IV: Coriolis Event
Keys to the Kingdom - Part 2
Lionel Luthor, Bruce Wayne, Tony Stark, and Warren Worthington
were gathered in a private conference room on a fifth floor of one
of outer buildings of the Washington Luthor Compound. The Capitol
was clearly visible of in the distance. With a push of a button,
the windows tinted and the room was plunged into darkness. A hologram
sprang up in the middle of the room above the conference table
Gentlemen, Bruce said with a hint of mirth in his voice.
Our orbital research
laboratory is complete. He motioned to it. The engines
came online three hours ago and it is moving from polar orbit to
a high orbit as we speak.
Tony pointed and asked, Is that how it looks or how it is
meant to appear? If that is what it actually looks like then I think
we need a refund.
The hologram showed something like the old International Space
Station. It was
large, but modular and rather unimpressive. The hologram changed
into a sleek
tower with three arms and a rather large profile.
Does that suit your tastes better, Mr. Stark? retorted
Bruce with a smile. We spent almost thirty billion dollars
on that, trust me when I say that we got our moneys worth.
Lionel laughed. Good. I wouldnt want to have to explain
to my grandson Philip why we funded such a boondoggle.
Warren cleared his throat and pointed. What has U.S. Space
What we expected. They are not too happy with a privately
funded research station in orbit, but they cant do anything
to it unless they feel it jeopardizes National Security. Bruce
slid a small packet of paper across the table to Warren. That
is the official response from NASA and the Department of Defense.
My signature is all over that, but I will have to recuse myself
from this matter in the future because I am about to become a statutory
member of the National Security Council.
True, Tony commented. But having Lex as president
should help. It will be difficult for Space Command to tell National
Command Authority that it wants to blow up the Presidents
Lionel chuckled for a second before turning to Bruce and no hint
of amusement was left in his voice. Were all the specifications
Bruce sighed and shook his head. The fusion generators are
online and the
holographic projectors look seamlessly, but other defensive
modifications will have to be made now.
Not what I wanted to hear, but we will adapt, responded
Lionel. Well, if you will excuse me, I have a full agenda
and too little time. Gentlemen. Lionel rose and left the room.
Tony clicked through the images of the space station. Minerva
is going to place
some of its armaments on the station?
Yes, but I dont know what is being planned except that
it is functional and mobile. I do know that the station will be
defended and thats all that matters in the end.
The National Security Council met in the Situation Room. All the
members stood up as President Trask entered. At ease. Whats
happening in Kazakhstan?
Dr. Valerie Cooper pointed to one of the monitors. Kazakhstan
is still in chaos, sir. The remains of the Kazakhstani government
dispute that the Russians were asked to help, but its a moot
point since there are now Russian ground troops are in over half
the country. The southern sections of the country are where the
army has gathered. Less than a third is controlled by the rightful
government. Russia holds about a quarter of the country, and that
leaves the rest as an unruly mess.
Gabriel Vance cleared his throat. Sir, we have reports that
it was fighting between the rebels and Russian troops near the oil
fields near the Caspian Sea that started the war. The United Nations
must get involved at some point, sir, but Kazakhstan is no longer
the major flash point.
Dr. Cooper rose and the monitor images shifted to the shores of
the Black Sea. We are seeing signs of unrest in Romania. SHIELD
troops are still on the ground in the Carpathian Mountains, but
we suspect Dr. Doom is responsible for a riot that occurred in Constanta.
The Council of Europe is meeting now to discuss the ramifications,
announced Greg Dixon. I was on a call with the British earlier
and there are worries about Russias recent moves into central
Asia. Expect a call from the Prime Minister later. The Councils
foreign ministers are meeting now.
Why is the Council getting involved? Trask folded his
hands and frowned. SHIELD has the authority to deal with Dr.
Doom in Romania and they know it. Let them stew over Russia in Central
Asia and leave Doom to us.
Valerie shook her head. We have no definitive proof that
Doom was responsible for the riot, but there have been other disturbances
throughout Romania. If the trouble is a grass roots revolt, SHIELD
has no authority to intervene. The Council is worried about spreading
violence. Yugoslavia and Bulgaria have reported violence along their
borders with Romania. Even the SHIELD presence in the Carpathian
Mountains is not enough to deter Dr. Doom.
Then theres nothing I can do at this time. SHIELD is
there. The Europeans will have to handle this until Luthor takes
office. I will not send any troops to that region under UN or anyone
elses control. As for Russia, arrange for a call between Pres.
Kirov and myself soon. We need to make sure that they do not to
take over Kazakhstan. Trask rose and left.
Gabriel Vance frowned and pointed to the Russo-Kazakhstani border.
They still have two brigades of mechanized infantry on the
border, but their paratroopers and ground units arent being
backed up by their heavier guns yet. They may not be in there for
the long haul.
