depart, or you come with us until we stabilize orbit over the…."
"What is that," Dr. Parker cried out as a shrill alarm sounded.
"Nothing to worry about," Lan-El told him as Kal turned to adjust instruments on the console he had been working on. "Just one of our research teams returning from the Venusian surface."
"Returning….?" Lex cut off his own query as he caught sight of the nearby monitor showing a radiant circle just then appearing inside an otherwise dark chamber. Out of the circle stepped six figures in Kryptonian bodysuits; two female, and four male, all surrounded by yellowish fog.
"I suppose that settles the question of the progeny's powers if they just came from the surface of Venus," Marilyn whispered to the bodyguard.
"Yeah," the man nodded as he gaped at the images along with the others.
"Seal, and cycle the transport chamber," one of the figures called out. "All team members have arrived."
"Cycling now," Kal-El reported as he stabbed a button on a console he easily levitated up and over over to reach.
"You should have accompanied us, father," one of the males spoke over the transceiver they were apparently using. "We found some fascinating life forms near the core this time. They seem to thrive on the acidic minerals composing…."
"Later, Lo-El," Kal cut the enthusiastic young man off. "We have company. And we are…three hours and forty-three minutes solar standard time from launch."
"Understood, father. We'll download our findings, and join the launch crews."
"Do so," he replied as the monitor shifted to show the room had lost its dim illumination, but the circle and fog was gone, as well.
"A…transport chamber that reaches Venus," Lex asked.
"Child's play," Kal-El actually smiled at him. "Based on the earlier working prototypes of the JLA transporters, I simply adapted the concept to Kryptonian science, and created a device that can take one anywhere in the immediate solar system."
"My God," Dr. Carter gasped. "I have to know…what kind of power source are you using?" Kal-El glanced over at her. "I thought that would have been obvious, doctor. We use solar power."
"But…solar generators don't have the efficiency to…."
"Your solar generators, perhaps," Kal smiled thinly again. "But we don't use simple generators, or storage batteries. We use…well, in human terms, solar fusion."
"Solar…fusion," Lex murmured.
"An oversimplification, even by your standards, I am sure," Kal-El told him. "But, the actual technology behind the science would be too confusing to try explaining to you in the time allotted us. Now, if you will attend those women you are apparently so concerned about, I will await your decision on their status in three hours. That gives us a clear launch window of…forty-one minutes to clear all extraneous personnel from the citadel.
"And, Lex, I would appreciate a reply from you by then on your decision concerning Luna."
Lex nodded absently as Lan-El gestured. "This way, please. The cyber-stasis chamber is through here."
The ten humans followed the young Kryptonian hybrid out of Kal-El's work station, and down another long corridor. This time, they found themselves viewing the legendary interplanetary zoo some of them had heard about. The bizarre life forms visible through huge plates of tempered glass seemed completely unaware of them as they lived their simple lives behind the barriers in what appeared to be fantastically alien environments.
Then, finally, they entered a smaller chamber filled with over one hundred of the stasis coffins, as they considered them. Only thirty-two were actually being used, though, as was evidenced by the working consoles at the foot of each box.
"I am curious," Dr. Carter asked as they approached the first occupied pod, as Lan-El called it. "Just how many siblings have been created here since your father began this breeding program?"
"There are now some three hundred thousand of my siblings alive," Lan-El. "Though, of course, only the first fifty thousand were born of the host cells cultivated from these subjects. After that, we were able to use our own genetic base as breeding matrixes."
"Even this fortress could not contain three hundred thousand of you people," Robin realized.
"Of course not, which is why we require room to expand what will become New Krypton elsewhere."
"So where are all those other…Kryptonians," Lex asked coolly.
"The galaxy is a big place," Lan-El mirrored her father's bland smile as she triggered the opening sequence on the first pod. "We are constantly researching other worlds, or dimensions, in search of new knowledge. After all, as father pointed out, we are primarily a race of scientists."
"And do you all have the same meta human powers as your sire," Dr. Parker asked, finally looking away from the impressive banks of equipment that filled the room. He had not dared tried touching anything, though. The robotic drones were everywhere here.
"The first subject is awake," Lan-El told them as she allowed a nearby drone to open the pod.
"Wha's go'n on," a middle-aged brunette asked, not yet alert enough to realize she was completely naked before them.
"Dr. Terry Harlyn," Lex addressed her. "You are alive and well, madam, inside the Kryptonian fortress."
"Mr. Luthor," the woman blinked as she tried to sit up.
"Give your body time to recover from its stasis," Lan-El cautioned her as she offered the woman a gown that would cover her entire body.
"What…happened," Terry asked, blinking against the lights to stare around her. "One minute I was working in my lab, and the next…?"
"You don't recall coming down to the south pole to try to find this fortress," Lex asked her.
"Well, yes," she nodded as she slowly managed to sit up at last. "But that was years ago. We never found any trace of the place, so I went back to work at Chem-Org."
"No, doctor," Kala spoke up. "You were trapped in an ice storm, and found by one of Kal-El's robotic drones. They brought you here…over thirty years ago."
"Here? Thirty…years," the woman rasped, looking around at them. "I….I don't understand."
"I suggest we wake the others, and then attempt your explanations, and queries," Lan-El suggested. "That will prove more efficient considering the time constraints we are all operating under."
"I think it's interesting you thought you were back at work," Dr. Vance told the woman. "That tells us you must be a very dedicated woman."
"Dr. Harlyn was one of the foremost physicists on the planet thirty-two years ago," Lex told her quietly as he watched Lan-El approach another pod.
