IV: Coriolis Event
Keys to the Kingdom
November 2, 2016
Biologically, Varian Parker was almost five years of age, but to
anyone who did not know him he appeared to be fifteen. Medium height,
thin to the point of fragility, and intensity were all things that
would mark Varian. Ice blue eyes that burned with a cold light were
his crowning feature. It was midday and his lessons were continuing.
Dr. Essex was explaining human nature and for Varian it made no
Why does religion play such an important role in the world?
History is marked with the fault lines of religious carnage and
yet it continues.
A smile played across Essexs face before it faded back behind
his stern visage.
Religion is the subject of great debate among philosophers
and has been for
centuries. It gives meaning to the masses, so there is comfort in
young master. The screen in the room highlighted Israel on
a map. Take the Holy Land for instance; that land has seen
war ravage it for tens of centuries and yet it is the birthplace
of two of the three great Monotheistic religions. Jerusalem is probably
the most sacred city on the planet and yet it is situated on a land
bridge that fostered those wars. Thanks to religion an otherwise
insignificant piece of land has been transformed into a battleground
of the soul.
Strange that so much attachment is placed on useless land.
Youve taught me modern politics and I see how religion
has been used to play
against the mutant issue. Youd think that modern people would
People have not changed much over the centuries, Varian.
They are cattle for the most part, easily led nay, eager
to be led -- with the right leverage and foresight. Essex
smiled again. Religion can be used in many ways if one knows
what levers and fulcrums to use. That is enough talk of religion,
Varian. It is time for your science lessons.
It is done! Andre Comeaux fingered the new lapel
pin that was the new House
insignia. His signaled him as a House Lieutenant in the Security
branch. The post-
election celebrations of the night before were giving way to the
new reality of things this early morning. As soon as Lex Luthor
had been declared the winner of the Presidential Election, Andre
had moved into action to elevate security protocols on all of the
familys residential properties. The houses in Miami, San Francisco,
Boulder, Houston, and Long Island had been vacated and sealed. Motion
detectors provided surveillance and intrusions would be routed to
local authorities immediately. It was part of the pact that the
House Security had made with the Secret Service.
What the Secret Service didnt know about was the network
of secret safe houses across the U.S. and around the world controlled
by the family but owned by other people. Weyland-Yutani
came in very handy after all, thought Andre as he walked
through the deserted underground corridors that connected Minerva
Plaza to Skylar Tower where the family penthouse was located. I
hope the Secret Service doesnt know about these access tunnels.
Evacuation points that no one knows about are a necessity. An old
axiom I learned from DGSE; never leave your safety in the hands
of the unknown!
He made it to the door that opened to a maintenance closet in the
subbasement of Skylar Tower. It slid open with his palm print and
a scan of his new lapel pin. His pin was the House crest in gold
with three arrows behind it; two between the Gryphon and the Phoenix
and one between the Unicorn and the Phoenix. Andre didnt know
how they did it, but each pin was coded to the individual and would
not work with the new security systems for anyone but the assigned
individual. Only one person had four arrows on his pin and that
was Enrique De Santos, the House Majordomo. His pin was mostly golden,
but the lightning bolt S was silver inside the shield.
Andre and his fellow security Lieutenants had gold pins with three
arrows. People like Rachel Amsted-Smith, Senior Staff (Non-Security),
had pins primarily of silver pins with gold inside the shield. The
Aides-de-Camp, like Justin Daniels, had gold pins with two arrows.
He walked out of the closet and looked around to make sure he was
not seen as he headed to the stairs that led to the secure elevator
bank. The elevator opened with another security scan and soon he
was on his way up to the family floors. Sleep had eluded him for
much of the night, his mind reeling with knowledge of coming changes
that were beyond anyones expectations. No longer was the House
merely a Senatorial power, but now it was the House of the President.
Spies on Chris network had already warned them to expect the
Secret Service to demand more access. Andre had done what he could
overnight to close off battlefronts for the Service to demand acquiescence
in guarding the Presidents family.
The elevator stopped and Andre got off to find Alan and Chris waiting
for him. I see that sleep eluded you as well.
Alan handed Andre a cup of special brewed coffee. I made
it just the way you like it, dear. Alan smiled. This
makes us even, sir.
A smile crept across Andres face after he took a sip. I
am now in your debt, Mr. Owen.
Chris rolled his eyes and led them into the main Security room.
He leaned against
the door once it was closed. I have a meeting with Agent Millen
in three hours to prepare for further Secret Service protection
around the family. Lex will have a full detachment from now on.
We will drop all but two of our guards theyll become
Lexs body men. The boys, Clark and Whitney still need to have
their details worked out, but I have Lexs permission to deny
further intrusion into the boys world.
Alan yawned. The things from the storage floor are being
moved to some secure
subbasement lockers. That floor is going to be where the Secret
Service will set up their rooms in this building.
What happens to us? asked Andre.
Nothing, we will maintain our jobs and will help them to
an extent. They are not
going to be allowed inside the Palace Ive been told. Lex drew
that line already. Alan stretched. The next few months
will be tenser than those of the campaign. The Secret Service will
be around for at least four years. We have to adjust.
Warm bodies next to his were the first thing Lex noticed as he woke
up. The sun was rising, but it was not late yet. He hadnt
been in bed past sun rise in weeks. Slowly he stretched and the
memories of last night flooded back to him; both the good and bad.
The intense lovemaking had washed away months of stress, but they
could not remove the memory of intense visions. Extricating himself
from the heavy limbs of his lovers, Lex went to the bathroom to
Why am I still having those visions? I was elected President
of the United States and can safeguard the nation for the next four
to eight years. It will be challenging, but I can change attitudes
towards mutants. So why do these horrible scenes still plague me?
Well, Mr. President, how do you feel this morning?
asked Whitney in a mock
reporters voice as he climbed into the shower. Citizens want
to know how you
celebrated your hard fought victory last night.
Lex chuckled and let his hand run over Whits taunt ass. I
fucked my lovers all
night. The loss of sleep was well worth the pleasure.
All night is a bit of a stretch, replied Clark as he
climbed in the shower too.
Though it was nice having you with us without a time pressure.
He winked and
then grabbed Lexs ass. How do you feel?
Lexs smile faltered for a second and then brightened. Enjoying
the moment as best I can. The hard part begins later today when
Jeff heads to Washington to begin the Transition.
Whit chuckled as he lathered up and then started soaping Lex. Do
you have any
clue who is going to serve where?
So far I know that Jeff will be White House Counsel when
this is done, which means that the House needs to be restructured
as well. Lex smiled. And you Mr. Fordman are being chosen
to fix that problem.
Great. I have to play First Lady, Consort whatever
--and I have to pick a new
Warden of the Asylum. What does Clark get to do? Whitney asked.
I get to look hot, teach college kids, and save the world
meltdown, buddy. Clark reached over and smacked Whits
ass. I consider that a fair trade."
Lex chuckled and kissed Whitney to silence a response. Too
bad the boys arent
grown up enough yet to assume some control of the House. Philip
would make an
excellent Chief of Staff.
Hed make sure spending was under control, thats
for certain, mumbled Clark.
Okay, we have to get moving to get them back to Washington.
Are you coming with us, Lex?
Of course, I will be in Washington until the end of November
and then I will resign my Senate seat. I need to look at office
space for the Transition and all of that good stuff. Lex kissed
both guys and walked out of the shower. Hurry up. Otherwise
youll look like wrinkled old men and Ill divorce
both of you.
Frank Craft walked slowly into the Oval Office where he sat down
and waited for
President Trask to join him. There were few people on the planet
who were offered this courtesy and it was expected for Craft. He
kept his hands folded on his lap while he waited. The results from
the day before had been as expected and slightly worse as well.
A clear plurality of voters didnt want Mutant/Meta Human Registration
and balked at the Freedom Party platform, but the divisions in the
nation were deeper than polling indicated. The Consortiums
influence was decidedly weaker than it had been, but Craft knew
there was an ebb and flow of power.
What can I do for you, Frank? asked President Trask
as he came into the Office. I have a few days left to try
to help you, but the sands of the hourglass are running short.
They are indeed, Mr. President. However, this is a social
visit. Craft sat back down after Trask sat behind the desk
in the Oval Office. What would you think of my approaching
the new Vice President about the Consortium? Our influence on the
Hill is steady, but it is in the Executive that we are losing the
Trask considered the idea for a few moments. McKenna, like
all politicians, is
ambitious. If Luthor curtails McKennas ambition by shunting
him aside, the new V.P. will be ripe for the picking -- you would
be offering him something Luthor cant; a path to power. But
if hes part of the inner circle of policy decisions, then
you have nothing to offer him. Dont push this too soon or
else he might not appreciate the help. A slow smile spread
over Trasks face. Actually, your best move right now
would be to place Luthors former protégé, Pete
Ross, in positions of power in the House. He is both of the Majority
party and a known skeptic of Luthors. His brother is still
deep in the counsels of Luthor.
Thats being implemented as we speak. Hell be
joining the Rules Committee,
Government Oversight, and Appropriations. And hell become
a member of the
Leadership as well. Those things combined will grant him authority
inside the House and leverage of his own to influence events.
Craft leaned back and sighed. Even with that move, our ability
to manage events in the coming months is reduced. Gyrich will continue
to run SHIELD and that is in our favor, but Luthor might try to
remove him before too long.
He doesnt have the strength to do that, Trask
noted. He has no majority and the Senate, while still run
by his friends, is too close for Luthor to do much without consensus.
It will be interesting to see how much he tries to do without a
It was strange for the boys to be dropped off at school knowing
that they were going to be sons of the President in a few weeks.
Although they were accustomed to being scions of the super wealthy
House Luthor, there was a change coming for them and they knew it.
Already two new vehicles had been added to their motorcade to school.
Man, Im never going to be able to go out on a date
now, groused Ben. How am I supposed to have fun when
the Secret Service wants to stick me in a box?
Wes rolled his eyes and reached to open the door to the limo, but
it wouldnt budge. Hey! Some of us have to get to class!
The door opened and a sunglass-clad agent was standing there. You
will not exit a vehicle until we let you; is that clear?
Hamilton moved past Wes and sneered at the agent, Listen,
weve had the best
security in the world our whole lives, so we know for a fact that
its possible for you guys to do your jobs without holding
us up and annoying the crap out of us. Now, quit throwing your collective
weight around and move so we can go to school.
The stone-faced agent didnt appear impressed or swayed. Your
previous security measures are irrelevant now. We will work on your
end of the protection protocols after school today. The agent
Lets not and say we did, Philip quipped. In
light of my fathers new protection
law, the rules regarding Secret Service protection for the four
of us are murky, at
best. In the unfortunate event that were stuck with you for
the duration, please limit the contact to opening the doors and
closing them. He strolled on past without waiting for the
agent to answer.
Aw, come on Philip. Lighten up, Wes cracked as he pulled
is guitar case over his back. We might actually like them
if the Secret Service becomes the Silent
Chauffeur Service. He straightened the glowering agents
tie and smiled. Have a good day.
Four abreast, they moved up the walk toward the main building.
Silent Service, my ass, Ben groused as soon as they
were out of earshot. Those guys are going to be death to my
social life. Philip has Franklin and I fully expect Hamilton to
create a female robot one day, so hes taken care of, but me
Im shit out of luck!
Ill have you know I like real girls, Bennett!
Hamilton countered. I bet I get laid
before you do.
Wes shook his head and chuckled. I bet Philip does it first.
There is no race to see who does what first, said Philip
firmly. This discussion isnt conducive to civility.
I fail to see why youre worried, Ben. Both of your hands are
functional and we all know you know how to use them. Philip
winked at his younger brother. Im running late. Later,
Dudes? Wes burst out laughing. Since he started
dating Franklin, you gotta admit, hes been in a much better
Bens mouth was still hanging open and his face was slightly
red. Oh, he is going to get it later.
Sooner than you will since he has a boyfriend, chimed
in Hamilton. He gave Ben
an around-the-shoulder hug and turned to walk away. See you
guys at lunch.
Ben sighed. Man the universe shifted and now Im the
butt of all the jokes. Wes, I dont think Im going to
like this much.
We all have to adjust. Im late too; I have the acoustics
room reserved so I can
My brother the Rock Star.
//Not if The Parents have anything to say about it,// Wes lamented.
The family wasnt happy that Wes still had aspirations to be
in a rock band Lex was especially skeptical and Lionels
disappointment was palpable. Wes was pained by their disapproval,
but he was also proud of himself for sticking to his guns. //At
least they support you in your athletic choices.//
Ben placed an arm across Wes shoulders and walked with him.
//Hey, they love you and I know they are proud of your abilities.
They know you have a talent they dont. Hell, I think Dad is
a little jealous when Im playing ball because he misses it.//
//What was it that Uncle Jeff said once
We see ourselves
in our children and dont want them to repeat our mistakes.
I just want to enjoy my music.//
Ben smiled. Then go do your thing, bro. See you at lunch.
Jeff Fordman sat in his newly acquired office approximately six
blocks from the White House pouring over files for people who would
help run the new Administration. Already on his fourth cup of coffee,
he refilled his cup from the carafe on the corner of his desk. This
is going to be a nightmare. How are we going to fill over three
From the opposite side of the desk, Mike Ross chuckled and then
yawned. Well, we know Im going to be Deputy White House
Chief of Staff and youll be White House Counsel, so thats
Great. Two down and two thousand-nine hundred-ninety-eight
to go, mocked April as she sat another stack of folders on
the desk. No, ninety-seven. Bruce is going to be Secretary
of the Treasury.
