Chapter 74

SHIELD Hellicarrier...

It had been over two months since Lionel Luthor was injured in the desert and while he had some lingering weakness in the leg he broke that is mostly due to atrophy from having it immobilised for so long. He was more or less fully recovered as was the mutant boy he had befriended.

True Lionel doesn't like mutants but Douglas Ramsey aka Cypher had a very useful gift with languages that allowed him, amongst other things, to be basically able to tell a computer to do anything so Lionel pushed his personal feelings aside and concentrated on what it was Cypher could deliver to him.

Through that gift Lionel had learned the whole truth of the deal his son, Lex Luthor, had made with Colonel Fury and of the deal his son had made with a certain Donald Pierce.

Lionel knew this all added up to one thing. The means through which to restore his lost position and power.

And the time for him to make his grab for this power was nearing rapidly. Thanks to the hacks Cypher had made into SHIELD's systems he knew precisely what was happening and why the agents on this base were running around like headless chickens.

"The time for us to leave draws near, Douglas. Is everything ready?" Lionel asks his young friend as they sit together in their 'secure' accommodations.

"Yeah," Cypher says albeit with great reluctance. Everything being the means through which he and Lionel get off this base. "But is this really necessary?" he questions Lionel's plans. "SHIELD is the government."

"Who are planning to stab me in the back after all I did was promise to help them," Lionel reminds Cypher and is sounding quite angry about it. "You saw the deal Fury made with Xavier. A deal that condemns me to death."

Ok so Cypher couldn't quite explain that one off. It seemed so wrong to him that Fury was doing that to Lionel. All Lionel had wanted to do was help...make amends...just like Cypher is trying to do himself. "Everything is ready," he asserts.

"Good. Thank you Douglas."

"We're still going to make right, though?"

"Of course," Lionel assures the young blond teenager. Lionel had promised that despite Fury's betrayal they were still going to make good. Essentially that they were going to help the world be a better place...and they were...or at least what counts as better in Lionel's head. "You set up everything I asked?"

Cypher nods. "Money in untraceable accounts, a copy of everything your son is doing for SHIELD and the means to contact the people you listed."

"You've done very well Douglas. I know this may seem very cloak and dagger but Fury has forced my hand to use these methods, however distasteful they are."

"So when do we...fly the coop?"

Lionel smile slightly at that expression. "When the meteor shower strikes they will be at their most distracted. That is when."

"Ok," Cypher agrees having no reason to disagree...having no-one else to care for him but Lionel. He can't go back to his mutant hating parents and Magneto abandoned him and left him for dead. Lionel is the only person in the world Cypher has.


Smallville...

Or more accurately as close as the authorities would allow them to get. Smallville is now a closed air-space. From outside the town they drive in. Fury had at least managed to arrange that with local National Guard that had been called in to help evacuate the town.

The Professor leaves Cyclops and Storm to liaise with those in charge of the evacuation and work out how his X-Men can help. Charles' main priority was getting to what use to be the Kent farm and talking to this Ms Neramani.

Clark was on his own in making his way to the caves. They couldn't ask for transport without giving an explanation and they couldn't give one. Rogue had volunteered to go with him but without his powers which not so helpfully are currently exhausted...

Well lets just say they will be cutting it closer in reaching those caves than the Professor is comfortable with.

This entire situation sits uneasy with Charles because so many aspects of it are beyond his control. At this moment he finds a familiar blond haired girl approach him. She had been waiting for them. "Hello Chloe."

"Professor Xavier," Chloe greets him back, tension plainly obvious in her tone which is not a surprise considering the situation.

"Where's your cousin?"

"On her way out of town...or trying to," Chloe explains. Lois is on the road but they were jammed solid. Still Lois is probably further along in getting away than Chloe is.

"I wish to express my deep thanks for your help in these circumstances," the Professor expresses his gratitude for her assistance and his admiration for her courage.

"Well some farmboys, whose name we won't mention, would just call be a magnet for danger."

Charles chuckles lightly.

"We should get going if you're wishing to speak to Lilandra before the sky falls in," Chloe presses the urgent need to get cracking.

"Of course. On the way I hope you can tell me about her."

"No problem," Chloe says as they head to the vehicle they have been provided. "My first piece of advice is that, if you let her, she'll have you taking her side even if you started with the completely opposite position."

"She's that good?"

"She's better. Truthfully she reminds me of you."

"In what way?"

"Her views are similar to yours in many areas and like you she cares for the people under her charge. She can be very passionate."

"You admire her," the Professor can see plainly.

"Yeah. I do."