Terry Harlyn, still in shock from being woken out of what she had through was reality, could only sit there as she watched other women be roused from the metallic coffins that had apparently kept them all alive however many years they had been here.
Almost ironically, or by purpose, Lan-El did not come to Alexis' pod until the very last. Lex stared down at the sleeping features of his long lost child, his favorite daughter, and felt something clench in his chest.
He didn't for one moment think it was his heart. That had been replaced by a cybernetic pump years ago.
"She is waking," Lan-El informed them as she had thirty-one times before as the drone opened the pod.
Like the other injured members of the missing teams, Alexis looked confused, dazed, and sluggish. Unlike the others, she couldn't seem to make herself sit. She lacked the balance, and body weight needed to attempt such a basic movement with her legs missing. Then she lifted one of her clumsy arms, and stared.
"Do something," Lex demanded even as the red-haired young woman fainted.
"The shock will pass," Lan-El assured him as she inspected the readings on the console. "You have to realize she likely has no memory of her accident, and as the others, feels she just woke from what, to her, was a completely normal world."
"Maybe we should have left her sleeping, sir," Jacob Parker suggested grimly.
"She has to know. She has to have the chance to decide her own life," Lex growled. "No one, not even that sanctimonious alien bastard, has the right to decide our lives for us."
"By your own terminology, Mr. President," Lan-El remarked as impassively as ever. "My father could not be a bastard. He was birthed in the gestation chambers the same as each of us. His parents carefully chosen by…."
"I…don't….care," Lex spat at her as he looked down at his oldest child, so long thought dead.
"Emotional impulses are hardly conducive to logical decision-making at this point," the young woman told him blandly.
Lex swore softly as he shook his head. To think, he used to mock the alien when he lost his temper, and showed his apparently human side. Now, it was as if he, and all his bizarre progeny, had somehow simply excised their emotional sides in favor of their logical minds. It was a scientist's paradise, and a human nightmare.
"Fa…Father," Alexis murmured softly as her eyes fluttered open again just then.
"Lexi," he smiled down at her, touching her face as if to ensure she was real.
"What was the last thing you remember," he asked as the others, all the wakened hosts, and his own team, gathered around the pod. Of them all, Alexis had been in stasis the longest, being one of the first to have been taken.
"I was….flying out to London to attend a conference," she frowned. "Did….Did the shuttle crash," she asked, her lower lip trembling as she held up her arms, devoid of her hands.
"No, my dear," he sighed, shaking his head. "It's more complicated than that. Do you remember heading the team I sent down to find the Kryptonian fortress?"
"Yes, but…that was years ago. We didn't find anything no matter how hard we looked. So you called us all back."
Lex shook his head. "No, Lexi," he rasped, his throat thick with emotion. It was almost ironic that he, the most ruthless man on the planet, should be brought low like this.
"What…What happened, father," she asked calmly, visibly forcing herself to remain so.
"You were caught in a cave-in when you tried to drill under the ice pack. Most of your team died instantly. But you were…luckier, if you want to think of it that way."
"Luckier," she croaked, her calm shattering as she held up her forearms that ended in blunt stumps. "How? How could I be luckier?"
"You were found by the Kryptonian, and brought to his fortress. He's kept you in stasis all these years after he managed to save your life."
"Then…Superman is alive?"
"Superman," Lex remarked coolly, "is dead. But Kal-El is alive and well. And playing God. Or don't you recognize your daughter."
Alexis looked up at Lan-El, who stared impassively back at her.
"My…daughter? But…how is that…? That can't be…" She looked up at her father. "Explain," she demanded of him, her old spirit flaring in her bright, green eyes.
"First of all," he said as he spoke up, looking at all the women. "The alien didn't just save you. He used you. All of you," he said, gesturing at the other women around them. "As breeding stock."
The women all erupted in outrage and shock, as expected.
Lan-El simply stood there, as calm as ever, as if she truly had no real emotional state to present at all.
"Not quite as you are thinking," Lan-El calmed them. "He used cells from your bodies and genetically manipulated them so he could recreate his own dead race."
"His effectiveness was obvious, as this woman is but one of thousands of his kind," Lex spat, glaring at Lan-El.
"I'm too young to be a mother," Alexis spat, glaring at the woman that had much of her own features beneath her darker auburn hair.
"Hardly," Lex drawled. "Recall, you're now sixty years older than you think you are."
"Sixty. That's a hell of a birthday surprise," she drawled, glaring at him.
"All right, here is the rest of the story," he turned to address them all. "The alien is about to move his fortress off the earth. He is allowing any of your to go that wish to leave. For those of you," he said, trying not to look at Alexis, "that prefer it, he will continue to hold you in stasis until something can be done for your…injuries later."
"You'd leave us here," a young blonde missing an arm, and part of her remaining hand asked in horror.
"Not permanently. Only until we could learn enough to help you, and that is only if you don't want to try the current prosthetic replacements we do have available.
"I've been assured you would be well taken care of, and as you all know, you wouldn't even realize where you were, since the alien technology allows you to live out your lives…unaware of what has really happened to you."
"I want my real life," the blonde spat. "I don't care about dreams. I have a family…"
"Had a family," one of the other women reminded her. "I don't know about you, but I left home twenty-four years ago. I doubt my husband has been waiting around for me."
The blonde made a whimpering sound, and looked down at her feet.