Dixon shrugged. It doesnt matter right now. I expect
the Russian forces to move just prior to the Inauguration. Kirov
has been signaling that Russian power was on the move. I am calling
for a NATOs ministers meeting because if Russia is becoming
increasingly militaristic then the Baltic States are on their acquisitions
Scimitars cigarette gave off a slight glow, but his dark
face betrayed no emotions as Longshot walked up. New orders;
we are to proceed to Almaty and find the Prime Minister.
Smoke came out of Scimitars lips as he spoke. When?
We leave soon, but grabbing the Prime Minister is forbidden
until we are told to do so. Its a political thing. Longshot
leaned back and with a flick of a wrist sent a metal dart flying
in the darkness. A wet gurgling sound came from the deep
shadows. We must be careful not to be followed or seen. The
rebellion is real and Moscow says that the Shadows will deal with
them in due time.
The broken cement of the alleyway created small echoes as Longshot
retrieved his dart. A quick search of the man yielded no identification.
Longshot examined him further. He opened the dead mans trousers
and frowned. Hes circumcised, but doesnt look
Jewish, American most likely. We must tell Moscow that America has
spies on the ground. He pointed at the body and quickly told
Scimitar, Get rid of the evidence.
A blast of energy incinerated the body and Scimitar lit up another
cigarette to mask the smell of burnt human flesh. I need a
Longshot nodded and they headed down the alley together. You
shall have your
drink and soon we will all have much more. Moscow has big plans.
Tatiana wont say exactly what, but I can tell that Kazakhstan
is nothing compared to what is to come.
The boardroom of SHIELD was packed with the General Staff. Gyrich
sat at the head of the table. General Nick Fury was on one of the
monitors giving a briefing. We have over three thousand soldiers
on the ground in the Carpathians now. That is five times as many
as weve had on the ground at any one time before!
Amanda Waller shouted, General, how soon before you find
out if Doom is behind the recent unrest in the Balkans? Russia is
carping about a near-invasion of the Balkans by SHIELD!
Theyre ones to talk about invasions, murmured
Gyrich silenced him with a wave of his hand. General Fury,
Dr. McNally wants a
report on the search patterns and progress of that search ASAP.
Weve been told that President-elect Luthor doesnt want
that many SHIELD troops on the ground unless we are going after
Magneto. The Ultimates are being recalled to provide security for
the Inauguration, as well, so you have a limited time to use them.
Tony Stark wants to attend a few galas I take it, commented
Damned playboy playing at being a superhero.
Waller raised an eyebrow, but nodded in agreement. Protecting
the nation is serious business and hes an amateur. Half the
Ultimates have other professions that they should tend to instead
of trying to be superheroes.
If the two of you have finished groaning about superheroes,
we still have business at hand, barked Gyrich. Fury,
I want the Balkans stabilized and I want you to get two insertion
teams into Kazakhstan as well. Damned if Im going to let the
Ruskies begin to play Empire again. Coordinate with Hardcastle about
the Intel. Not a word of this to McNally or Cooper.
Move a mechanized brigade south into the oil fields in five
days. Tell them to set up antiaircraft defenses along the perimeter.
Vitaly Kirov smiled as he looked down at a large map of Central
Asia. Prepare to move the other two brigades into central
Kazakhstan in ten days. I want to see how the Americans react to
The Russian Foreign Minister frowned. Sir, this move is too
Americans will not accept such a large military force in Kazakhstan
even if we have permission from what remains of their government.
I care not for what the Americans might do, Sergei. Power
is only viable when used and American power has been waxing since
they conquered China. Using power gained them much. We use what
power we have to gain more. It is the nature of the world.
It is doubtful that President Luthor will refrain from taking
action in response to this move, warned the Minister. Congress
might demand action and he will have to do something.
You worry too much, Vitaly waived the man out of the
room. Tatiana strolled in
from her hidden office behind the bookshelves.
Be careful about pushing for too much too soon, she
We have the appearance of legality on our side -- America
will be unable to do much against four brigades of Russian troops
in Kazakhstan. But America does have SHIELD and that is a worry.
SHIELD is their baby and nothing can break that damned treaty, but
we can curb their power. Vitaly thought for a moment. Construct
a plan for deploying Omega Red in someplace nasty that will force
the Ultimates and SHIELD to forget Kazakhstan for awhile. He will
make a very special inauguration gift for President Luthor.
Lois Lane had hit the big time. Today she was making her first
network appearance on one of D.C.s premiere political round
tables. The host was former White House reporter, Adam Klein, and
her fellow guests were Snapper Carr of ABC News, Trish Tilby of
CNN, and David Hyde of the New York Times. Heady company,
Lois pushed her nerves aside as she took her seat. A faceless technician
made sure her microphone was connected and inconspicuous. Seconds
later, someone called for quiet, then a woman with a clipboard signed
a 4-3-2-1-countdown, and Klein launched right into the show.
