Episode One – Corruption
A dark Cadillac limousine pulled up beside the Luthorcorp Building and double parked beside the line of parked cars. Traffic came to a shuddering halt behind it and drivers honked their horns impatiently. The uniformed chauffeur got out, staring snootily at the other drivers, while a police officer on a horse approached.
“You can’t park here, buddy,” he said.
The chauffeur ignored him, nose in the air, hat pulled down to shade his eyes. He quickly moved around to the back door, opening it wide and allowing his three passengers to get out. Two were dressed in the finest European fashions money could buy. Both were wearing long cloaks which seemed incongruous in the warmth of a late Metropolis summer.
They were clearly extremely wealthy and so arrogantly full of themselves that they paid absolutely no attention to the continued shouts and horns of the drivers still trying to pass the huge vehicle.
The third man was dressed simply in a black suit with a white shirt and grey tie. He joined the other two waiting at the kerb.
One of the cloaked men, a man with an aristocratic nose and long, silvery dark hair, spoke rapidly in French to the chauffeur.
“Gustave tourné autour de l'immeuble ” he ordered.
“Oui monsieur,” the chauffeur nodded.
The three men went inside while the chauffeur went back to the vehicle and got in, driving off. The police officer had written out a ticket and placed it under the windscreen wipers, but it soon flew away.
The dark haired man swept in as if he was attending a premiere event, rather than heading toward the bank of elevators. The other two followed him into the lift, waiting as the car ascended to the fifth level where the main Luthorcorp reception area was housed.
The man swept out of the elevator and stared at the woman at reception.
“Something you want?” she asked casually, glaring at the three men.
“Monsieur Luthor, s’il vous plait.”
“I ‘ave already told you. Monsieur Luthor, s’il vous plait.”
“I meant your name,” she said, with an uninterested air.
“I am Baron Yves de Rochefort,” he told her, expecting her to be impressed.
“Un huh. Do you have an appointment? Mr Luthor is a busy man.”
“I? I do not need an appointment,” he said with a heavy accent. “I am the Baron de Rochefort. And I am a very busy man myself. Mr Luthor, s’il vous plait. And I do not care to repeat myself once again.”
The woman sighed, yawned, then picked up the phone.
“Yeah, Luce, there’s some guy here wanting to see Mr Luthor. Says he doesn’t have an appointment. Yeah, I told him that, but ... I don’t know. He’s got kind of an accent. I can barely understand a word he says. Some baron, or something.”
She looked up at the man once again.
“What was your name again?” she asked.
The baron harrumphed in impatience. “I am the Baron de Rochefort.”
“Is there something I can do to help you gentlemen?”
The Baron turned and looked at the redheaded woman. She was beautiful. Her facial features seemed to be European in their ancestry. He wondered if her family had come from France, or a neighbouring country.
“And you are?” the Baron enquired.
Yves de Rochefort snorted in derision. English. The name’s origin was either Scottish or English, but the meaning was that of a purveyor of fine silks and fabrics of great luxury. Unless, of course, her name was derived from that of le Mercier, but never mind, he thought.
“I am ‘ere to see M’sieur Luthor. Kindly direct me to him.”
“Mr Luthor is a busy man. Please state your business.”
“Very well, Mademoiselle Mercer. My business is that I wish to discuss an, ‘ow do you say, alliance, with Mr Luthor in regard to the one known as Superman.”
Tess’ eyes widened and she nodded. “Follow me,” she said.
The three men followed the redhead to the bank of elevators and joined her in the car. They stared straight ahead, aware of the curious looks of the redhead. But she said nothing.
It wasn’t long before the elevator reached the sixtieth floor of the Luthorcorp building. Tess opened the double doors and walked in.
De Rochefort saw the bald man sitting at the glass topped table. He knew much of Luthor’s recent history. Luthor had disappeared four years earlier after what had been publicised as an accident at a drilling site in the Arctic. Two of Luthor’s men had been killed at the site, after an avalanche had caused the collapse of the structure. Luthor had somehow made it out and had been virtually crippled.
During that time, he had used stem cell research to restore himself back to full health. Lesser men, de Rochefort supposed, would not have been able to survive under such circumstances. But Luthor himself was unique.
“Tess, what the hell?” Luthor said.
“I’m sorry, Lex, but they insisted on seeing you and wouldn’t leave until ...”
De Rochefort strode forward. “M’sieur Luthor, I am Baron Yves de Rochefort. This is my associate, the Marquis Antoine de Sade and Doctor Francesco Donatello. We wish to discuss an alliance with you.”
“An alliance?” Luthor looked puzzled. “What alliance?”
“May we sit?”
Luthor waved his hand. “Of course.”
De Rochefort smiled. But it was not a smile of friendship. Lex could see that this was a man who was used to getting his own way. The Marquis, as well. Both had the look of European aristocrats. The doctor, Donatello, was clearly Italian. His suit was well-cut and obviously by an Italian designer. Armani, perhaps.
Lex got up from behind his desk, not wanting to appear unapproachable.
“We know you are an extremely clever man, M’sieur. We have learned much about you and your miraculous recovery from your accident four years ago. We know about your Project 33.1 and your work with, uh, ‘ow do you say, mutants? We would propose an alliance against the alien known as Superman and we would like your assistance in a very special, er, ‘ow do you say, project?”
“The hybrid. We wish to study it.”
“Hybrid?” Lex asked, puzzled. He thought for a moment.
Doctor Donatello seemed to take his silence for refusal.
“We can take the child with or without your assistance, Mr Luthor. We wish to study it.”
