Chapter 86



"Stop counting down you stupid..." Chloe grumbles as she desperately tries to stop the countdown but truthfully she's out of her depth. Nuclear launches was not something she ever thought she'd have to deal with.

Chloe freezes when she hears a groan behind her. She spins round to see Gabriel back to his feet, rubbing the back of his head, glaring hatefully at her. His eyes shift to his left, Chloe's right. Gabriel's gun is sitting there on the side.

They both lunge together for it, grabbing it at the same time and struggle to gain control of the weapon.


Chloe's eyes widen in Gabriel's widen in the shock of being shot. He topples over backward quite, quite dead.

Chloe's whole body trembles. She never meant...she couldn't...the missile!

Chloe spins round.





"No," she whispers fearfully as the roar from the missile's engines igniting in the silo next to her deafens her.

Back with Lionel and the others the roar of the missile catches all their attention as in the distance the missile erupts from the silo into the air.

Lionel laughs loudly at the sight.

"What's funny?!" Banshee yells at the clearly madman.

"Ground Zero," Lionel answers in mad mirth.

"What?" Bevatron asks, confused by that answer.

"We're standing on it," Lionel explains, the madness clearly written on his face.

"You'll kill us all!" Colossus says in a loud angry tone.

"That's the point comrade," Lionel sneers.

Superman pushes himself to his feet, ignoring Beast's protests that he should lie still. He holds his hand over the bullet wound in his shoulder. "All your clever words, all your boasts of elevating and freeing humanity. It's all rubbish isn't it. This was about your revenge, nothing more," he says with an angry snarl as he stumbles toward the fallen former philanthropist.

"Revenge is a dish best served nuclear hot," Lionel says and the mask of civility is disintegrating before their eyes to show the true madness of the man. He is also showing Superman is right. Under all those clever words this is really all about gaining revenge on those he deemed have wronged him.

"There has to be something we can do!" Wasp protests. "Right Carol?" she asks her friend.

Carol's grim looking face gives the bad news. No. There really isn't. She shakes her head sadly. "Not unless you can fly and pull out the warhead," she says gravely.

"Or teleport!" Wasp suggests. Obviously she can fly too but no way can she fly fast enough to catch that missile.

Beast blinks. "All the teleporters had been disabled or injured last time I looked..." he looks at Lionel, "which isn't a coincidence is it?"

"Teleporters and fliers were the primary targets," Lionel informs them, showing that this was his true plan all along. There's no reason not to give them the truth any longer. It can't be stopped.

Superman looks skyward at the burning rocket lifting higher and higher. It's up to him...but his powers...

His gaze falls onto Ali, looking unusually scared. She looks almost like a small child.

Wait. Ali? That gives him a moment of inspiration.

"Ali!" he yells.

"Wha-huh?" Ali says.

"You can simulate sunlight right?"


Clark walks over to her and takes her by the shoulders. "Ali, this is important," he says sternly. "Sunlight, yes?"

Ali nods. "Yeah," she says, not sure where this is going.

Clark snaps his fingers and points at Banshee with his good arm. "You! Strongest yell you have now! Aim it at her," he instructs moving his pointing finger back to Ali.

"Sorry lad?" Banshee asks, clearly lost at Clark's train of thought.

"Ali converts sound to light. You yell, she absorbs and then blasts me with the strongest, most intense sunlight simulation she can manage. That should, in theory, hyper-charge my metabolism and burn the gas out of my system." He sees people open their mouths to argue. "At!" he cuts them off. "No time. Now lets do this!"

"You have no idea how long I've wanted you to say that to me," Ali says with a sultry grin.

In response Clark thinks about giving Ali a dirty look for her innuendo...but she would take that to mean something else entirely so instead he does something a little strange, considering the situation, and chuckles as he moves a distance away.

Beast steps up to him and whispers. "Clark if your metabolism doesn't instantly react a beam that intense might kill you," he cautions.

"That missile certainly will," Clark retorts.

Beast nods in agreement and steps away. Basically they had no choice.

"Ready lass?" Banshee asks Ali.

"Give it to me Irish!" Ali says, her voice laced with innuendo.

Banshee inhales deeply and lets loose his sonic scream, a scream that could tear the flesh off a normal person. Luckily Ali isn't normal. Her body absorbs the sound energy, making her eyes glow with luminescent light and energy. Ali brings her hands in front of her and between them a ball of sunlight forms, growing larger and more intense until she unleashes it as a huge beam striking Superman.