Welcome to Politics 101. First topic: A new Administration
is set to take Washington by storm, but is a storm setting in on
them before they even take office? Kazakhstan is a mess is
it a possible Russian power grab? -- the Mutant/Meta issue continues
to rear its controversial head, and now political opponents are
pointing out how weak Lex Luthors election was last November.
Lets get right to it. Lois, you have a long history with the
Luthor people, how are they dealing with this?
Adam, they ignore reality better than anyone Ive ever
seen. Then again they have the ability to create their own reality
so its a weird mix. I think Lex Luthor will care what people
are saying because he has enough votes in the House and Senate to
do pretty much anything he wants at least until the next
Snapper jumped in, Its not the carping that is going
to handicap Luthor, but
international events. Hes super rich, but I dont think
Russia cares about that.
Russia holds almost half of Kazakhstan, and no one in Europe is
diplomatic fiction they are peddling that they were invited.
Not only that, this is going to be seen as Luthors
first test, both at home and
abroad, added David Hyde. I understand that the Transition
team and the White House are at each others throats over some decisions.
Im not sure which ones, but things arent going smoothly
Trish Tilby smiled and shook her head. One thing that has
to be mentioned though is how quickly Luthor is poised to recover
on the domestic front. He has an incredible relationship with the
Senate and House leadership. His party has majorities in both houses
and he has a slate of legislation ready to go. Plus he has some
serious weight in his Cabinet. Kane Miller as Secretary of State
is major. Hes a leading scholar and a former diplomat. Very
respected around the world. Brandon Manheim is a bit risky for Defense,
but again a heavyweight in the field. He knows military affairs.
And then there is Bruce Wayne, said Klein. A
close friend and fellow billionaire.
More importantly he is one of the most respected industrialists
in America. Dont
forget Ursula Gunn at Justice. Shes a former judge and governor,
which gives her some major credibility.
Forming strategic alliances is one of Luthors strengths,
Lois tossed out. But for the most part, those alliances tend
to be entirely cosmetic. Hes surrounding himself with heavyweights,
but just how much power is he really going to let them wield. Bruce
Wayne is going to be deep in the presidents counsels, but
how about the
Luthor is insular, but brilliant. Hyde shrugged. The
first month will be rough, but he is well-positioned to do well
on the domestic front. However, international affairs can be a crap
shoot in the best of times and with Russias Imperial ambitions
rearing their head again, these are not the best of times.
Vice President-elect William McKenna turned off the television
and scowled. Not one of the Sunday talk shows had mentioned him.
The names of most of the senior Cabinet members and White House
staff had been thrown around liberally, but of the incoming VP,
the former governor of a major state and a rising power in the party,
there hadnt been so much as a whisper. Lois Lanes comment
about Luthors unwillingness to share power was jangling across
Governor, Mr. Craft is here to see you.
McKenna motioned Frank Craft in and was surprised to see Pete Ross
Gentlemen, to what do I owe this pleasure?
Craft sat down and motioned for Ross to sit down as well. You
are in the unique
position of being the future vice president of the United States
-- a position once referred to as being worth less than a warm pitcher
McKenna forced a congenial laugh at the old reference because he
knew it was all too true. The weakest defined office in the
But since it is an office and that has some power,
joined in Pete Ross. You will be a statutory member of a number
of committees and councils. With a little help here and there, real
influence could be yours. Influence is power in Washington. It only
takes a little to get a lot.
McKenna was intrigued. He smiled and sat back. Im waiting
for the catch. Theres always one in the end.
Frank Craft nodded. A price for sure, but nothing too great
and not at this time. You have nothing to give. However, in the
future there will be an invoice for collection. Pete here knows
how it works. Its working out well for him.
Yes, youre part of the House leadership now arent
you? I would have expected
that from one of Luthors protégés? McKenna
noted the scowl. It was a handy
reminder about the folly of making assumptions in Washington. But
then again I
dont know much about Lex Luthor. Im just his vice president.
Lex is complex. He wont give you what you want, William.
Youll have to carve your own niche around here. Craft and
his friends can help. I can help, but you have to want our help.
McKenna hesitated for a second before responding. Let me
think about it.
Fair enough, Craft answered. However, this is
not an open ended invitation. Youll have to decide soon.
I swear, Lois Lane is the fucking Queen Bitch of the Universe!
yelled Philip. She hates Papa so much that she bad mouths
My, oh, my. And I thought I was the one with a rep for having
a temper, Ben
clucked without looking up from his game controller. Hamilton was
equally engrossed. Their hands were moving almost too fast to see.
Dude, if Dad or Pop heard you use that kind of language, youd
be grounded in nothing flat. He chuckled. And if Grandpa
Lionel heard you, youd be disinherited, so cuss away! More
cash for me!
Philip regained control of his temper and gathered up the newspaper
hed scattered in his rare fit of pique. I have a stratospheric
IQ and my language skills make your pitiful vocabulary sound positively
pre-pubescent, Bennett. If I want to pepper my dialogue with a few
well-chosen invectives, I think Ive earned that right.