"I can't," Lexi told her father then. "I'm sorry, father, but…I just can't go back. Look at me. And sixty years? I won't know anyone. No one my age….I mean…" She stopped and stared at him. "I'm not even sure how you're standing there. I mean, my God, sixty years!"
"I understand, Lexi," Lex told her. "Believe me, I do. And the moment we find some way to help you, tissue regeneration, or something, I'll be back for you. I promise."
"You said…he's launching the fortress? Where are we going," Lexi asked him, looking around.
"To the moon," he told her, glancing at Lan-El, who wore that same maddeningly, faint smile as before. "He's taking this fortress to the moon, so he and his people can…expand."
"So…I'd still be playing host to more children," she grimaced.
"No. That ended sometime ago, as I understand it."
"All the same, I can't go back like this, father. I….I will stay here. I guess I'm more vain than I realized, but…I cannot face the world like this," she rasped, glancing down at her ruined body.
Lex thought of his own efforts to escape aging and death, and smiled thinly. "I do understand, Lexi. And I'll be back for you. I promise."
"I love you, father," she said, reaching to embrace him with her stiff arms that ended just above the wrist. "Don't forget me," she begged.
"Never, my dear. Never," he promised with an uncharacteristic display of emotion as he hugged her back.
"Time is critical," Lan-El told the group as a drone closed the pod as Lexi stared up at them with overly bright eyes. "You have exceeded the time allowed already. You must decide now."
"I'm going home. Whatever there is left of it," Terry Harlyn spat. "I've had enough of living dreams for a lifetime."
"I want to go home, too," the maimed blonde agreed.
In all, twenty-nine of the women chose to return home, though five of them were less than physically perfect, they were still eager to return to their lives, whatever they might be. Lexi, and two others, however, could not. Bethany Clark, a once renowned adventurer, couldn't face life with both arms missing. Nor could Nellie Benson, who had been a world-class guide and climatologist. She had lost one leg, a hand, and most of her nose, which was covered by a surgical mask once again before she was placed back in her pod. Meanwhile, those departing were given standard bodysuits that would keep them warm until they reached civilization, and could arrange their own wardrobes.
"Let's go," Lex ordered the group grimly as he noted Lexi's tears had already dried, her features once more frozen in artificial slumber. He couldn't help but wonder what dreams might succor her this time, and prayed they would remain pleasant. After all, this time she would be taking the knowledge of her new reality with her into unconsciousness.
"Shall I inform father that you are agreeable to our using Luna, then," Lan-El asked impatiently as she escorted the much larger directly to the exit where a rover was waiting to take them all back to their own base camp.
"Yes. But, naturally, the world governments will be in contact with him shortly as well, to ascertain the status of our relationship with New Krypton," he told her, once more in full control of his composure and presence as they came into the waiting cameras' eye once more.
"He expects no less." She glanced at something only she could see before she turned to them as they boarded the waiting passenger rover. "And I suggest you clear the immediate area at once. We launch in seven minutes, and even father is uncertain what the backflow from the thrusters will do to the topology of the immediate area."
So saying, the woman with his daughter's features simply closed the portal on them, leaving them locked outside once more.
"Let's get out of here," the driver of the rover shouted as he detected the subtle trembling of the bridge beneath them.
"I agree wholeheartedly," Lex commented dryly as he climbed into the rover and took a seat.
"This is all so amazing," Dr. Harlyn was saying as she looked back at the citadel as it sat hovering over the abyss like a majestic ship of some kind.
"I am curious, Ms. Wayne." Dr. Parker noted as they drove back onto the main ice shelf, and headed for the base camp not one quarter mile away. "You said you have been working with the Kryptonian all along for some time. Just how long have you been aware of his presence, and his plans?" Kala glanced over her shoulder from where she sat at the man and merely smiled. "Getting nosy, doctor? I do recall we had an agreement about authorized information, and what I might be willing to do. Or share."
"You've already been here before. You knew all about this."
"Not all of it. Lord Kal-El has become as secretive as my father used to be," the brunette remarked. "He probably learned from him. By necessity," she added with a sidelong glance at Lex.
"That doesn't detract from the curious fact you knew the Kryptonian was alive and well long before any of us," Lex pointed out.
"I knew what he allowed me to know, Mr. Luthor," Kala told him. "As to being here before, no. This was my first trip. But his progeny, as well as he himself, are more than able to go where they wish undetected, as I believe you noted already."
"Yes," Lex remarked as they pulled up next to the main dome of the base camp.
"If you would allow me to say something," the one-armed blonde woman in a borrowed parka offered by one of the bodyguards commented. "It seems to me that we're still a little close to something that big if it's about to take off."
"She is right," Terry Harlyn agreed, her eyes quickly assessing the fortress. "Even if there are no appreciable shock waves, the sheer size of something with the apparent mass of that fortress is going to make a big disturbance. And considering the base of this plateau is already stressed by fractures created by the thing rising up from who knows how deep…."
She caught the expressions of many of the people on the rover staring at her. "I wasn't just a physicist. I also had a minor in geological studies."
"I am aware of that, Dr. Harlyn," Lex told her as he headed for the rover's door. "I did pick you for my team, as I recall. But there isn't anything on the ground that will get us far enough away in time. So it is best if we all get on my shuttle, and evacuate the area.
"We only have….four minutes, more or less," he pointed out as he led the way to his waiting shuttle.
"I'll call the others," Jacob said as he headed for the main dome. In one hand, he still clutched the small box he had been given containing the miracle serum.
"Forget the databanks, and just get the people out of there," Kala told him. "Any data you might have collected is about to become redundant anyway.