And Nancy McNally is National Security Advisor. Dr. Valerie
Cooper will be Deputy Secretary of Defense, but those are not going
to fill out the Cabinet.
Mike shrugged and opened another file. I still need to find
someone to be our boss. I have no idea who we will tap to be Chief
of Staff. Mike cleared his throat and sighed again. I
dont trust how quickly the Friends of Humanity accepted Lex
as the rightfully elected president. I know there has to be more
to this story than what weve seen.
Politics is a zero-sum game to many people, Jeff responded.
Its folly to assume that the knives arent being
sharpened for Lex already, here and around the nation. But given
this stack of work, I can see how hard it will be to keep any perspective
on such subjects in the coming months. We need to make sure we have
someone looking out for the big picture because Im going to
be snowed under with paperwork.
Yet another person to hire, lamented Mike. You
arent making this any easier, you know?
No one said it would be easy, but the pay could damned well
Access is the 'Currency of the Realm' in Washington, D.C., and
the people who were gathered at the LFK Resort had that currency
in spades when the members of the Billionaire Boys Club gathered
openly for the first time to celebrate their joint victory. While
Lex had been the point man, all the members had contributed time,
money, and ideas toward getting Lex elected. Warren Worthington,
Tony Stark, Janet Van Dyne, Oliver Queen, and Emma Frost were among
the first members, but they had been joined by Sebastian Shaw, Benjamin
Hartley, Brandon Manheim, and several others. The prime member was
Bruce Wayne and he considered Lexs victory to be partly his
Bruce raised a glass and the assembled did as well. To the
president-elect; may he be a shining light guiding the nation through
Lex smiled and nodded. Thank you, my friends, for the support
and early boost you gave my campaign. The hard part has now begun
in earnest. Tomorrow I will begin the first round of nominations
for my Cabinet, but do want to make one public from the beginning.
Bruce Wayne will be my Secretary of the Treasury. Cheers went
up from the assembled group. Lex smiled and waved for them to settle
down. Hes one of my closest friends and has been supportive
in most ofmy endeavors since we met back at Eton. Now I know many
of you are wondering which of you is getting that all important
appointment as Ambassador to the tropical island of your choice,
but those will have to wait until after the big hitters have been
chosen. Katherine Tyers is already leaking to the Press that Gregory
Vandeaver is going to be White House Chief of Staff.
Murmurs rippled through the crowd and Lex allowed them a moment
before motioning for them to settle down. He is a powerful
member of the House
and the former Attorney General of a swing state. Consider this
securing my flank early and hopefully increasing my influence in
Congress at the same time.
More drinks were served and smaller clusters of people mingled
and laughed. Now
that the election was over and the result to their liking, the atmosphere
positively jovial. Emma moved next to Bruce and guided him to a
Secretary of the Treasury, you should elevate Jason Wyngard to be
Bruce leaned forward and inclined his head a bit. Why is
Youre a man known for having all kinds of knowledge.
skills that could be invaluable to you. Emma
smiled and shifted her eyes to scan the room. //Ask Elizabeth about
Mr. Wyngard some time and see what she has to say.//
Long training kept Bruces mouth from falling open at Emmas
open display of her
mutant ability. Hed known for a long time that Emma Frost
was an Alpha level
mutant and suspected her of being a high order telepath, but the
egregious display floored him. Ill ask Betsy about it
when she returns from London.
Bruce allowed Emma to move off to discuss other matters with various
people while he placed a stuffed jalapeño in his mouth absently
as he mulled over the implications of this new revelation. Elizabeth
was in London getting new instructions from Whitehall; he was more
anxious now than ever for her to get back.
She had revealed her own mutant gift as a high order telepath a
few months after they start dating. She had hinted that she knew
far more than she could ever discuss because of privacy issues,
and Bruce had been forced to let it slide. Given the importance
of their mandate now, letting things slide didnt seem like
a viable option any longer.
Not very sociable of you to be hiding, Mr. Secretary,
said Lionel with a smile.
Im not the Treasury Secretary yet, countered
Bruce. You must feel like the king of the hill today, Lionel.
It has the pleasure of being a novel experience, Bruce. I
am the father of the
President-elect and another generation is waiting in the wings to
do things that have never been imagined. Lionels eyes
sparkled with mirth. It is a good day.
Bruce raised his glass toward Lionel. Lets hope there
are more to come.
The limo rolled to a stop at the Receiving Entrance of the White
House. The outgoing presidents Chief of Staff was waiting
for him and greeted Lex as he exited the limo. Lex extended his
hand to Dick Simons and smiled.
Senator, welcome to the White House.
Thank you. Jeff Fordman told me that your transition meeting
went very well.
Hopefully it can be a smooth period for the nation.
Simons inclined his head. I hope so as well. He quickly
led Luthor through the
White House halls and to the Oval office. President Trask was waiting
for them as
they walked in. Senator, Mr. President. With that he
left them alone.
Lex, congratulations again on your election. Trask
offered his hand and then
motioned Lex toward one of the couches. Trask sat opposite him.
The nation has a serious crisis on its hands and you will
have to step up to calm the waters.
I will do everything I can to make sure that we survive the
times. The mutant issue must be downplayed in favor of more pressing
issues in my mind.
Trask shrugged. It is your country to lead in a few weeks
and you will have to make choices that affect the whole nation.
I can offer advice, but we dont see eye-to-eye on many issues.
I would hate to see things become more unstable because you
and I failed to make the Transition a smooth one. The false rumors
being spread by anti-mutant groups, for example
his voice trail off and Trask picked up his cue.
Oh, I agree. The idea that Super humans may have influenced
the election sounds like sour grapes to me. Trask smiled for
a moment. I can tell you that this office is a target of much
intrigue. Ive found that most of it is complete lies, but
the nation is full of conspiracy theorists. They can take the most
innocent of things and spin them into a tale of wickedness that
would even have made that famous Witch blanche.
Chuckling, Lex leaned back and pretended to relax. I need
to know about SHIELD and any capabilities it might have that I wont
Trask smiled and nodded his head.
He never answered the question directly, Whitney. Lex
sipped his tea and sighed. I wish youd been there with
that truth sense you have. Ive been told that
the FBI has a small group of psychics and is trying to find ways
of creating more. Their new Psy-Corps would detect if
I tried to pry with my mind. Betsy has been giving me some lessons,
but the campaign messed those up completely.
Clark frowned and stretched his legs out in front of him. So
he denied that SHIELD has anything beyond what you already know?
How much do you know?
Ive not been given my full briefing yet. Walter Hagel,
Trasks Deputy NSA, has to get Nancy McNally up to speed. After
that, she can get me up to the Presidents level of access.
The fact that she serves on advisory boards for National Security
and Defense Policy makes it much easier. Lex rubbed his temples
for a moment. Well, Whitney, who is going to head the House
now that I am stealing Jeff?
Wait a second, you just said that Trask is hiding information
about SHIELD and you switch topics like a jackrabbit. This SHIELD
thing is ominous.
Clark nodded. Ill see what I can find out from information
you have about SHIELD as you get it.
NO! Not yet, Lex stood up and started pacing. SHIELD
is an unknown for us right now. I think the Society needs to investigate
more than just you, Clark. You have to have a detail now and if
you keep disappearing, things will get hairy.
I dont want a detail, Lex. Clark crossed his
arms and frowned.
Whitney chuckled briefly. I get a full detail, then you have
to have one for
Lex waved them off. Anyway, who is going to run the family?
Im going to get Lisa to manage the Household accounts
from Metropolis. Nick is
moving out here with Jeff so he was out of the running. Were
getting thin on the bench, Lex.
I know, but there isnt much we can do about that until
the boys and Elsa grow up. Lex rubbed his scalp for a second
and shrugged. We still have to make plans for the move to
the White House as well as all the Inauguration stuff.
Why dont we let our moms handle some of that planning,
Lex? Clark suggested.
Your Dad also needs to be more than Chairman Emeritus of Minerva.
What depth we do have will have to be used.
Graydon Creed was smiling. Headlines of newspapers across the country
were asking if superheroes had interfered polling places, influencing
the outcome of the election. The Los Angeles Times had a
picture of the so-called Superman with the headline, Undue
Influence? A few whispers in the right ears and people were
suddenly examining the impact of Heroes patrolling the skies and
grounds of major cities to keep the peace. As he sipped
his coffee, Creed couldnt help but laugh at how easy it was
to manipulate public opinion. Unfortunately, even with Senator Luthor
being supported by several Ultimates publicly, his election was
viewed as legitimate.
His choice of Gregory Vandeaver has complicated matters greatly,
Patrice. A former Republican operative in the Vice Presidents
office, she was one of the aides that had helped the Freedom Party
do so well in the election. We will have a presence on the
Hill, but Vandeaver was a member of the Leadership and Luthors
picking him is a clear signal he is going to be working closely
That simply means we can crucify Luthor in 2018 and his majorities
will die with his popularity. These headlines already sow the seeds
of doubt. Right-wing radio is suggesting that our honest poll watchers
were intimidated by the superhumans and it was they who made the
voters cast their ballots against the Freedom Party.
Well need more than rumors and partisan talk from your
lackeys to affect
Congressional power, Mr. Creed. Luthor is very close friends with
Senators Adkins, Kennedy, Trent, Christiansen, and Lingthe
Majority Whip and powerful committee Chairs. The soon-to-be President
is in a position to accomplish a great deal in a short period of
Graydon sat back and frowned. We will make sure that the
rumors and innuendo
cause some political fallout and I will see what else we can do
to make sure that
Luthor is distracted. He cant focus on everything at once.
A smile wisped across Danielles lips. Very true. More
than one presidency has failed because too many events telescoped
on top of each other and the administration moved right when it
should have gone left. That is the nature of the office and the
world. Luthor may be intelligent and wealthy, but in the end he
is only one man.
Vitaly Kirov was scowling as his security staff left the room and
his personal aide, Tatiana, came in after them. The news from
Kazakhstan is not good, Vitaly
informed her. Their security services have begun rounding
up more people
suspected of being mutants and have ordered their borders closed.
A border control regiment of troops has moved within three kilometers
of the border.
That is troubling in the extreme. Tatiana sat down
and crossed her legs. It forces us to commit troops into Kazakhstans
sphere of influence and the United Nations never looks kindly on
Tatiana smiled. Fortunately, three battalions of those new
troops you requested are in place. The Shadow Squads are trained
and ready to follow Longshots plan.
Vitaly accepted the news with a slight nod, as though he had expected
nothing less. The situation in the Balkans warrants more attention,
he told her, adding, Dr. Doom has been spotted and there have
been reports of violence in Romania.
Tatiana rolled her eyes. I know he was here and was not arrested.
Dont tell me you didnt know about his plans, Vitaly.
Having the Balkans in turmoil serves your
interests in one way or another.
He shrugged and poured a cup of hot tea, neither denying or confirming
assumption. I want you to increase surveillance of InterGang,
especially in the
United States. I dont trust Morgan Edge. His operations arent
nearly as integrated as the rest of InterGangs.
Ill see to it as soon as I can. She paused as
though carefully considering her next words, then told Vitaly, I
share your vision of Russian greatness, but be careful how you push
to achieve it. The Balkans are dangerous and NATO will intervene
if they must. Much of your plan requires stealth and excellent timing,
but the Balkans are a powder keg that could blow us all up.
I understand, but I know what I am doing, darling. Doom is
of no concern; it is
Australia that we must continue to watch. Essex is intrigued by
Varian Parker. If I were superstitious, I would call Damiens
son an Abomination or Demon Childe;
however, I am not. Still, he bears watching and Essex has been on
the scene too long to be objective. The super clone project is vital
to Russias future.
Tatiana nodded. I know. The troops from that project are
amazing. Longshot has examined them in mock combat and was impressed.
They should overrun
Kazakhstan with ease.
Excellent. Vitaly picked up a folder and handed it
to her. Those are the people who need reminding about who
runs this land. He smiled and then kissed her on the cheek.
You are the Ice Queen, my dear, go and sow fear in the proper
Winds blew onto the coast at near gale force -- something that
Morgan Edge had not been expecting from his visit to the lovely
city of San Diego. The plan to go sailing that morning was no longer
in play and Meteorologists across the nation had started wondering
about the formation of a low pressure system 200 miles to the southwest
of San Diego that was responsible for the high winds. His view of
the ocean was unobstructed and the waves were crashing against the
shore with more force than he ever recalled seeing.
Vacations were not his normal routine, but he had need of one.
InterGang required much of his time now and his own people reported
an increase in the number of Russian mobsters in the Denver area.
Knew that would happen sooner or later. Vitaly never trusted
me and I dont trust him. However, he has more resources than
Morgan pulled on a sweater as he headed to the door. A check in
the mirror made sure his hair was still in perfect form. Once at
the elevator, he nodded at his discreet security to let them know
he was on his way to the restaurant. When the elevator stopped at
the ground floor, Morgan exited and headed across the ornate lobby
to the restaurant. As he approached the doors, a man fell into step
with him, catching Morgan unawares.
Mr. Edge, I was hoping to have a word, Graydon Creed
Morgan hid his frown and waved off the security men who had surged
forward at the unexpected approach of Creed. What can I do
for you, Mr. Creed?
Graydon motioned towards the restaurant. Edge scowled, but followed
him into the dining area. Graydon smile as they were seated. You
are not an easy man to locate, Mr. Edge. I have a proposition for
That would be?
