Arrival

© Dylan Clearbrook

(Author's note: This is the beginning of the Continuum Worlds: Multivere stories where Kara and Crew leave Otherverse and are relocated in The Multiverse and follows immediately after a three part Otherverse story called "Crisis Revisited" and flows directly from that story. Unfortunately, since "Crisis Revisited" was a collaborative effort with another writer, and I do not have permission to post it on , it can only be read at the Continuum Worlds. )

"From a Distant world...yet our own will she come! Through a ripple in space and time, from a crisis again will she appear and she, and those that come with her, will call our world home! From another Earth she will come, and other Earth's she will visit. And she will bind those worlds in an alliance...but who knows if even that will be enough to deliver our worlds from..."

The Last words of Dr. Stephen Strange as recorded by his daughter, Dr. Stephanie Strange, in 1986

Prologue

Otherverse

Ripple Strike

2001

"I still think we should have sent you to Ian's tower!" Kara glared at Carrie and Karen, her countenance softening as they looked back at her.

"We wouldn't have gone." Carrie had the nerve to answer honestly.

"We're here and this is where we belong." Karen added. Kara shook her head and looked around.

They were once again gathered in the lounge, this time with a large table set up to house the temporarily displaced Kandorians. Kara sighed and pulled what appeared to be a large playing card from the breast pocket of her leather jacket.

"Ian!" She shivered. The card, feeling cold in her hands, was more than a simply playing card. The face of the card had been painstakingly painted to portray an exact likeness of Lord Ian. Now, as she held the card, the face swirled and the image seemed to move, the eyes turning to lock with hers.

"Would you like me to pull you through?" Ian's voice seemed to ring in her mind as she shook her head.

"No, I just wanted to make sure that the rest of the Kandorians were there and safe." She didn't speak aloud; knowing that verbalization was unnecessary.

"They are here," was the instant reply. "I am already tapping into the computer systems they left on the station to preserve information they have already gathered and to utilize its equipment to monitor the Passage of the Ripple." The image on the card paused momentarily. "Zal is here and is demanding that I pull you through, with or without your permission."

"You try and I will cut the connection instantly." Kara warned, moving one hand so that she could, if necessary, cover the face of the card, effectively ending the communication. "The Kandorians had a good concept. We can't afford to have all our eggs in one basket. If something happens to us, at least you and Zal will still be around to pick up the pieces, and vice versa."

"Agreed." Ian's voice in her mind grudgingly replied. "I must end now. There are some matters I must attend to before the Ripple hits." There was another slight pause. "Take care, Kara Zor-El. We shall meet again."

"You take care!" Kara countered. "And tell Zal…tell my brother to take care as well. He will make a good Superman for this world!"

There were no further words, yet Kara had the impression that Ian nodded…and then the connection was broken, the card no longer cold in her hands. Carefully she slid the card back into the breast pocket of her jacket.

"Here it comes!" Jenny called out. Everyone tensed, moving into closer around the large table. As if by instinct, hands reached out to clutch hands. Jenny threw her hands up over her head and green light spewed from her fingers, flowing out and around to form a dark green, translucent bubble around everyone.

And the Ripple passed over the Earth!

Between

An instant forever, nowhere and everywhere.

Beyond the green glow of the bubble, nothingness…and everything. Colors swirled and flashed, worlds solidified and faded away.

There was sound, but no movement.

Carrie and Karen could only watch helplessly as Kara screamed, the gash on her cheek reopening, and then fading away, as if it had never been.

Bright spots of blood appeared on Rogue's uniform, indicating that the healed wounds she had received were reopening.

Lar screamed in pain as blood gushed from his torn eye. Just to fade and reveal a whole…seeing eye where there had been only an empty socket. The scars no longer visible.

Then….nothingness.

Chapter 1:

Reconstruction

Metropolis

Lexcorps HQ

Penthouse

2003

Metropolis was the model of reconstruction. Here and there were monuments and bare spaces, left as grim reminders of those horrible days. But for the most part, Metropolis had recovered and even prospered. Gleaming towers reached for the clouds and sprawling suburbia spread outward.

The haze of pollution, so long a constant companion of the city, no longer hung over the city.