"She is right," Lex told the man as the near distant rumbling increased ever conscious of the cameras once more on them. "Get the people out of there. We don't have much time."
"We just got off the ground in time," the pilot told Lex fifteen minutes later as he came forward into the cockpit to monitor the fortress from there.
Lex could see the fortress was indeed rising from where it had settled. And he could also see that much of the ice shelf the base camp had been located on was already crumpling into a larger abyss formed by massive fractures beneath the rock and ice. Teri had been right. But he hadn't doubted her analysis. Far from it. Despite being over thirty years behind the times, he knew she was likely still one of the most gifted minds on the planet.
He wondered idly who the blonde was that had first voiced her concerns though. She had not looked more than twenty-five, but she had to have some wit about her to have figured out the danger. There had been so many people who had vanished in the polar region over the years that it had finally been sealed off by the global governments except for officially sanctioned research. That had not kept unsanctioned thrill-seekers from looking for the ultimate prize under the Antarctic ice. So there was no telling how many had actually died there. Or just who the young woman was.
He would have to find out. He did so hate mysteries.
"It is climbing higher," the navigator pointed out. "It's speed is increasing exponentially," he reported incredulously. "Yet there is no visible sign of thrust. It's just….going up."
"Impressive," Lex remarked as he watched the fortress ascend. He had always suspected the alien had a formidable intellect behind his more evident physique. Secretly, he had harbored a degree of jealousy over that potential fact, too. But to see the evidence of the Kryptonian's science and technology being so casually demonstrated before him now was…humbling.
And Lex Luthor, the most powerful and respected scientist and leader on the planet, hated that feeling. Absolutely hated it.
He thought of the green kryptonite he still had in a vault, and considered how he might use it to finally rid himself of this alien pest, but shook his head to rid himself of the notion. One superman might be a challenge. But a lunar Olympus filled with Kryptonians would be impossible to master. Three hundred thousand, that bitch had told him as if it meant nothing. In sixty years, the reclusive Kryptonian had somehow bred three hundred thousand of his kind. And now he was launching his citadel to the stars.
Instinct told him something else was going on. His concerns for Lexi had overshadowed that for a moment, but now he focused on that nagging doubt. That alien bastard was up to something. He could feel it. A lifetime of scheming had made him sensitive to such grandiose plots from others. And there was definitely one going on here.
"Tell me something, captain," he asked his pilot. "Best guess. At its current speed, how long would it take that thing to reach the moon?" The captain, a former shuttle pilot to the lunar colonies, scratched his head. The fortress was already out of sight, and nearing the limits of the shuttle's radar.
"If its current speed was constant, I'd say it would reach the moon in about six hours, give or take a few minutes, sir."
"I see. Thank you. Now set course for Washington, and alert my staff we'll be arriving ahead of schedule. Inform them this is a level two alert."
"Level two," the pilot nodded grimly. "Yes, sir."
He entered the spacious cabin now crammed with confused, and anxious women along with his research team, and looked around before he spotted her. They were all getting comfortable, he noted, but then his personal shuttle was built for comfort despite the numbers now occupying the cabin. Drinks and refreshments were being handed around, and several groups were forming of the like-minded as some of the women caught up on world events.
One of the woman sitting alone was the one-armed blonde. Predictably, the very difficult to approach Kala Wayne was also sitting alone. However, rather than staring moodily out a window as the young blonde did, she was focused on whatever it was she was working on as she tapped out codes on her personal computer link.
"My dear, I would like to help you, if I could," Lex told the blonde by way of introduction. "I'm not sure if you know me…"
"Of course, sir. Everyone knows you. You're the man that started that global federation movement. Of course, I hear it's not just a movement now, is it," she sighed as she looked back out the window where the ocean now appeared beneath them.
"No. It has been a reality for over forty years now."
"Forty years. I guess that is about how long we've been gone, then."
"My husband was with a British expedition that went down to investigate thermal variations at the pole. We thought we had found the source of the temperature flux when…."
She shook her head. "It's all fuzzy after that. I guess my husband didn't get back either," she asked him.
"We could find out easily enough," he told her. "Just give me his name," he smiled at her as he opened a nearby panel in the ship's hull, and revealed a concealed computer link.
"Oh. Scott. Scott Draven. Dr. Scott Draven," she stammered hopefully as she watched him input the name.
"Oh. I'm sorry. He died under mysterious circumstances when his research station exploded in 2052. Just about 40 years ago."
"Poor Scott," she sighed. "He would have loved to see that place. It's like a whole other world."
"It is a whole other world," he reminded her with a wide smile. "Krypton, in fact."
"Oh, right," she murmured, looking back to the window with a sigh.
"Is there anyone else you might know? Someone to meet you when we return to civilization."
"No. No one," she sighed, shaking her head. "I was an orphan when I met Scott in London. I was from Iowa," she admitted ruefully. "And he just swept me off my feet."
"What about his family?"
"I doubt they would care, if they're still around. Scott was from one of those stuffy, proper English families that hated the fact he wed a Yank. He was the black sheep as it was for becoming an environmentalist, rather than staying home and playing golf, or whatever."
Lex chuckled softly. "Some families are like that. Still, I daresay they would like to hear what happened to him from you."
"I just wish I could remember something. Anything."
"Maybe it is just as well you don't," he suggested. "It might have to do with the trauma of his end, and your own near death."
"I've been thinking about that ever since my brain figured out I'm not dreaming, that this is real, that maybe.…maybe it would be better if I had died. I mean, what have I got left out here?"