Youre a man reputed to have a great deal of knowledge
and many contacts that are less than official. Graydon smiled
before continuing. In fact, a number of my associates say
that you are a man who can get things
things that arent
available through normal channels.
Morgan leaned back and shrugged. I dont know what youre
The word hung in the air for a few moments before Edge leaned forward,
his elbows resting on the table. Rumors and innuendo.
Not according to my contacts in Los Angeles, who tell me
that InterGang is
connected to every black market activity in the United States and
around the world. Graydon smiled and leaned forward. I
would like to see if I can use those contacts to my advantage.
If InterGang existed, which I am not confirming, why would
you need such help in your line of work?
Graydon looked around a second before meeting Edges gaze.
The Pro Human
movement isnt limited to the United States. The Friends of
Humanity is growing
across the planet and some of these men are going to take up arms
to defend the human race. As such, ways to get weapons and soldiers
to other places on the planet is very necessary. Ways that cant
be easily traced, if you catch my drift.
Edge ran a hand along his chin and shrugged. If there was
an InterGang, then you know its services would not come cheap. Activities
like the ones you describe always require money to make sure that
loopholes are open.
Money is no object. Im sure an arrangement could be
made that would be equitable for all parties.
Morgan nodded again. Then Ill see if I can find out
if InterGang is for real - for a modest finders fee,
Done, replied Graydon.
Night fell across the West Coast and Morgan Edge finished reading
a lightning fast background check on Graydon Creed. A true
viper if Ive ever seen one, and an effective one.
Edge placed the folder down and lit a cigar. He waved to an associate
who was sitting in the room. He has possibilities and could
be useful down the line. Let him sweat out this contact for a bit
before we make an overture.
He exhaled and smiled. Allies with potential global reach
should be nurtured, but not trusted. This could be very interesting.
Bolivar Trask walked into SHIELD Headquarters under heavy security
stayed with him all the way down to the private conference room
deep in the
underground heart of covert organization. Trasks briefcase
was full of material
concerning Wide Awake that no one had access to save him, and SHIELD
was taking no chances with his security.
Ah! The Wizard of West Virginia! Amanda Waller said
brightly, rising to shake his hand and escort him to his place at
the conference table. Trasks escort melted
away. Its a pleasure to see you again, Dr. Trask.
Amanda, the pleasure is all mine, Trask answered.
Touching, dripped Henry Gyrich as he walked in with
Generals Pierre Hardcastle
and Jerrod Isling. This briefing is restricted to only those
persons present in this
room. Gen. Ross has been briefed, but was summoned to Washington
to meet our newly-elected President.
Then lets get right to it. Bolivar snapped open
his briefcase. Project Wide Awake has made tremendous strides
in the last few years. The test of the Mark II version of the Sentinel
that was conducted earlier this year confirmed that they can be
launched from ballistic missile subs with no problem. Forty of the
Mark IIs have already been built and deployed in three subs. Naturally,
the crews have no idea they are carrying Sentinels instead of ICBMs.
In addition, eighty fully operational Mark IVs are already
in the field. Fours are taller and have major improvements in weaponry,
but they must be based on land. Trask reached into his briefcase
and pulled out a map. We have two bases in the U.S., one in
Canada, and a fourth one in Mexico. We have one base almost finished
in the South Pacific, but as you know, my father refused permission
to forward deploy Sentinels outside of North America.
Yes, he wanted them for American purposes only, mentioned
Gyrich. I had a
report that mentioned yet another Sentinel version?
The Mark VI, which will be fully deployed over the next year.
We will have two
hundred of them. The Six is faster, more nimble, and packs a massive
weaponry. They are smaller than the Fours and more lethal, but also
expensive. We dont think a sea launch is good for them so
they will remain land
based as well.
That is a good number of Sentinels, Dr. Trask. Why so many?
To secure a nation full of mutants in the shortest possible
time, General. All of our computer scenarios indicate that it will
take more than two dozen Sentinels to secure any large urban area.
Hardcastle smiled. Dr. Trask, I have some information for
you that you will find to your liking. We have seven brigades of
troops that can augment your Sentinels with ease. That does not
include regular military units that can be used if Martial Law is
Trask accepted the news without apparent surprise. If you
can provide me with
specifics of your troop capabilities, I will revise my computer
models accordingly. We just launched a new satellite in geo-synchronous
orbit over the United States that will allow us to constantly monitor
concentrations of mutants. With that, we can direct Sentinels to
those areas if Wide Awake is ever allowed to go operational.
Trask smiled. Early monitoring indicates that the BosWash
Corridor is loaded with Mutants, by the way. The BosWash
the Boston-Washington Megalopolis -- was the metropolitan area that
spread from southern Maine to southern Virginia. It held Boston,
New Haven, New York, Gotham City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington
D.C., and Richmond. This corridor held over seventy million citizens
and was the financial heart of the nation. We estimate that
more than one hundred thousand mutants reside in the Corridor. Obviously,
your additional troops make securing such a vast area easier.
Dr. Trask, how long would it take to secure the United States
without using any
troops? Waller asked.
Our simulations project that the Sentinels would take up
to a week to secure the continental United States. We anticipate
that there would be wide spread resistance, but that it would be
unorganized and ultimately ineffective. Trask held up a hand.
However, we did game out a scenario where the Ultimates rebelled
and fought the Sentinels. We figure that Manhattan would be forty
percent destroyed in such an event. That scenario though has the
Sentinels achieving full control after three weeks.
Hardcastle barked, In that scenario how many of the Ultimates
Trask pulled out a binder and quickly flipped through a few pages.
In the worst
scenario, the Fantastic Four rebelled along with Iron Man, Hercules,
Thor, Wasp, Captain America, and the Black Knight. That scenario
was the three
week campaign with massive destruction up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
Waller leaned forward and shook her head. That is not even
half of the Ultimates available roster.
I know, but further modeling simply is not possible because
of all the variables. The worst to model is the Hulk. Trask
shrugged. The Ultimates would pose a serious problem if Wide
Awake ever went active and they united against it.
Did your model take into account the Brotherhood or others
like the so-called
Superman? asked Isling.
Trask shook his head. The Sentinels were designed to take
out the Brotherhood and as such that was necessary for this model.
The group of mutants called the X-Men, which weve seen only
twice, has a pronounced lack of data to game out. As for the likes
of Green Lantern and Superman
well, their impact is harder
to determine. The Lantern appears limited by his artifact, but the
Superman is a different story. We think we have a way of neutralizing
him, but cant be sure.
That will be all, Dr. Trask, commented Gyrich. Leave
the information we need.
Your flight to Mexico has been arranged for next week. All
until Trask left the room. This is ominous. I want new models
created taking into account the full power of the Ultimates and
the other superhumans against our special brigades and Sentinels.
Waller coughed. Contingency plans aside, Gyrich; what are
The profile of Luthor will be finished by the beginning of
December, according to Dr. Crane, and he wants to present it to
us in person. One thing we must acknowledge is the composition of
Luthors friends. Iron Man and Wasp are major players in the
Ultimates and they are the incoming Presidents friends. If
SHIELD gave an order that the President did not support, whose orders
would they follow? SHIELDs or Luthors? Much of the future
rests in the hands of a man that we know little about!
Hardcastle nodded. My Oath is to the Constitution, not to
the sitting president and as such I will follow my Oath. Wide Awake
is the key to protecting the Constitution and the American way of
life. SHIELD is the perfect organization to make sure that everything
Nov 24 Thanksgiving
Man! We own the team, how come we cant be in Dallas
to see the Praetorians
play? asked Ben. That would have been cool!
Because then you would have missed out on Thanksgiving dinner
with your family, young man, countered Martha. Im
not getting any younger and I like to spend holidays the old fashioned
Clark draped an arm across his mothers shoulders and gave
her a gentle squeeze. And that is why holidays will always
be spent here.
The full family was gathered in Smallville. Bruce, Betsy, and Dick
attendance, as were Sue, Reed, and Franklin Richards. Philip could
not stop smiling despite the amused heckling of Franklins
uncle, Johnny. Zach was there chatting with the Human Torch
and discussing the best places to go in New York to pick up women.
Our uncles seem to have a great deal in common, offered
Franklin to Hamilton and Philip. Some of which are not to
our advantage. Those two are pranksters.
Ben and Elsa walked up, each carrying a small plate of finger foods.
chewing before warning them, Wes is staking out the crab puffs,
so if you want any youd better get moving.
The boys took off like a shot to the table of snacks that had been
set up off the Den. Peter was there talking to Wes and neither were
eating. Franklin paused for a moment. Ben just said you were
eating all the crab puffs, Wes.
There are no crab puffs. Hes just being obnoxious because
he wanted to go to
Susan Romes for Thanksgiving or to the game in Dallas.
Wes handed Franklin a
small plate. However there are some nice meatballs, lettuce
wraps, and some other stuff that is yummy.
None of this is very traditional, commented Franklin.
Dont worry, the actual meal is as traditional as they
come, answered Peter. But given that dinner is at least
another three hours away and there are many teenagers present, having
snacks available is a good thing.
Across the room, Bruce was sitting with Jeff and Clark. Ive
already made a number of courtesy calls to the Senate. There is
some grumbling about how close I am to Lex, but my background should
be sufficient to assure my confirmation.
Lex is going to be succeeded in the Senate by Eliot Armstrong,
Clark noted. Hell have support across the state and
hes a known quantity. So thats vote you can count on.
Jeff held up his hand. Mike will be running some of the Congressional
Liaison stuff out of his office, but Vandeaver will call most of
those shots. The truth is, we are still trying to figure out all
the lines of access to Lex. There is so much to get in place and
so little time. We wont be in office for another seven weeks,
but already the Press is talking about the first 100 Days. Hes
taking more heat for appointing Senator Manheims twin brother
to be Secretary of Defense.
Brandon knows Defense issues like the back of his hand.
Bruce gave a slight shrug. The Press seems to be turning adversarial
already. The questions about the super humans and the election are
becoming sharper. He smiled at Betsy as she walked up. Your
promotion is certainly well deserved.
She sat on the arm of Bruces chair. Deputy Chief of
Mission; I like that very much, but Im not sure it would have
happened had Lex not been elected. Betsy lifted her wine glass
and smiled. But a promotion is a promotion. Though it is unofficial
as of yet.
Clark chuckled. Whitney still thinks being First Gentleman
is a major demotion and waste of time.
We are still trying to figure out how we can work him into
the power structure, but he cant run his companies anymore
he has to resign from all those Boards, Jeff said.
Hes not a happy camper.
Bruce inclined his head. Lex is not legally married and as
such many of the ethics rules cant be forced on Whitney.
Weve discussed that at length, Jeff admitted,
and we decided its a fight we cant afford to take
on. The press would make a mountain out of a mole hill, and there
are other battles that must take precedence.
Granted. Bruces lips formed into a rare smile.
But I would truly enjoy being a fly on the wall the day Whitney
has to pick out china patterns and re-decorate the Lincoln bedroom.
Early in the evening they sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner that
was typical of the family in every way, from the excellent food
and wine to the eloquent toasts and the genial chaos of conversation
After the full array of desserts had been unveiled and liberally
teenagers headed upstairs. Elsa and Dick were talking about music
Johnny Storm tagged along and kept mentioning that he knew Allison
Bobby Drake dropped onto a sofa. Peter and I know Allison
as well, Johnny.
In the biblical sense? Johnny asked.
Peter laughed and patted Bobby on the back. I think we all
know the answer to that question. Peter smiled at Wes and
gave the youngest Luthor scion a shoulder squeeze. Kyle tells
me that you two have become regular IM and email buddies. He has
shared some of your music with me. You have a great talent.
Wes rolled his eyes. Thanks. Are you going to tell me that
Im wasting it on Rock music?
No, it is good that you are working on stuff you like.
Peter smiled again. Wes, you are young and have a far different
life than most kids. You can work on the type of stuff you really
like and not worry about the bills getting paid. Your parents may
not understand why you like what you do, but they will respond to
the passion you bring to your music. Trust in that.
I can do that. Thanks. Wes moved off and tackled an
unsuspecting Ben. That was for earlier!
Philip shook his head and went back to playing a game with Hamilton
Elsa giggled and sighed. You two are so adorable together.
Franklin grinned sheepishly. Thanks, I think.
Dont you have something else to do, Elsa? Im
sure Hamilton has any number of
projects that would keep you busy for weeks, Philip said with
a teasing smile.
Long-term projects are out of the question, she replied.
Im going with grandma to Manhattan next week to do some
shopping. Katlan is meeting us and will introduce me to some designers.
I have to get some gowns for the Inaugural Balls and for the Winter
Ball as well.
Hamilton sighed and stretched. I am so glad Im a guy.
I only need one tuxedo.
Actually, Peter chimed in, I have been told that
you four will be getting a tux for the Christmas Ball and a different
one for the Inaugurals.
Great. Philip winked at Franklin. I look good
in a tux.
Graydon Creed sat down and looked at the Chicagos mostly-rebuilt
Magnificent Mile. The upscale restaurant was not his first choice
of meeting place, but it would have to do. He waited for Morgan
Edge to take a seat. Thank you for joining me.
I have the information you requested, but it will cost you
a great deal.
Creed leaned forward. Money is no object.
This payment is not all about money, Mr. Creed. Edge
waited for the waiter to
leave before continuing, Your organization has global reach,
which is why you went looking for InterGang. I want to use some
of your contacts as a spy network. I need to know some things and
cant use my own network, Mr. Creed.