Vehicles, some hovering just above the heated road surface, others streaming along traditional wheels, once again clogged the highways as commuters made their way to and from work, yet pollution was hardly a concern. Scientific advancements and the desperate need had done away with the smog emitting engines. Not grim, perhaps, but yet another reminder of those horror-filled days.

Throughout the world, it was much the same. True, there were some areas that had not even begun to rebuild. And there were other areas that had no need.

Yet reconstruction was continuing still in most parts as people in all lands once again lifted their eyes to the sky…in pride and defiance.

And it was a much colder place as those that looked up…noted that something was missing…something…or someone.

Mercy stepped out of the shower, toweling her hair and then wrapping it in the towel before slipping on a light housecoat.

Stepping out of the luxurious master bath, she made her way through the almost decadent bedroom into the spacious living area.

The lights, dim before she entered, automatically brightened as she stepped into the room and looked around.

Usually she would find him sprawled on the couch, remote in his hand, flipping through channels on the holoset, or pacing back and forth, a phone stuck in his ear, giving orders or receiving reports of the day's activities.

Now he was nowhere in sight. With a sigh, Mercy turned and walked across the burgundy carpet and stood at the sliding doors that lead to the grand balcony. From here, one could look out and view Metropolis in all its night time splendor.

And it was here that she found him, leaning against the rail, an untouched martini in his hand, gazing out.

She often found him here, so was not too surprised. He came here when the memories weighed too heavy. When he needed to get away…when he needed to relive the past.

It was hard, sometimes, competing with ghosts, but Mercy never complained. They all, everyone, had ghosts. Loved ones, brides, husbands, parents and children.

Stepping out, Mercy came up next to him, taking the martini glass and setting it on one of the tables.

She paused as she glanced at the object on that particular table, reaching out to touch the fused alien metal before returning to him and snuggling up against him.

Lex Luthor smiled down at her, wrapping his arm around her shoulder before turning his attention back to the city.

"I'm doing it again, aren't I?" He asked.

"Yes you are." She answered without anger. "But it's okay. If anyone has a right to mourn, it is you…even after all this time."

"Mourn?" Lex looked down at her, a puzzled look on his face. "Is that what it is? Mourning?" He shook his head and looked back out again. "I wouldn't call it mourning. Honoring, remembering. But not mourning." He sighed. "I finished mourning long ago…but I will never forget. I can't."

"You can't because you've never forgiven him for stealing Lois from you." Mercy teased.

"Maybe that's it." He chuckled and pulled her close to him. "No, Lois picked the right man. I know that now. I knew it then. There was never anything to forgive. And it never came between us."

He was silent as the memories rushed back.

He had been there when Clark had received the first alarm from his Fortress of Solitude. Someone, or something, had breached the Phantom Zone.

While Clark sped towards the Antarctic, another alarm sounded. Someone had attacked and killed Dr. Strange and had caused every detection device on the planet to go haywire at the same moment.

And as Clark touched down at his Fortress, the third alarm sounded.

While he stared in horror at the red and blue bundle before the door of the massive fortress, while he discovered that seven criminals had escaped from the Zone and pulled his boyhood friend out with them, Khund fighter craft dropped from the heavens in specifically targeted areas around the world, their bombs and lasers destroying the major governmental seats of the world powers.

While Clark's friend, Mon-El, died a slow painful death, troop carriers appeared in the skies, dropping to earth and disgorging hundreds of thousands of Khund warriors.

That was the summer of 1986. The year the earth almost ceased to exist.

After Washington, Metropolis had been the next target for those forces assaulting the North American Continent.

Unlike Washington, however, the aim was not to obliterate, but to crush resistance.

And so the Khunds entered the city, killing and destroying as they went. And they were not alone.

The seven escaped Phantom Zone criminals had spread out across the world, joining with the Khunds, making them an unbeatable force…even if the Terrans had had weaponry advanced enough to put up more than a token resistance.

Across the globe it was the same. The Khunds landing, destroying, rounding up those Terrans they did not kill outright and herding them onto their massive transports. The fate of those captives was never learned.

"You did what you could do, Lex." Mercy's voice brought him back to the present. "You even led your own teams in assaults against the Khunds."