Lex still remained silent, trying to think of a way out of this. Firstly, Superman was his enemy, and something he considered to be his property. Secondly, Lex might be a lot of things, but he would never kidnap an innocent baby. From what he’d heard, Lois Lane had given birth to a baby girl a month earlier. There’d been an announcement in the Daily Planet. Mara. That was her name.
Given that he’d lost his own brother in infancy, he was loath to take an infant away from its mother. No matter who the father was. Lex might hate Clark Kent and all he stood for, but he wasn’t about to let these aristocratic bastards get their hands on the half-human child of Clark Kent. Not if he didn’t want to incur Superman’s wrath.
“What is your answer, Luthor?”
“There will be no alliance. Superman may be an alien and a thorn in my side, but he is my problem and I will not ally myself with the likes of you.”
“You do not comprehend who you are dealing with, Luthor,” de Rochefort told him. “We are very powerful men, you see, and we will do this with or without your aid.”
“Get out of my office,” Lex hissed. “And stay away from Superman.”
De Rochefort turned to his associate and spoke rapidly in French. So rapid that even Lex had trouble keeping up.
“Cette américain refuse une alliance avec nous! Ses gens la sont des vrais barbares ... voila pourquoi il faut aussi surveiller Luthor je refuse que ses anciennes colonies sans histoire et cultures nous donne des orders a nous des européens sans nous il existerais même pas ses primitifs.”
Lex knew a lot of languages and he got the gist of the Baron’s words. In essence the Baron was berating Lex for refusing an alliance and that Americans were barbarians, without history or culture. The Baron was suggesting they should monitor him as well. Lex didn’t appreciate that. Nor did he appreciate the idea that they felt because of them, or their ancestors, America would not exist.
De Sade held out a hand and spoke in French as well.
“Biens sur baron mais nous devons être intelligent nous aurons tout le loisir de les manipuler patience ...patience mon cher ami bientot. “
(Baron, we are on his property, we have to be smart and wait for an opportunity. We need to handle this with patience. Patience my friend. Soon.)
But when the Marquis and the Baron turned cold, sadistic smiles on him, and Tess as well, he shuddered, as if someone was walking over his grave.
De Rochefort’s tone was as cold as ice as he continued.
“Listen to me, M’sieur Luthor. You have no choice. You work with me and my associates. I have many friends here in America and we could ruin your company. You would end up a pauper, miserable and alone, forced to wander the streets. I have a good relationship with your government and with some very powerful businessmen who would ... ‘ow do you say, be desirous to become majority shareholders.”
Take over his company? Over his dead body, he decided.
“Your empire is very powerful M’sieur Luthor, but my Illuminati brotherhood control the world and the system.”
Lex drew in sharp breath. The Illuminati? They were supposedly a shadowy group which claimed to be the power behind the world’s governments and were behind events designed to bring about a new world order. But Lex had never believed in it and as far as he was concerned it was just a conspiracy theory. But what if they weren’t, he asked himself.
“You understand now?” de Rochefort asked, his face a cold mask.
“I don’t take kindly to threats,” Lex returned, a lot braver than he felt. “And as for the Illuminati, they are a myth.”
De Rochefort grinned, reminding him of his father’s own shark-like grins when he was about to destroy someone.
“You have one week to reflect on what I have suggested. I am staying at the hotel Sheridan. If you change your mind, you may contact me there.”
Lex watched them leave, then looked at Tess.
“Find out everything you can on these people. And I mean everything.”
Tess nodded. She walked out, then pulled out a small communicator as her manicured finger pressed the button on the lift. But instead of pressing the down, she pressed up. As soon as the lift doors opened, she walked in, staring straight ahead as the doors closed.
Less than thirty seconds later, Tess emerged on the roof of the Luthorcorp building. She pressed the communicator into her ear and activated it.
“Watchtower, this is Mercer. We have a problem.”
The lift ground to a squeaky halt and the doors opened with a creak. A pair of feet in patent leather high-heeled shoes walked out backwards, followed by four wheels of what could only be a baby carriage. The wheels spun around and the high heels turned, walking forward.
The woman was dark-haired and beautiful with hazel eyes that seemed to be rimmed with gold. She walked with confidence as she pushed the carriage along the corridor, ignoring the looks from co-workers as well as the whispers. Her waistline still showed signs of a pregnancy, her belly soft and slightly rounded.
A hand came down to gently stop the carriage. Lois Lane-Kent stared up at her tall, dark and handsome husband. She lifted her hands, circling her eyes in what was by now a familiar gesture. Clark Kent looked absently at her, then his eyes widened.
“Honey,” she said. “I know you hate wearing them, but this was your idea, remember?”
Clark hurriedly pulled his horn-rimmed spectacles out of his pocket and put them on. Instantly he went from tall and rather spectacular to stooped and, for want of a better word, nerdy. His hair was slicked back and he smiled sheepishly.
“What are the two of you doing here anyway?” he asked as he opened the door to their small office. Lois noticed the names on the door. The name Clark Kent was written above hers. She supposed it was done alphabetically, but she was top banana in this working partnership and everyone knew that. The only time Clark Kent ever got top billing was ... actually, she told herself, she still got top billing there too.
“Mara was missing Daddy,” she answered finally, taking the opportunity to check out her husband’s tush of steel. “She kept asking for you.”
“She’s a month old, Lois. She’s not even talking yet.”
Caught, she thought. Ah well, can’t win ‘em all.
“Okay, sue me. I missed this place.”
“Lois, you’re on maternity leave,” Clark sighed.
“Yeah, and who knows what you’ll mess up while I’m gone,” she said as he picked their daughter up in his arms just as she started to cry. It was still amazing to her how his super-hearing could pick things up in an instant. He began to rub his daughter’s back and she began to coo.
