Chapter One

"Let us be quite clear about what Krypton was, and what it was not. Krypton was among the oldest of the planets, and its people counted among the first races to gain sentience. They, alongside others such as the Oans, sought to bring order to a disorganized universe, each in their own way. Each, in their own way, also reaped a different product. Though Kryptonians did not have the telepathic capacities of some other races, or the sheer physical brutality, the sum of their mental and physical abilities made them a force to be reckoned with. Beyond anything else, their capacity to adapt, to control the forces of the universe through science, placed them at the forefront of the ancestral races that sought to shape the order of the stars. Neither muscle nor telepathic power would stop the great ships of the Kryptonian fleet, and over thousands upon thousands of years, our people brought countless worlds under their influence, in the name of peace and progress. They did, what they thought, was best for the prosperity of lesser races."

-Jor-El

The great globe of the Daily Planet spun slowly, as it had for over a century, rotating on the great cogs that had been constructed in the early part of the 20th century. Light glittered off its golden surface, shining against the blue backdrop of the distant skies. At one point it had been the largest building in the city, though now it sat beneath the shadow of the truly mammoth LexCorp Tower that sat upon the other side of the block. LexCorp Tower had been constructed as the namesake of business mogul Lex Luthor following the death of his father. Hoping to get a fresh start, the entire company had been renamed from Luthor Corp to Lex Corp, the old tower sold off and the new one constructed on the profits of massive weapons contracts Lex had secured as the business had transitioned from public agriculture products to weapons development.

Just after noon each day, as the sun began to descend into the west, the shadow of the LexCorp Tower would fall upon the Daily Planet, the usually cheery streets below filled with a sudden gloom, the light in the office windows vanishing as the sun disappeared. Inside, lamps would flick on, electric lights powered up as the staff continued about their daily business, undaunted by the change in their environment. It was the sort of thing they'd become used to doing. At one point owned by Lex, its investigated journalism stifled by his heavy handed ownership and desire to use the paper as his own mouthpiece, they'd suffered along until a temporary dip in LexCorp's fortunes had allowed for a power grab. Now owned by a nearly equally wealthy Bruce Wayne from Gotham City, the Daily Planet had once again been given free reign to pursue whatever leads they might have. It had been a welcome return to normalcy, both for staff that had worked there for years and those who'd only recently started their careers.

Among the relatively new faces was Jimmy Olsen, an intern that was constantly stacked with the worst jobs in the building. He'd arrived a year before, a fresh face looking for a break at the world's most respected paper. He'd dreamed that he'd have an immediate impact, impressing the reporters and editors and earning his way to a paid spot on the staff. As it turned out, he'd spent the majority of his year grabbing coffee and making copies for the staff, and had only slowly been trusted to go out into the field with any of the reporters as they worked different investigations. Of course he was still unpaid, but the experience was amazing, and would hopefully look good on his resume.

Most of his time was spent working with Mrs. Lois Lane-Kent, a star reporter for the planet who'd made a name for herself doing investigations into corrupt business practices of Luthor Corp in the small towns that were scattered outward from Metropolis, the most prominent of them being Smallville. By the time Jimmy arrived at the Planet, Lois had acquired quite a reputation as a thorn in Lex's side. Although the young billionaire had cleared his name by shuffling the bad business practices onto his deceased father, nobody at the paper thought he had clean hands in the issue. Since then, Lois had developed a near obsession with uncovering every new project Luthor had his hand in, and had at one point nearly drawn a lawsuit from her more aggressive articles.

Nobody knew exactly why she was so invested in Luthor's downfall, though it was clear her investigations had pushed her career sky high. She'd spent some time in Smallville herself, sporadically over the years but enough to feel the pinch of Luthor Corp's tactics, and maybe that had driven her investigations. Lex himself had spent time at the Luthor vacation home that sat midway between Metropolis and Smallville, and had helped run the agricultural business for a short time. Still, their relationship was unclear, although obviously antagonistic. Jimmy didn't mind the risks she ran by constantly dogging all the reporters he worked with, she was his favorite. Lois was informative, witty and aggressive, willing to do anything to get her story.

What they were doing today, though, he was in the dark about. Perry White, editor-in-chief at the Planet, had called in Lois and Clark. Clark Kent was another big name at the paper, not only because he was married to the internationally noted Lois Lane, but because his own investigate journalism was well respected. He kept a much lower profile, let Lois go after Lex and preferred to tackle other issues in the city, with a special knack for getting human interest stories. He didn't do the sort of journalism that got you on tv, but his stories were the sort that kept readers coming back to the Planet, let them know about political and social events and generally kept readers up to date on critical issues Metropolis was facing.