How much will your services cost me if I agree to let you
have access to my
We will do it on an as needed basis and the price is subject
to change depending on the cargo and destination.
Creed nodded. As long as the deal is equitable.
It will be, Mr. Creed. It will be unusual, but it will benefit
us both greatly.
Dr. Jonathan Crane made his way to SHIELD Headquarters from an
obscure entrance in an alley across the street. It was an emergency
exit, but also an entrance used when certain visitors needed to
bypass the photographic security utilized at the main entrance.
Dr. Crane was a highly respected psychiatrist and profiler who worked
with the FBI and Arkham Asylum. Two of his books were required reading
in forensic psychiatry.
The elevator stopped and he was escorted through several halls
and was quite lost by the time a door opened to the SHIELD boardroom.
Several people were already seated when he was shown to his chair.
Good morning, everyone.
Henry Gyrich leaned back and frowned at the smarmy psychiatrist.
Do you have
analysis that we requested, Dr. Crane? he asked without preamble.
Crane pushed his glasses back up his nose and removed a small data
card from his briefcase. Printed, the report contained on the card
would have taken an inch of paper. He slid the card toward Amanda
Waller, who dutifully passed it on to Gyrich as the doctor began,
I have the profile of Senator Luthor as requested, but I feel
compelled to warn you again that there is a larger margin for error
in my analysis than I am comfortable with. My profile is based entirely
on public records, second hand accounts and observation. At no time
have I met the man.
Duly noted, Waller chimed in impatiently, adding with
a touch of sarcasm, No one will think the less of you if youre
wrong. Now what have you learned?
President-elect Lex Luthor is a driven man. Most politicians
are, he added quickly, but Luthors ambition exceeds
any I have ever encountered. I dont believe the presidency
will be enough.
Explain, Gyrich tersely.
Lex Luthor was barely out of his teens when, in collaboration
with Bruce Wayne, he founded what quickly became the worlds
foremost corporation. Minerva Inc. is worth over a trillion dollars
and Luthors family holds almost a majority of its stock. Add
in the behemoth of North American Imperial Bank, which the family
created, and you have a second major global institution under Luthor
control. We know that their family holding company, LFK, Ltd, has
vast private holdings as well. That accumulation of wealth and the
power that attends it would be more than enough for most men, but
not Lex Luthor, who ran for and won a Senate seat at the age of
thirty. Now at thirty-six, he is about to become the most powerful
man in the world. Assuming a successful re-election in four years,
he will at the ripe old age of 44 be forced to face
the question: What is there after this?
That is also the question we have called upon you to answer,
Dr. Crane! Waller
said impatiently. Youre giving us nothing but a rehash
of information already known to us with no educated guesses as to
what it portends for the future. I have yet to see anything in this
so-called profile that indicates where Luthors obvious
ambition is going to lead us!
Crane regarded her with a patience that bordered on condescension.
What I am
attempting to bring to mind for you is the concept of how limiting
a presidency will be for one such as Luthor. His palace dominates
the Kansas prairie. Metropolis is his fiefdom. The evidence suggests
that Luthor thinks big. His presidency will be full of big ideas
and massive changes. However, when one examines his pattern of action
one is struck by the lack of limits Luthor shows. Minerva technology
has dominated the last decade in ways that are almost incomprehensible.
Innovative and authoritarian are two of the qualities I assign to
That is a disturbing concoction, Dr. Crane, commented
Indeed it is sir, because there is a level of ruthlessness
that pervades everything
Ive seen. Despite a few rumors, there is no evidence of overt
hardball tactics, but instinct suggests that he didnt
achieve all this success without cracking a few skulls. Which brings
us back to the driving force; his father. Lionel Luthor is a feared
man on Wall Street; a tycoon in his own right. The mans methods
and his familys have been documented in some
Classified information I was given via SHIELD. That family had a
river of dirty money flowing through it. Sen. Luthor took control
of the family fortune by blackmailing his own father and exiling
him to what was little more than a comfortable prison. Think about
that for a second.
We know all of this already, Dr. Crane! yelled Gyrich.
Tell us something we dont know.
Crane wiped his forehead with a handkerchief and then spoke slowly.
I am laying out avenues for you to pursue. The man has two
lovers; why? I would make the case that he takes what he can and
the rules be damned. THAT is what should frighten you the most.
He has shown no hesitation to defy societal norms for his own pleasure
or ends. Power is something he is accustomed to wielding. All of
this creates an image of a man without limits.
Gyrich tapped the table with the data disk. Anything else
you care to tell us before we read the full evaluation?
Crane frowned. You need to keep in mind that a person whos
family has been
physically and violently attacked several times will be hyper-vigilant
future attack, very aggressive in its preventative measures, and
deadly in its response. Its a heightened paranoia that I can
easily imagine is playing out in the President-elect.
So were dealing with a powerful man who has few limits
and a paranoid streak.
Great, sighed Dr. Waller. Thank you Dr. Crane. Well
call you if we need you. This has been a Classified meeting.
After Dr. Crane left, Henry Gyrich turned to the assembled Council.
news do we have?
General Isling motioned to a monitor. For all his verbosity,
Crane may have nailed it on the head. All of Luthors staff
are wearing a new House Luthor insignia that
appears to include a ranking system. The lapel pins are different
for most of the
senior staff. This one is a photo from Justin Daniels and the other
is from Alan Owen. Were trying to figure out exactly what
Waller folded her hands. You dont typically see rank
insignia outside of martial
organizations. I dont like the look of this.
Agreed, said Gyrich. General Ross, I want to
see new plans in place using Wide Awake to gain control over the
country in an emergency. I need to talk to some other people about
Sir, interjected Gen Hardcastle. Permission to
increase surveillance on House
Luthors non-presidential staff?
Denied, for now. We will revisit this after he is sworn in
Kirill looked down from his vantage point on top of an old five-story
and frowned. His infiltration teams were set. Tatianas instructions
were clear, but he had on-the-ground knowledge that would allow
him to change plans as needed to meet his objective. Two members
of his team were already under the building setting charges. He
had another team staking out the Presidential Palace, which was
little more than a large house with a big lawn.
Slipping down the side of the building until landing in some standing
brackish water, Kirill made his way down the filthy alley as silently
as possible. Avoiding more puddles became a necessity. A
few more hours until show time.
An explosion knocked him to the ground and a second concussion
him again before hed even managed to get to his knees. What
the hell? Activating his COM link, he tried to reach his team,
but found the signals were jammed. Fuck!
The sounds of automatic gunfire echoed across the city. Kirill
moved quickly toward his rendezvous point. Blaring sirens made it
difficult to concentrate. Kirill stumbled into the back alley and
was relieved to see that most of his team had made it.
Our communications are down! yelled Scimitar, a Tartan
mutant with powerful
I know, replied Kirill. We must keep our objective.
And find out what is going on. This could work to our advantage
if we know what is happening.
Another explosion rocked the city. Kirill leaned against the building
for support. One of his team members, a shapeshifter, came running
up. Sir, the national television is saying rebels are trying
to overthrow the government. Martial Law has been declared.
A wicked smile gleamed across Kirills face. We put
our plans into motion. This is the perfect cover.
The first insertion team detonated charges under the Presidential
Palace an hour
before dawn. The second team attacked the Ministry of Justice as
those charges blew. The shapeshifter, Cloak, was monitoring all
the communications that she could get access to. It was tough since
many frequencies were being jammed.
The Military is reporting that the president has been evacuated
from the city.
Military forces are moving across the country. The city is in chaos.
Excellent. Send a message to Moscow: Kazakhstan is
broken. Kirill laughed as he ordered his second squad
to attack military positions covertly. Tatiana could not have
asked for a better result.
Bruce walked into the Office of the United Nations Special Representative
Prince and surreptitiously checked the outer office to see if hed
been followed. This was a dangerous meeting, but not quite as dangerous
since the election. He did have business with Ms. Prince, but it
was not the stated itinerary that was foremost on his mind.
Taking the seat Ms. Princes receptionist directed him to,
he checked his email and found more disconcerting messages regarding
Kazakhstan, but it was an email from Wayne Tech that captured his
attention. Before he could read it more thoroughly though, he was
escorted inside the office. Diana greeted him and he shook her regal
hand. Thank you for seeing on such short notice.
She motioned for him to sit. I wasnt surprised to hear
from you, but Im afraid I
have nothing to report. My Office had no observers in Kazakhstan
and I havent
received a report from The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees
yet. He had observers on the ground there, but were not sure
what happened to them.
I was afraid of this. The only people in a position to know
anything are SHIELD and X-Corp. Bruce sighed and leaned back
in his chair. Unfortunately, X-Corp hasnt heard a word
from its Central Asian Office in over a week and SHIELD isnt
exactly being forthcoming with the new administration.
Diana nodded. I was in contact with Sean Cassidy last week
before he left for China. He was going to try to cross the border
with a caravan of Humanitarian Relief Workers. I havent heard
from him since, and Prof. Xavier has been unavailable for the past
few days. Dr. Grey can only tell me that X-Corp is looking into
Bruces frown turned into a scowl. Ive contacted
Hank McCoy as well and he said they have no information to share
at this point. He did tell me that he is talking to Hank Pym of
the Ultimates and trying to get an informal investigation inside
Kazakhstan. However, the Ultimates are spread thin right now with
patrols in the Balkans and their duties here.
The situation is not good. Ill be at the Winter Ball
with Lord Braddock and hope to talk to the President-elect. There
is disturbing information out of the Balkans that hasnt been
published yet. I am thinking of calling in House Luthors friend,
Chloe Sullivan, to see if she can go to Romania and investigate
off the record.
What are you hearing? Bruce leaned forward and placed
a hand on her desk. The Ultimates are in the region still
and Ive heard nothing to indicate new trouble.
The Ultimates are widely perceived as an American organization
and not trusted. I have contacts in the area and the people are
whispering some things that the
Senator needs to hear. Word has it that Victor Von Doom is amassing
an army and is ready to retake Latveria. Diana spread her
hands and shrugged. If SHIELD knows this and hasnt informed
Lex, then there are more issues than the Society of Justice has
Bruce nodded. Indeed. This is troubling because we have heard
nothing and Hank McCoy would not hesitate to share this information.
Bruce looked up for a moment and then met Dianas eyes. I
think its time the society had a meeting. The Winter Ball
will provide the perfect cover.
Nancy McNally strode across the Transition offices with a purpose.
Cynthia opened the door to Lexs office without a word and
Nancy frowned as she stared down at Lex. We have a problem,
If you are going to say Kazakhstan, please dont. It
will ruin the day. Lex looked up from a stack of briefing
books and frowned. The look on your faces says it all. What
is the news?
Sir, the Russians are nervous from all the recent activity
in Kazakhstan and theyve moved three additional mechanized
battalions to the border. DIA and CIA think that Kazakhstan no longer
has a functioning government. The capital is in chaos and the United
Nations has asked all NGOs to leave the country. SHIELD no longer
had a presence in the country so we have only intercepts to give
Lex rubbed his chin briefly. What is Trask going to do about
Thats the issue; what can he do? If the Russian Army
moves into Kazakhstan then we have an incursion into sovereign territory
that has an imperialist history. America would be forced to do something.
The issue is how will Trasks actions affect you when you take
office in two months?
I would prefer not to have American troops on the ground
in Central Asia when I
take office, nor do I want Russia expanding her borders at the same
leaned back and sighed. Talk to Dr. Cooper and see what she
is going to advise
Trask. Make sure that you talk to Gabriel Vance as well. The situation
in Kazakhstan cannot be allowed to spiral out of control.
Ill have Brandon Manheim join me as well. Nancy
placed a small folder on Lexs
desk. Those are the current deployments of Russian troops.
Ill pick those up in a few minutes. I need to speak to Gregory
and brief him as well.
The screens around the room were constantly being updated, but
one now showed the outline of Central Asia and was magnified. Henry
Gyrich and several of SHIELDs top analysts were awaiting the
latest satellite photos and intercepts to figure out what the real
situation was on the ground.
We can place an insertion team in Southern Kazakhstan inside
six hours and then we might know more about the nations stability,
chimed Gen. Hardcastle.
No, use the CIA operatives in the field to see what is going
on, countered Gyrich.
CIA says they have no assets in Central Asia that can be
moved to Kazakhstan
without blowing their cover. We need some type of human asset in
there or we
might as well be flying blind, added Amanda Waller.
The map of the border shifted as three more red vehicles moved
onto the border
from the Russian side. Nine of vehicles flashed along the border
before becoming red like all the other unit markers.
They have two brigades at the border near Orsk now,
noted Gen. Isling. We must alert Secretary Vance and Dr. Cooper
that border tensions will rise in the next few hours. I think we
need to think about this in a global context. If Russia invades,
how will the Chinese people respond?
Chinas government is now democratically elected, Isling,
and they are our puppet for for the time being. They have no teeth
since we took them out. However, given all the tensions in the region
and President Kirovs decidedly imperialist bent, we must not
rule out Russia annexing Kazakhstan. If they do, then the United
States will respond, Gyrich said.
What of SHIELD then? asked Gen Wallace.
We may be an international organization, but we are mainly
American in nature. If we are called to stop Russia we will, but
our main mission is to deal with Super
Human terrorism. The regular army and marines will have to take
Towering pillars of ice greeted people at the entrance gates as
they crossed onto the Washington Estate of House Luthor. The whole
campus was blanketed in the illusion of a winter wonderland. White
lights outlined the tops of the towers and those in turn were reflected
off the crystal spires. All the trees that lined the streets of
the campus and sidewalks were decorated with twinkling lights.