"Hah!" Lex snorted and turned away from the view, pulling a chair and seating himself at the table that bore the strange device. "I would be ash if it had not been for my people and the Golden Girl."

The Golden Girl. Mercy shook her head. She had not seen the mysterious Golden Girl that came blazing out of the sky in green flame, swatting Khunds and Kryptonians aside like so many matchsticks. Thousands claimed to have seen her, but no pictures, not videos, no actual proof existed to show that she had been real.

"Lex, you know the UEG Medical Director has determined that the Golden Girl was merely a mass hallucination." Mercy ventured.

"The UEG Medical Director is a quack and we both know it!" Lex snorted. "I wish Banner had not stepped down."

"He was all but forced to resign, Lex, thanks to the Friends of Humanity." Mercy grimaced. "If anyone shouldn't have stepped down, it is you!"

"I couldn't do it anymore, Mercy." Lex shook his head. "Besides, I was the one that pushed for mandatory presidential term limits, remember? I served my two terms and that was all I could do."

He reached out and picked up the alien device, flipping it over and over in his hands.

"I pushed for the Unified World Government when those idiots just wanted to revive the United Nations." He recollected. "When they elected me the first president, I pushed our people to study and copy and learn from the Khund and Kryptonian technology. I pushed to restart the Space programs around the globe. I am the one who got the ball rolling on the terraforming of Mars and Venus, I am the one that gave reconstruction a jump start!"

Mercy listened without saying a word. There was no need to remind Lex that those same accomplishments, accomplishments that had earned him the adoration of a majority of the world's population, had also earned him a great many enemies.

It never ceased to amaze her how people reacted to Lex. She often wondered if her own devotion to him was due to that unknown…aura…that seemed to surround him.

She had been part of his Assault teams back in '86 and '87. And then, after his election to the UEG presidency, she had assumed the position of his personal body guard and his liaison with Sec-Pol, the UEG global police agency.

She smiled now as she recalled the day Lex had stepped down as President and resumed his position as CEO of LexCorps. He had told her, quite clearly, that if she wished to remain his body guard, then she would just have to marry him.

She remembered being furious with the man. How DARE he accuse her of nagging him like a wife!

"Besides," Lex went on, smiling once again, "you try to convince Johnny Storm that his lady love is a mere hallucination!"

Mercy giggled at that. Johnny's infatuation with the Golden Girl was secretly a source of amusement.

Johnny was one of the few who actually came face to face with the Golden Girl. She was, according to his description, the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. Deep golden skin, blond hair and blue eyes (dark blue irises with a black pupil surrounded by a very light blue where an earth man's eyes would be white) and pointed ears…like an elf!

She had saved him from the guns of a Khund Warrior, whisking him to safety.

The way he described it, the moment their eyes met, a shock had passed between them…and Johnny was convinced that he had met the love of his life.

It had also been Johnny that had handed in the report that the Golden Girl had been forced to retreat…badly injured. She had not been seen since. But Johnny was convinced that she was not dead…and that she would return…someday.

"I think I'd rather convince him that the sun is green." Mercy admitted. She shook her head. "And as for Bruce, Sue says he is happier than ever now, working for Reed!" She pushed away from the railing and ran her hand over Lex's bald pate. "And that reminds me…Reed and Sue should be here soon. You DO remember that you invited them over for dinner, don't you?"

"Of course." Lex smiled, taking her hand in his and bringing it to his lips. "You go get ready. I will be there in a moment."

Mercy frowned and sighed but did as he said, leaving him on the balcony…with his memories…for just a little longer.

Lex twirled the device in his hands and shook his head.

Such a small thing…and yet it saved us. It saved us all…and doomed others.

Lex looked up into the star filled sky as his memories once again ranged back.

Memories that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

His eyes closed as the faces passed before him. Clark Kent, Pete Ross, Lana Lang, Lois Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Steve Trevor, Bruce Wayne, Diana Prince, Oliver Queen, Billy Batson, Mary Bromfield, J'onn J'onzz, Ray Palmer, Arthur Curry, Barry Allen, the list went on. Not all the people on the list had super powers or extraordinary abilities, but they were all heroes. And they had all died trying to preserve the two things they cherished more than life itself…Freedom and the Human race!