“It’s amazing how you can do that,” Lois marvelled.
“I guess I just have the magic touch, Lois.”
“Cute Kent. But I am still getting those Ops guys to change the door.”
“That’s if you can find them,” Clark commented dryly. “Since they heard Mad Dog Lane was on the prowl, they’ve developed skills in hiding that even Superman would be hard-pressed to beat.”
De Rochefort paced the hotel suite. It did nothing to settle his mood. He was pissed at Luthor. But never mind, he thought. Luthor was but an insect to be crushed.
De Sade entered the room and spoke in rapid French.
“Les hommes viennent d'arriver a la ferme.” (The men are on their way to the farm)
“Excellent,” de Rochefort smiled. But the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “What have they told the sheriff’s man?”
“Exactly what you told them to say.”
One hour earlier
A man aged in his late thirties was sitting at the desk in the sheriff’s office in Smallville. He looked older than his age of thirty eight – he would be thirty-nine in three months. His face had a drawn, pale look to it and his eyes appeared sunken. There were dark shadows underneath.
“Yes?” he said, looking at the two men who had walked into his office. They looked official enough, with what appeared to be expensive suits.
One of them waved an identification badge which looked suspiciously like government agent. But there was something off about them. They didn’t smell like government agents – or at least the government agents he knew. Since most government agents were poorly paid and these guys looked like they didn’t buy off the rack.
“We’d like to talk to you about a Mr ...” the man consulted a notebook. “Clark Kent?”
“What for? And let me see those badges again.”
“That isn’t necessary, Sheriff,” one of them said coolly. Rutherford’s hackles were instantly up.
“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think is necessary. I want to see those badges again. Now whip ‘em out.”
He peered at the badges, noting down their numbers and the departments the two men, Crawford and Hammersley, worked for. He would make some phone calls later.
“Now, what do you want with Mr Kent?”
“You’re an intelligent man, Sheriff. So we’ll get straight to the point. Our agency is investigating Mr Kent.”
“Like hell it is. Mr Kent is a citizen and a respected member of this community, not to mention the fact that he is the son of a United States Senator. And believe me, he could make a lot of noise, and not just through that paper he works for. If you think I’m going to look the other way, while you boys turn that farm upside down, well you can forget it.”
Crawford and Hammersley walked out of the office, sighing. Obviously the sheriff’s reputation as a straight arrow was right on the money. They had already decided that buying their way into getting onto the farm weren’t going to work with the sheriff.
On the other hand, they thought, there might be hope yet with the sheriff’s deputy, Kelley.
“Mr Kelley,” Crawford said. “Might we have a word?”
They pulled the younger man aside, out of the hearing of Rutherford.
“It must be difficult, trying to raise a family on your wages,” Crawford said. They’d already done their research on the younger man and had learned he worked two jobs just to feed his family.
“It has its moments.”
“We know some people. In the Bahamas. We can get you a good job. You can leave Smallville, with your family.”
Hammersley took out a wad of cash and Kelley eyed it greedily. They’d known he was not above corruption and bribery, for the right price.
“The Bahamas, huh?” he said.
The two men nodded.
“And what do you want in exchange?”
“You screen any calls about any intruders at the Kent Farm. We know that Kent is working at the Planet today and his wife is out. We just need two hours max.”
“Do I want to know what this is about?”
“It’s better you don’t. Do we have a deal?”
Kelley was still eyeing the money. He nodded cautiously, then took the money.
“You guys better not be kidding about the Bahamas.”
“Sure,” Crawford smiled. “We’ll be in touch.”
They headed to the farm and began their search. They were looking for anything which might connect Kent to Superman. Their superiors suspected that Kent was Superman, but they needed proof.
Crawford started upstairs, checking the master bedroom. There was a wedding portrait on the wall next to the bed of Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Married a year and already with a baby. He snorted in derision. Freak, he thought. He hated Superman. There was no doubt in his mind that Clark Kent was the alien. And it bugged the hell out of Crawford. Superman thought he was so superior, up on his high moral pedestal, telling people he was here to guide the people of Earth, not to interfere in human affairs. Sure, Crawford thought.
That was why the Illuminati was so interested in Superman. His presence upset their plans for the new world order.
He made his way into the next bedroom. It had been converted into a nursery. There were motifs on the walls. Fairy tales and nursery rhymes. Idiotic parents, Crawford thought. Well, it wouldn’t be long before they would have the hybrid child. And once they had that, they could control Superman.
There was a yell from downstairs and Crawford ran, drawing his gun. He stared at the beautiful blonde holding Hammersley up against the wall by the throat.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my friends’ home?” she said with a glare that Crawford was sure would have turned them both to ashes if the alien girl had been so inclined.
Crawford pointed his gun at the blonde.
“Put him down Supergirl, or I shoot.”
Supergirl smirked at him. “Guns can’t hurt me,” she said.
“No,” Crawford smirked back, holding up the gun. “But Kryptonite can. We came prepared. This gun is loaded with Kryptonite bullets.”
Supergirl’s blue eyes turned fierce. She was assessing the situation. Unsure whether he was bluffing or not. It didn’t matter, Crawford told her silently. She would give in.
She dropped Hammersley.
“Who are you?” she said.
Crawford pulled out his identification, thinking quickly.
“NSA?” she asked, staring at the badges curiously.
“We have been investigating Smallville,” he told her. “Specifically some odd incidences which have occurred over the past twenty years or so.”
Kara crossed her arms over her chest and glared at them. “That still doesn’t explain why you’re in the Kent home.”