"Uh...hi, Chloe," a voice breaks into her discussion with the Professor.

Chloe's brow furrows slightly before she turns to see... "Bobby," she says with a smile she doesn't even realise she is making. She must admit her thoughts have occasionally strayed to the brown haired ice-generator after the time she spent with him on her birthday. He was fun...and not a bad kisser.

"I guess my timing's lousy to want to catch up, eh?" Bobby jokes.

"Well assuming we don't all die horribly we can later," Chloe suggests.

"Really? Great! I mean that sounds like fun...assuming we avoid the horrible death thing. Um..." Bobby fumbles over his words nervously in Chloe's presence.

"Iceman!" Cyclops loud voice shouts at him. "Come on! We're going. We need you!"

"Coming oh fearless leader!" Bobby half-sings his reply. "Sorry. Gotta go and be all brave and heroic for the 5th time today. I'll have to tell you how I helped save Clark," he says, boasting as only Bobby can about these things.

"Sure. I would love that," Chloe says.

"Catch you later!" Bobby says as he transforms into his ice form and slides off, making many people stare at him as he goes.

Chloe turns to leave with the Professor. "Wait. Did I just make a date with him?" she asks.

"I believe you could make that interpretation," the Professor says to her.

Chloe face-palms herself. "Lois will never let me here the end of this," she mutters.

"We should depart," Charles says, having had enough time wasted.

"Yes. Right," Chloe says as she pulls herself together.

Beast helps the Professor get inside the military humvee before he and Chloe get in as well and head off to the farm.


Upon reaching the farm the Professor can see a small ramshackle shanty town has been built around the main house. It saddens him to see mutants forced to live in conditions like this. They are greeted by a small group of not so friendly looking people of varying ages, showing the extent of the people effected by the meteors who could no longer hide amongst the population or stay with their families.

Chloe recognises one of the group as her ex-boyfriend Jordan Cross who had chosen to come live here. "Jordan," she greets him politely.

"Chloe," Jordan returns. "Why are you here?"

"Is Lilandra here? I have someone to meet her."

"Why? So you can force us off our only home?" a man with short dirty blond hair asks aggressively.

"Tommy!" a voice shouts. "That is not how we greet guests. Didn't we discuss this?"

The man visibly shrinks back at the commanding but never overbearing or angry tone.

The Professor, now out of the vehicle, turns his gaze to where the voice came from and his eyes fall upon an elegant woman. She is tall and shapely, looking to be in her mid-thirties. She bears long flowing dark hair, alluring dark eyes and despite the situation she obviously lives still manages to dress nicely with jeans that hug her hips and a black top. Emblazoned on her top in gold were a number of strange-looking emblems along the chest and sleeve of her top and around her neck, above her top, was a golden necklace that looked to be expensive. As she walks over there is a sort of regal air to her. She certainly captures Charles' attention.

The woman's gaze takes all of the new arrivals in turn and falls upon Chloe. A warm, gentile smile comes to her face at the sight of the blond teenager. "Hello Chloe. A pleasure to see you as always."

"Hi Lilandra. I'm sorry about coming unannounced but I have someone I thought you should meet."

Beast has to say the woman has a presence and the way his friend Charles was staring at her as if in a strange daze certainly reinforced that idea. He hadn't seen that look in a long time. He gently nudges the Professor.

Charles blinks and snaps out of it. "Ms Neramani, I presume. I am..."

Lilandra cuts him off albeit not too rudely. "I know who you are Professor Xavier. You and your X-Men are not exactly low key in the fight for mutant equality." She then grins a little slyly. "And I am also not without my own gifts."

Charles is surprised...pleasantly so as it turns out. The woman was a telepath. He isn't sure how he missed that before now. Another time he would have liked to get to know this woman better but there are much more urgent matters. "We must talk."

"I am perfectly willing to talk...but we are not leaving," Lilandra tells him from the start.

"You are in grave danger."

"Any more so than if we leave? If we leave they'll come up with an excuse never to let us back and we have nowhere else to go. That equally condemns us."

Charles can already see this is going to be a struggle. "I only ask to be heard," he makes the one simple request.

"Lets us step inside the house," Lilandra proposes as a place for them to talk. If he was anyone else she wouldn't indulge him this much but Lilandra must confess to having a secret admiration for the Professor and his work.


The Luthor Mansion...

Elsewhere in Smallville Lex Luthor was just packing up his last few valuable items from his mansion before taking his helicopter and evacuating.

Twice in 15 years.

Lex can work out the odds.

It can't be a coincidence.