So many…and for what? Lex hefted the artifact in his hands, as if he were about to hurl it over the railing…and then gently placed it back on the table.

The battles had raged around the globe. The Mage, Mordru, had sent the Khunds, and released the Zoners…and then departed. As if he could care less about the outcome. He had come for one thing…to steal the power of Dr. Strange. Whether he got what he came for no one could say. But once Strange was dead, Mordru seemed to have lost all interest in the fate of the world upon which he had unleashed massive destruction.

The Khunds were not invincible. In fact, had it not been for the Zoners, the heroes would have been able to beat the Khunds back into space before too long.

But the Zoners were there and they were responsible for the deaths of many heroes…including Clark Kent…Superman!

That was the day Lex hated to remember most. It was to be a day of deliverance…and loss.

Superman, with Lex and three teams of LexCorps soldiers, had stormed a Khund command post…only to find it manned not only by Khunds, but by three Zoners…Jax-Ur, Dr. Xadu, and Prof. Vakox.

It had ended with Jax, Xadu, and Superman lying dead on the floor in the control center, with Lex, in his power armor, and a handful of surviving troops facing a Kryptonian exposed to yellow Kryptonite…Prof. Vakox.

The insane Kryptonian scientist had screamed at them in Kryptonian….a language Lex could read fluently, thanks to Clark, but could only understand a few spoken words.

Vakox had held the object Lex now held in his hands…over his head, his eyes wide, foam frothing from his lips…and pressed the object's only switch.

Later Lex would recall feeling dizzy and then feeling a wrenching pain within…as if someone had reached in to his guts, grabbed his very soul…and yanked part of it out!

And then nothing. The object, fused, fell to the floor, rolling back and forth.

Of Vakox, there was no sign…nor was there any sign of the dead zoners…only Superman's body remained.

Around the globe it was the same story. At the same instant, reports came in detailing the sudden disappearance of the Zoners. (All the reporters also reported a spell of dizziness at the same moment)

There was, however, no time for rejoicing…just as there was no time for grieving. The Zoners were gone…but the Khunds remained!

Using captured weaponry, and led by Lex himself, the Khunds were chased from the Earth's surface (though for years afterward small pockets of Khunds, abandoned by their brethren, would be found here and there.). But it didn't stop there.

The Earth forces used the Khunds' own space craft against them. Capturing transport ships and boarding orbiting battleships.

It was only then that Lex had learned the horrible fate they had barely avoided. Had they not taken the battle to the Khunds in orbit when they did, the Khunds would have bombed Earth until nothing remained but a burnt out cinder.

And all this possible…because of a child's toy!

After the battle had been won…after Lex had returned to fight more battles to begin reconstruction and improvement…after he had returned to civilian life…Lex had finally been able to turn his mind to that item that had saved the day.

It was, he was able to determine, a Probability device. A device whose only purpose was to cause multiple splits in the time line, thus creating one alternate reality after another.

Lex had been able to decipher enough, with the help of Reed Richards and Tony Stark, to construct a viewer that would allow them to see what the device had wrought before it burnt out.

With that view they had, so far, been able to see into two other worlds…two alternate realities.

One, which Lex promptly named Earth-2 (counting this world as Earth-1), was similar to his own…with major differences.

That world existed, as it should. Its technical advancement in tune with it's past achievements. In that world, though they had defeated the Zoners and Khunds, the people had opted not to form a Unified Earth Government. Nor had they opted to study and learn from the Khund and Kryptonian technology, electing, instead, to destroy it. While this Earth, Earth-1, had progressed (in most parts of the world) with technology centuries ahead of its time, Earth-2 had elected to go the slower route…they would get there…in their own sweet time.

One thing about this other world that had caused Lex to smile was the sight of the red and blue costume flying through the air. This was…he knew…Lanie Kent. In this world she had died with her mother, Lois, in Metropolis. In that world, she was her Dad's replacement.

The other world Lex was able to look in on caused shivers to run down his spine. Earth-3 had lost the war and was run by the seven Kryptonians, the Khunds…and Mordru!

And Lex had discovered something else about the strange object that had done this…It was a plaything!