“We had hoped to talk to the Kents. Specifically Clark. He has lived in Smallville all his life.”
“Because we suspect there are links to a terrorist organisation here.”
Crawford continued to watch Supergirl. He knew she was concerned about the peace and safety of Smallville’s citizens. As well as Metropolis. He paused, waiting to deliver the punchline.
“Do you know Lex Luthor?” he said.
She continued to glare at them. Supergirl was an enigma. She had appeared on the scene almost two years ago, raising the profile of the so-called ‘superheroes’. Crawford studied her. She certainly was beautiful. What he wouldn’t do to have those long, golden legs wrapped around him. His dick throbbed as he pictured himself pounding inside that hot, tight flesh.
Supergirl was saying something and he looked at her, realising he’d become distracted. He wanted to find out who she was when she wasn’t in uniform. He would love to capture her. Take her as his own.
The blonde was clearly not happy at their presence. After berating them, then seeing the two men off the farm, she flew off.
Two and a half hours later, Crawford reported to de Rochefort at the hotel. Crawford bowed in total respect to his superior.
“Monsieur, je regrette, we were unable to search the farmhouse thoroughly. We were interrupted by Supergirl.”
The baron swore in French.
“Who is this Supergirl?”
“We are not sure, Monsieur, but I intend to find out.”
“Do that!” the baron snapped.
Crawford bowed again and left to join Hammersley at the NSA office in Metropolis where he began making a few phone calls. He had a friend in the Department of Domestic Security, and he was sure the friend could shed some light on things. There had been an incident a few years ago that he was sure ...
Crawford idly tapped some keys on his laptop and found himself searching through the net for something on the girl. He found some photographs taken of the girl when she’d first come to Metropolis. She certainly was very beautiful.
Crawford glanced at his colleague. Hammersley remained completely ignorant. But then no one had figured out that Crawford had been placed here by his superiors in the Illuminati. Members of their group had infiltrated every part of American society, from politicians to police officers. Crawford himself had been born in the Netherlands. He’d changed his name from Jan van Kraayenoord to John Crawford as part of his cover.
As he continued to stare at the images of the girl, he felt himself hardening. He moaned as quietly as he could, the brief fantasy he’d had in the farmhouse still on his mind. No one else knew about his sexual proclivities either. At least, not that he knew of.
He finally managed to reach his friend in the DDS.
“Supergirl? Yeah, I think there was some incident a few years back. But the guy you want is dead. Can’t help you.”
“Who was he?”
“Carter. Look, I don’t know what happened, since I wasn’t in Washington at the time. All I know is, Carter was claiming there was some kind of ship found in Kansas in 2007. And there was some kind of incident involving a lab tech who apparently let a girl get hold of his security pass. She broke into a DDS secure facility. And the tech claimed it was Supergirl. “
Crawford reported this information to the baron, who was pleased with the information. But it still wasn’t enough. All it suggested was that Supergirl had been on Earth a lot longer than she claimed to be.
Their research showed that Clark Kent had had a cousin from Minnesota. The story was supposedly that the cousin had been the daughter of Jonathan Kent’s cousin David. Crawford mused over that little bit of information. It sounded as believable as Clark Kent being from Earth, he decided. Since he knew for a fact that the cousins had been estranged and there was no way the daughter of some distant cousin would come to visit Smallville, let alone stay for an indeterminate period.
De Rochefort himself looked satisfied as he read the full report. De Sade looked on.
“This is the proof we need, no? They are cousins.”
“Not yet,” de Rochefort told him. “But Supergirl is clearly protective of the Kents. This may be of use to us.”
“In what way?”
“Send Crawford to talk to the girl.”
De Sade smirked. “Given his proclivities ...”
“I am certain he will do whatever it takes to get the girl to see things his way.”
The two men smiled evilly.
Tess marched into Watchtower, flinging the doors open. Chloe glared at her.
“You know, when I had to disappear off the radar for a few months, I said you could help. I didn’t say it gave you free reign to come and go whenever you pleased.”
“This is important, Chloe, you know I wouldn’t be here otherwise. When are you going to stop treating me like the enemy?”
“You happen to still be working for the enemy,” Chloe pointed out.
“And you know very well I’m only working there to keep the League abreast on everything Luthorcorp. Especially since Lex forced Oliver out.” She sighed. “Besides, it’s a good thing I was there today.”
Superman chose that moment to drop in. Green Arrow wasn’t far behind. Oliver pulled off his hood and looked fondly at Chloe. He patted her on the backside.
“Hey,” he said.
“Watch the hands Queen,” she said grinning at him.
“Party pooper,” he told her. “You know, we really should get some kind of bed in here,” he leered suggestively at her.
“Ugh, I may throw up,” Tess intoned.
Clark just raised an eyebrow. “Get used to it. Those two are still in the honeymoon phase.”
“Hey, just because we have a healthy sex life,” Oliver protested.
Clark sighed. He’d known what that was like once. Before Mara came along. He loved being a father – he really did, and he understood that Lois needed time to recover from the birth, but he missed those days when he and Lois could slip away for a little fun without having to worry about deadlines, or a baby screaming for attention.
Chloe had returned for good nine months after Oliver had been captured by the Suicide Squad. Chloe had explained that she had had to exchange herself, then go underground to learn what she could about the threat they were all facing. Once it had been neutralised, she had returned.
Oliver, ecstatic that she was back, had proposed and they had married three months ago. And they took every opportunity they could for some ‘alone time’.
“So what’s going on Tess?” Clark asked.
“Lex had some visitors today. Have you heard of a group called the Illuminati?”
Chloe quickly typed on the computer, bringing up some information on the screen. They read quickly.