What it is he does not know. He has a feeling his father does. It is probably in that journal that his father has stubbornly refused to reveal more about than absolutely necessary to preserve his head.

Then there is the lack of progress that has been made on the stones. Lex knows Fury has been deliberately keeping him out of the loop. He only heard about what happened in China after it had happened.

It angers Lex because, to him, the search for the stones equated to the search for Lana. Therefore Fury has been denying him vital means to locate Lana and rescue her from her witchly possession.

It had seemed to make sense at first his deal with Fury but Lex is starting to see how flawed the system actually is. A system so flawed that it is incapable of helping the citizens it is suppose to serve.

Lex may just have to start doing things his own way. It seems he can't rely on anyone but himself. Perhaps that is for the better.

He already has a few ideas about what it is he needs to do but that can wait. With the sky falling in the main priority right now is survival.

Lex shuts up his briefcase and heads for the exit.


Kawatche Caves...

Too long. It had all taken too long but the battle at Magneto's base had left Clark's body drained, tired, battered and sore and there had been no sun to recharge him so that meant it had been a hell of a long walk here from where the military insisted they land.

They reach the entrance and Clark takes a moment to lean against the rock wall and catch his breath.

"Y'all alright?" Rogue asks with concern as her hand comes to rest on his arm.

Clark turns his head to look at her. "Just tired." He cups her cheek and strokes the skin with his thumb. "This is as far as you have to come," he tells her, not willing to risk her life in this.

Rogue takes his hand into her own and kisses his knuckles. "Ah'm with ya wherever this leads," she promises him.

Clark smiles lovingly at her and dips his head to kiss her on her lips. "I love you," he tells her.

"Ah love ya too," Rogue returns it.

Clark summons up what energy he has left and pushes himself up straight. Before he moves he feels Rogue tug on his arm. He turns his head to see her pointing up. Clark looks to where she is pointing and sees dozens of balls of fire in the slowly lightening sky. Sunrise was approaching. "It's starting," he says grimly. Those balls of the fire are the meteors entering the atmosphere.

The two teenagers hastily get inside the cave and make their way over to the hidden passage. Clark inserts the key into the slot in the wall and opens it up. He yanks the key out and they make their way through to the small alcove with the plinth. Clark slots the key into the plinth. "Jor-El! Talk to me! What is it? What is coming?"

Rogue and Clark become surrounded by a column of light.

"I warned you, Kal-El," Jor-El says. "I told you that blood must not touch one of the elements. Now a fire from the sky will sear the Earth and even you, my son, may not be able to survive it."

"Can I stop it?"

"The meteor shower is only the beginning. That which has been set into motion cannot be stopped. However the Earth and humanity can still be saved if you do exactly what I tell you."

"I have the stones!"

"Then unite them as one," Jor-El instructs.

Clark places the case on the floor and opens it. He pulls out the glass like Crystal of Fire and places it in its corresponding place on the plinth. He follows that up with the metallic Crystal of Air. He slots it in.

Rogue watches on and can see how the 2 apparently different stones fit together perfectly. The symbols craved into them light up as does the one on the 3rd and last stone. The black Crystal of Water.

Clark places the last stone in its slot.

The 3 stones glow and start to change and shift until they form a single aqua blue crystal. The crystal rises up as the cave shudders from the impact of the first meteor to strike the ground.

"Last chance to leave," Clark says to Rogue as he pulls the key out and stashes it safely into his pocket.

Rogue takes his hand into her and interlocks their fingers. "Ya ain't getting rid of meh that easily, sugah."

"Glad to hear it," Clark says appreciative of her support. More so than he will ever be able to tell her. His heart is pounding and his stomach has butterflies from his nerves. He truly has no idea what is about to happen. The only thing he does know is that he has an irresistible urge to reach out and grab the crystal.

Clark grabs it and in a flash of blinding light he and Rogue vanish.


Charles had quickly learned that Chloe had not been exaggerating about Lilandra's oratory skills. She was incredible. She almost had him taking her side. She had shot down every single one of his arguments but without resorting to insults or denting his pride. Despite how aggravating it was to be blocked at every turn he found himself admiring her more and more.

"Lilandra," he says, having gotten her permission to use her first name as they sit across the kitchen table from each other. "I understand what you fear. I know what happens to mutants every day across the world but this is a natural disaster that could wipe out everything you have built here."

"If everything you had built was under threat would you just abandoned it? Or would you fight to defend it?"

"That's hardly equatable to what is coming."

"So you say but despite your eloquence Charles nothing you have said changes the bare facts. If we leave we lose what little we have managed to create here."