Ooh, la-di-dah. Listen to the Lord Marshal.
Youre just jealous. One of the throw pillows
on the floor in front of the game
console suddenly took flight and smacked Ben in the face. Twerp.
The interruption was enough to give Hamilton the edge he needed.
Gotcha! Thats three games to zip!
SON OF A BITCH! yelled Ben, hurling the pillow in Philips
direction. No fair. Philip distracted me!
Hamilton giggled and slapped Bens leg. Dont sweat
it, Twerp. Youd have lost even without Philips Magical
Missile Launch. My superior reflexes are no match for yours.
Screw you, Ben said grumpily, his glare sweeping both
his older brothers.
Philip arched an imperious eyebrow at Hamilton. Now that
was an intelligent,
delightfully-crafted rejoinder, wouldnt you agree, Ham-old-boy.
Oh, indubitably. Hamilton threw an expansive arm over
Bens slumped shoulders. I wouldnt be surprised
if any minute now cousin Betsy calls up and says King Charles wants
our little brother to be Britains new poet laureate.
Double screw you.
And the rhetoric just keeps flowing! Philip exclaimed.
Ben came up off the sofa in fighting form. Okay, thats
it! Down to the gym. I
challenge both of you!
Wes walked in jamming to an otherwise unheard song playing in his
seriously, you are ruining my groove. Chill out, Dude.
Glad youre here, Bro. Youre just in time to help
me give Master Phil here a good thrashing.
Wes flopped over the arm of an overstuffed chair. Dont
sweat it, Bro. Philips going to get his comeuppance without
any help from either one of us.
Philip put down his newspaper. What does that mean?
He wiggled his fair eyebrows. As I was leaving the Music
Room I saw Dad and Papa arguing. Your name was mentioned more than
once before Pop heard me breathing and threw me out. Man, it sucks
having Superman for a dad sometimes.
Philip frowned. My name? What did I do?
Ohhh, Mr. Perfect is in trouble. The world is ending.
Another pillow went sailing in Bens direction, but he smacked
it away. Dont worry, man. You cant have done anything
wrong because you never do anything wrong. Well. You did
call Lois Lane a bitch
An effing bitch Hamilton reminded him.
Yeah. An effing bitch, but that doesnt count.
Wes removed his earbud and feigned astonishment. Philip used
the f word? No
wonder our dads are pissed. The sky may open up and swallow us whole
Oh, shut up, Philip groused. This is serious.
Hamilton rolled his eyes. Whoa, Philip. Put on the brakes.
Before you start worrying yourself into an ulcer, why dont
you ask Dad?
Good advice, Hamilton, Clark said cheerfully as he
strolled into the game room.
Asking would be the right course of action, but in this case
well spare him the
trouble. Philip, youre going with your dad and father to Metropolis
next week to
attend the Minerva Board meeting and then a session of the LFK Board
Philip stood. Me, sir?
Yes, you, sir. Lex and Whitney joined them. Your
Pop hates the meetings, so
youre going to take his place among the Governors.
Youll only be a visitor at the Board meeting, of course,
Lex sat down next to Hamilton. We figured youd be bored
to death and might blow up the meeting rooms, Hamilton. As for you
two, I dont think youre old enough to want to deal with
these issues yet.
Damned right, muttered Ben which earned him a glare
Lex chuckled. A number of things need to be decided at these
two meetings and I want Philip to hear the Minerva meeting and to
participate in the LFK one.
Wes clapped Philip on his back. Better you than me, bud.
Philips eyes were wide as he hugged Lex. This is great!
Cant wait to actually see what its like. Will grandpa
Lex chuckled again. Yes, he will be there and yes, you can
sit next to him. Just
remember that youre not a corporate raider yet and that you
have no vote in either setting.
Whitney ruffled Wes hair and then headed back towards the
door. Come on guys, its dinner time. Everyone not already
standing scrambled up and started toward the door.
Clark stopped Philip by dropping a hand on his shoulder. And
well deal with the f word later.
SHIELD Headquarters was in chaos as alarms blared and lights flashed.
DETECTION THREAT DETECTION OMEGA RED
Shut that damned thing off, yelled General Ross. Where
is the creature located and can we get a team there to capture him?
Sir, Omega Red is in Hungry and moving toward the Ukrainian-Romanian
NATO troops have engaged, but failed to apprehend him. A map
was placed on one of the central monitors. He will reach the
border in one hour.
Fury, this is Ross, redeploy your forced to stop Omega Red.
Try not to break
containment on Doom, but for now Red is the primary threat.
Gen. Fury appeared on one of the screens and nodded. Understood.
Can I recall the Ultimates for this job?
Negative. The Ultimates will remain stateside until after
the Inauguration. Ross
President Trask sat behind his desk in the Oval Office and sighed.