“The Illuminati,” she said. “Historically the Bavarian Illuminati, from the Enlightenment period. They were a secret society, founded in 1776.”
“That’s one interpretation,” Tess told them.
“There have been others, though. Through fiction,” Chloe said, reading.
“Remember the Da Vinci Code? Angels and Demons?” Clark said. “Supposedly the Illuminati were involved.”
“And they’re supposedly behind the push for a New World Order. Survival of the fittest.”
“Yeah, but we’re getting into the realms of conspiracy theories,” Oliver pointed out.
“What if we’re not?” Tess said. “Because I just met three people today who claim to be the Illuminati. Or one branch of it.”
She quickly related to them what had happened in Lex’s office.
“They’re asking for an alliance with Lex? And they threatened to destroy Luthorcorp if he didn’t go along with it?” Clark asked. “What did Lex say?”
“What could he say? He tossed them out of his office. But that’s the problem Clark. This baron, whoever he is might just look like he can do it.”
Chloe was quickly doing some research on the computer.
“Well, he’s certainly connected,” Chloe told them. “He’s not only from one of the oldest families in France, but he’s also a powerful figure in the French government.
“Yes, but why would the Illuminati want Mara?” Clark asked.
“Because she’s half Kryptonian,” Chloe answered, before Tess could. “And they could study her. Use her against Superman.”
“But ...” Clark frowned. Then he seemed to understand. “Superman is a threat to the New World Order.”
Tess nodded. “There was a journalist, forced to go underground. Several years ago he wrote several books on that subject. He postulated that every event, whether it was Kennedy’s assassination or the planes flying into the World Trade Centre was all part of a plot to take control of the world’s governments.”
Chloe looked at them. “There’s also the theory that this baron is part of another secret society.”
“La Rose Noire,” Tess said.
“The Black Rose?” Oliver asked. Chloe nodded at her husband.
“Essentially, it’s a group who seek to influence governments all over the world. It’s been going since the early seventies and one of their major interests was in creating one government. And their idea of doing this was through nuclear power. That’s why a lot of the superpowers have been stockpiling nuclear weapons. And that’s why the French government was undertaking nuclear testing in the Pacific. Especially places like Moruroa Atoll.”
“I thought Greenpeace managed to stop that?” Tess asked.
“Maybe in the area, and that was only after French secret agents bombed one of their flagships in New Zealand.”
Clark looked questioningly at Chloe.
“The story goes that the Rainbow Warrior was visiting New Zealand, because the government had declared New Zealand a nuclear free zone. Any ships that carried nuclear weapons or was nuclear powered was not allowed in their ports. And it was believed that the DGSE Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure sent agents to stop the Warrior from sailing to the atoll to protest the latest round of testing.
“There were apparently two bombs on board. The crew were evacuated when the first bomb exploded, but a photographer went back to get his equipment so he could take pictures of the damage and he drowned in the second blast.”
“Wasn’t there a huge outcry?” Oliver asked his wife.
Chloe nodded. “There were only two agents caught and arrested and the French government threatened economic sanctions which would have crippled the country if the agents weren’t returned.”
“Okay, so how does this relate to La Rose Noire?” Clark asked.
“De Rochefort is rumoured to have villas in Tahiti and in New Caledonia. That’s near where the nuclear testing took place over thirty years ago. And while the French government admitted responsibility for the bombing, there are some that suggest that there was a bigger influence behind it.”
Lois was just getting Mara off to sleep when she heard the screen door open downstairs.
She turned, heart pounding as she saw Kara in the doorway.
“Kara. God, you almost gave me a heart attack.”
“I’m sorry, Lois. I just wanted to make sure you and Mara were okay.”
“Why wouldn’t we be?”
Lois stared at the blonde, puzzled. But she quickly grew concerned when Kara told her what had happened that day.
“Does Clark know?”
“Not yet,” Kara told her. “But he will.”
Lois sighed. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. Were they ever going to have a peaceful life?
The Baron was less than happy with progress. Crawford had reported all he had learned about Supergirl, but it wasn’t enough. He wanted proof that Clark Kent was Superman.
“Si nous pourrions peut-être obtenir quelque chose de lui, nous pourrions tester son ADN.” (“If we could perhaps get something of his, we could test his DNA),” Donatello suggested.
“Mais ils savent déjà que nous avons eu des gens fouillant dans la ferme” (“But they already know we have had people searching the farm) de Sade reminded them.
“Et s'il y avait une certaine façon de garder Superman occupé ? comme une sorte de diversion?” (What if there were some way of keeping Superman occupied? Like a diversion?) Donatello asked.
“Qui connaissons-nous dans le Comté Lowell ?” (Who do we know in Lowell County?) Rochefort asked.
The matter was discussed at some length, with the solution fairly quickly agreed upon. They would set up a diversion in the town centre, enough to keep Superman away from the farm. Once the decision was made, the call went out. By nightfall, the right people had been contacted and the plan would be instigated.
By tomorrow evening, they would have what they wanted. And then they would bring Superman to his knees.
“The Illuminati? Clark, they’re a myth!”
Clark nodded as he drained the last of his juice. “I know, Lois, but that’s what Tess told us.” He stood up, grabbing their plates and taking them to the kitchen to rinse before putting them in the dishwasher. Lois followed him.
“I don’t like this Clark. Especially if they’re after Mara.”
“Then we’ll have to be on our guard Lois.”
“I just don’t get it. The Illuminati, the society of the Black Rose. These are just conspiracy theories.”
“Maybe not. Anyway, Tess and Chloe are working together to track down the journalist who went underground. Now tell me what happened this afternoon.”