"Once this situation is over Lilandra I will use all my influence to make sure that does not happen. However keeping the people here alive is what matters. Nothing is more important than preserving life."

"I agree...except it depends how you define life. Is life as a slave truly living?"

Charles rubs his brow. She had an argument for everything. It has to be wrong that he is finding that exhilarating.

"It's not just that Charles. I assume your next offer would be to take us in at your mansion except that doesn't solve the problems our kind are facing."

"What do you mean?"

"You can't take in every mutant in the country let alone on Earth and how many of us are facing what we are facing here. I admit it is more acute in Smallville because of how many of us were created by the meteor shower but you and your X-Men can't possibly fight every battle of mutantkind. In every community in this country we need to find a way to be accepted. The local authorities would only like too much to sweep us under the carpet but we shall not be swept away from sight for their convenience. What I am trying to do here is to show them we are part of their community too. Basically I'm just going to stubbornly keep us here until they learn to accept us."

"There can be no community if you are all dead. I apologise for being so blunt."

Lilandra actually smiles and Charles feels his heart skip a beat at the beautiful enchanting smile. "Oh not at all. We're telepaths Charles. There is hardly any need for us to mince our words when we can read each other's thoughts and know what each other truly feels...and you're correct. I may be being irrational," she picks up on a brief thought Charles is having. "The sky is about to fall in and I refuse to leave but when you are pushed to the edge irrational behaviour becomes the only rational behaviour."

Charles rubs his brow. He had ignored this situation in Smallville for too long. That is now clear.

"Charles," Lilandra says plainly. "You must understand these people have nothing but each other. Many of them have been shunned, a few I admit, were admitted to Belle Reve for criminal behaviour, a few have instincts caused by their mutations that can be very hard to resist. I do all I can to help them and to help us live in peace with our neighbours. I don't tolerate them misusing their powers. I certainly reject Magneto's approach of some bloody uprising. I agree with you, Charles, about wishing to live in a world of equals. Like you do at your Institute I'm trying to help those here come to terms with what they are now and how to use their powers productively to aid the community of Smallville. This is our home too and we wish to make it a good as place as possible to live in. That's not easy when Lex Luthor parks his private army down the road and spies on you 24/7."

"I am familiar with the Luthors," Charles says in sympathy.

"This is the only place we have, this is our home and we shall not leave it," Lilandra states quite clearly her position.

Before Charles can make his next argument Beast bursts in.

"Sorry to interrupt," Hank says. "But it's starting," he says with a grim expression.

Lilandra is instantly to her feet. "Byron!" she shouts and a young man with long brown hair enters.

"Yes?" he inquires.

"It's time. Get everyone inside the house now," Lilandra instructs with remarkable calm.

Byron nods and runs outside to round everyone up.

"Hank. Go help," Charles says and Hank does that.

"Sasha!" Lilandra shouts on next. She could use her telepathy but she wants to be heard.

A rather dowdy girl with long brown hair and wearing glasses enters. "Yes, Lilandra."

"We need the twins. Bring them down will you," Lilandra requests.

Sasha runs off up the stairs.

"I may have overplayed being irrational," Lilandra says to the Professor. "We are not without means to protect ourselves."

Charles wonders what that means.

Soon enough the house starts to fill up with the near 40 individuals that live here now. Sasha returns with twin bald albino young men.

Lilandra goes up to them and gently lays her hand on their heads and bring them together to touch her head. Charles can hear she is speaking to the identical twins telepathically and that they possess a single hive mind.

"Daniel. Frederick. It's time to do what we discussed. Create the strongest field you can and hold it for as long as possible. Can you do that for me?" Lilandra telepathically asks them, her voice as caring as a mother's.

There is a positive response from the twins.

"Good boys," Lilandra warmly praises them.

Chloe, Beast and Byron are the last 3 into the house. Chloe had helped round everyone up too since she has made some good friends here and she felt it was her duty to help keep them safe. It is what she has been doing in her articles for months, defending the people here.

"Ok, now boys," Lilandra instructs the twins.

The two boys turn to face each other and bring their right hands up between them. They then grab each other's hands and an energy field shoots up from them in all directions and spreads out until it surrounds the house in a dome shape.

"The twins generate a nearly impenetrable forcefield," Lilandra explains what is going on as the whole house shakes as meteors begin the strike the ground.

"No disrespect meant to our protectors but you are aware of the force even a small rock striking us can cause?" Hank asks her.

"I doubt it could survive a direct hit, yes. However everyone here knows that and chose to stay."

"That's right!" Tommy insists.