Superman vanishes from view in the blinding light but his cries of pain can be heard as clear as day.

When it's over Ali wobbles on her feet, a hand to her head. "Whoa, what a rush," she says, her words slurring slightly, her expression dazed and distant, almost as if she was high and truly she feels like she is.

As for Superman when the light fades he is down on one knee, his head bowed, breathing heavily.

"Superman?" Beast queries.

Superman's head rises and the wounds he had are now gone or in the process of healing, glowing with their own golden ethereal light as they shrink and vanish. "Magma," he addresses her.

"Yeah?" Amara queries back cautiously, wondering what he could want with her.

"Remember that patience thing we talked about in relation to our powers?"

Amara nods. "Uh huh," she confirms, confused by why he's raising this now.

Clark breaks out into that wide goofy smile. "Patience hell."

Amara grins back as she gets it. Oh Gods this is going to be good!

Clark bows his head back down, concentrating.

"What's he doing?" Ant-Man asks.

"You'll see," Amara sings-songs.

Ant-Man blinks...and then blinks again as around the kneeling teen the dirt and small pebbles around him start to levitate off the ground. Hank can feel the ground vibrating beneath his feet.

It's time. Clark's ready. Not because he wants to be ready but because he must be ready if he is going to save the 40,000 residents of Smallville. Oddly he feels completely calm at this moment. His head snaps upward suddenly, all his great power pushed down into his legs as he propels himself off the ground, carving out a crater as he leaves...and he keeps going and accelerating as for the first time properly, as Clark Kent, he breaks free of the pull of gravity and flies.

"Mon Dieu!" Bevatron mutters in disbelief.

"Yes," Magma murmurs to herself. "Yes, he certainly is."

Wasp stares at where the teen's contrail is vanishing, a sonic boom echoing across the landscape in disbelief. "Uh, one question if that thing goes off when he's stopping it can he survive that?"

Everyone looks to Beast who really, for once, doesn't have an answer. "I don't know," he gives the only honest response he has. Deep down he doubts Clark, as powerful as the young man is, could survive an explosion of that magnitude.

In Latin Magma prays.

"Beast, Cyclops," comes the call over the comms. "What is going on?" the leader of the X-Men asks, since they saw the missile take to the sky all as well, only a distance away and then something else, smaller taking to the sky after it.

Beast takes a breath before answering. "Superman is saving us all."

Clark has an imperfect memory of flying when he was Kal-El, Jor-El's brainwashed puppet version of him. It's that imperfection in his recall and Jor-El's insistence that he figure it out himself as a test that has stopped him from flying previously. That and his inner belief that he had a subconscious block that he simply wasn't ready. Well like he was thinking he has no choice but to be ready now...and hey it seems to be working.

What Clark can remember from his previous brief flying experiences is the rush, how incredible it felt to break the bonds of gravity and soar. It felt like he could do anything at that moment and you know what, despite how serious the situation is, he has that exact same set of feelings. Basically this is awesome! The wind rushing past him, the sky darkening to black as he pursues the missile. With his telescopic vision it wasn't overly hard for him to find it. It's just nearing the top of the arc before it starts to plummet back down to Earth.

Oh also he's in space!

But never mind that. Thermonuclear missile to stop. He tries to slow his approach so he doesn't just smash it to pieces. That could set it off. He doubts he could survive that...and is not keen to find out by putting it to the test.

Man he feels buzzed. Like he is...he doesn't know, overcharged or something. He's never felt anything like it. Then again he has never had his body charged by such a concentrated blast of sunlight like that before.

Ok, right, focus. Missile.

Clark brings himself to the warhead, landing on the side of the missile a little harder than he meant to but you know he thinks it's all actually starting to come back to him. This flying knack. Sure he might just be lying to himself so he doesn't freak out about the fact he is about to tamper with a nuclear bomb!

Clark is about to take a calming breath until he remembers he's in a vacuum...and he's not dying. How does that work?

Right. Later.

Clark rips a sheet of metal away, digging to get to the actual warhead, the actual bomb part. He pulls it out, swing his arm back and then forwards, tossing the explosive device as far away as possible into the blackness of space. Unfortunately the process of doing so causes the weapon to go off and the shock-wave and heat hits Clark before he has a chance to react, sending him spiralling back down to Earth, plunging through the atmosphere, a ball of fire surrounding him, unconscious and completely out of control.