“All I know is what Kara told me. There were two men who claimed to be from the NSA here. She heard them snooping about. And one of them said he had Kryptonite on him.”
“NSA? Well, Chloe did say something about them having people everywhere.”
“You think there’s a connection?”
“There has to be.” Mara began crying upstairs. Clark looked at his wife. “I’ll get her,” he said.
Since Clark was still working full-time for the Daily Planet, plus his duties as Superman, he didn’t get as much time as he liked to spend with his baby daughter. Maybe she didn’t know the difference at this age, but he liked the time he had with her. Changing her, bathing her. The only thing he couldn’t do was feed her.
Mara was still crying when he went into the nursery. And she smelled ripe. Clark grinned.
“Somebody’s a stinky baby,” he said.
Mara turned her head toward his voice and stopped crying. She knew Daddy was here to take care of things. She wriggled a little in the crib until he picked her up, putting her gently down on the changing table. He set to work, undoing the tape on her diaper. The smell hit him.
“Whoa! Who knew so much could come out of someone so tiny,” he commented. Mara screwed up her face, looking as if she was going to cry again. “Oh no, don’t cry, Daddy will fix it.” He grabbed the baby wipes and began cleaning her up. Within a few minutes the soiled diaper had been put in the pail and a clean diaper had been put on. “Let’s go see Mommy,” he told his daughter, talking to her as he held her in his arms and carried her downstairs.
Lois smiled up at him from the sofa. “She okay?” she asked as she held her arms out for her hungry daughter.
“Yeah, just a dirty diaper.”
Mara latched on to her mother’s breast, suckling contentedly. She was a placid baby. She was yet to show any of her father’s abilities, but they guessed that it would be a while yet before they’d see what abilities she would have.
“What are we going to do?” Lois asked. “If these people are after Mara ...”
“The Justice League are going to take care of it,” Clark told her. “Oliver called in Bart and Victor. They’ll be here tomorrow.”
“Kara said she’d keep an eye on things, too. I still don’t like this Smallville.”
“I know, Lois. The thought of you being alone on the farm makes me uneasy. Especially with the idea that they’re targeting Mara.”
“My sentiments exactly.”
Clark turned, startled. He’d obviously been so distracted, he’d forgotten to use his super hearing and hadn’t heard the car pull up. His startled expression turned into a scowl.
“What are you doing here, Luthor?” he growled.
Mara instantly felt the change in her parents’ mood and started to cry. Lois put her daughter over her shoulder and immediately started trying to soothe her. But Mara kept crying. Lois stood up and touched her husband’s arm.
“Honey, why don’t I take her upstairs and see if I can settle her?” There was an old rocking chair in the nursery which they often used to get their daughter to sleep. Clark nodded and watched her go upstairs, then turned back to his enemy.
“What are you doing here?” he growled.
“I know you’re aware of a certain visit to my office today. You know, the only reason I tolerate Tess’ betrayal is the fact that she is my sister.”
“What’s your point?”
“My point is, Clark, they made threats not only against your daughter, but also against my company. And I don’t take kindly to threats.”
“Why should I care about you and your damned company? Considering everything you do is unethical, immoral and downright illegal.”
“And you make it your life’s work to destroy me. This isn’t about our differences, Clark. It’s about a group of people who mean what they say and have the power to do it. To destroy both you and I.”
“Why should it bother you that they’re wanting to destroy me?”
“Personally, I couldn’t care less about them wanting to destroy Superman. But I have never, nor will I ever, allow an innocent child to be caught up in our problems. You know what happened to my brother, Clark. I don’t make war on children.”
“That’s a given. It still doesn’t explain why you’re here.”
“Because I’m suggesting an alliance between us. A temporary truce, if you will. Until the threat is over.” Lex sighed. “Look, they came to me suggesting an alliance with them because they know about my projects. They could either use that information to help or destroy me.”
“Haven’t you heard the saying ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’, or perhaps ‘better the devil you know than the devil you don’t’?”
“Are you comparing me to the devil?”
Lex glared at him. “I still don’t trust you. I still think you’re here to conquer the world. And that opinion isn’t about to change. But from what I’ve learned about the Illuminati, the very thought that they might one day be in charge of this planet is much more worrying.”
“Why? What do you know?”
“Clark, these people will do anything, and I mean anything, to get what they want. They’ve already done it in various parts of the world. Like mass genocide. Terrorist attacks.”
“The World Trade Center, the Rainbow Warrior,” Clark nodded. “We were discussing that this afternoon.”
“There’s more. Clark, these people will do to this planet what the likes of Zod did to Krypton. They’ll destroy it.”
“How do you know about Zod and Krypton?” Clark asked.
“I have my sources,” Lex said smugly. Then he sighed. “Clark, I’m not asking you to like this. But I am suggesting that we can work together on this. For our mutual benefit.”
In other words, Clark thought, Lex would find a way to profit from this. That was, after all, the Luthorcorp bottom line.
Lex left the farm shortly after, hoping he had given Clark something to think about. As much as the two of them hated each other, there were bigger issues at stake here. He, for one, wasn’t going to let some French aristocrat take his company out from under him. And despite their mutual enmity, he had meant what he said. He would never willingly make war on children and the three men had instantly earned his distrust by suggesting they wanted to take the child of Superman and use her in the eternal struggle between the seats of power.
Lex had his own ambitions. He planned to become the youngest president of the United States. But if the Illuminati, or whoever these people were, had their way, that wouldn’t happen.
The Wild Coyote had fallen into hard times in the past few years. Its bartender/manager had been murdered after being involved in a plot to kill Lionel Luthor. Since then, no one had really wanted to continue working in the place. It had been taken over a year ago – a hangout for most of the rough crowd that hung out on the fringes of Smallville.