"This is our home. We trust Lilandra," Sasha adds.

There are many murmurings of support and praise.

The loyalty Lilandra had managed to obtain was extremely impressive. Then again the Professor had to say that from what he had seen of her so far Lilandra was a very impressive woman.

The impacts draw nearer and Charles silently utters a prayer. Whatever is coming with this fire all he can do is hope they survive it. It's a time of faith.


The roads leading out of Smallville are inevitably bumper to bumper and inevitably, in understandable anxiousness, accidents happen.

It would be why right now Shadowcat is phasing people out of a few cars that had hit each other while her partner Spider-Man is using his superstrength to move the cars off the road and clear the blockage. The other X-Men were either helping out on other roads or back in town making sure the buildings were empty and the town evacuated.

Spider-Man carries one wrecked car off the road and places it down to the awed look of a couple of kids.

"Wow!" a little boy says.

"That's me. I'm the wow-mazing Spider-Man," he quips.

"Don't you usually live in New York?" another boy asks critically.

"Wherever there are people that need I help I shall be there," Spider-Man proclaims in an over-the-top heroic voice. He places his hands on his hips and takes on a heroic pose. "Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays this hero from his course. Just consider me your friendly nationwide Spider-Man!"

"You ripped that off the postal service!" one of the boys complains.

"And they ripped it off an ancient Greek saying."

The boy snorts. "Yeah. Right," he scoffs.

Spider-Man sighs. "Kids today," he mutters.

Soft laughter fills his ears. It's a nice sound because it comes from his girlfriend and she has a really nice laugh as she slides in beside him. Peter always admires how Kitty looks in that uniform of hers. She was someone he really needed at this point in his life considering the poor state of the friendships he had with his older friends. He could count on her and she could understand him. Plus it helped that he didn't have to worry about her 24/7 and knew she could take care of herself. Under all that sweetness was someone who knew how to look after herself. She was smart and funny and someone he could easily talk to. Even when he slipped into all out geek mode she could keep up with him. He liked that. It also didn't hurt she was majorly cute and was a really good kisser. It was no surprise then that he found his thought drifting to her often. There was no doubt in Peter's mind he was falling hard for her.

Kitty loves Peter's humour. She regrets they don't get to see each other more often. Without Clark's speed to help she would see him even less and she is grateful to Clark for doing that. Peter was such a contrast to Lance. She was a total idiot in going for that bad boy thing. Kitty had been a Spider-Man fan before she met the guy. She wondered what he looked like under it and what kind of person he was. Turns out he is cute, funny, smart and basically one of the best guys she knows. She can talk to him for hours and yet it seems like it is no time at all. Is it any wonder she is falling for him hard.

Just then Peter's spider-sense flares up on a level he has never felt and in the distance a fireball explodes.

"Oh god," Kitty whispers in terror.

"We've got to get everyone out of here," Peter says, his voice, surprisingly to him, remaining calm but urgent.

"Alright! Everyone out of their cars! Lets go!" Kitty shouts taking charge, pointing at them where to go. They couldn't wait for the traffic jam to clear now. She and Peter then try to usher everyone along the road while making sure there are no people left behind as explosions light up the sky in every direction and the Earth trembles under their feet.

Kitty can only pray all her friends are safe.


In Smallville itself Scott and Jean were checking buildings for any stragglers. Jean's telepathy makes that a relatively easy task. She can scan a building in a fraction of the time of a physical search.

Scott knew that they were pushing it time-wise but they had to be certain. He happens to glance up at the slowly lightening sky and spots the fireballs. "Dammit. Jean! We're out of time! We have to go!"

"Wait!" Jean says. "I can sense someone!"

"Where?" Scott asks urgently.

"There!" Jean points at a small apartment block.

Scott and Jean run to it and Scott blasts open the front door.

"3rd floor!" Jean reports as the ground trembles from the first impacts.

They run up the stairs as fast as possible and kick in the door. Jean leads them into the bathroom. At first it seems like there is no-one there but then Scott spots an odd distortion in the bathtub.

Jean is obviously away ahead of him as she kneels down and puts her arm around the distortion. "Hey there sweetheart," she says in a calming tone while using her telepathy to send calming thoughts. "Where are your parents?"

"D-don't know," a voice replies with a sniffle.

Scott watches as the distortion becomes a small girl with oddly textured skin. He can see parts of her shifting to match the white bathtub. Some kind of chameleon property. The girl was a mutant. A very young mutant. She can't be more than 6 or 7. Perhaps a meteor mutant which would explain her young age.