All that said, the two did occasionally work together, and for the last half hour the pair had been preparing to go into meeting with Perry. Just a few seconds before the door to his office had slammed shut, and though you couldn't hear him, you could see his form stomping back and forth between the blurred glass windows that kept anyone from seeing clearly into the office. Jimmy, with a rare moment to do whatever he wanted, slinked away to the men's bathroom, slipped his phone out and immediately sent out a tweet.

"Big case coming. I can smell it. #nextbigthing #journalismWHAT"

Meanwhile, inside his office, Perry's large, meaty hands rested on the desk in front of him, his eyes moving between different reports that had been brought in this morning. "You know that officially, Lex isn't running the business anymore. You know that right?" he asked, his teeth biting into his jutting lip. "I mean, let's think about this. We're talking about a former business mogul that now has to worry about running the country. If anything came out that he had a hand in running LexCorp right now, it'd be a scandal. Conflict of interest, they'd say."

Lois shook her head, pointing a pen toward Perry. "Exactly, especially with all the military contracts that Wayne Enterprises has been losing since Lex took office. Do you really think that Lex hasn't had a hand in that?"

"Of course I think he could, Lois, but let's be realistic here. Wayne might be losing contracts, but LexCorp hasn't exactly been getting them, either."

"So who has been? You're really going to stand there and tell me the two largest industrial and technology developers in the country are losing out on this many contracts, and to who? Small time upstarts? How are these businesses staying afloat while they're trying to undersell huge corporations like LexCorp and Wayne Enterprises?"

Clark leaned in, setting his paper tablet onto the desk. "Perry, I think that if we dig a little deeper, we'll find these small companies have some tie to LexCorp. If they do, this could be huge. This is a scandal waiting to happen."

Perry White spun around, his large arms crossing in front of him as he stared out at the looming LexCorp Tower. "It's not enough just to tie these small companies to LexCorp. We'll have to show some tie to Lex himself. You know, they've got Marcus Tyson running things now, so he's the one running things at the company. Meanwhile, the DoD might be run by Lex's pick, Gene Hollister, but Hollister's got a long standing, good reputation in the military. He sailed through the nomination process in both the House and the Senate, so we've somehow got to tie all these guys together to prove Lex is still trying to pocket profits for his company. Again, I'm totally on board with the idea, but we've got to get the evidence."

Lois tucked her pen into the breast pocket of her suit jacket. "I totally agree, that's why I'm saying we start small, try to show those companies have ties to LexCorp. From there we can dig up the evidence that Lex is swaying the approval process so that these dummy corporations are really run by him, and that he's unfairly trying to crunch Wayne's profits."

White looked over his shoulder at his two star reporters. "Why squeeze Wayne, though?"

"You mean beside Lex being Lex? Maybe because Wayne's one of the few people that can compete with him on cash terms."

"True."

"And, don't forget, Wayne did try to get involved in the mayoral race in Gotham a while back. So he's not entirely opposed to getting involved with politics, especially since he's been pushing candidates in Congress that would be brave enough to go up against Lex's money. Easier to do that when Wayne is helping fund them."

"Yeah, I see your point." Perry turned around, fingers squeezing at his forehead as he did so. "I just don't want to have to go through another lawsuit war with Lex, you two. I know Wayne bailed us out on that one but Lex was out for blood. If we'd been owned by anyone else, I'm not sure the Planet would still be standing."

Lois smiled. "You know you still would have run with those stories, Perry. You don't know how to do anything else but go after the truth."

"Yeah you're right, but that doesn't mean it isn't a pain in my ass sometimes." He heaved out a deep breath, eyes dropping to the reports on the desk once again. "Okay guys, I'm going to give you two some time away from your weekly duties to go after this, but I need regular updates. If we're not showing good progress, and soon, then we back out. I'm all for nailing Luthor to the post on this, but you don't go after the president of the United States without some hard evidence. Do you understand me?"

"Boss," she replied, rolling her eyes, though her smile never left her lips. "When else haven't I given you the best?"

"Yeah, yeah." His eyes moved over to Clark. "And you, Kent. Am I clear? Nothing less than hard proof. I know you like these stories about saving cats out of trees, but I've seen you do some hard hitting reporting, too. I want that out of you on this one."

Clark adjusted his glasses and quickly grabbed the pad off the desk, fumbling out of his seat as he moved toward the door, Lois close behind him. "You know it, boss," he said as his foot tripped the leg of his chair, the entire seat collapsing to the ground.

"Jesus, Kent," Perry said as he turned around again, covering his face with his hand. "Size of a freaking football player and all the grace of an elephant."