Constructed and abandoned by its owner in an age where Earth was still a molten ball that had yet to cool and retrieved later by an insane Prof. Vakox, who had no clue as to its true purpose, it was a device made to amuse the young…by a race so advanced that such tasks were but mundane events to them…things to amuse children.

Earth, this Earth at any rate, had been saved…by a toy!

Lex sighed and stood, once again looking out over the city.

From his vantage point he could see the new golden globe atop the Daily Planet. It had been one of the first buildings to be restored during the reconstruction.

From here he could also see Central Park and the lights that shown on the massive statue that stood in its center…a statue of Superman!

After it was over, Lex had returned with Superman's body, taking it to his Fortress of Solitude.

Surprisingly enough, the Fortress had not been breached…during all that time none of the Zoners had attempted to enter. Most probably because they knew of the deadly traps that awaited any that attempted to break in. Clark never liked to kill, but he knew that there were many things in his Fortress that could cause extreme harm if they fell into the wrong hands. He made sure that would never happen.

Using a coded phrase Clark had taught him…for just such an emergency…Lex had entered the Fortress and turned Clark's body over to the robotic servants. He had then gone about the task of shutting down systems, and securing the Fortress. Clark was right. There was a lot here…and much Lex had learned and secretly incorporated into the technology that now spanned the globe. But the rest must be kept secure.

The Zoo. Lex had initiated the procedures that would place all the exotic animals into suspended animation. There they would remain until something could be done for them.

The last item on his list was one that would haunt him until his dying day.

Though there had been no breach in the Fortress itself…a high-yield nuclear device had been fired into a Khund ship only a mile above. That had caused many of the freestanding objects in the Fortress to be dislodged. The most tragic were the oxygen purifiers that serviced the bottled city of Kandor. Yanked from their moorings as the city toppled, the purifiers had not only cut the oxygen supply to the city, but had effectively blocked the emergency exits. Those Kandorians that had survived what, to them, would have been a massive earthquake, were trapped, doomed to die a slow miserable death as the oxygen depleted.

A quick examination was all it took for Lex to determine that the Kandorians were dead…every last one of them.

At their size it would not have taken long. But to them, it must have seemed like an eternity.

The robotic servants in the Fortress had let it lie…unaware that there was a problem. No alarm had sounded and the detonation had damaged their sensors.

Lex had left the fortress, locking it behind him…and had returned only once…to lay the bodies of Lois and Lanie Kent beside that of their husband and father. Lex had not been back since.

He had then traveled back to his home…in Smallville Kansas…to lay to rest the two people that had meant more to him even than Clark…Jonathon and Martha Kent.

After the death of their parents, Kents had taken Lex and his younger sister, Lena, to raise alongside their adopted child, Clark. It had been the Kents that had spurred Lex on. It had been the Kents, in that critical moment in his life, that had swayed the balance, making sure Lex would strive for the good of mankind.

It was unfortunate that they could not work the same magic twice. For Lena, perhaps twisted mentally at seeing her parents killed, had become destructive. A demonic force of evil in human form. And a constant thorn in his side…as well as in Clark's. She had vowed the destruction of both of them…and had publicly renounced her surname, changing it, instead, to Thorul.

To this day, Lex had no clue what had become of her after the invasion. And though he never spoke of it, he wondered, deep in the back of his mind, whether Lena had had something to do with the invasion. Wondered if all this destruction was just a way for her to get back at both him and Clark for some imagined transgression against her.

He pushed away from the railing, after one last look out over the city.

"Yes." He whispered to the night. "Yes…I still miss them. God knows I miss them."

Sighing, he turned, putting on a smile and heading back into the penthouse…The Richards would be arriving soon.

Multiverse

Dinner over, Mercy had led everyone to the sitting rooms they could relax and enjoy some good conversation.

She liked it when the Richards visited or, on the rare occasion, that she could get Lex out to Gotham to visit them.

Sometimes Lex needed someone that was his intellectual equal to talk to….and that someone was Reed Richards.

But tonight was not a night for heavy scientific conversation. Sue had made that extremely clear when they arrived, threatening to drop them both off the balcony if they started "talking shop".