Jean continues to use her telepathy to keep the girl calm. "My name's Jean and this is Scott. How about we help you find them?"

Scott kneels down. "Is that ok?"

The girl nods.

Jean smiles at her warmly. "Ok. Put your arms around me," she requests and she wraps her arms around the little girl.

As the girl wraps her arms around Jean's neck Scott notices her fingers. They remind him of the toes of geckos. That adaptation that allows them to stick to vertical surfaces.

Jean picks the girl up as the building shakes. "Time to go," she says, the urgency clear in her voice.

Scott nods and they hastily makes their way down and out of the building as the fireballs crash down all around. They run to where their military escort is still waiting for them, the humvee revved up and waiting.

"Come on! Come on!" one of the soldier that was part of their search team shouts as he gestures at them to move it.

Scott gets a little ahead of Jean due to the weight she is carrying when there is an explosion of a building off to the side. Scott gets thrown off his feet but he is not too badly hurt. He feels himself getting yanked up by the soldier. Scott shakes his head and turns to look for Jean. She too had been knocked off her feet and is much further behind than Scott thought. "Jean!" he shouts.

Jean waves at him to indicate she is alright and gets back to her feet, the little girl still safely in her arms.

Scott's eyes go wide as a ball of fire heads right for her. "Jean!" he screams in desperation.

Jean turn round just in time to see the burning rock a moment before it strikes her dead-on.

"Jean!" Scott screams in horror as he watches the woman he loves vaporise before his eyes before the shockwave blasts him off his feet.


"Come on, come on," Lois Lane mutters in frustration as she slams down on her horn as she is stuck in this traffic jam. She wishes Chloe was here.

Dammit.

Why did she let Chloe talk her into leaving without her?

Lois should have stayed with her cousin.

Lucy may have not given a damn about walking out on the family but Lois prides herself on not being her sister and yet here she is walking out. Hell lets face it Chloe is more of a sister to Lois than Lucy is.

If Lois is being completely honest with herself, without Chloe she would be drifting around with literally no idea what to do with her life. Without Chloe she would probably still be at that café handing out muffins.

Ok so Lois may not be the most enthusiastic believer in this journalism lark Chloe talked her into helping her cousin with and she will admit her spelling sort of sucks but Lois finds she doesn't hate it. In fact she will admit she almost enjoys it but to make it a career means going back to college to get the degrees and Lois isn't sure if she likes it that much to go through all that again.

Still it is worth it alone to see that grin on Chloe's face that the two of them are partners.

Dammit!

Lois curses herself more that she left her cousin behind. Chloe is far too damn persuasive. She should have insisted on staying. Lois lets out an audible sigh of annoyance at herself. Once again she took the easy way out just like when she got kicked out of uni.

Lois looks at her reflection in the rear-view mirror and tries to judge what she sees. What she sees is someone who should probably start growing up. Her eyes suddenly widen at the sight of fireballs in the sky in the mirror's reflection. Her head snaps round as adrenaline starts pumping. Her heart rate accelerates. Before she can react one of the fireballs impacts the road not too far behind her.

Lois' car gets flipped into the air and the last thing she sees is the ground as she smashes into it.


SHIELD Hellicarrier...

Thanks to Cypher's hacks Lionel knew what was happening. It was time. Time to leave.

Lionel had it planned out. The first task was leaving the room not through the door with the guards on it. Cypher had hacked the bugs and surveillance devices weeks ago so no-one saw what had really been going on this room for awhile.

The exit...

Maintenance shafts. They wind through the Hellicarrier like arteries allowing access to its systems to repair them without having to ever land. One runs behind the wall. Course getting access to it had required quite a piece of ingenuity to remove the fixed metal panels of the walls.

Lionel helps Cypher pull the panel off. It is a tight squeeze but they manage to get inside and pull the panel back in place. They have only a small amount of time. The meteor shower was a good distraction but from personal experience of the 1st one Lionel knows it all happens in a remarkably short span of time even if it seems longer at the moment.

Lionel and Cypher crawl along the circular maintenance shaft.

That gives Lionel a moment to think about current events.

A 2nd meteor shower in the exact same place. There can only be one explanation.

The Traveller.

Lionel hasn't forgotten.

The question remains...the only question that remains is this. Is Superman the Traveller or simply someone preparing the way for the Traveller and in fact does this meteor shower signal the arrival of the true Traveller?

Lionel will get answers...in time. He has much to do first once he is back on the ground. Allies he needs to gain. Access to resources. He has it planned out in his head. One benefit of his injuries was that it gave him time to think things through.