Lois and Clark exchanged smiles as they moved out into the reporter's den, where desks and cubicles bustled with activity as young reporters, looking for a break, worked phone lines and fired off emails. Lois' hand went to Clark's elbow, just the slightest sign of affection, subtle enough to avoid attention in the workplace. Even married, it was important to conduct themselves with the appropriate behavior.

Clark's eyes went to the pad in his hand, fingers flipping through sheets as he looked at the list of companies they'd found. "Lots here that we can tackle, from all over the country. How do you want to handle this?"

"Well I know how you can handle your end," she said with a smug grin, shaking her head as she stepped past him and toward her desk. "Some of us have to make flight arrangements, you know. Although to be clear, if you don't do the same, the Planet's going to get suspicious. They're going to want to know how you got all around the country without booking with an airline."

"Yeah, I could get away with a trip or two, but considering all these companies we have to go through..."

"And we don't have to take off right away. Let's find the best targets we can line up, then go from there. Some of the ties on these are iffy, but the bigger profit contracts? Let's focus on those, dig up what we can, then decide if we have to get out of town to do some deeper digging."

"You're right," he said, scratching at the back of his head. "And here I was already planning to take off."

"Come on Smallville. This is big time," she said with a wink, settling into her chair, her fingers going toward the keyboard. "Come on, get on your end and start doing a little research. I'll take A through D for now, you can handle E through H. Then we'll go on from there."

He nodded, moving to his seat across from her. "This is the worst part of the job you know."

"Yeah yeah, who likes sitting at the computer all day looking at business registries?"

"Not exactly what I expected to do when I left the high school newspaper to do big story reporting here in Metropolis."

She paused a second, the tapping on her keyboard halting for just a moment as she remembered their time back in his small hometown. "Wow, crazy to think people really bought into all those Freak of the Week stories Chloe was posting. Then again, Smallville had some crazy things going on back then."

"To be honest, I'm surprised that nobody ever found out... well, you know."

"Let's be honest, Clark. Someone did. I'm just grateful he doesn't remember anymore."


Chloe Sullivan-Queen buried her head in her hands as she sorted through the stacks of papers in front of her, each containing a list of numbers so long that she thought, if she continued to stare at them much longer, her head would explode. When she'd first committed to coming to Star City, it was invariably to work for the Star City Register, allowing her to rekindle the journalistic passion she'd had when she ran the school newspaper at Smallville High. She'd been so talented that she'd gotten one of the few intern positions at the Daily Planet, and her future as a reporter had once looked incredibly bright. Now, it was her cousin, Lois Lane, who got all the spotlight as the face of reporting at the Planet.

Not that she wished anything but the best for Lois. No, that wasn't it at all. She'd just spent so much time trying to find what she was supposed to do with herself, she'd forgotten that, as a journalist, she'd been at her best. The problem was that the Daily Planet was one of the few papers in the country running with good profit margins. The Star City Register was performing well, but people were reading the newspaper less and less in an internet age. With the numbers at the Register slipping, it wouldn't be long before layoffs came, and she'd find herself without a job again. At this point, that was unacceptable. After Queen Industries and Luthor Corp had attempted a merger, the fallout of its failure had devastated her husband Oliver's finances and he'd been struggling to restore the company to its former glory.

He worked tirelessly at it, day after day, and they had been slowly returning to firm footing over the years. Still, he'd sunk the majority of his fortune into doing it, and had in turn gotten them into the sort of debt that could make a person dizzy. Week to week, Chloe chipped in helping with their financial reports, the young couple walking a razor's edge between profit and bankruptcy. They were wealthy only in terms of their stock, and Oliver couldn't sell that off unless he wanted to lose the company for good. Meanwhile, they were busy trying to fund his lifestyle as the Green Arrow, and her extra endeavors assisting those with superhuman abilities. With everything going on, she couldn't afford to simply be without a job.

That's when it had dawned on her. Instead of waiting for a layoff, she needed to carve a niche for herself at the paper. As a young journalist she'd been on the cutting edge of online media. With her incredibly computer skills and knack for technology, she'd been one of the first to run online blogs, tweet, post youtube video reports and generally use the internet to generate a following. The Star City Register had none of that, and was far behind the Planet in terms of an online presence. So, confident that she could convince her editor that such a role was necessary, she'd put together a presentation to sell her value as an online journalist. She'd stormed her editors office, explained all the ways the Register could start generating online revenue, presented the role she could play in helping the Register generate online traffic, and left the meeting confident she'd earned her way into a pay raise.