Can we make it two more weeks without the world blowing up?
Because my legacy rests on the idea that we survived my term. Hell
can swallow the planet after Luthor takes office for all I care,
because then hell get the blame!
Secretary Vance shrugged. SHIELD is dealing with the Omega
Red situation so we dont have to worry about that. And Im
confident that all parts of Operation Wide-Awake have been hidden
from the incoming Administration.
Trask nodded and then reached into his desk to pull out a small
folder. He handed the contents of that folder to Gabriel Vance.
Send that to New York and make sure it is hand delivered to
Gyrich. Its an Executive Order with a Finding that automatically
places Space Commands Orbital Defense Platforms under SHIELDs
operational control in an emergency.
Define emergency? queried Vance.
The Finding defines an emergency as anything the SHIELD Director
says is an
emergency. The National Security Council then has seventy two hours
retroactively confirm the Directors use of the OPDs.
Trask tapped his desk. Its the best I can do to give
SHIELD the authority to act that Luthor might be unlikely to authorize.
Does Valerie Cooper know about this? Shes moving from
your White House to
Luthors Defense Department.
Trask smiled. I made sure that one of her deputies handled
this very quietly. I dont want Luthor catching wind of this
and yanking this authority away.
Wise. Mr. President, I must say that it is the official estimate
of the Defense
Intelligence Agency that Russia has invaded Kazakhstan. Omega Red
notwithstanding, we believe that this constitutes a threat to planetary
stability of an immediate nature.
Trask pressed a button on his phone. Mrs. Cotton, please
contact the Transition Office and inform Mr. Luthor that I need
to see him. It is a matter of some urgency. He killed the
intercom switch. Turning to Vance, he frowned. Bring me the
plans you have to deal with this.
Sir, you should know that CIA and the Europeans dont
necessarily agree with DIAs conclusions. I stand by them though.
I think its definitive that Russia is making a power play.
Lex walked into the Oval Office with Nancy McNally and Gregory
Vandeaver following him. Mr. President, said Lex in
greeting Winston Trask.
Mr. Luthor, Dr. McNally, Mr. Vandeaver, thank you for coming.
Dr. Cooper will join us in a moment. I thought you should all be
brought up to speed on the latest developments in Kazakhstan.
Which are? asked Dr. McNally. At that moment Dr. Valerie
Cooper walked in
Hello everyone, sorry Im late. I can answer your question,
Nancy. DIA thinks that Russia invaded Kazakhstan and wants to respond
to this change in the status quo. The problem is that CIA and our
Allies are not convinced this is true. CIA thinks that it might
be an invasion of convenience, but not a real military incursion.
I summoned you here because my response is dependent on the
Departments plans for this contingency.
Lex shook his head. It would be a mistake to start moving
troops half way around the world before you have everyone on the
same page. The news networks are covering the threat of the renegade
Omega Red and the threat of such mad Meta humans. Kazakhstan is
a mess, but I will not be pushed into confrontation with Russia
based only on the DIA assessment.
Some things cant wait two weeks, Luthor, countered
Some things should have been handled a month ago, Winston,
answered Lex. Be warned that this course of action will be
publicly opposed by me and by the Senate. And if Russia and the
United States come to blows in Central Asia, it will be referred
to as Trasks War.
Valerie cleared her throat. There are diplomatic options
still on the table; we can use those while the last weeks of this
Administration wind down. At least then all avenues of pursuit are
still open. That does mean that the DCM in Moscow needs to be brought
up to speed.
Nancy nodded. I know the Russian Foreign Minister and can
place a private call to him. Much of this needs to be done in a
low key manor.
Trask stood up. This is a bad idea, but Im the lame
duck. Ill have Greg Dixon see if he cant get some Europeans
to talk to Moscow about having so many troops in Kazakhstan right
Lex nodded. Thank you and thank you for informing us of these
They exchanged a handshake and Lex departed. He waited to say anything
until he and his team were back in the limo. Nancy, make sure
that Trask doesnt do
anything to make things difficult for us. Gregory, call Valerie
later and see what else she thinks. Shes in a rare position
to be moving from the outgoing to incoming Administrations.
Yes, sir were the responses to his directive. Lex stared
ahead for a moment and then turned back to Vandeaver. Inform
Kane Miller as well, hes going to have a crisis on his hands
if this isnt handled right.
Baia Mare, Romania
Explosions rocked the hillside, throwing debris high in the air.
This is Trevor, watch where you drop those damned bombs! My
men are on the ground here! Lt. Col. Steve Trevor III was
commanding the SHIELD ground assault to capture or kill Omega Red.
This is the Luxor Flight Operations, Col. Trevor. We are
redirecting aerial fighter
protection. However, weve been informed that if Omega Red
heads into the city we cannot provide ordinance support.
Shit! Trevor said to no one. He hit his comm link.
This is Trevor, keep Red from reaching that town or else it
will be a long fucking night! Another explosion rocked the
hillside. The hell was that?