"…flipped the switch and green flared through the entire room. Johnny came up out of a sound sleep, convinced that his Golden Girl had returned for him!"

Lex, Mercy, and Sue leaned back in their seats, laughing, as Reed finished the story.

"Then next thing I saw was Bruce running down a hall with Johnny shooting fireballs at him!" Reed chuckled.

Lex laughed, but inside he winced. Another weight on his shoulders.

Though Reed had adamantly denied that it was Lex's fault, that he was equally to blame, Lex could not shake the feeling that he was responsible for what had happened to Reed, Sue, Johnny, and Ben Grimm.

It had happened in the days just prior to Lex taking the position as the UEG's first president.

Working together, they had worked day and night on a new type of engine for what they hoped would be the earth's new space force.

Gutting a small Khund craft, they had installed the prototype engine and then argued about who should go on the flight.

Ben Grimm, the engineer that had overseen most of the installation had put a stop to the argument. The craft would hold four people…and Lex couldn't be one of them.

"Yer too important to risk on sump'en like this." He'd said in his brash manner.

Reed and then others had agreed…and so the final spot of the crew was filled…by Sue!

They had yet to determine exactly what went wrong. Whether it was a defective interface with the prototype and the Khund instruments or merely a fluke.

But something had gone wrong. The engine worked as it was meant to work, but as it did, it released a strange…radiation. An effect neither Reed nor Lex would be able to duplicate in the future.

The effects of the radiation on the crew of the tiny ship were drastic, to say the least.

Alive and unharmed, Reed, Sue, and Johnny were forever changed. Reed found that he could stretch and reshape his body as if it were silly putty.

Sue discovered that she could turn invisible, using her mind to create a force field that bent light around her. Later she found that she could use those same methods to create an almost impenetrable shield around herself and anyone else she chose.

Johnny soon learned that he could ignite his entire body into a hellish flame…becoming a literal Human Torch. Able to fly, and fire blasts of flame that registered from a matchstick to an atom bomb. As time wore on, he gradually learned to do these things without making himself look like a walking flame.

Ben Grimm, unfortunately, did not survive the trip. The energies that bathed him had turned his skin into an orange, rocky substance that Reed later determined was highly toxic. Ben's own skin had poisoned him.

Lex shook the feeling off and turned back to the conversation.

"…think it was funny, but you didn't have to clean the scorch marks off the walls!" Sue was saying while both Mercy and Reed laughed. "I sometimes wonder how someone Bruce's age can stoop to such practical jokes."

"You have to admit that Johnny started it!" Reed gasped, pointing at her.

"So how is Bruce?" Lex leaned forward. "Is he getting used to being normal again?"

"I think so." Reed nodded. "He doesn't seem to miss being the Hulk as much as I thought he would." He shook his head, serious now. "I just wish others would understand that the Hulk is gone."

"You having troubles?" Lex leaned forward, his eyes narrowed. He was convinced that it was pressure put on the current UEG administration by the Friends of Humanity that had caused Bruce to resign the post that he, Lex, had assigned him to while he was in office.

"Not really." Reed shrugged. "We get the occasional crackpot that accuses Wayne-Richards Enterprises of being a mutie loving venture and tries a little sabotage. Usually we only learn about it after Nightwing has stopped the idiots." He frowned. "Though I do wish Richard Grayson would take more of an interest. I think he would be in an excellent position to diffuse some of the problems."

Lex smiled and said nothing. He wondered what Reed would think if he learned that Gotham's favorite playboy and Nightwing were one and the same.

Instead, he turned to Sue, intending to make a totally unrelated remark. He never got to speak. At that instant, a soft, but insistent beeping began to emerge from a wall unit.

Smiling apologetically, he stood and walked to the unit, ready to rip into whoever was disturbing him at this time of the evening.

"Something's up." Reed informed the ladies. He was watching Lex and had seen the man's attitude go from anger to concern to high interest as who-ever it was on the other end reported. His suspicion was confirmed when Lex returned.

"Reed, I hate to spoil this party but something has come up."

"Anything we can help with?" Reed inquired.

"To be honest, I don't know." Lex thought for a moment and then made a decision. "Might be good to have you along." He turned to Mercy. "Let's get ready and get everyone up to the 'pad. We've got a trip to make."