Cypher has to say this is sort of...cool! He's like a spy crawling through secret passages. Once they escape Lionel assures him he has it all planned out and Cypher believes him. Douglas wants to do good but it is clear from Fury's betrayal of Lionel that he can't do good with SHIELD. Helping Lionel now is how Cypher does it. Well it is what he tells himself because he has no other options for his life. This thing with Lionel is it.

The slightly odd couple reach the end of the shaft. There's a sealed access hatch.

They had planned this out using the schematics Cypher pulled up from SHIELD's computer. Once out it is a short dash to their intended goal.

The electronic lock isn't much of a barrier to Cypher. He unlocks it and carefully pushes the hatch open to peer out. "I don't see anyone," he reports.

"Good Douglas. Go," Lionel tells him.

Cypher quickly clambers out and Lionel follows him. They dash along the metal hallway to the series of escape pods for the personnel in case the Hellicarrier needs to be evacuated.

Cypher hacks the access panel and he and Lionel climb inside. The pods aren't designed to be flown. They just drop from the bottom of the Hellicarrier and parachute down to the ground. He and Lionel strap themselves in to the small round pod that was designed for several people.

"I've rigged it so no alert should be sent. As long as they're too distracted to look out the window no-one should notice we're gone until we're on the ground and long gone," Cypher tells Lionel.

"You're done excellently Douglas. I couldn't have asked for better from my own son."

"Really?" Cypher asks, proud as anything to be compared to Lionel's son.

"Yes," Lionel says...more to humour the boy than anything but even Lionel can admit he is as fond of Douglas as he can be considering the boy is a mutant. "Now let us claim new lives for ourselves."

"Just pull the lever," Cypher points at the lever on the wall...the release mechanism.

Lionel reaches up and pulls and the pod drops like a stone from the Hellicarrier. Even if it may be a little premature Lionel can't resist a small smile. He's free! And soon the whole world will feel it just as much as it feels those rocks hitting it from space.


Outside Smallville...

A safe distance from Smallville Ororo Monroe can only watch on as the fire rains down upon the small town. In Africa she was considered a Goddess but watching this true example of The Goddess' power Ororo has never felt smaller or more humble than she does right now.

Truth is man is so small against power such as this.

There is nothing more to be done until it was over. She had helped as much as she could before she came here. This was the rendezvous point for all the X-Men after they had finished checking their assigned search areas.

Ororo feels more than sees Logan come up beside her.

Logan takes a moment to take in the spectacle. He doubts even he has witnessed anything like this before. "I did a headcount," he reports on the X-Men.

From his grave tone Ororo can guess the following. "How many are we missing?"

"Chuck, Hank, Half-pint, the Webhead, Slim and Red."

Ororo closes her eyes and utters a prayer for them. "There is nothing we can do until it is over," she gives the grim truth. The explosions are disrupting all their communication frequencies. They can't even check up that way.

"I know," Logan accepts the stark, horrible truth and it bugs him rotten. He hates to be this helpless.

"No sign of Rogue or Clark?" Ororo asks.

"Nope."

Ororo prides herself on her strength but right now she has none. She reaches out and takes Logan's hand and he doesn't resist or try and pull it back. He willingly gives it to her and the couple stand there, supporting each other, watching the destruction, utterly, utterly helpless. The only thread of hope is that whatever happens when the stones are united can aid them. She can only hope Clark and Rogue made it to the caves in time.


Elsewhere...

Rogue wakes up to find herself lying in the snow and it is freezing. She gets up to her feet and tries to work out where she is. It's pitch black...apart from the streams of multicoloured lights above her head. She knows what they are. They're...uh...the Northern Lights. That's it.

"Rogue!"

Rogue spins round as Clark runs over to her and wraps his arms around her. "Clark," she says from between chattering teeth...although he still is very warm. She cuddles into him. "Where are we?"

Clark rubs her back to keep her warm. "Not sure. Somewhere in the Arctic I guess. Are you ok?"

"Cold," she says with a shiver.

"Yeah it is a mite chilly," he underplays it. The Arctic in late November is more than just a mite chilly.

Rogue chuckles despite of the situation.

"We'll be ok," he assures her. "That flash of light when I grabbed the crystal gave my body a small charge," he tells her of a bonus of being teleported here. "Speaking of the crystal..."

Rogue looks up into his face and he indicates to look behind her. Rogue turns round to come face to face with the blue crystal hovering there. It spins round so that pointed end is facing away from her. It's almost like... "Clark is it meh or is it pointing at that hill?" she queries at what it seems to be doing, pointing at a hill in the distance.