A corporal came running up. His face was covered in dirt and sweat.
Sir, the front lines are now using anti-tank weapons to try
to bring down Omega Red.
Trevor nodded and moved toward a waiting armored Hummer to take
him closer to the engagement. A quick directive had more of his
crack troops move in with the newer heavier weapons
that Dr. Raven Darkholm had designed for SHIELD. Three high velocity
concussion grenades were launched and the resulting blast deafened
everyone within several hundred feet of the explosion. Trevor was
trying to reestablish communications and clear his head at the same
A sergeant ran up and banged on his window. Trevor got out of his
transport in time to avoid it getting smashed by an enraged Meta
Human. The steel-looking skin of Omega Red was scorched and parts
of it were missing. One of his tentacles was damaged and hanging
limp on the ground. Col. Trevor shoved the sergeant away as Red
threw a truck in Steves direction.
Seconds later, two energy blasts nailed Omega Red from the side
and sent him
tumbling into a burning vehicle. Three more concussion grenades
into the wreckage, sending debris exploding in all directions. Trevor
was not ready and again his head was ringing from the effects. He
looked out in time to see two of the new plasma rifles also pummeling
what was left of the wreckage.
A major came running up to Trevor as well as a medic. Something
was placed under his nose and Steve realized he was bleeding. The
major was giving a report, but Steve couldnt hear a word of
it. Finally the officer took a scrap of paper from his pocket and
scribbled, Got him. Alive, but knocked out. Trevor nodded
and the major rushed away.
Steve woke up in the infirmary and groaned as he tried to sit up.
Not so fast there, Colonel.
It took a moment for Steve to focus on the owner of the voice,
but when he did, he blushed. General Fury, what brings you
Making sure that you will recover your hearing and full brain
capacity. We had a lot of casualties because of the multitude of
concussion grenades. I cant have one of my best men down at
the same time. The general stood up and motioned for the nurse
to leave the Infirmary. We caught the son of a bitch and Im
going to have Moondragon probe his mind in a few days.
Steve shook his head and trued to stand, but General Furys
hand prevented him
from moving much. I should help.
Youre lucky you can remember the English language right
now, Steve. You are on bed rest for the next week and then well
see about returning you to active duty. Im going to allow
you to read mission briefings, but you are stay in bed and do as
the doctors order. Do you understand soldier?
Katherine Tyers tried to calm the Press Corp, but to no avail.
Gregory Vandeaver and Mike Ross had warned her it was going to be
a rough news day. Secretary of State -Designee Kane Miller had announced
that he was appointing Dr. Douglas Ramsey to be Undersecretary of
State for Political Affairs. The reason for the firestorm was that
Dr. Ramsey was a mutant. His powers though were one of the most
practical, if unspectacular, gifts ever. Douglas Ramsey was a linguist
who could comprehend any language, written or spoken, and speak
any language fluently. He was a natural diplomat and Kane Miller
wanted him in the State Department.
Does President-elect Luthor expect to have issues with Dr.
Ramseys appointment, shouted Lois Lane.
As I said at the beginning, Dr. Miller asked the president-elect
about Dr. Ramsey
and it was agreed that he was qualified for the position because
of his graduate
work, his background in diplomacy, and his linguistic skills. Dr.
Miller is of the
opinion that a person who can converse fluently with anyone on the
planet might be useful in the Diplomatic Corps.
The edge of mild sarcasm in her voice seemed lost on the press
corp. What about nations that dont like mutants? Isnt
having a senior diplomat who is a mutant going to be a problem?
called out Trish Tilby.
Trish, the U.S. diplomatic corps has been dealing with societal
prejudices against every imaginable minority for decades. This is
no different than nations who oppress women having to deal with
the very capable females who have served as Secretary of State.
They will have to deal with it. Katherine took a deep breath
before continuing. There will always be people who arent
happy with something a government does. On this issue, President-elect
Luthor knew there would be a level of discord, but he campaigned
against mutant discrimination and is putting that practice into
Where is Lex Luthor today? The Secret Service has his schedule
Hes in Metropolis for meetings, using the time between
elected offices to get his personal affairs in order. Katherine
smiled and pointed to another reporter. The questions on mutants
and Doug Ramsey kept flying.
The limo ride from the familys private airport to downtown
Metropolis was never
very long. This time the motorcade whizzed by at top speed. Philip
leaned back and listened as the adults chatted. Bruce had hitched
a ride with them so he was in the limo as well. Philip knew Warren
Worthington was meeting them here as was Tony Stark. Uncles Jeff
and Nick were there along with his Dad, Papa, and Grandfather. I
thought you resigned your Board seat, Papa. How can you attend this
Lionel and Bruce chuckled. Whitney patted Philips leg. We
never removed your
father from his seat; we simply placed his vote in absentia.