"You could have stayed in stasis?"
"Maybe," she muttered. "But that wouldn't be facing anything. Sooner or later, I'd have to," she told him.
"So…what was your background," he asked her. "What took you to London?"
She smiled. "I was on a grant to study to Oxford. Oceanography," she added when he arched a thin brow.
"I'm impressed. Even now, Oxford remains a most distinguished institution."
"Tell me something, Mr. Luthor…"
"Lex, please," he smiled, covering her maimed left hand in his, giving her a comforting squeeze.
"Lex," she smiled weakly. "Is the world any better? I mean, things were getting so bad forty years ago…"
"Well, we do still have our problems, but governments are learning to work together. We have fledgling colonies on some of the outer planets, and we've solved a lot of shortages by mining the asteroids. Hunger is not too much of an issue anymore, but we do have some diseases that continue to concern us. We are working on them, though."
"So…there is hope."
"My dear, dear lady," he told her. "There is always hope, Mrs. Draven."
"Evie," she told him. "My name is Evie."
"Well, you rest, Evie. And don't worry. I really would like to help you when we get back to civilization. We won't be able to give you a real arm back, but cybernetic replacements have really revolutionized prosthetics these days. I think that might help you until we can master tissue regeneration."
"I don't have a job," she shrugged. "How would I pay for anything?"
"We'll work on that," he winked at her as he rose. "I do have a few connections."
"Another conquest, Lex," Kala asked as he sat beside her after seeing the attendants saw to Evie's needs.
"You aren't jealous, are you?"
Kala's arched brow was eloquent.
"I do suppose it was wishful thinking. You've got too much of your father in you. And not nearly enough of your mother."
"I suppose this visitation has a purpose?"
"Oh, most certainly. I'm curious, Kala. What is the Kryptonian really up to? Or has he held out on you, too?"
"What do you mean?"
"I know that considering our history, I might seem…suspicious. But hear me out," he asked her as she closed her private link on her armband.
"You're the president. For now," she added.
"Yes," Lex drawled. "My point is, Super… Kal-El, could have just shot off into space and dropped that fortress down anywhere he wanted, and we could have done nothing about it. Nothing. So, why would someone with that kind of power and ability play at making nice with a world he turned his back on over sixty years ago."
"In other words, how did he survive your trap, and why is he back in your face now?"
"Am I that transparent," he asked.
"Father did teach me how to read people. Some people better than others."
"I'm lucky he didn't stick to business. He might have bankrupted me. Bruce was quite a competitor in any arena."
"He'd never like you using his first name so casually," Kala pointed out.
"I know," Lex smiled, far less pleasantly.
"I really do know no more than you, Lex," she told him. "About fifteen years ago, after dad died, one of Kal-El's kids showed up, and asked me to continue in his stead."
"I assume he didn't mean as some vigilante. Although hearing them called kids certainly leaves…doubts about their heritage."
Kala merely stared at him. "And calling you merely human leaves lots of room for doubt, too, Mr. President," she drawled.
"Touché," he nodded. "So, what is this about your father's role?"
"I can tell you a little, because I know Kal-El wouldn't care. He likely expected this little interrogation of yours. Anyway, from what I learned, you might like to know Kal-El really did almost die way back when. My dad had been on his way back from a League crisis, and tracked his fall. He went in covertly…."
"Yes, he was good at that."
"Do you mind," Kala scowled.
"Sorry. Please, go on."
"He found Kal-El easily enough, but he was pretty bad off from what his journals indicate. He brought him back to the bat-cave," she told him, actually cringing at the silly appellation of her legendary father's lair. "It took him weeks to heal. He was injured that badly. Only he had yet to even speak in all that time. Dad thought he might have been mentally affected by oxygen deprivation, or the radiation from the green-k. He just wasn't sure. Finally, he called in Diana."
"The Amazon. Right. I remember her."
"Yes, well, he thought her being the product of divine magics, she might know something he didn't that would help. He guessed Diana carried him to wherever it is she goes, and that was it. For almost ten years, there was no word of Kal-El in dad's journals."
"And then he just showed back up. But…he was different. Dad stressed that, as if he knew someone would be reading his words someday."
"And the point of all this drivel is," he asked with a weary sigh.
"You see? That's always been your biggest problem, Lex," Kala told him bluntly. "You don't stop to consider the motivations that drive others."
"On the contrary," he smirked. "I am quite aware of what drives my competitors. It's how I manage to…circumvent them so effectively."
"I am not talking about greed or politics. I'm talking about human emotions."
"Don't you mean, Kryptonian emotions?"
"Whichever you call it, Kal-El was raised as a human."
"Yes, yes. I've heard all the speculative folklore."
"Let me assure you, it is true. He lived a very human life until he felt compelled to take up the mantle of Superman."
"Which was, no doubt, a noble undertaking all along."
"Do you wish me to finish?"
Lex sighed as the woman actually chided him. "Sorry. Old habit. Please, do go on."
"Ten years," Kala told him. "And then Kal-El showed up in dad's…place again. He told him he was finished. He actually handed him his uniform. Then he told him that if he was smart, he'd quit, too, before the people turned on him, too."
"Which, naturally, he didn't. He was still fighting his good fight right up to the moment he died. Which was how the world learned he and Batman were one and the same."
"Ancient history now, Lex. The point is, dad never did what he did just for the people. He was too cynical. Too practical."
"An intelligent man. No wonder I admired him."