"No. It's not you. It is," he confirms the crystal is doing what she thinks it is. Clark grabs it and looks at it for a moment before following a gut instinct. He throws it as hard as he can towards the hill in the distance.

Rogue watches the slightly glowing blue crystal soar into the night sky. It reaches directly above the hill before suddenly changing direction and nose diving into the hill. The hill collapses instantly and then great pillars of what appear to be ice...or white crystal, maybe, start to rise out of the ground. Dozens and dozens of them, all at various angles. They come together, interlocking until they great a vast structure, literally 3 or 4 stories high at least.

Rogue and Clark stand there for several moments in silence.

"Did-did that little crystal do all that?" Rogue asks in true wonder and astonishment.

"I think so. That or Santa has a way cooler house than I imagined!" he says with childish glee.

Rogue rolls her eyes.

Clark takes her hand into his. "Up for this?"

"Ah'll walk ta tha ends of the Earth with ya Clark."

"Well luckily that's only the next hill over," he jokes.

Rogue sniggers at that.

Hand in hand the couple walk towards their destiny.


Smallville...

It is the first rays of light peeking over the horizon and striking her face that prompts Lois to open her eyes. She wakes up, hanging upside down, still in her seatbelt which probably just saved her life. Hasn't saved her from aching all over. She fumbles for the release catch and braces herself for the small drop.

She releases the catch and hits the roof of her car. The window is smashed so it isn't hard for her to crawl out. She comes to sit up against her smashed up car. Her hand goes to her head and thick blood covers her fingers from what must be a cut on her forehead.

Lois takes a moment to regain her senses a bit.

The impacts have moved away from her for the moment.

Lois frowns. There's an odd...humming noise. It's close by. Over the rim of the crater she is literally sitting next to.

Lois stands up and moves to take a step forward and falls down as her left leg gives out from under her. She cries out in pain and swears repeatedly. She hadn't even realised she hurt her leg.

After a minute the pain subsides to barely bearable and she crawls up to the rim of the crater and peers over. Lois has a struggle comprehending what she is seeing. It's a black triangular object. That's not any meteor rock. It looks like...well a spaceship.

There's a noise and the top section of the ship starts to move. A slitted opening appears and from within there is a blinding golden light. Lois blinks and then silhouetted in the light seem to have appeared two figures...


The Arctic...

Clark and Rogue enter the structure. Within there are various platforms of ice all at different heights making a floor to walk on.

"This looks lahke that dream ya had," Rogue refers to something that happened a year ago. Clark had a dream about his parents when he was a baby and he created it in the Danger Room. The structure he created looked just like this...except this was more magnificent and beautiful and...alien. Sometimes it's easy to forget that Clark isn't human but standing here brings it slamming down that fact.

"I know," Clark says, his voice and expression far away. This place...it's so strange yet so familiar at the same time.

The two teenagers walk through the structure until they come across a console, similar to the one on Nova Roma only this is bigger with many more crystals embedded within it and it sits at a roughly 45 degree angle.

One of the crystals rises up out of the console and floats in front of Clark. He reaches out and takes it in his hand. It glows with a brilliant white light and Clark can feel his strength return to his body.

"Kal-El," Jor-El's voice echoes around. Not the usual booming authoritative one. Slightly down on the volume and not as commanding. "You have travelled far. One journey has ended. Another one is about to begin. Welcome home, my son."

To be continued...


Author's Note: Yes in the mainstream universe Lilandra is...was the ruler of the Shi'ar Empire I know. In the Ultimate Universe she was just a human being, head of a cult that worshipped the Phoenix. I decided to create my own version of her who in some ways is a reflection of the Professor, trying to follow a similar ideal. So lets see here. We have the Fortress built, Smallville in ruins, the two Kryptonians on Earth and I killed Jean for the first of her many, many deaths to come in her life. Seriously in the comics if you count all the individual times Logan has stabbed her(out of his undying love for her naturally) Jean has died like 20 times. Anyway I wonder how I'll sort this mess out. You'll just have to follow it in my sequel. This story has gotten so long I'm breaking it up. I always planned for 3 major arcs across year 2. The stones, Lionel and the rise of Apocalypse. I'm going to give each arc a separate story. This will be like Year 2.1, Year 2.2 and Year 2.3. I'm working on the titles still. Thanks to everyone who wrote reviews. Here's Year 2.2's synopsis.

With the distraction of the meteor shower and the arrival of the Disciples of Zod, Lionel Luthor escapes from SHIELD and embarks upon his plans for revenge on Superman and the X-Men. Can anyone survive what Lionel is about to bring down upon their heads?