He resigned as Chairman and CEO, but his seat is still there. We
just have to move to reopen that seat and your father is on the
board again. The fact that he is the largest shareholder helps.
Lex winked at Philip. My seat will go in absentia
again after this meeting. It is my hope that you will be able to
take my seat during the latter half of my presidency.
Yes, sir! Philip couldnt even begin to hide the
smile his Papas confidence in him
brought to his face. A sternly cleared throat behind him brought
hid down to reality, though, as everyones attention turned
to Bruce. Making that known today would be unwise. Whitneys
seat will remain his, but Jeffs will have to be placed in
absentia as well. My seat is being replaced by Lucius Fox from
Wayne Industries. There is no way for the family to loose control
of the company because of how the shares are held, but the Board
is going to be without some of its strongest members. Doing this
now places Philip in a tenuous position of having no influence or
authority. Best to let these board members think hes doing
some visit you fathers job thing. His ability
in the future depends on people taking him seriously. Announcing
him now weakens him later.
Lex rubbed his chin and said, Interesting.
Lionel moved the discussion forward. Nick, Tristan, and I
will be able to hold the fort or at least move many things to proxy
votes, noted Lionel. Our proxies still make forty-five
percent of the company. Other than Wayne Industries five percent,
there is no block larger than two percent. We can win almost anything.
Though adding Anthony Stark and Warren Worthington to the Board
will be a headache.
Whitney shook his head. I can still make the most important
meetings. I only
resigned from North American Imperial because I sat on most of their
committees. Here Im just a voting member with no direct oversights.
Philip scratched his head. Is that the justification for
keeping your seat? Seems like politically thin ice to me.
Lionel laughed again. Ah my dear boy, you make me proud.
It is very strong legal ice, but woefully thin political ice. However,
we have to have your dad in his seat. Losing Jeff and Bruce is tough.
Tristan, Nicholas, and I can control the Board for the most part,
but our power voting block is gone. Until you, your brothers, and
cousins are available to join us, our iron control is weakened.
We are bringing in Lord Braddock as well, commented
Nick and anticipated Philips comment. Yes, I know
that makes three outsiders were bringing in, but they are
our friends. There are no openly hostile factions on the Board.
At this time, Bruce noted. There was never an
opportunity to test the efficacy of the Luthor control. Eight solid
votes holding a near majority of shares was enough to make anyone
wary of confronting the throne. That voting bloc is now five; Tristan,
Nick, Lisa, Lionel, and Whitney. And Whitney will be unavailable
for lots of meetings, so that bloc is essentially four.
The motorcade pulled into the underground parking garage of Minerva
Secret Service started opening doors and the party climbed out of
cars. Justin Daniels ran up and fell into stride next to Lionel.
Sir, the Board is
assembled and the agenda is set. Mr. Fordman Tristan -- will
call the meeting to order. First item on the agenda to be motioned
is Senator Luthors seat.
Lionel took the electronic notepad from Justin and signed something.
Make sure that there is an extra seat near me for Philip.
Justin nodded and walked away. Lionel motioned for Philip to walk
beside him. Your presence in this meeting will be unexpected.
I know you read the internals for LFK, but Minerva is just as
complicated. We invited Stark, Worthington, and Braddock to the
Board for a variety of reasons. We have business arrangements with
Worthington and Stark as we do with Wayne. Braddock is your second
They paused as they came to the elevator bank. Secret Service agents
had the doors to two of the shafts open. Philip climbed into the
car with Lionel, Jeff, and Nick. Lionel patted Philips shoulder.
As I was saying, your presence today is twofold. One is simply
to expose you to your potential future. The other
Jeff interrupted and winked at Philip. The other is to remind
the Board members
that there is another generation destined to take the helm of Minerva.
Any potential power plays will have that knowledge placed squarely
before them. Despite Bruces reservations, having you here
is a good thing.
Philip looked at Lionel with a single eyebrow arched. Lionel gave
him a subtle nod.
Plots within plots, my dear boy. You need to learn about this
and the sooner, the better. I need your eyes and ears at this meeting;
a fresh perspective. You will see things that Ive long since
let fall into the background.
The doors opened to the lobby of the executive floor. It was ornate
with an open three floor plan. His father and dad were greeting
people. Bruce was chatting with Lord Braddock. Philip turned when
a hand grasped his shoulder. He smiled at Tony Stark. Hello,
Greetings, Philip. I must say Im shocked to see you
here. I imagine I wont be the only one. He winked at
the teenager. Is it only you or will your brothers be joining
Philip started to tell the truth that his brothers would
rather eat Peruvian dung
worms than deal with anything related to business, but then he recalled
his reason for being here. My brothers and I didnt want
to overwhelm the board, he said confidentially. So we
flipped a coin and I won.
Tony laughed. Lets hope you still feel like the winner
after youve sat through all the boring reports that have to
be ploughed through at a board meeting.
He moved on and Lionel clapped a hand on Philips shoulder.