"The point is, that drive brought Kal-El back to him later. Kal-El wanted to get a full background and understanding on all the latest genetic knowledge on the human genome available. With dad's computer linked to his own, he could hook into any database, and acquire knowledge even the mainstream scientific community wasn't aware existed."
"Yes. A shame that remarkable machine was destroyed by his enemies after his death."
"Isn't it," she agreed.
"Something tells me you know far more about the alien than you're telling," Lex commented at last.
Kala merely smiled.
"I don't suppose I could persuade you to share?"
"Even Syriac couldn't make me tell you what I know," she informed him blandly.
"You know about Syriac?"
"Lex, Lex, Lex. I thought you knew. I built Syriac for you. Under a holding company, of course, but it was Wayne-Tech's work."
"I have obviously underestimated you, Ms. Wayne," he nodded at her.
"Many do," she remarked blandly.
"What of this work you are doing with the alien now?"
"You still can't accept him, can you," she smirked at him as she shook her head.
"He never belonged on this planet."
"Destiny. Fate. Whatever. It disagreed with you."
"You haven't answered me."
"No, I haven't."
"What will you tell me?"
"That he is still earnest in aiding us. Just not so…physically. The immunity serum is real. So are many other technologies he has proposed to share with humanity. He knows he can't just hand out some of his knowledge and technology to anyone and everyone at large. So he wants to work within the system, to better reach those who truly need help. And you do know that even our 'ideal' world you just described to Mrs. Draven needs help."
"Yes. But that is the point of life. Striving to overcome. We are not primitives that need to sit and wait for some god to hand us what we need. This isn't paradise, and I don't buy into the benevolent spectator for one minute."
Kala laughed. "He said you would say that. Which is why I'm to hand you this."
"What is it?"
"It won't bite," she laughed at him as she held the small file disk out to him she had taken from her personal computer's band.
"I reiterate. What is it?"
"It's the stuff of dreams, Lex. The stuff of dreams. It's also a personal invitation to attend the founding, and official ceremony marking the founding of New Krypton. After which time, Kal-El said he would give you a personal token that would convince, and I quote, 'Even a malicious, cold-hearted cynic like Lex Luthor.'"
"That…" He glared at her. "That sounds just like something he would say."
"Ball's in your court, Lex, as dad used to say. Now, if you don't mind, I do still have work to do. I've got a problem in my east India plant, and I need to work on it."
"Ah, the joys of business. I shall leave you to your work, Ms. Wayne. Perhaps I could convince you to join me for supper some night, though?"
Kala didn't even reply as she simply arched another sardonic brow as she focused on the wrist computer she had opened once more.
"I don't like this one bit," General Victors huffed as he looked over the lunar images from the latest satellite passing the far side of the moon. "Not one bit."
"I don't believe any of us do, general," Lex told the man as they looked at the images before them. "However, we don't seem to have a lot of choices here."
"You shouldn't have committed the NAF so readily."
"It was a command decision," Lex told the head of the NAF's defense grid.
"A bad one, from where I'm sitting," he fumed back. "That fortress thing has already settled on the moon, and it looks as if it's already doubled its size in less than a week. They could be doing anything up there. And there is no telling what manner of weaponry these aliens could command."
Lex was almost glad he had yet to say anything about the Kryptonians' transport chamber. Ian Victors would be sure to love that one.
"And now you tell us we're supposed to let you fly up there alone to attend some kind of ceremony marking the official acceptance, and founding of this alien colony in our solar system?"
"The Kryptonians have proved honest to date," one of the advisors pointed out. "The immunity serum has already helped wipe out virtually all disease in the NAF's territory. And our people are looking over the holo-book tech now. And there is so much more yet to even preview."
"I still don't like it," the old general spat.
"As I said. None of us do, General Victors. Which is why I have a solution to a potential problem. And it requires absolute secrecy if it is to work."
Ian Victors stared at his commander and waited.
"I need four men to serve as an escort. They're to dress innocuously, as simple aides. However, I need them to help carry critical equipment that will require them to be proficient in basic arms technology."
Ian smiled. A cold, ruthless smile. "I have just the men."
"Good. I'll brief you later. Frankly, the less known by too many, the better."
"Understood," Ian nodded, knowing exactly what kind of man Lex was, and caring only that he knew how to protect their own territory.
Lex nodded back as he considered that cryptic message from the Kryptonian. Token of trust, indeed. He hadn't gotten to where he was by trusting. The last time he had trusted anyone, he had lost his right lung when the assassin had put a knife through his chest. And that had been his own fifth wife on their honeymoon night. Needless to say, she hadn't survived the night.
"I've got your token," he growled at the image of Superman he still carried in a corner of his memory. A memory that had risen like a phoenix in his mind, stirring old ashes of bitterness to life with it. This time, he knew, he would finally beat the alien once and for all. This time, he had all the aces.
The ceremony was dull even by earth's political standards. Kal-El merely voiced the usual platitudes anyone in power used when assuring those less able, and less fortunate that he was no threat. That he was, in fact, looking forward to once more helping herald in a new era of peace and prosperity for all of Terra.
The planet was called Earth, and the alien damn well knew it.
Lex nodded at his escort as the long, droning ceremony finally ended and they were allowed inside the newest structure that would serve as embassy for Terran representatives. The lunar colonists were already working with the aliens in some cases, and they had augmented, and perfected their own colony domes, and helped ease supply issues that cut their dependence on Earth. Lex wasn't sure he liked that either.
His four men followed him into the embassy, and then they had to stop as Kal-El informed him where he had to go was off limits to all others. Lex, however, would be allowed to join him shortly. "I shall send a drone for you when I'm ready."