But on this particular evening, the bar was crowded with an even worse group. At least fifty motorcycles were parked outside the bar, and even more people were packed inside. They were drunk, or high, dressed in leathers from head to toe. This was the local chapter of a gang which considered themselves Smallville’s answer to Hell’s Angels. And even the roughest crowd gave them a wide berth.
The bartender had attempted to close the bar when the noise became too raucous. He’d even called in the sheriff, but that had also failed to deter the crowd. The only consolation was they’d done an inordinate amount of business that night.
Around six in the morning, a man, clearly the leader, got up.
“Let’s go,” he told the gang.
The bartender watched, relieved as the men left the bar. The motorcycles roared into life and sped off into the slowly lightening sky. Little did he know that the trouble was just beginning.
The midtown area of Smallville was just beginning to come to life. The milk deliveries had been done and the stores were beginning to open. Fordman’s Department Store did not open until nine, but some management staff were already entering ready to start the day’s work. The Beanery, which had been taken over and reopened with the destruction of the Talon, was getting ready to open for the early morning workers, wanting coffee before they started work at the Luthorcorp plant.
The fertiliser plant was still the biggest employer in the town. Its operations had expanded little in the intervening years, but there were still rumours of secret projects going on. Even during Tess Mercer’s reign as CEO of Luthorcorp, she interfered little with the day to day workings of the plant, and had little interest in any of the secret projects. Especially after she’d changed sides.
When Lex had returned from the dead and taken over the helm at Luthorcorp once again, he’d chosen not to rebuild the Talon. It was now a parking garage, which had been Lex’s original plan when he’d bought the building. Lex now cared little for the economic problems of the town, his main interest in controlling Metropolis.
Smallville had seen a number of economic woes in the past five years. Many farms had already been broken up, the land sold, the owners either choosing to get jobs at the plant or moving on to other towns and cities. The recession had hit the small town, named for Ezra Small, a man who, it was claimed, had the ability to see the future. His prophetic visions were written in code, but some suggested he saw the coming of a visitor from another world who would be raised by humans.
The second meteor shower had been the catalyst. Restoration and rebuilding had, for a short while, eased the economic burden; the worldwide recession that followed saw to it that the town never recovered from the disaster that struck in the spring of 2005.
At six-thirty in the morning, the streets were mostly empty. Very few cars were on the road. All seemed fairly quiet and peaceful. But it was soon to be shattered by the roar of motorcycles through the main streets.
They made passes in groups through each street, using whatever weapon they had available to break windows and cause as much destruction as they possibly could in the shortest amount of time. Within minutes, those few staff cowering behind shop counters had called the police, but Sheriff Rutherford could do little to stop the invasion. He was short-staffed and ill-equipped.
He parked his car across the road; an attempt to block the motorcycles. He ordered his two other men with vehicles to try and block the sidewalk. But they were only three men and they didn’t stand a chance against the onslaught of fifty or more men who caused violence and mayhem on a regular basis.
A young woman was walking down the street. She was aged around twenty, slight, slender figure. She was wrapped warmly against the cool Fall wind. As she turned down the street, she stopped, staring in horror at the scene awaiting her. There were at least half a dozen men with weapons ranging from shotguns to baseball bats, smashing windows, doors, parked cars. With a scream, she turned in the opposite direction and began running. Two of the men saw her and laughed, giving chase. She screamed in terror.
Rutherford looked at his men.
“We need help,” he said. Neither of his men were sure whether he was actually speaking to them or himself.
Rutherford went to his car, picking up his radio.
“Dolores, patch me through to a number will you?” He paused. “Yeah, 555-0145.”
Clark blinked, rolling over and squinting in the sunlight peeping through the drapes. He was used to rising early. At least in the old days when the farm had been a working farm, he would have. But on weekends now, he took advantage of the time he had to sleep in.
Something had woken him, but he wasn’t sure what. He’d been dreaming. Of Krypton, no less. Of showing his birth parents his wife and baby daughter. Lara had held his daughter in her arms, her hair shining and golden in the light, smiling down at the infant.
“She’s beautiful, Kal-El.”
“We are proud, my son,” Jor-El smiled in a rare showing of emotion. From what Clark had been told, Kryptonians were not emotional as a whole.
Mara had started to cry, the cries echoing oddly in the crystal structure. Then there was the sound of something ringing.
“Clark, phone for you.”
Clark pushed back the bedclothes, quickly getting to his feet and pulling up his jeans. He padded barefoot downstairs and looked at his wife, who was sitting in Jonathan Kent’s old armchair, the baby at her breast.
“It’s the sheriff,” she said, pointing to the cordless phone next to her. He picked up the receiver.
“I apologise for disturbing you and your wife so early in the morning Mr Kent. But I was hoping you might be able to contact Superman for me. We have trouble in the town.”
“What kind of trouble?”
The sheriff quickly outlined the problem. It seemed a motorcycle gang had started causing havoc in the town. The sheriff called them the Wild Bush 300. They were a Kansas answer to other motorcycle gangs and at least three hundred members strong in the Kansas chapter. At least fifty, maybe more, had invaded the town.
Hanging up the phone, Clark quickly dialled another number.
“Chloe ,” he began.
“Do you realise it’s six-forty-five on a Saturday morning, Clark?” she asked.
“I know. Sorry. But I need Oliver. We’ve got trouble. Tell him to round up the others. Whoever he can find.”
“What is it?”
He quickly told her. “Look, Superman can’t handle this alone.”
Lois looked at him.
“A motorcycle gang?” she asked.