Down in the bunker Chloe had collapsed into a chair, tears streaking her face as she imagined...well she was trying not imagine the horror that was about to inflict the town and people above.

"Oh god," she whispers, her voice trembling.

Then through her blurry vision she notices a flashing in the screen tracking the missile. She wipes the tears away and looks again. It's reporting some sort of malfunction...and hope and relief pile into her heart so hard she nearly topples over.

"Clark," she utters his name in relief. Don't ask her to explain why but she just, for some reason, knows it has to be her friend.

A smile starts to pull on her lips and more tears flow. Tears of joy.

From the ground all anyone sees is a huge explosion high up in the sky and no clue whether Clark has survived or not. He's saved them but perhaps at the cost of his life.

They regroup. Lionel was now trussed up as best they could while Fury waited pick-up for the man. Joining the group was now the Professor, his brow, his whole demeanour weighed down. No sign or word from Clark. The longer it was the more likely it was that the teen had not survived. He tried not to think about it for the moment nor give up hope.

Everyone was now up to date and Fury was livid at being so helpless...and Luthor just sat there. His reaction to the explosion was...well nothing. Luthor hadn't said a word since and his face was unreadable.

SHIELD agents were now arriving on site and securing the area, the Hellicarrier visible in the sky above them.

The X-Men sat around, worry etched on their faces for their friend...well the ones who were conscious. No-one had died, miraculously in this fight, but there were many who would be taking it easy for weeks to come.

"Ow, ow, fuck ow!" one of those hurt complains as her injuries are treated. That one being Volcana who didn't want treatment. Not when her brother was up there, somewhere, in space stupidly risking his life to save them all and thousands of other people. All she wanted to do was fry Luthor. The bastard! God she hates the man so much. He is responsible for so much of her suffering. She'll never forget the months she spent being 'studied' in Lionel's lab. If she could move right now she would fry the man but she feels like one big bruise. Damn robots got a lucky shot. She finally gets her helper to fuck off as she rests up against a half broken tree.

Nightwing comes to sit down next to the fiery redhead.

"Any word?" Volcana asks, her voice fearful. Nightwing had tried to see if there was any word on Clark.

Nightwing has to sadly shake her head. She knew nothing more than anyone else. Clark went after the missile, it exploded in space and no-one had seen or heard from Clark since. "I didn't even know he could fly," she remarks, out of a lack of anything else to say.

"Well he couldn't...or he can but hadn't figured out how to. He picked a hell of a time to finally..." Claire then lets out a strangled sob. "Sorry," she sniffs as she tries not to cry...but god it's her brother and he might be...

Nightwing puts an arm around Volcana. "Hey. It's alright," she says.

"Really?" Volcana asks as she wipes her nose on the back of her sleeve.

"Truthfully? Don't know but that's what you're meant to say right?"


Nightwing looks up. Her and was confusing where they stood but she does know that if he is dead it will hurt...a lot.

The Professor was studying Lionel. He hadn't gone as far as trying to read the man's mind but Lionel must have gone mad...or had he?

"What's on your mind Xavier?" Fury asks, recognising the expression on the Professor's face.

"We fell for it," Charles says cryptically.


"If this was about revenge then it worked. Look around you Colonel. All of us in one place. Tell me if that missile had struck what would be left?"

Fury's brow knits together. SHIELD was here with the Hellicarrier, Magneto's group, the Hellions, the X-Men, the mutant community of Smallville, the Avengers. "Damn," he mutters as he realises the truth. Lionel was going to wipe them out in one blow and Xavier's right. They fell for it. "This time I'm going to throw away the key," he vows about Lionel's fate.

"This isn't over, Colonel."

"How so?"

"Where's Lionel been all these months? Where did he get all these robots? He had to have have them built somewhere?"

"Yeah," Fury acknowledges the legacy. "We'll get to the bottom of it," he makes another vow. The 1st person to ask would be Whiplash. They had caught him too and he too was trussed up with Stark keeping an eye on the Stark's own uniquely irritating way. Fury swore Vanko was going to literally explode with rage.

"I hope so," the Professor says softly.

Fury's good eye spots Lex, skulking about as if looking for something. What is that about? "If you'll excuse me Professor. I have another Luthor to go deal with," he excuses himself.