Holographic Choirs of Angels serenaded guests with Christmas carols
as they entered the main reception hall. The ballroom and the side
rooms were also decked out like a winter wonderland. Christmas trees
throughout the public rooms were decorated in various themes; all
of them fit the décor of a Winter Wonderland.
Zach led his date, Amanda Harris, through the sculpted ice columns,
to the dance floor. Her red hair and model-beautiful body made her
a hit on the social circuit. She was the daughter of an old blue
blood family from her mothers side and her fathers family
was big in Southern politics. Those ingredients also made getting
a date with her tough.
You come from such an unusual family, Zach, Amanda
drawled in her slight
Southern accent. Though being as wealthy as you are, exceptions
can be made.
Zach rolled his eyes and said nothing. Hed lost a bet with
one of the buddies hed made since coming to Washington. The
date was not his idea and her family didnt care for Lex being
president. Those guys are always getting me in trouble.
Man, I owe Ronnie for this one. He smiled at Amanda while
he started dancing to some boring waltz. Yeah, this is a unique
environment, but I wouldnt change it for the world.
His back ramrod straight, Philip was sitting at table watching
Ben and Hamilton
escort their dates onto the dance floor. At a nearby table, Wes
was sitting with Peter, Bobby, and Chloe, eating his weight in food.
Hed begged off finding a date as too much trouble
and their parents had accepted that. No one had asked Philip about
a date it had just been assumed that he would be there with
Franklin, but in truth, Philip had never actually asked Franklin
to be his date. They were both there, but they werent together,
and though it was entirely Philips fault, he found himself
growing more furious by the minute at the sight of Franklin dancing
with Felicity McCann, the daughter of one of the dignitaries whod
That could be me,' he reminded himself. 'I could
be dancing with him, but
I cant dance.
The rationalization was totally bogus, of course. Over the years,
dancing lessons of all sorts had been a part of their regimen of
fencing, gymnastics, and self-defense training. He refused to examine
his lame excuse too closely, though. It was easier to be pissed
off than to confront the real reason he had yet to acknowledge publicly
that he had a relationship.
His heart slammed against his ribcage when Felicity placed a kiss
on Franklins lips, and Philip had to count to ten three times
before he could breathe normally. His calm, however, was short lived;
as soon as the music stopped, another teenage girl claimed Franklin
and started dancing.
Get your hands off my boyfriend! Philip wanted
to shout, but he didnt. Instead, he bolted to his feet and
strode off to find a drink to cool his rising fury that Franklin
was looking too damned much like he was enjoying himself!
Betsy and Bruce were in the center of the dance floor as he effortless
through a leisurely foxtrot. Betsy smiled up at him wistfully. Youre
than usual tonight, my love. Would you care to tell me why? You
didnt seem this
distracted in the limo.
He didnt deny her assessment. The rumor mill is buzzing
about your promotion.
Weve been here less than an hour and Ive already heard
three comments about
ruffled feathers in the diplomatic community because Whitehall is
Deputy Chief of Mission.
Betsy laughed lightly. Sour grapes. Theyre just envious
of my relationship with the President-Elect. She slanted a
sly glance at him. And with the new Treasury Secretary.
Bruce didnt looked charmed. Precisely. Our relationship
seems to be getting more complicated instead of less so.
Betsys smile faded. Are you saying you want me to turn
down the promotion?
Of course not. He didnt sound as convincing as
Betsy would have liked.
Betsy stopped dancing. Bruce, whats bothering you?
Granted, our relationship is complicated, and our new positions
will make it more so, but weve been a couple for years. No
one can possibly make an issue out of that, particularly since were
not married, nor even living together.
Exactly, Bruce said, easing her back into step with
She looked at him, a little breathless and a lot astonished. Why,
Mr. Wayne. Was that a proposal?
No, he said sternly, but an instant later the hard
angles of his face softened. Only a sentimental wish that
the world was a little less complicated. Its the small things
that tend to ignite the biggest firestorms. Im sure that the
media will be picking up on your promotion soon enough and making
an issue of our relationship.
The music shifted to something less rhythmic and Bruce led them
off the floor with his hand still at Betsys waist. Let
them report what they like, Betsy said cavalierly, then lowered
her voice to a husky whisper. If they think Im giving
up my handsome dark knight, theyve got another think coming.
As they approached their places at the head table, Clark intercepted
whisked Betsy off to the dance floor. Whitney joined Bruce and told
him, Everyone has been informed about the meeting. Weve
prepared a room on the third floor in the East Tower. Lex and I
will stay here to keep the focus on the party while Clark meets
with the Society.
Bruce pulled his gaze away from Betsy and didnt care for
the look of concern on
Whitneys face. Whats bothering you?
Whitney shrugged as though he couldnt really name the problem.
Hard to explain. The closer we get to Lexs inauguration,
the more complicated the world becomes. Would I sound egomaniacally
paranoid if I confessed that some of it seems deliberately directed
Bruces smile was one of his enigmatic best. I may be
the wrong person to ask.
There are some who would tell you that my whole life has been built
on a foundation of paranoia.
Whitney chuckled politely before telling Bruce, The events
in Kazakhstan are very troubling. Russias moves and the violence
there are making the Transition
particularly tense. What concerns me most, though, are the repeated
that the superhumans some how made people change their votes when
could be further from the truth. Its the Friends of Humanity
who were guilty of
blatant voter intimidation.
Lex needs to let Congress investigate the charges against
the superhumans openly and reasonably. He has nothing to hide
no one in his camp instructed the superheroes to change peoples
votes. Bruce rubbed his chin and leaned back in his chair.
This long drawn out discussion about the vote is devised to
be a subtle attack on Lexs legitimacy as president. The vote
totals and Electoral College are far too great to change, but it
creates doubt in the back of the peoples minds. The question
becomes; to what end is this being done?
Precisely. Theres an agenda being pursued here, and
the rumors about election
tampering are only the tip of the iceberg, Whitney predicted
and Bruce didnt
challenge his assessment. Whitney sipped from his wine glass and
looked out at the dance floor. I see Diana is dancing with
Bruce frowned. Careful, friend. Youre treading on thin
Whitney looked at him, confused. Sorry. I didnt realize
matrimony jokes were off limits. Is Betsy pressuring you?
he asked with a touch of astonishment.
No. Bruce downed the last of his wine and stood. Quite
the contrary, actually.
Really? Whitney rose, smiling. Well, I never
expected to hear that confession
Bruce huffed irritably. Yes, well, I never expected to confess
that, either. If you and your consorts can arrange to simplify the
world so I can marry the woman I love, Ill be very grateful
to you all.
Whitney chuckled. Well work on it.
Lionel whisked his fiancée around the dance floor and smiled
at everyones warm
greeting. Katlan Anderson was beautiful and brilliant, a combination
always found invigorating. How are you enjoying the evening,
This place is as stunning as it usually is its
the center of the universe as we know it. Katlan smiled and
then placed a soft kiss on his mouth. Thank you for making
me a part of it.
The pleasure is all mine, Lionel replied gallantly,
then teased, But dont tell me
youre not looking forward to your trip to New York next week.
You have the same bug that Elsa has contracted of late shopping.
I admit it. I love to shop I dont know of a
designer who doesnt and in this
case, I have an excellent excuse. I am going the make Elsa Fordman
fashionable young lady of her age. And do it all on her fathers
Ill be sure to warn Tristan. Lionel nodded to
the Drs. Fordman as they swept by them during the waltz. Lionel
chuckled as he noted Ben dancing with his date,
completely unintimidated by the waltz steps. I see that Bennett
is every bit the lady killer his parents feared.
I could have told you that. His good looks and family name
would be enough for him to get any girl he wanted, but when you
factor in the challenge of his bad boy personality
Deadly. Katlan chuckled. I heard his lovely date informing
him that she expected him to dance with her and only her tonight.
Lionel chuckled. Well, well
It will be interesting
to see whether hes willing to allow her to believe shes
brought him to heel.
You dont think he has been brought to heel?
Not a chance, Lionel said with a laugh.
What about Philip? Katlan asked, inclining her head
toward the table where Philip was sitting alone. Hes
looking especially aloof tonight. I thought you told me he was enamored
of Franklin Richards.
Lionels smile faded and when the waltz ended just then, he
took the opportunity to lead them off the dance floor. Im
not sure enamored is an adequate word, Lionel
told her, gesturing imperiously to a waiter who was carrying a tray
of champagne flutes.
Philip has confided in you about his romantic interests?
I knew you two were close, but that is impressive.
Not exactly, Lionel corrected, handing Katlan a glass
of champagne. But I know my grandson. He feels things more
deeply than anyone even his parents understand.
Thats because he keeps himself under such tight control,
Quite true, and whether learned it by example or inherited
it genetically, that trait is very much my fault. As they
sipped champagne, Lionels gaze moved speculatively from his
solitary grandson to the dance floor, and back again.
Excuse me, my dear, he said finally. I believe
an intervention is necessary to avert imminent explosion.
Explosion? Katlan queried lightly, but Lionel was already
As the waiter passed by, Philip knew he shouldnt reach for
that third glass of
champagne, but no one seemed to paying any attention, and if adults
alcohol as an anesthetic, he damned well could too. Franklin had
passed from shyly enjoying the attention being lavished on him to
openly flirting with any airhead that even got close to him. Every
so often, Philip would see his so-called boyfriend glance in his
direction, then trot off with a teenage debutant as though he didnt
give a rats hind-end that Philip was over here dying.
I dont think your parents would approve and Im
certain the press would crucify the President-Elect for condoning
Philip smoothly retracted his hand and allowed the tray of champagne
flutes to pass. He made sure he was completely composed as he turned
to face his grandfather. Sorry, sir.
You are, indeed.
The implied censure surprised Philip. I beg your pardon,
Youve been sulking like a spurned suitor all evening.
Its beneath you, not to
mention incomprehensible. Have you and Franklin quarreled?
Philip wasnt sure that was any of his grandfathers
business, but he couldnt be so disrespectful as to say so.
Then why havent you put an end to the poor boys
His misery? Philip said incredulously.
Certainly. Anyone can see hes hoping youll rescue
him from that pool of boy-crazy piranhas. Why dont you?
Because I cant dance, and I have no desire to embarrass
Papa by making a fool of myself.
Really? Philip knew he deserved the derisive tone in
Lionels voice. I know for a
fact that your dancing skills are more than adequate. Are you sure
its not your own embarrassment youre worried about?
Lie to me if you like, Philip, that is your right on an issue
this personal, but never lie to yourself. Laying one hand
gently on his grandsons shoulder, Lionel led them to a private
corner, speaking softly as he continued, You have lived your
young life attempting to control everything around you, Philip
yourself, most of all. I have often praised your cool, analytical
intellect, and with good reason.
Philips spine straightened even more, if that was possible.
Yes, sir. Thank you.
His grandfathers weathered face hinted at a ghost of a sympathetic
smile. Its not hard to imagine that affection and, um
he paused, looking for the right word, finally settling on,
are testing the control of which you are so proud.
Philips face flamed and he gaped at his grandfather, stunned,
secretly grateful that there was someone in his life who knew him
so well. This is not an issue of control, Grandfather,
he managed to deny.
Lionel sighed. Well, perhaps Im wrong. Perhaps your
feelings for Mr. Richards are more trivial than I had previously
No, sir! Nothing could be further from the truth! But
Lionel tilted his head to one side. But what?
Philip hesitated. But no one sees that, grandfather, and
His voice trailed off.
Lionel nodded, finally understanding. Ah. I see. Brothers
have been known to tease each other mercilessly about matters of
attraction and romance, the family makes jokes about Bennetts
obsession with the fair sex, and the tabloid press routinely ridicules
Zacharys penchant for conquest. All of which leads you to
fear being the butt of jokes about teenagers with crushes.
Something like that, Philip admitted reluctantly. I
dont care about Bens ribbing, but Franklin isnt
Lionel nodded. He isnt a teenage crush and you dont
want to be denigrated as a silly schoolboy in love.
Philip looked away, uncomfortable with his grandfathers recognition
of the problem. He managed a nod.
Im sorry, Philip. Im afraid I cant help
you with this issue. You are a teenager, and despite your other
sterling qualities -- including a penchant for maturing with astonishing
speed -- you are destined to be perceived as a teenager for some
little while yet. I can offer only one insight that you might fight
useful: Regardless of your age, there is no shame in wanting something,
my boy, only in failing to act. Decide what you want. Weigh the
cost of obtaining it against consequences of living without it.
If the rewards outweigh the risks, then take what you want and let
the world be damned. You are a Luthor, a Fordman, and a Kent. There
is no weakness in you, Philip. Embrace your convictions. Take what
you want. I promise that once you are at peace with who you are,
no one will dare laugh at you.
In the East Tower, Clark took a final survey of the third floor
corridor and let go of a breath hed been holding. He stepped
into the room, closed the double doors, and gave Oliver Queen and
the others assembled a half smile.
Thank you all for agreeing to meet. This is the best we could
do on such short
notice, but the Society needs to discuss recent events and an in-person
meeting is always better than risking any other form of communication.
Bruce nodded and set his wine glass on a polished oval table that
sat against the wall. Our time is limited so Ill come
right to the point: Kazakhstan is the tipping
point in the Mutant/Meta situation. That government is nonexistent
for all intents and purposes and the nation is in chaos.