“Yeah. I’m going to change,” he said, zipping back upstairs to change into his Superman uniform. Within seconds he was back downstairs.
“Clark, be careful,” Lois told him.
“I plan to be,” he said, opening the screen door and taking off into the air. Here, at least, they were fairly isolated, and there was little chance of his identity being exposed.
A minute later, Superman touched down beside the sheriff’s car.
“Superman,” he said. “It seems Mr Kent reached you. Did he explain the situation?”
“Yes.” Superman was already scanning the street and saw the young girl being threatened by two of the men. She was trapped against a brick wall in the alley. He took off again, landing right behind the two men.
“Problem, gentlemen?” he said.
The two men turned. One pulled out a large bowie knife, attempting to slash Superman.
“New in town?” Superman inquired. He grabbed both of them by the collars of their shirts, lifting them up in the air. Their feet dangled. They stared at him, then each other, then back at him. With a smile, Superman dumped them both in the trash bin. “Just taking out the garbage,” he quipped. With his heat vision, he welded down the lid.
Superman turned to the cowering girl.
“Are you all right, miss?” he asked.
He knew the girl. She was a neighbour. She worked part-time in the Beanery and was studying at Central Kansas A&M.
“Yes, Superman, thank you. I’m fine.” She wasn’t. She was shaking like a leaf. But he let her go.
Turning, he went back to the problem at hand, trying to gather as many more of the gang as possible. But even he couldn’t round up fifty men in a short time. After an hour, he was relieved to see Oliver on the roof, aiming arrows at the tyres of each motorcycle.
While he was taking care of the next lot, another three were bowled over like pins and he knew Bart had joined the fray.
Lois had just laid the baby down and had turned the television off. KPAZ was reporting live from downtown Smallville. The female blonde reporter was gushing enthusiastically for the efforts of the Justice League who were kept busy rounding up the gang.
She heard a crash from upstairs.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
Grabbing an iron poker from the fire, she started up the stairs.
“Someone there?” she asked. “I must warn you I have a ... weapon.”
There was still no answer. Lois began to assume she had imagined things. She heard it before she saw it. There was a slight hissing sound, then she saw smoke.
“What the hell?” she said to herself.
No sooner had she spotted the smoke then she began to feel dizzy and nauseous. Fighting the faintness, she struggled to get to her daughter’s room, but the blackness was already overcoming her. She collapsed to the floor.
Crawford smiled down at the fallen body of Lois Lane-Kent, then dragged it into the nursery. He continued his search through the house, confident there would be no one to stop him. He checked in the bathroom, gathering everything he thought would give him the evidence he needed, placing them in small bags which he sealed.
Stepping back out into the hallway, he started down the room to the nursery.
“Dude! Something I can help you with?”
Crawford stared at the man standing at the top of the stairs. He saw him glance into the room that had become the child’s nursery, then spot the woman’s body on the floor.
Crawford didn’t understand. The gas should have been enough to knock out an elephant. But this young man wasn’t even showing any ill effects. Granted, it had been a few minutes and the gas had had some time to dissipate, but he still should have shown some signs.
AC glared at the man. Clearly the man had tried to do something to hurt his friends and he didn’t stand for it.
Oliver had called him, asking him to come to the farm, since he was in the area. He knew there were problems with gang activity in town, and he had been surprised that Oliver hadn’t asked him to go there, but now he was glad that Oliver had asked him to keep an eye on Lois and the baby.
AC grabbed the man by the collar. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
Crawford struggled to get out of AC’s grip, thrashing. He felt himself being pulled downstairs. Fortunately, Crawford had once again come prepared. They were faced by another of the Baron’s men, holding a gun.
“Drop him,” the man ground out harshly.
AC bit his lip, but did as he was told. The man lifted his weapon and cold-cocked him, knocking him out.
“I’ve got what I needed,” Crawford told him. The two men walked out of the farmhouse without a backward glance.
Clark and the others quickly rounded up the remaining men and handed them over to the sheriff, who had also called in the State police. The gang leader was taken into custody and would be held at the Smallville jail.
Not waiting for his friends, knowing he would be reporting to Watchtower later, Clark flew back to the farm. He quickly noticed AC on the floor. He was already stirring, a large bump on the back of his head. With trepidation, Clark sped up the stairs. Lois was still passed out on the floor of the nursery.
Clark spotted the gas bomb and saw red. Someone had tried to hurt his family. Picking up his wife in his arms, he carried her to their bedroom and lay her down on the bed. Then he checked on his daughter, who was sleeping peacefully. The gas hadn’t drifted into the nursery and Mara was unharmed.
Going back downstairs, he saw Oliver waiting for him, tending to AC, pressing an ice pack to his head.
“What the hell’s happened?” Oliver asked.
“It was a diversion. To get me out of the house. I’m sure of it,” Clark said.
“What are you going to do?”
“Talk to the leader. Lois is still passed out upstairs. They gassed her.”
“Oh my god! Is she all right?”
“Yeah. And Mara’s fine. Stay with them. I’m going to the jail.”
“Clark, don’t do anything rash.”
“I don’t intend to,” Clark said, but even Oliver knew he was lying.
At the jail, he persuaded the sheriff’s man to let him talk to the man in the cell. As soon as he strode in, the man glared at him.
“Who sent you?” Clarkasked, in his most intimidating tone.
The man refused to look at him. Clark lifted him, pushing him against the wall.
“Tell me,” he ground out.
“You won’t beat them,” the man said. “They’re everywhere.”
“The Illuminati,” the man grinned.
The Baron received the report from Crawford with a smile.
“It begins,” he said.
END OF EPISODE ONE