The Professor nods. Truthfully he too needs to have words with Lex and Fury over this whole thing, the robotic suits but that can wait for another day. This is not the time nor place for that conversation...maybe or if he finds a moment he just might give Fury and Lex that piece of his mind. Charles will see if the right opportunity presents itself.

The Professor manages to roll his way through the battlefield toward a certain person who is standing, sadly amongst the ruins of her community. She was trying to put on a brave front but the Professor could sense her internal pain and anguish. "Lilandra," he says softly.

Lilandra jumps slightly in surprise, not hearing or even sensing Charles' approach, so lost in her own thoughts was she. She had a bruise on her forehead but she was ok...physically at least. Emotionally...all their hard work, all their work rebuilding after the meteor shower, all her hard work to keep her community together after Charles made his announcement over the power inhibiting technology, all her hard work trying to get the community accepted as part of the larger Smallville community and just look at it now. Ruined. Just...just look at it!

"We'll rebuild it," Charles promises her.

"What's the point," Lilandra replies, sounding defeated. "All we want is to live in peace and we can't even get that. We can't even get the right to buy the land and try and make something of it."

"The woman I know doesn't give up," Charles reminds her of her character. Not that he is surprised that at this very moment it might seem too much, even hopeless but it's not. It never is. "More than that I won't let you give up."

Lilandra turns her head, the dirt, bruising and blood not doing as much as one might think to hide her natural beauty. She arches her eyebrow. "You won't let me, huh?"

"No," Charles says, his voice not harsh but with plenty of hardened steel in it.

Lilandra's head falls. Charles reaches out and takes her hand. Lilandra slides down onto his lap, her head buried into his neck and he holds her as she cries, knowing this is something he has to let her get out of her system.

"You," Fury states sternly as he strides broadly and rapidly up behind the bald man. "I want a word with you, Lex," he demands because this whole thing started because Lex put in an override to the suits Lionel exploited. An override that wasn't suppose to be there. It was suppose to be a simple shut-down function. Not an ability to remote control the suits.

"Not right now, Colonel," Lex dismisses him.

Fury grabs Lex by the collar of his jacket and throws him up against one of the trucks. "Yes. Now!"

Lex glares hard at the man with icy cold blue eyes. "Haven't you noticed? We're missing someone."

Fury's brow furrows. "Who?"

"My sister."

"Your what?" Fury asks in puzzlement. "You don't have a sister."

"Technically you're correct. I don't have a sister. I have a half-sister. The redhead that came with my father."

"Lutessa Mercer is your sister?"

Lex looks twice at Fury. "You know her," he realises. The way Fury knows her full name gives it away. Lex is going to have to dig into that and find out how Fury knows his sister.

"That's classified," Fury grinds out automatically.

"Of course it is," Lex mutters sarcastically, "but my point is she isn't amongst the captured is she?"

Fury looks around and can see Lex is correct. God damn it! He signals for a squad of agents who are there at his location in moments. Fury lets Lex go. "We're missing Ms Mercer. I want her found...immediately!" he orders.

"Yes sir!" the squad of SHIELD agents chants in obedience.

Fury points directly into Lex's face. "We're not done. Not by a long shot," he promises.

Lex straightens out his clothes. He knows he has...some issues that will require clearing up in the next few weeks if he is going to just survive and keep his company from bankruptcy but his brilliant mind is already working out a plan. "I will of course cooperate into any investigation into how these tragic events happened," he says, sounding very much like the good cooperate citizen.

Fury's good eye narrows. Slimy, duplicitous...oh he is going to do everything in his power to make sure both Luthors are hung out to dry. First, though, right now he has to find Ms Mercer.

Cyclops, Magneto, Captain America, the White Queen, Commander Maria Hill. Not a gathering you see everyday.

The fight was over. How to disengage the various parties without starting another was the discussion they were trying to have.

Any attempt to try and arrest Magneto would definitely start one and Cyclops knew that SHIELD wanted Magneto in custody. Hell he wouldn't mind seeing it as well but was this the time and place? They had injured, they were all tried and bruised and banged up and really Scott just wanted to crawl into bed, preferably with Jean and sleep for about a week.

"I do not recognise your authority, Commander Hill, or that of your government," Magneto states a line about a point he's made abundantly clear before when she made mention of the many, many charges the Master of Magnetism was wanted for. "You're fortunate I don't chose to end Luthor's life right now...or as matter of fact use the basis you have been creating weapons to use against my people as a declaration of war."