Warren Worthington frowned. We havent heard anything
from our guy in the
region. I think a rescue mission is in the works, but I cant
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is setting
up camps across the border in the South. Russia refuses to allow
them to set up on the northern border, but Kirovs government
hasnt given a reason.
Tony Stark raised an eyebrow. I think we can assume that
theyre denying access because of the recent flare ups on that
border. They dont want that instability inside Russia.
How unstable can things be when they have two full Motorized
Divisions stationed along the border already? Really hard to get
a humanitarian aid camp near a military camp, noted Oliver.
Who knows what they are really planning?
Well find out, Clark said. It needs to
be done soon.
Yes. Bruce moved away from the wall toward the center
of the room. We need to send a discrete team for Recon only.
And it cant be any of us. Something about this whole thing
What? asked Janet Van Dyne.
Technically Kazakhstan was a democracy, but in reality its
a dictatorship. The
government there fell too fast. Something had to happen that weakened
government for all this to happen in a matter of days.
I see what youre getting at. Diana shifted in
her chair. When I was there a few months ago that place was
complete under controllook at how easy it was for them to
find and lock away their mutant population. She raised an
eyebrow and shook her head. He eyes met Bruces and they nodded.
Something or someone destabilized them.
Russia, Bruce said. Something makes me think
Russia is more involved in this
than it appears.
Clark glanced at his watch. We need to get moving or people
will begin missing us. Ill brief Lex. He wont like this
It took a while for his grandfathers speech to sink in. Philip
rolled the words around in his head and let them settle in his gut.
Lionel hadnt been giving him carte blanche to storm Franklin
like William the Conqueror did England; it wasnt a license
to put an end to hormonal surges that were straining the limits
of his control, no matter how much hed denied the urges to
his grandfather. No, Lionels pep talk had been about something
deeper and more enduring.
He hadnt really been saying take what you want.
He was saying, own up to
Once he realized that deep down in his gut, the rest of the evening
Excuse me, Felicity, he said, stepping between the
pert blond who was making a beeline for Franklin as he came off
the dance floor with Stacy Ludwig.
Philip! Hi! Im uh-- Felicity was flushed
and stammering, but Philip didnt care to examine why.
Sorry, but Franklins dance card is filled for the rest
of the evening.
The blond frowned. Dance card?
Its a historical reference; I wont bore you its
origins. Philip met Franklin head on. May we talk?
I thought youd never ask.
Come on. Lets get out of here.
Wordlessly, Philip led Franklin out of the public rooms up to an
Music from the ballroom floated up ethereally and holograms around
created the illusion that it was a clear, starlit night but did
nothing to diminish the temperature, which was hovering around freezing.
Too cold? Philip asked.
Franklin shivered a little, but shook his head. No. Just
looking at you tends to raise my body temperature.
Philip felt a lurch in his own body temp and he fought the urge
to close the distance that was separating them. Why were you
dancing with Felicity and her clique?
Franklin shrugged. They kept asking, and I didnt have
any better offers.
Philip scowled. You could have asked me, you know.
Franklin shook his head. No, I couldnt. Kissing you
in your bedroom and flirting
around your family isnt the same as us dancing in public.
Youre the son of the
president-elect. If you want to let the public know that you have
a boyfriend, thats got to be your decision, not mine.
I have three fathers, Franklin. Being gay isnt really
an issue. //I think our special communication skills would
get us in a lot more trouble// he added ruefully.
So you dont mind if people know were together?
Of course not, Philip answered firmly.
Franklin grinned. When did you decide that?
Philip grinned too. About the time I decided I was going
to knock Felicity McCanns teeth down her throat if she kissed
you one more time. Franklins recent growth spurt placed
him a little under two inches shorter than Philip. He placed a hand
on his friends shoulder and gave it a slight squeeze. May
I have this dance?
Franklin nodded. Taking Philips hand, they slowly moved together
in time to the
music. You are such a liar, Philip. You dance well.
//Not as well as I would like. I need practice for the Inaugural
Balls that are coming up.// Philip paused. Will you go with
me to the Balls? I really dont want to go by myself.
Are you asking me on a date? A real, honest-to-goodness date?
sparkled with mischief.
Philip laughed. Well, Im not going to buy you a corsage,
but yeah. A real date. We have to make the circuit of I-dont-know-how-many
Franklin placed a hand on Philips shoulder and smiled. Well,
weve established that you do look really good in a tux, so
I guess I could stand being seen with you. I especially like the
idea of staking my claim to you so none of those big Marine escorts
get the idea that youre single. He winked and blushed
at the same time.
Philip laughed and the tension that had been building all evening
evaporated. Sorry about not dancing earlier. I should have,
but those girls were swarming you and
All they wanted to talk about was you, Franklin said
quickly. They know that were friends and they wanted
my advice on the best way to hit on you. Franklin laughed
again. They said you are beautiful, but intimidating.
Im not intimidating; Im just me.
Philip, you are the most in control guy I know. Brilliant,
beautiful, athletic, and
powerful, you are an amazing combination of skills and gifts. The
fact that you can be glacial at times makes you hard to approach.
Franklin kissed his cheek. I rather like you though.
The comment went straight through Philip and he was reminded of
his grandfathers admonition about taking what he wanted.
He settled for a kiss that ended far short of where he really wanted
Hamilton and Ben said good night to their dates and rode home silently
in the limo. The evening had been fun, but short to them.
Philip and Franklin disappeared early, Hamilton said
with a smile on his face.
Ben rolled his eyes. I dont want to think about that
because eww! I did see Wes dance with Danielle Spencer, Mikes
sister. Who knew he could dance?
Hes one of us, Ben, he can do anything. Though I think
she was far more interested in him than he was her. I heard Stacy
Ludwig saying that the DC debs have a bet going to see who can snag
a date with Philip to some fancy ball in the Spring.
Ben laughed so hard he started coughing. Date a deb? Philip?
he barely managed to get out of his mouth before he started laughing
again. They dont know Philip very well do they?
Hamilton chuckled, too. No, I dont think they do. If
they did, theyd figure out that Philip is so into Franklin
he cant see half the seniors at our school lusting after him.
That statement sobered Ben. Really? I never noticed.
Okay, a bit of an overstatement, but not by much. I can name
a dozen seniors who would love to ask Philip out right now. They
know about Franklin though and some wonder what Philip sees in the
young Mr. Richards.
You mean besides the blond hair, blue eyes, world class mind,
and family ties? Ben sniggered, None of them know Philip
very well if they think hes shallow like us.
I am not shallow! protested Hamilton.
You only wanted to go with Jana because she had big tits,
Hamilton. Dont lie to
Hamilton sighed. Fine, I can be shallow. Philip though, I
think everything about him is deep. I mean I build stuff to avoid
certain things like chores, but everything with him is a chess move.
//How are his powers progressing?//
//NOT HERE even telepathically! I dont trust Washington as
safe, Ben. Remind Wes of this as well. We are not safe anywhere
other than Smallville.//
The limo pulled into the underground parking garage and the boys
sat in silence until the heavy doors closed and the garage became
still. Hamilton patted Bens shoulder. Sorry for yelling.
No problem, I know you did it because you care.
Tatiana pulled her hair back and listened as the reports came from
the Kazakhstani border. Vitaly, the situation is more unstable
than we thought. The entire northern sections of the Kazakhstan
are in chaos. Several towns are burning.
Damned, this faster than expected and going too soon.
Vitaly Kirov leaned back
and rubbed his chin. Have Dimitri join me in a few minutes.
I need you to make
sure your Shadow Squads are up to this task. Hold off on Kiev for
Kirill knows what he is doing. They have located the Vice
President and the Prime Minister, but have not seized them yet.
They are in southern Kazakhstan and may cross the border into exile
if things get worse.
No, barked Vitaly. Make sure that your squads
stop them from leaving
Kazakhstan. I need them for the second phase. I cant have
three Motorized Brigades and four Infantry brigades crossing the
border without a call for aid. Otherwise it will look like an invasion.
Tatiana scratched her head and sighed. I thought we were
going to invade.
It is easier to assume control in chaos my dear, but if it
looks like we are helping to restore order for the rightful government
so much the better. We simply never have to give control
back to them.
Ah. Very clever. I will make sure that their government doesnt
leave the country and that Dimitri sees you as soon as possible.
She saluted him and walked out of his ornate office. Be
careful, things are moving beyond our ability to control them.
Russo - Kazakhstani Border
The Russian Shadow Squad under the nominal command of Scimitar
moved into the town of Oral. Many of the buildings were in disrepair
and the city was in turmoil. Oral was in the western part of Kazakhstan
close to the Russian border.
What was left of the military in the region was based in this city.
The Border guards as well as the civil defense forces had fallen
back to Oral to try to restore order. However the chaos in Astana
had spread everywhere. Scimitar walked through a burned out building
and smiled. This area is ripe to fall. Move to attack the
barracks in twenty minutes. Leave the communications bunker for
last. Those are our orders.
As dusk began to creep across the city, Scimitars troops
moved quickly thru the
deserted alley ways. The citizens that were left in the city avoided
night as if that alone would keep trouble away from them. Night
has always been a time of terror for humans; perception became warped
and sounds magnified. Night was also the best time for psychological
There was a Beta level telepath in Scimitars
group and as night fell, she began
using her powers to play on the fears of the security forces in
the barracks. Slowly, Mystere wove her web of fear for the Army.
Soon gunfire erupted from the barracks and men came pouring out
from multiple points.
Scimitar smiled and nodded to his squad as they moved to take out
the disoriented and frightened troops. Scimitar strode over and
waited until a transmission left the communications room and then
he destroyed it. He leveled two more buildings before he ordered
his squad out of Oral.
Lex stood in the middle of his Senate office and frowned. Boxes
were everywhere as he was resigning the Senate at the end of the
year. The flat panel televisions were on as staffers continued to
monitor the news. Lex was making sure his office was packed. Cynthia,
please make sure that all my photos go in one box and are shipped
to the transition office. I dont want them getting lost in
the White House.
Cynthia Hunt was making the transition from Senator Luthors
executive secretary to President Luthors executive secretary.
Im already on it sir. The electronic labels will be
attached as I inventory the contents of each box. Alan Owen said
that your stuff was to be labeled specifically and that he would
see to it. All the staffers who are moving with us to the White
House will have their stuff either to take home for three weeks
or into storage.
Efficient as always. I should know better by now.
You should, but you are such a micromanager. Cynthia
winked and motioned for Whitney and Bruce to come into the cluttered
office. Ill shut the door. Do you need anything, gentlemen?
No thank you, Cynthia, declined Whitney. She departed
and he faced Lex. We
have to do something and now.
I heard from Nancy McNally and there is nothing she can add
that national news
programs are stating about Kazakhstan. Bruce leaned back and
checked the door before continuing. I think you need to use
all your resources to find out whats happening over there.
Lex nodded. That has already been addressed. Im not
sure what additional light will be shed, but a ground view is something
we need at this time.
Whitney rubbed his forehead. How soon?
We should have information inside of twenty-four hours.
Lex paused briefly before continuing. I told them not to do
anything other than observe. I want no
fingerprints left in the region.
Anne leaned back in her seat as the stretch limo crawled down 5th
Ave toward the Manhattan penthouse. Martha, have you heard
anything else from the Inaugural Committee about the Prairie Ball?
Nothing except they want Lex to arrive there first. They
dont expect the boys to attend since the Palladium Ball is
the big hit with the youngsters. Martha
smiled at Elsa. Has your father okayed Dick taking you to
Elsa rolled her eyes. If by okayed you mean that
he is trying to think of ways to lock me in a tower for the next
twenty years then, yes, he has.
Lisa patted Elsas shoulder and chuckled. Your father
means well, hes just having a hard time dealing with you becoming
a young lady.
He still has Michele! exclaimed Elsa. Shes
not yet five so he still has a little girl.
Anne gave her granddaughter a hug. Darling, all fathers of
daughters act like this. Give it time and hell behave better
or Ill treat him like a teenager again.
Martha chuckled. Well, I hope Katlan has some things for
us to look at once we get to the penthouse. Looking at ball gowns
and the like will be a welcome distraction from the real world.
All too true, agreed Lisa. Elsa, darling, Katlan
is designing your ball gown, but she does have a few things for
the earlier events for you to look at.
Just remember Dick needs at least a week to be able to coordinate
his tux. I dont want to clash on Uncle Lexs big night.
Graydon Creed put down a folder full of information hed been
able to gather about the mysterious InterGang and he had come to
an equitable agreement with Morgan Edge. That didnt translate
into trust though. Russia and InterGang seem highly connected.
The rumors of when and how it was founded seem true for the most
The Friends of Humanity had allies in many places and no few of
politically connected. Gathering information of the type Graydon
required had been easier than he expected and faster as well. But
the puzzle was more intricate than he expected and the picture far
I think its time that I see what I can find out
for myself. The Reavers have had time off and Kazakhstan is the
perfect place for them to do some snooping. They had success there
in the past and maybe they can learn something vital for the future.
Andre Comeaux walked slowly through a burned out section of the
Kazakhstan. Hed been on the scene for three hours and nothing
good had been seen yet. With him were two squads of special troops.
Theyd come in the newest shuttle which was more like a high
velocity armored troop transport. In total there were fifteen of
them in the city. Andre was perched in a bombed out warehouse with
two members of the technical staff and twelve soldiers. The soldiers
were out scouting while the tech guys tried to hack into whatever
communications-information systems they could get their hands on.