"And just where are we going, might I ask?" Mercy said in a voice that meant she was not happy but would comply.

"To Colorado." Lex attempted a smile. "I thought it time we saw the Rockies again."

Multiverse

"Okay Lex, you've kept us in suspense long enough." Reed confronted his friend, leaning forward in his seat to emphasize his point. "What's up?"

It had taken thirty minutes for the four of them to make the trip to the roof top landing pad where a crew was already warming up Lex's personal transport.

The Lexicar was, despite its name, no car at all. More than anything, it resembled a squat, little vessel straight out of a star trek show. A long rectangle shaped vehicle, flat on one end and tapered to a point at the front.

An extremely expensive little craft that was powered by an engine of Lex's own design…a spin off of the prototype engine that had left the Richards and Johnny Storm in their current condition. This engine, however, was intended mainly for atmospheric flights. It could, if necessary, push the craft into low Earth Orbit and then bring it back down, but it was not strong enough to go much further.

The inside was as plush as the penthouse in which Lex and Mercy lived, all the comforts of home.

"My intelligence people began recording an unusual energy surge in the mountains of Colorado." Lex relented, beginning his explanation. "After they ran a few tests, they decided that it warranted my personal attention." He made a gesture towards the window and, looking out, Reed noticed two similar "shuttles" were keeping pace with the Lexicar. Slightly larger than the craft in which they were riding, it was obvious they were either cargo or troop transports.

"Are you expecting trouble?" Reed demanded, turning back.

"Possibly." Lex nodded. "UEG will have noted the energy surges and may send someone to investigate, but they won't know the nature of the surges."

"And you do?"

"I believe so." Lex smiled. "Remember, I or Tony designed the equipment UEG uses. That does not mean it is as good as mine." He looked at Mercy. "I have incorporated much of the Probability detection equipment you, Tony, and I developed into the LexCorps intelligence equipment. The readings they are getting from this area in Colorado has all the indications of a Probability Broach."

Reed griped his arm rest and stared at his friend and employer.

"The Zoners?" He demanded.

"I don't think so." Lex shook his head. "I asked the same question and my people assure me that they are still under observation on Earth-3." He paused and looked out the window. "No. I think, whatever this is, it comes from some other world. A reality we haven't seen as yet." He looked back at Reed. "Remember, we have only been able to see these three probabilities so far…but we know that there are others. Where there is more than one…then there is an infinite number. And…" He held up a finger to forestall any comment Reed might make. "Though we have not been able to view them, we have been able to ascertain that there are other groups of Probabilities out there. Which, I am inclined to believe on the evidence so far, may be where this Broach originates. It does not have an energy signal even remotely similar to those of the other two worlds…or what we believe to be the average signal range of this group of Probabilities."

Reed leaned back in his seat…stunned. A Probability Broach. In essence that meant that someone, or something, from somewhere else was entering their Probability. It was an event that they had feared…and had even secretly prepared against. Yet it was not the Broach they had been expecting.

Lex concentrated on the terrain below. "I have ordered my people to throw up a screen that will, for a short time anyway, block detection by UIA or Sec-Pol until we have had a chance to go in and take a look."

"I don't believe you." Reed chuckled. "Here you are, pouncing at the chance to tweak UEG's tail…and you are the man responsible for single-handedly putting this world back together."

"I put nothing together." Lex's half smile became a grimace. "We got hurt and I wrapped a bandage around it. Now that bandage is unraveling…and there is not a damned thing I can do to stop it!"

No one responded. They all knew that what Lex said was true.

"In any case." Lex shook off the gloom. "I would rather know for myself what is going on rather than wait for the current powers that be to find the time to keep me informed."

Again there was no response. It was no secret to anyone that there was little love lost between the current administration of the UEG and Lex Luthor. Lex had been the hard-liner, putting the world back to work and ignoring excuses. He had let his somewhat Libertarian views be known when confronted by the famines of Africa as he responded hotly to question after question by reporters. "These people, even before the invasion, knew they lived in an area where food is difficult to grow…so why, for God's sake, don't they move somewhere else? Food is hard to grow in sand…so move away from the sand!" He had then become infuriated when, despite his better judgment, he had allowed food shipments to be sent…only to have the recipients complain because the food was not ethically proper! "Let them starve then!" He had shouted. He had no sympathy for people that would let their children starve…simply because food, freely given…for which they had not worked…was not prepared according to their "religious" beliefs!