"Try it," Hill dares him, not taking the threat favourably. He wants a war she'll give him a war.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Cyclops intervenes. "Nobody wants a war."

"Cyclops is correct," Emma agrees. She came here to prevent a war. Not help start one. "And may I point out, Commander, I have contacts with people who are your direct superiors. One phone call and I can have you busted down to cleaning the lavatories."

Hill glares at the woman. "I swear to God, Frost, I'll live long enough to see that club of yours burned down around you."

"Well it's important to have goals," Emma retorts sarcastically.

Captain America speaks up. "Take it from someone who fought in a war that it isn't something you bring about lightly," he cautions. "However, I am aware of your crimes, Magneto. You do have to be held accountable."

"Crimes in the opinion of the human oppressors," Magneto dismisses them, his tone showing clearly how little to next to nothing he thinks about the weight they carry. "The Nazis had a list of things they called crimes too. Being the wrong race was one of I'm certain you recall, Captain. You saw the camps," he reminds the veteran of that war, trying to make a comparison which really doesn't hold water except in Magneto's mind.

Cap momentarily bows his head. "Yeah. I saw the camps," he confirms, his tone grim as he is forced to remember the horrors of them. "It only shows that all people have to be held accountable for their actions."

"I don't know why I expected you to be different Captain," Magneto says, sounding disappointed. "I shouldn't have. Always the good little soldier, doing his duty." He turns to look at Emma. "The so-called Queen, falling into line behind her Lord Imperial, looking for the good place to stick the knife." He looks at Cyclops. "The leader blinded by the foolish optimism of his teacher." And finally he looks at Hill. "Back to where we started. Another solider, following a corrupt, decadent regime."

"One more word," Hill warns Magneto that if keeps going she's liable to slug him.

"And you'll do what?" Magneto dares her.

"Magneto don't," Cyclops warns the man off.

"Why not? This is coming anyway. Look around you. They were creating weapons to use against us. They are practically begging for war. You have to see this."

"No he doesn't," Cap argues. "War is never inevitable. It should always be avoided." Some people think that might sound strange from a man who tried everything he could to join the war but you have to know it wasn't because he wanted to kill people but because he wanted to help end the war and save as many lives as possible. He never started the war. Never wanted it to start but when it came despite that he had to help in anyway he could. Personally he would love it if they could all just learn to live in peace and he could retire.

"Alas if only that were possible," Magneto half-laments.

"Don't start Magneto," Cyclops repeats his warning from earlier. "As the Professor always says..."

Magneto cuts Cyclops off. "I know more of what Charles thinks than you do. I don't need to hear an opinion I know so well."

"Neither do I," Emma says, having no wish to hear the Professor's naïve message ad nauseam.

"Both of you probably should," Hill adds in because Professor Xavier is the only one talking sense, about living in peace. See as long as mutants obey the law and keep their noses clean she really doesn't have a problem with long as the proper safeguards are in place in case they step out of line.

"Stay out of it, human!" Magneto and Emma say together, their tones almost identical in the superior to mere human nature.

"We're losing track," Cap tries to reign the conversation back in but it's too late as the 3 spill into argument after argument, it getting more and more heated until it looks like they may come to blows.

Until there is the sound of a sonic boom and a shock-wave which actually knocks all the 5 participants off their feet stopping their argument just in the nick time before they crossed a line they wouldn't be able to step back from.

"THAT IS ENOUGH," a loud, stern, but not shouting voice tells them.

All 5 blink and look up at the figure standing there, dressed in blue and red, his hands clapped together in front of him, which was the boom. The figure is dirty and his face smudged and his clothes tattered and torn in places but otherwise looks remarkably alright.

There stands Superman and his expression is exactly the same as his words. He has had enough.

Author's Note: So finally Clark flies. Bout time I suppose. Now how does Fury know Tess? That's a thread I'll leave unanswered for now. A mystery for later but it does relate as to why Tess went along with her father's schemes. It is a good question of how all these groups go their varying ways without starting another brawl. Lets hope for a positive resolution because I'm not sure I really want to write a whole new battle right now. Thanks to everyone who wrote reviews. Next up; Where did Tess get to? And for that matter Shinobi too. Plus starting to wrap up the threads of this arc...this story as matter of fact.