Thanks to the Second Protocol and the nanotechnology that saved
the soldiers lives, they had all gained increased higher brain
functions. After three years of intense training and computer programming
via the nanotech link, those soldiers could now take on the most
elite squads on the planet and win with adaptive tactics, even if
hampered by inferior firepower. However, inferior firepower was
not much of a concern: Fielded with Kryptonian armor and some of
Ares most powerful weapons, the soldiers were known as the
Midnight Guard inside House Luthor.
Andres visor began cycling through the views from several
of the Guard as they
explored the city. Again technology offered them an advantage as
technology rendered the Guard invisible. Digital displays from each
of the Guard was relayed to Andres combat system and displayed
Sir, we have a few transmissions here in the capital, but
much of the activity seems near the southern border. The tech
checked something and frowned. I see other traffic that we
need to analyze. That will take some time.
Clicking his comm-link, Andre contacted the field leader. Locate
government officials in the city. That is now highest priority.
Three hours after the order had been given; Andre knew that the
government was no longer in the city. The military was in command,
but only nominally.
Sir, said one of the techs. The president is
in Almaty. We have some
communications traffic that is not Kazakhstani in origin though.
We think the
Russians have a presence in the country already.
Andre hit his link again. Fall back to the shuttle. We dust
off in fifteen. He turned to a tech and sighed. Figure
out where we need to look in Almaty. I need answers, not more questions.
A hologram of Andre floated in the middle of Lexs office.
We cannot ascertain the location of the vice president or
prime minister at this time. There is heavy evidence of battles
in the capital and here in Almaty. The military holds the south,
but the northern and western parts of the nation are in chaos.
Clark rubbed his mouth for a second. And you have some evidence
Nothing that would be classified as definitive. We did note
the massive build up of military units along the border. I would
even state that some of those units are over the border.
Lex nodded. Put any equipment we might need for long term
monitoring into place. As soon as that is done, evacuate the area.
I dont want you in harms way or risking detection any
longer than absolutely necessary.
Understood. I should tell you, sir, that weve seen
evidence that some of the battle damage was created by Meta Humans
Lex shook his head. Given the place where this is happening
I cant say Im
surprised. Finish up and head home. I want you back in the air and
Sir, the latest Recon photos show Russian forces moving slowly
Kazakhstan. We have Signal Intercepts that indicate Russian paratroopers
are being readied in Samara. From what weve heard, it could
be as little as two battalions to as much as two brigades.
Henry Gyrich turned from his desk in the middle of SHIELDs
Operations Center. He stared at the officer manning the Intel desk.
Gyrich pointed at the map of
Kazakhstan and spat, That is a hell of a difference when three
full brigades are
already on the border. Paratroopers deployed in brigade force could
control of all of western Kazakhstan in a matter of hours. I want
to know how many paratroopers Russia is preparing in Samara!
It doesnt matter, Mr. Gyrich, intoned General
Wallace Kincaid as he walked up a few steps to join Gyrich on the
central desk of the large center. We learned that Russia is
offering to help quell the violence in Kazakhstan. However there
has been no response, as of yet, from the government.
I was unaware that Kazakhstan had a government right now,
Gyrich replied. What else do you know?
Wallace smiled. He picked up a pointer and the display moved closer
to a section on the central-western Russo-Kazakhstani border. A
small area magnified a live picture of a caravan of dark, unmarked
vans and SUVs careening along a dirt road from the Ural Mountains
towards the steppes in Kazakhstan. If they maintained their path,
they would be in the capital of Astana in a matter of hours. Does
that look like a Russian military unit to you?
No. What is that? Gyrich leaned forward and frowned.
Its nowhere near where Russian forces are amassing!
Wallace arched an eyebrow and smiled again. Yes, isnt
that interesting. It would seem that an unmarked caravan is moving
at great speed from the Russian Urals
towards Astana. We only detected this group in the last hour and
a half. Im
guessing the Russians dont know about it.
And why is that? Gyrich asked.
Wallace tapped a button and the screen changed and zoomed in on
a ramshackle collection buildings that were typical of Russo- Kazakhstan
border crossings. This is where the caravan crossed the border,
Wallace informed them. Another tap and the image zoomed in close
enough to see bodies littering the crossing. Another tap and you
could see the blood. Weve observed no movement since
the caravan crossed. Unless Vitaly Kirov had his own people murdered
as a ruse, I would say there is another element loose in Central
For fucks sake! Gyrich lifted a phone. Isling,
this is Gyrich. I want assets on the ground in Kazakhstan in twelve
hours. Find out what the fuck is going on! Ill have Ambassador
Fromm deal with the Security Council! He turned to Wallace
and sneered. As for you, I want a full scale Intelligence
Assessment on Kazakhstan in fourteen hours. I want no surprises!
What the HELL is happening down there! yelled President
Kirov. Last we heard
from Scimitar and Longshot, Astana was empty and secure!
Tatiana nodded. And it was, but Scimitar and Longshot are
now in southern
Kazakhstan. All of the Shadow squads are down there now. They left
contacts and bribed units in the capital. The city is practically
abandoned. We dont know where this new faction came from but
the city is in chaos again.
CNN is reporting gunfire and explosions in Astana! The rebels
who started all this were supposed to be repressed! Kirov
picked up a glass from his desk and hurled it at a wall. Tatiana,
this is a disaster! Things were supposed to remain calm so that
Russian troops could cross with little fanfare! If the rebels are
active again, they will not like Russian troops in their country!
I will see to it that Scimitar returns to Astana and corrects
the problem. Tatiana bowed at Kirov. Forgive me for
this lapse in judgment.
Do not make the same mistake twice, my dear. You are useful,
but even queens are expendable in Chess. Vitaly waved her
out of his office. The time table might have to be adjusted
for a successful outcome.
Russian troops have moved across the border in force. All
of western Kazakhstan is under Russian control, including all the
oil facilities along the Caspian Sea. It is
unclear whether the Kazakhstani government requested such actions,
Russian Defense Minister says that is what happened! The image
of Nancy McNally blurred on the flat panel screen in one of the
conference rooms. Ive talked to Val Cooper and have
been told that Russia is delaying the UN Security Council from meeting.
Ambassador Fromm is trying to get the Council to meet and Secretary
of State Greg Dixon is talking with the British and Chinese to get
Russia to the Council as well.
Lex nodded. Is there anything I can do from here?
No sir, not at the moment, Nancy replied, tactfully
not reminding him that it would be several more weeks before he
actually had the authority to take action regarding any crisis.
Trask is assembling the National Security Council to examine
options, but if Kazakhstan did request Russian help then our hands
Understood. Get back to me when you know more, Nancy.
Lex killed the line and sighed. He turned to the rest of the room
and watched as cloaking field vanished. The House security staff
and a few of its senior members became visible. What do you
Our knowledge from Andres mission is limited, but its
possible that Russia has
permission to be there, responded Alan Owen.
Highly unlikely, responded Lionel. The current
government in Moscow is
expansionist and has deep Imperial ambitions. Vitaly Kirov is a
demagogue and the unstable political situation in Kazakhstan offers
the perfect opening for him to
expand Russias power and influence particularly if
he has been subtly helping the instability along.
Clark turned to Chris and asked, Is there anything new from
our sources in
No and were watching this very carefully. Chris
switched the monitor to images from the orbital sensor network.
Weve seen major movement all along the Caspian Sea and
towards the Aral Sea. But we recorded a major battle near Astana
last night despite the fact that there are no Russian troops near
Astana. No transmissions of any kind went out until we intercepted
a brief encrypted data burst just at dawn. It was aimed at a commercial
satellite, but we have no idea who it was meant for. Were
still working on the decryption
Lex stood up. Im concerned about Kazakhstan, but there
are other pressing issues on my plate, as well. Chris, you, Alan,
and Andre are tasked to deal with
Kazakhstan; just keep someone informed. My father is probably the
best bet. Lex headed towards the door and paused. I
dont mean to belittle what is happening in Central Asia, but
I cant focus on one problem only right now.
Clark nodded and smiled. We understand. Well keep an
eye on it for you.
Wes and Ben raced each other in the swimming pool. Across from
and Philip lifted weights while Peter and Zach played a game of
underground gym complex rarely saw as much use as it was getting
now that the family was home for the holidays.
A victorious Ben climbed out of the pool followed closely by Wes.
All right, whos
next? Ben crowed. Wes, do you think its time to
show our older brothers whos the strongest.
OUCH! Ben bellowed and Elsa cackled as she reeled in
the towel shed snapped
against Bens backside.
I think Zach would claim hes the strongest, Elsa
informed him jauntily as she
made her way on toward the diving board. And Hamilton could
still take you in any fair fight, and I think I just proved whos
got the goods when it comes to stealth.
You mean, sneak attack, Ben grumbled, rubbing his stinging
Elsa gracefully ascended the ladder to the dive platform. Sore
And I can take Hamilton easy. Hes a string bean while
I am all muscles! Ben flexed his arms and pumped out his chest.
For a boy who was physically around twelve, his physique was more
mature than that showing Ben to be around sixteen. Bring him
on! Hamiltons toast!
Wes started whistling, but didnt say anything as a sweaty
Hamilton emerged from the weight room with Philip right behind him.
Are you shooting your mouth off again, Ben? Hamilton
asked, using his towel to
snap at Bens ass. It connected lightly, but still made an
impressive noise in the
Not you too! That hurt! Ben lunged at Hamilton and
they both fell into the pool.
The wrestling match kept changing as one boy was able to get the
other in a head lock, then slip free. Philip and Wes cheered from
the edge of the pool while Dick shook his head and joined Elsa in
ENOUGH! Peters voice stopped all the noise. His
friendly persona and calm
demeanor masked the raw power of his physique, but he could be frighteningly
imposing when he needed to be. Zach, standing next to him, was dwarfed
by the tall mutant. Out of the pool, both of you! Youre
old enough to know better!
Ben and Hamilton started speaking at the same time, but shut up
when Peter raised his hand in the universal mode of Stop. I
dont want to hear it. I dont mind you wrestling on the
mats or in the play room, but not in the pool or lake. Peter
turned and patted Zach on the shoulder. You still havent
Dude, you are so cruising for an ass whipping. Zach
punched Peter in the arm as they headed back to the basketball court.
Hamilton rounded on Ben and smiled. You still didnt
Ben fumed for a second and then smiled. Just wait, Hamilton,
Ill get you soon
Philip rolled his eyes and headed back to the weight room. Hey,
Dick, you going to swim all day or are you going to get in that
lifting you said you needed?
Dick climbed out of the pool and shook the water off his body.
Give me a sec and Ill be there.
Wes ran up to Ben and smacked him in the head. Your mouth
is going to get you in trouble one of these days.
Ben smiled and laughed. I always try to back up my trash
talk. Dont worry, Ill get Hamilton when he least expects
The beginning is the most dangerous time of all. Move
too soon and failure is likely; move too late and the opportunity
is gone. Such is the nature of risk and reward. Damien
Parker frowned as he read the headlines from around the world. Timing
is everything and I have no idea if I am on the right track. Plans
within plans and all of it could come tumbling down with a single
Australia was a large continent/country whose main population centers
were on the coasts; it was Damiens dream to bring it under
his control and from there begin to build the empire he felt he
deserved. His rightful place had been denied him by his genetic
father, and his half-brother Lionel Luthor had never given him a
chance to shine. Damien had long ago decided to take what was rightfully
his. Much of the world presumed he was dead and that worked to his
advantage. However, his resurrection and subsequent
power grab had to be timed perfectly.
With the world focusing on Central Asia, now would be
a good time to assume
control, but I only have three brigades here and ordinance is a
shut down his PDA and walked to the window. Sunrise was his favorite
time of day. Possibilities seemed endless at dawn. The
infiltration of InterGang is only half complete. Accelerating that
project risks its exposure! Vitaly must not find out, or Varian
and I are as good as dead.
As the sun rose higher over the horizon, Damiens mood stilled
and calm began to
restore itself. InterGang is but the first step and that
process is underway. Next is to get my special clones into their
proper places so that traps can be sprung. Doing this properly will
take time, but improve the chances for success. The beginning is
dangerous. For now though Ill not pull the trigger. Varian
is too young still to lead, but once he is ready, all bets are off.
Philip walked into his grandfathers outer office and nodded
at Justin. He wanted to see me?
Hes expecting you Philip, go right in.
Philip walked into the well-appointed office and smiled at his
grandfather. How may I be of service to you?
Lionel chuckled and motioned for Philip to take a seat. We
have a family
conundrum, Philip, and I am going to start offering solutions. It
seems that we are running out of hands to operate all of our holdings.
Your Uncle Jeff is moving to the White House soon and your Aunt
Lisa has agreed to take over as the Operations Director for LFK.
Regrettably, that position is not something she wants to do and
neither do I really.
Philips already-straight spine stiffened as he leaned forward,
Lionel shook his head, but his smile was the essence of self-satisfaction.
You are too young to assume this mantle, yet, Philip,
he said, waiving at his grandson to relax. But it wont
be long before this job falls to you, and as such, it is time for
your education to broaden. Lionel lifted up a binder about
seven inches thick with two hands and showed it to his grandson.
Accounts receivable for fiscal year 2015 for all of LFK.
He lifted a smaller binder only two inches thick. This is
for the House only. It includes expenditures for all members of
the House including transfers to Trust accounts. It shows the expense
from each property, and the income from various holdings assigned
to each property.