She hadn't, but she'd at least been able to save her job, at least for now. She'd been tasked with generating online reports to go alongside with her normal columns, which basically meant double the work for the same amount of pay. Still, there was a vague promise that at some point she'd be compensated for it, so she'd continued working away at it, filming and uploading her videos, tweeting them out to her followers, maintaining her Facebook page and constantly updating her blog. All while helping with Ollie's finances. And helping superhumans coming to grips with their powers. Not to mention the duties of helping maintain the house, and the occasional intense worrying for Oliver when he went out to fight crime. It was quite the busy life.

Given all she did, it was nice to occasionally get a break from the normal routine. Still, the sort of break she got that day didn't come along often. Her hands had been flipping through another stack of finance reports when a ping at her computer caught her attention, her eyes moving to the small Skype symbol in the toolbar. She spun her chair around, settling her headset onto her desk and checking to see who was calling. Her eyes squinted as she examined the name in front of her.

"Lois?"

An image sprang up on her screen, her cousin's smiling face coming to life. In the background the walls of the Kent apartment were lined with photos of the couple, and Chloe couldn't help but immediately return a smile of her own. "Lois! So glad to see you. You're usually so busy over there at the Planet, I never know when it's a good time to call you."

"Yeah well, you know, keeping tabs on Lex Luthor's a busy job."

"I remember, I used to have to do the same thing. So what's up?"

"Well dear cousin, I was thinking that, maybe, we could help each other out. In fact I think this is something you'd be really keen on. See, we're going after Luthor on some shady business dealing, could be big. Thing is, it's me and Clark working on this, and there's a lot for us to track down. I've got leads to track down out east, Clark's got some things he could follow up on around here, but we'd sure like to have some feet on the ground out where you are. I could ask someone else for help, but on something like this... well, you know, it'd be like the old days. It's big enough for all of us to go after, and it might really help boost your career."

Chloe let slip a frown at those words, though it was true. The Star City Register was not the Daily Planet, and she was fighting for her job. She could use a big break, and there had been a once-upon-a-time when her, Lois and Clark had all gone up against both Lionel and Lex Luthor, trying to expose the company for its many misdeeds. In retrospect, it'd only been because of Clark's amazing gifts that they'd avoided getting killed. In the years following, only Lex's amnesia of his time in Smallville had prevented an all out conflict between LexCorp and everything Clark held dear. Even without those memories, Lex had still managed to raise hell in Metropolis, both legally and illegally. Sometimes it had been Lois and Clark's investigations that had kept him in check. Other times, it had been nothing less than Clark in the blue suit and red cape. Either way, they'd had to save each other enough times, and if Lois really thought there was something big here, Chloe wanted in on it for a number of reasons.

"You know Lois, anytime that you give me a chance to go after Lex, I'm going to take it. Yeah, you're right I could use the boost to my career. Papers aren't selling like they used to in Star City. But, I'd help you regardless. So, what is it you're looking into?"

"Well I don't want to bore you with all the details Chloe. What we're looking at is Lex illegally shifting military contracts to LexCorp to shrink Wayne Enterprise's profits and boost his own. If nothing else, that sort of stain on his rep is exactly what we'd be looking for to get him out of office at the next election."

"No, I hear where you're coming from, and I agree. Anything that lets us get at Lex, that weasel." She huffed, blowing a few strands of her out of her face. "So I'm guessing there's a few companies out here you want me to investigate."

"Right. We haven't been able to tie them directly to LexCorp but I'm sure they're just dummy companies to fatten up his bottom line. Technically he's not running things there but we all know he's the hand behind everything they do."

"Well, I'm not sure about everything. Marcus Tyson may be Lex's stooge, but he's more than capable of acting on his own. I'm not sure how much you know about him, but Tyson's been putting businesses on the map for years, a long time before he met Lex, and it hasn't always looked legal. Besides, have you seen the guy? He's built like a giant, seven feet tall and all muscle. Scary stuff."

"Chloe, you've got a man who can knock a gun out of a man's hand with his bow and arrows, and I've got one that can fly. I think we come out ahead on this one. Besides, is this Tyson guy smarter than either one of us? I highly doubt it."

Chloe shook her head, grinning. "Oh Lois, how do I argue that. Anyway, I'm onboard with this idea, I just need you to send me a list of the companies you want me to track down. Bet you I'm still the better journalist and get my information before you get yours."

Lois cocked an eyebrow, her lips curling upward at her cousin's brashness. "You're on, Chloe. I'm getting a bottle of wine out of this, just so you know."

"I think I'll be the recipient of that, thanks."

"Hah, we'll see. Anyway, I'll email you the information in a few minutes. Hope you have the time to jump on this."

"Not really," she said, holding up a stack of papers. "But I'll find a way to make time. I always do."