Yes, Lex was adored…and hated.

The pilot of the Lexicar informed them that they were approaching their destination and all four buckled back in for the landing.

Multiverse

"The energy flux ended about twenty minutes ago!" A tech shouted over the whine of the engines as Lex bounded from the Lexicar. Reed would have followed him out but was shouldered aside by a well armed and determined Mercy. She might be Lex's wife, but she was still his bodyguard!

"We were able to pin point the location just before the flux went off the scopes." The tech continued. The shuttle had put down in a large clearing, near a large, unspoiled mountain lake and the tech was now leading them through the woods towards another, smaller clearing…right on the shore of the lake. The other two shuttles had landed nearby and, at Mercy's direction, the Security force that sprang from one fanned out to the sides, the rear, and the front. "We were able to set down the runabout in the clearing ahead, but felt it would be better if your larger craft didn't."

Lex nodded his agreement and followed.

"What did you find?" He demanded as the trees began to thin.

"To be honest, sir. I would rather you see for yourself." The tech stopped and looked Lex in the eyes. "I don't know what to make of it and frankly, it scares me."

Lex raised an eyebrow and then stepped out of the trees, into the clearing by the lake.

The small two-man runabout the techs had used to pinpoint the location sat off to the west, near the wood line and the lake bordered the clearing to the east. Lex's craft had landed to the north.

At first Lex could see nothing through the waist high weeds that clogged the clearing so he continued to follow the tech. When the tech stopped, he almost ran into him! And then he saw!

He pushed past the tech, vaguely aware of Mercy, Reed, and Sue doing likewise, and all but ran that last few feet.

They were lying in a circle around a large table upon which sat what could have passed for a highly advanced hamster colony.

"Dear God!" Reed muttered. His arms and legs stretched and, in one stride, he had gone over Lex's head and made his way to the side of one of the bodies lying on the ground.

"There are six of them." The Tech said, as if Lex couldn't count. "But look at what these four here are wearing!"

Lex turned and looked where the Tech was indicating and felt his breath catch. It wasn't possible! He hurriedly looked over all six of the bodies and then bent to examine the table…he reached out and lifted the bundle of cables that strung from one side, examining their ends. Hookups for energy and oxygen. He then bent close and peered into the habitat. The first thing he noted was the reddish glow that seemed to infuse the entire thing…and then….

With a gasp he stood straight.

"My god Lex." Reed was beside him, looking down at the habitat. "That is a city!"

Lex nodded absently, his mind racing with recognition of some of the structures. Then he spun…snapping orders.

"Everything. I want everything loaded on that transport now…and I mean right now. Move it!"

"Lex?" Mercy frowned and moved closer to him. "What is this…who are they?"

"I don't know." Lex told her. "But I am going to find out. And there is only one place to do that." He paused and for the first time since the landing smiled. "I have my suspicions." He told Mercy. "And if these people are what I think they might be…then this world might have a chance after all. We just might have a chance!"

End Chapter one.

- Story written and copyrighted (C) 2003 by Dylan Clearbrook

- and may not be reprinted without permission.

- The Continuum Worlds Concept is a joint creation of

- Dylan Clearbrook and Eldric. Otherverse, Dark Earth,

- and Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes, as depicted in the

- Continuum Worlds, are original creations of Dylan Clearbrook.

- Alterverse and The Inheritors, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,

- are original creations of Eldric.

- The Realm and Shadowverse, as depicted in the Continuum Worlds,

- are original creations of John P. and Jason G respectively.

- Some characters in Continuum Worlds stories are original creations

- of Dylan Clearbrook, Eldric, Michael Liebhart, Jake H., Jason G.,

- Andrew Shields, Kyle M., Brian, or Jason Froikin and may not

- be used without express permission of the respective author.

- All DC characters are property of D.C. Comics.

- All Marvel characters are property of Marvel Comics.