"That's fine. I'd like to see my daughter while I'm here, too. I don't know when I'll get another chance to visit with my schedule," he had told the alien, straining to be polite.
"Of course," Kal-El had told him, giving him that same maddening smile he had apparently adopted since his return to public life.
"Now," Lex turned his head so fast his features seemed to belong to two different men as he wiped the smile off his face, and snapped the order at his escort once the alien had gone.
"Jammers online," one of the men nodded as the other three began to assemble a small device out of the pieces of a device they were carrying on their person.
As part of the official entourage for the NAF president, no one had dared scan them. Now, they proved they were well aware of that fact, and had used it to their benefit.
"The primer," the sergeant ordered, holding out his hand as one of the men put a small cylinder into his hand.
"The device is ready to go, Mr. President," the soldier smiled coolly. "We just need the payload."
"Right here," Lex matched his smile as he opened his belt buckle, and drew out a small cube of thin, processed green-k that had been purified for maximum strength.
"Perfect," the sergeant nodded as he loaded the cube into the small warhead they then hid behind a portable cloaking shield beneath a table. "When this goes off, it'll permeate everything within five miles with the kryptonite residue. They'll be forced to leave the fortress, or die. If they survive the initial explosion," the munitions expert smiled.
"Timer is set at one hour, and ten minutes. Ten minutes after our departure time," the man told him as Luthor watched him hide the bomb from his admittedly comfortable chair despite its peculiar design.
"Excuse me, please, sirs," a drone appeared even as they cleared away the evidence of their perfidy. "The Master requires your presence, Mr. President,. If you will follow me, sir," the drone hovered over Lex where he had taken a chair only seconds before the drone entered.
"I feel like some peasant being summoned before the king," he muttered darkly.
"Shall we prepare your shuttle for the return flight, sir," the sergeant asked him as they stood when he did.
"Yes. I want to leave as soon as possible. Whatever else is going on here, I still have responsibilities on Earth, after all."
That last was said for the alien's benefit, who just might be looking in on them if he had detected that brief bit of jamming by their equipment while they had prepared the surprise for the alien's ceremonial finish.
"Father," Alexis smiled at him when he stepped into a lush, ornate office.
Lex froze, frozen in genuine shock for one of the few times in his life as he stared at his perfectly healthy and whole, now completely restored daughter standing up from a low, crescent-shaped couch.
"Mr. President," Kal-El gave him that enigmatic smile as he nodded to Lexi. "Might I present my token of trust I mentioned, and the first official Terran liaison to New Krypton."
"Liaison," Lex gaped as he took in the svelte image of Lexi standing before him in a Kryptonian bodysuit.
"That was my idea, father," she smiled at him, the old arrogant spark back in those green eyes. "When Kal-El revived me again, I realized I had the whole world before me once again. I also realized there was a great deal I could learn from him and his people."
Lex shook his head. "I don't understand."
"She isn't a clone," Kal-El told him.
"How did you know I…?"
"I don't read minds," Kal-El told him. "You just made a logical leap, and it showed on your face. Alexis is just an example of how much more we can offer you and the planet, Lex. Full tissue regeneration is too advanced to just be handed over to your people as yet, but there are other equally beneficial offerings to be made if you wish to continue relations."
"And why not allow those others, everyone else, to benefit from this?"
"I am not a fool, Lex," Kal-El told him flatly. "We both know how unscrupulous people might manipulate and exploit this technology if I simply handed it over to you. No. For now, this is an ability that will remain central to our own medical tech.
"However, as to the others," he said, nodding at Alexis.
She pushed a button on the desk and a door opened, and Lex stared as two women he had last seen looking much the worse for wear entered the room. Bethany Clark, and Nellie Benson smiled as they entered the room. "Greetings, Mr. President. I do believe we have surprised you," Bethany Clark remarked as the two women joined them in the room.
"Yes. I do believe you have," Lex finally recovered to smile at them.
"Now, do I have your full attention, Mr. President," Kal asked him.
"More than that," he admitted, still glancing back to Alexis again, and again.
Kal-El simply nodded. "We both carry a lot of grief from the past. We share a history that may never completely be lain to rest. However, I am proposing a new start. A new life, for all humanity, if you will accept my hand in peace."
Kal held out his hand. Carefully, reluctantly, Lex reached out and took it.
Rather than crushing his hand, a man who could have pulped his hand with ease in spite of his cybernetic enhancements merely shook it briefly. "I do hope we can find an accord, Lex. In memory of all those that have come before, let us look forward to all those yet to come."
"Fine words. But," he said, glancing at his watch. "I do have other matters to tend to on Earth. Alexis, I really wish you would come back with me. If only for a little while."
"I just started my new job, father," she smiled at him. "Give me time to get used the idea of being part of the new century. I'll visit soon though. I promise."
But Lex couldn't get over the fact that his daughter's very admiring gaze was spared solely for the alien. Once, she had looked at him like that. She had seen him as God on Earth. Now she was looking at that alien like he was….
Lex shook his head. "Well, I do hope you will come visit soon. But I do have to go. Meanwhile, I don't suppose you would consider sharing that regenerative technique with those other women who….."
"Already done, Lex," Kal gave one of his bland smiles. "While you were here, I sent Lan-El to visit the women who were left marked, to treat them for their wounds. By the time you return, they will completely restored."
"Amazing," he murmured as he made a show of looking at his watch once more. "Well, we will definitely have to meet again soon," he told the alien as he turned to go. "Before I go, I do have one question."