Philips eyes grew wider as he heard his grandfather explain
the binders. May I at least look at them, sir?
Lionel nodded. You may have the House expense report, but
the full LFK report will remain with me. I want you to become familiar
with the House assets and liabilities during your last semester
in high school, my dear boy. This is the beginning; I am grooming
you to take your proper place in the family hierarchy after college.
Thank you, Grandfather. Philip flipped through the
smaller binder, skimming
ledgers and scanning reports. One in particular caught his eye and
Youve got to be kidding me! We spend that much money
on personal expenses!
He flipped through the book and looked at the historical charts.
That is an obscene amount of money, Grandfather! This has
to stop! How on earth do we spend that much annually? The clothing
expense alone would make our critics jump for joy. This is decadence!
Lionel cleared his throat. Expenses are a bit high, they
Philip cut him off. We need to be on a budget! He noted
his grandfathers frown and dropped his head slightly. Sorry.
As I was saying; expenses are always high in wealthy families
because a certain
lifestyle is expected. The numbers you see there are aggregates
of total family
spending and they come out of a master account. We settle that account
quarterly and we know who is spending what.
Rapidly flipping through the book, Philip found the break outs
and chuckled. I see that designer suits cost a small fortune.
He smiled at his grandfather. I suppose that looking good
is part of projecting a certain image.
It is indeed and never forget that, son. Lionel smiled
again. That is why you and your brothers are fitted every
year with new suits. You must dress a specific way to create illusions.
This is a very wealthy family and we must present ourselves well.
Bennett and Weston would prefer to dress like ragamuffins, but they
arent allowed to because of image.
Yeah, Ben complains that when his jeans finally get ratty
and his t-shirts get the way he wants them that they get taken away
and hes not allowed to buy pre-frayed items.
Lionel shook his head. Why anyone would spend good money
on clothes that look like they should be thrown away is beyond me.
Anyway, Philip, I want you to begin to grasp the complexities of
House management. It is your future and I think you are well suited
for this role.
Philip stood up and crossed behind the desk and gave his grandfather
a hug. Thank you. Im honored that you think I can do
My dear boy, this will be the least of your concerns after
college a mere
afterthought. You and your brothers have much more to do than manage
House. Lionel hugged Philip again. Off you go and dont
waste all of your Winter
Break looking those over. You can have some fun.
Philip smiled. Franklin is still here and he wont let
me get immersed in this too
I trust all is well between you and your handsome young friend?
He nodded. Yes, sir. Thanks to you.
Lionel suspected he had little to do with it, but he was proud
that Philip would honor him by saying so. Good. Now, go have
Henry Gyrich walked into the Transition offices and waited for
his meeting. Nancy McNally walked up and escorted him into President-elect
Luthors office. Gyrich kept his spine stiff and refused to
show the man any deference. I respect the Office, but not
Mr. Gyrich, thank you for coming to see me. I want a full
update on SHIELDs
activities. Luthor leaned back in his chair and nodded. I
want to start with Magneto and then move onto current plans and
With respect to Magneto, the man is very difficult to track.
We have a full team and an entire sensor network attuned to magnetic
disturbances. We caught wind of him as he attacked those camps in
Kazakhstan last year, but forward deployment of troops was a problem
that we are about to overcome. Gyrich paused for a moment.
In a few days we will test a very expensive and very powerful
weapon system. SHIELD will be able to increase our global stance
and Magneto wont be able to be that far ahead of us any longer.
Dr. McNally looked over at Gyrich and tapped his chair. Is
this the aerial carrier
youre talking about? I thought that project was behind schedule.
Thanks to Stark Internationals new engine design and
Wayne Techs power system we were able to get it to work. Theoretically.
The first real test is slated before the end of the year.
Lex nodded. How closely do you work with NSA to search for
Magneto and the
Brotherhood through communications networks?
We have access to NSA files and so use them from time to
time. We use all our
allied Intelligence Services as they relate to the mutant question.
Magneto isnt the only threat to national and world security.
His Brotherhood was able to do a great deal of damage during the
Olympics, if you recall.
Not all mutants are terrorists, Mr. Gyrich. Painting them
all with the same brush is a mistake that will drive them into the
Brotherhoods arms. Lex paused for a moment. Are
you trying to antagonize them?
Gyrich flinched at the words and then recovered. I am doing
what my mandate calls for, sir. We now have control over Rykers
Island Super Max Prison. It has been modified to hold just about
any mutant or dangerous creature. Rogue Meta Humans fall under our
charter as well, sir.
Define rogue, Lex said coldly.
That is still in the works, Mr. President-elect. The current
Administration has not given us a clear definition and most likely
it will fall to your Justice Department to provide that guidance.
Gyrich glanced at his watch and frowned. Im afraid that
I have another appointment soon, sir.
Of course, Mr. Gyrich. If I have any further questions Ill
have Dr. McNally call you.
Lex offered his hand and Gyrich walked out of the room. As he made
his way out of the building he was met by his bodyguards. Amanda
Waller was waiting for him in the car. McNally will be our
contact in the White House. Direct access is being denied.
Waller nodded. I told you that this would be the case. He
wants to put his own
lackeys in SHIELD. I give it a year, eighteen months tops, before
he finds a way to serve our heads up on a platter.
We need to find a way to delay that from happening. A high
profile capture would be nice. Gyrich sat back and exhaled.
I dont trust him, Amanda.
No, Luthor is the single most unknown high profile man in
the modern age. We
must beware of him at all costs.
Amanda Waller, Henry Gyrich, Samuel Thames, Thad Ross, and John
stood in the center of the Operations Room as SHIELD tested its
latest weapon an aerial aircraft carrier named Luxor. Its
fighter wing was made up of forty all-purpose attack aircraft. A
priceless piece of machinery, Luxor would serve as the airborne
radar platform and was integral to SHIELDs long term plans
for securing the globe.
Waller turned to one of the officers on duty and smiled. Colonel
West, what is the Luxors current cruising speed right now?
Dr. Waller, the air carriers can go up to 450mph, but cruise
around 380mph. We
havent fully tested the carriers hull strength after
extensive flight time at those
maximum speeds. Colonel West pointed to a schematic display.
though have shown they can take a punch as well as deliver one.
They have all the firepower of an Aegis cruiser with the full function
of a naval aircraft carrier. Their mobility is unmatched.
Denning nodded as flight operations began and the fighter crews
began taking off. Beautiful! With three of these in operation,
SHIELDs mission becomes much easier. Two divisions of troops
plus these strategic weapons wonderful!
Gyrich nodded. And that does not include Islings or
Furys troops. SHIELD is about to truly embark on its role
as protector of the planet. Nothing will harm America or any peace
Yes, America is on the rise again, added Thames. We
just have to make sure that a Luthor Presidency doesnt ruin
Hes not invincible, Waller noted. Hes
human and that just means we have to find his weakness.
In good time, Gyrich added. For now we celebrate
SHIELDs increased strength. Lex Luthor is a worry for next
Jan 1, 2017
Cape Town, South Africa
Martin Ver Kerk scanned the ships docked at the port and frowned.
brutal in Cape Town and this one looked to be one of the worst ever.
Regardless of the heat, Martin made his way to the docks approaching
a pier that was under the management of a Union of Latin America
firm. After the fall of the Cartel, the black market operations
out of the Union had fallen dramatically, but InterGang still was
able to get its supplies from the ULA just at a higher cost. Martin
motioned to one of his associates to open a cargo container before
local customs officials began going through the ship yards.
It was a holiday around the world and that is what made getting
this cargo so
important. Martin followed orders as he was told and it had been
getting this shipment out of Cape Town and on a private plane
bound for Somalia was vital. The locks were unsealed and the doors
opened. Martins mouth twitched when he saw, what could be
called, hi-tech coffins, twelve of them, in the container.
Move, get those unloaded now. Martin yelled as he moved
closer to one of them. It was a Plexiglas of some kind that let
him peer inside at the body of a young female. Lights blinked. We
have a time limit, people, move. He checked and all twelve
had people in them. One of them didnt look quite human, but
the case was not crystal clear. He didnt know their final
destination, but he knew that Somalia was a drop off point for cargo
heading either to Russia or to Southeast Asia. We traffic
in anything for a profit, but for this my fee just went up.
Clark, Lex, and Whitney were in the observation room looking down
at a large
reinforced three story room. Buried deep under the estate, the large
cavern carved from dense stone was not directly under the palace,
but was close enough for easy access. Additional metal and electronic
reinforcements made it the perfect place to test the boys and Zach
for their developing abilities.
The purpose of the exercise was to see how the four brothers would
coordinate an attack against Zach, whose abilities were far more
Clark hit a comm button. Okay, boys. You have your objectives.
Sorry, Zach, but youre on your own this time.
No sweat, Bro, Zach called out, pivoting right and
then left as his nephews took up flanking positions around him.
These guys are easy pickins.
Dont count on it, Unc, Ben quipped, flashing
the observation deck a thumbs up.
Zach left the floor and hovered in the center of the room. Okay,
come at me! Zach yelled.
All of the boys had telepathy and telekinesis to varying degrees,
but Philip and
Hamiltons mental abilities were stronger because of their
age. None of the observing fathers were surprised when impulsive
Ben acted first, hurling some loose metal pieces at Zach with his
telekinetic abilities. Philips frown was clear and Bens
face contorted as they argued mentally. Hamilton pointed too late
to warn them about Zachs counter attack.
Philip used his mind to enhance his physical strength and was able
to jump out of the way in time. Ben stood his ground as Zach charged.
The impact was loud and Ben went flying in one direction and Zach
in another. Wes ran to check on Ben. Zach was shaking his head as
Philip and Hamilton attacked in unison. Philip placed Zach in a
body bind while Hamilton tried to put him to sleep. It almost worked
but Zach used his powers to make the whole room shake. Philip lost
his concentration for a moment and Zach broke free from the bind.
He flew towards Hamilton rapidly, but Hamilton vanished.
From the observation room, the Triad saw Hamilton vanish and Ben
get up at the
same moment. Ben shrugged off Wes and glowed for a second he leaped
and tackled Zach from behind. Hamilton reappeared next to Wes as
Philip came running to join them. Zach threw Ben off but was soon
hit with a combined telekinetic punch from three of the boys. Each
boys power magnified the others so the punch was exponentially
stronger than it would have been ordinarily. Zach was thrown into
a wall with a resounding THUD and fell into a heap at the base of
the wall. Ben went running towards him and placed him in a head
Say it! Ben yelled. Say UNCLE, Uncle!
Zach croaked out an Uncle and Ben let him go.
Enough, called out Clark. He made his way down to the
floor along with the rest of the Triad. That was informative.
He walked over to Zach and helped his brother up. You okay?
Yeah, just need to clear my head. That was a major punch
I took. Zach leaned on Clark and stared at his nephews. I
wont underestimate you when youre together thats
Cirn Dor appeared and bowed to Clark and the adults.
He smiled at the boys. //I am very surprised at the variety of skills
displayed earlier. Kon-El is very much in the full Kryptonian mode
except his telekinetic powers are something Kal-El does not possess.
Kal-Els strength and speed though are far superior. As for
the boys; their mental discipline needs work, but their abilities
are beginning to show.//
Lex stepped forward and placed his hand on Hamiltons shoulder.
How did you
Ive been thinking about higher mathematics and folding
space. I simply moved
without moving. Hamilton smiled and then blushed. It
helped that I was in a dead panic.
The hologram nodded at them. //Yes, it does help because you tapped
reservoirs of energy to move the distance you did. To move beyond
this room is
simply beyond your power, but your minds ability to grasp
such concepts and
execute them is nothing short of remarkable. Still, I dont
think teleportation is
where your aptitudes lie. As for you Master Weston, you allowed
Bennett to recover and amplified the telekinetic attack on you uncle.
Also a remarkable feat.//
Whitney walked over to Philip and ruffled his sweaty hair. Nice
jump there. But you hesitated a bit more than once, why?
I can see things when I concentrate. Its not the future
really, I call it the Now.
When I look inward I can see events happening randomly, but they
are all happening within a one to two minute span as far as I can
tell. I was trying to concentrate and see how Zach would react one
way or another and use that to my advantage. Knowing his move allows
me to maximize my move. Philip wiped his forehead and sighed.
It was hard and didnt really work. Defending myself
and trying to coordinate our efforts made it a waste of time frankly.
Wes chuckled. Ben, next time dont go off the handle
so soon. Philip was trying to get us to act as one and you just
He wanted to distract Zach and keep him off balance. My approach
worked better! Ben protested.
From whose perspective, young man? asked Clark. Zach
nailed you pretty good
and your brothers defensive shield didnt keep even half
the impact from hurting
Wes mouth dropped open. You saw that?
Whitney nodded. We saw you extend a field around Ben, but
it only kept Ben from being smashed to bits. Zach, you might want
to dial down the force you use, at least until they are fifteen.
Ben, you showed glimpses of super strength, but you arent
your father and thus invulnerable.
None of you are invulnerable, that includes you, Zach.
Lex folded his arms across his chest. We will find ways for
your skills to improve. Brute force was not the answer Ben. You
need to learn the value of patience.
Come on guys, time to get ready to go. School starts up again
tomorrow and we
still have lots to do before your father becomes president.
Clark reached over and messed up Bens hair. And you
-- Ill be sure to teach you how to take a punch. I have a
feeling that you are going to do a lot of leaping before you look.