"And that is?"
"You seemed to have spared only women," Lex remarked, eyeing the three women again. "What of all the men that disappeared in the region? That were part of the many search teams trying to reach your fortress?"
"Most died. Others left of their own devices. But not everyone on the continent was involved in seeking my citadel, and I wasn't spending much time overseeing their presence. Frankly, as I had little use for them, those that were close to me were simply left to their own devices, wherever it led them."
"I see. You do seem to have grown….callous, Kal-El," he remarked. "I would love to stay and discuss a few other matters with you, but I do have pressing business."
"Of course," Kal-El nodded, and Lex would have sworn he looked…disappointed.
"We're six minutes out," the pilot told Lex as he sit in the navigator's place in the cockpit, wanting a ringside seat when New Krypton suffered its first major blow.
"Just keep our speed down so we stay within view for the next four minutes," he ordered the pilot, who had no idea why.
"One minute," Lex grinned a feral smirk as he counted the seconds.
And then the entire world turned bright orange.
"Hello, Lex," a figure in black floated before him as he slowly came to after what felt like hours. He was surrounded not by attendants, or aides, but by the bleak vacuum of space. And a great deal of debris.
"In case you're wondering," Kal-El told him, "I'm using a cyber-transceiver to speak to you. You were lucky. If you hadn't been wearing your spacesuit, you would have died instantly with the others in spite of your cybernetic body."
"What…happened," he demanded as he looked around, seeing the globe of the moon floating just beyond his vision.
Kal-El smiled. This time, it was not a pretty smile.
"My drones spotted your package, and thought you had simply forgotten something you left behind. They loaded it back onto your ship before you left. Imagine our surprise when your shuttle exploded less than ten minutes after leaving Luna."
"But…" He stared around in confusion.
"Are you looking for this," Kal asked, holding out the small, glowing green cube in his bare hand.
"You've gotten sloppy, Lex. That's not like you. Surely you should have realized that after a century of being fueled by solar energy here on Terra, that my body would build an immunity to the radiations from green-k?" He tossed the green rock spinning into space with a casual backhand as he cocked his head at Lex. "It seems your suit was ruptured. You have less than a minute of oxygen left, Lex."
"So…save me, damn you."
Lex stared at his longtime nemesis who merely smiled again. "You're confusing me with someone else, Lex. One of New Krypton's foremost precepts is not to interfere in Terran affairs. I believe I explained that when you mentioned the men that died in the Antarctic. I left the mantle of hero behind long ago. So, you'll excuse me if I don't expend the energy to violate our government's first precept you yourself applauded."
"You'd…let me die?"
"As far as Terra is concerned, you are dead. It's been over an hour since your ship exploded, and somehow, you had already drifted out of the debris field that the colonists searched earlier."
"Damn you, this is your doing!"
"Not at all," Kal-El shook his head as Lex sucked air with difficulty. "It was just a freak accident. One you could have avoided if you had just accepted my token as a genuine offer."
"Lexi," he rasped, his eyes bulging as he started to find it harder to breathe as even his cybernetic systems began to fail. Even he still required air, after all.
"Don't worry. She will make a fine ambassadorial liaison," Kal-El smiled again. That less than endearing smile. "And in time, I might just make her my first true consort."
"Air's gone, Lex. I must say, you lasted longer than I thought. Must have been your cybernetic implants. But don't worry. You're leaving your country, your world, and your daughter, in good hands. You remember Kala? She's going to be the next federation president in your stead," he told the man who was choking now. Gasping for air that wasn't there.
"She's also one of mine," he added with a smile that Lex carried with him into oblivion.
Lex would have cursed him. Threatened him. But, of course, by then, Lex Luthor was far beyond doing anything.
"Too bad, Lex," Kal-El smiled. "But we all have to face our losses. It's part of life," the Kryptonian told him with cold, blue eyes as the dead man floated away into space after the lightest of taps. "And naturally, part of life is how you deal with loss."
The silent darkness was punctuated by a brief burst of crimson as lethal crimson beams of pure energy consumed the humanoid shape spinning out into the void, eradicating every trace of his former opponent.
"You should have done that years ago," a voice spoke in his ear through his transceiver.
"I had to give him a final chance. I suppose it was just second nature to both of us," he told Kala as she flew up beside him, her own bodysuit a stylized version of her father's. Her terrestrial father's. For while Bruce Wayne had been her father, her mother had been one of Kal-El's first daughters. Another slip Lex had made not to have considered that possibility.
"Think of all the suffering you would have ended had you done that earlier."
"We all learn in our own time, and our own ways. I am going back to New Krypton. Will you be attending the funeral?"
"Of course. As his successor, I do have my duties."
Kal-El nodded. "We'll be waiting."
Kala smiled. "So will I, grandfather."
The easy smirk reminded him of another smirk. Lois, he knew, would have liked the brash, cocky woman. "We will be waiting," he echoed again as he turned toward the not too distant moon.
Kala turned with a wave, and flew back toward Terra, her own smile confidant as the subtle plans they had been making to guide the planet's governments moved slowly, but inexorably into place. New Krypton wasn't going to be a cold, lifeless city on the moon. Not at all. Humanity was about to learn that firsthand. They would just learn too late to resist. Krypton's last great son would soon do what Jor-El had envisioned long before his son had reached the planet. He would soon be remaking the troubled globe over in the image of his own home world.
And avenging all who had suffered under the old regimes that clung to power in the process.
To Be Continued......