Well played, my boy, he intoned, sotto voce. Very
well played indeed.
Lionel moved on and Philip followed him as everyone began taking
their seats. I can do this, he thought, beginning his study
of the room like a soldier surveying the battlefield. I can play
this game and be everything Grandfather needs me to be.
From anyone else, the sentiment might have sounded like pure unadulterated
ego, but they didnt call Philip The General for
Hamilton joined Ben and Wes at their usual table in the cafeteria.
The salad on
Hamiltons tray held little appeal for him. Man, now
I wish I had gone with Philip.
Not much fun here without him.
Ben punched Hamilton in his shoulder lightly. You two are
going to go to different colleges in a few months -- what are you
going to do without your wingman then?
Hamiltons ongoing panic over the issue surfaced for a moment.
Philip was headed for Harvard, but the clear choice for Hamilton
was M.I.T. Dads going to have to get us a place convenient
to both campuses. Thats all there is to it.
Wes started laughing at Hamiltons obvious insecurity over
the idea of being
separated from his twin, but Ben frowned at him. What are
you laughing at? Dont even think about trying to go to a college
where I cant be close. Even when I get married you had better
be real close!
Wes stopped laughing and gave Ben a shoulder squeeze. Yeah,
okay, Im sorry for laughing Hamilton. I didnt think
about it from that perspective. I forget that we need each other
Josh Wheaton and Jake Spencer sat down next the guys and smiled.
The rest of their friends drifted in as they got their lunches.
Josh smiled ran a hand through his dark hair. So where is
Prince Philip today? Jake was sad all day without his favorite crush
to stare at in Philosophy.
Jake shot Josh the finger. Asshole! Where is Phil anyway?
Hes in Metropolis, loverboy, answered Ben. I
have to warn you though; Philip is head over heels for Franklin
Richards. Its like love or something disgusting like
Josh frowned. Are you disgusted because Philips gay?
Ben broke out laughing. It took a moment for him to catch his breath.
No way! Its disgusting the way they act around each
other. Took forever for them to move to where they are and now
The guys laughed and Jake sighed. I shouldve known
that a guy like Philip would be taken. Mr. Perfect is always unavailable.
Hamilton consoled Jake with a pat on the arm. Id help
you get my brother except I really like Franklin. And trust me when
I tell you, Philip is not perfect.
Seventeen men and women made up the Board of Directors for the
wealthiest corporation. Those were the voting members and there
were, at any given time, up to a dozen advisory members with no
voting rights. The Boardroom was full as everyone who could attend
this meeting, was in attendance. Philip shook the hands of everyone
he met, very few for the first time. Executives from Minerva were
also in attendance, but some were not even advisory members; they
simply had items to present on the agenda.
Philip took the seat behind and between his father and grandfather.
Lex was sitting at the head of the conference table. Lionel was
on his left and Tristan on his right. The rest of the voting members
took seats wherever they wished. None of them were surprised to
see Lex, but Philip knew they were very surprised to see him.
Lionel leaned back and Philip leaned closer. Philip, be sure
to pay attention to body language and nonverbal communication. I
want to hear you and your Dad compare notes after the meeting.
Lionel patted Philips shoulder before turning his attention
back to the table.
Tristan stood up. For one session only, Alexander Luthors
seat will not be in
absentia. He is the Senior Chairman Emeritus and as such will
chair this meeting. So moved.
Bruce raised a hand and said quickly, Seconded.
A vote was quickly taken and Lex assumed control of the meeting.
The second item on the agenda is placing Jefferson Fordmans
seat in absentia until such time as he reclaims it. Wayne
Enterprises is replacing Mr. Wayne with Lucius Fox. We welcome Lord
Brian Braddock to this Board
Philip stopped listening to his father and started looking at the
men and women in the room. He knew all of the actual board members
and all but three of the advisory members. He was still a bit shocked
that Bill Ross was not listed as a key ally on the Board. The Ross
family was still close to his, but he was puzzled.
We will set the dividend payment at $1.70 a share,
Tristan said as he read off his notes. At the same time well
be taking a one-time charge of fifty cents a share for internal
restructuring costs and IRS changes for retirement plans. By taking
this action now, we will save in excess of one hundred billion dollars
over the next four years.
Philip split his attention between what his uncle was saying and
how the people in the room reacted. We hold tens of millions
of shares in Minerva, which is going to add up for us quickly.
That thought did not linger long as he noted frowns on the faces
of some of the directors. He knew how many of them were shareholders,
but none of them had nearly the number of shares that his family
held. Still, he was struck by a few subtle indications of hostility
as his Uncle Jeff started talking about changing the revenue streams
from the new fusion reactors that were being built to provide electrical
power for North America. Jeff wanted to spin them off and away from
Minerva as soon as possible. The new company would issue stock in
its own name and stand independent of Minerva.
We would lose billions off the R&D as well as the construction.
That company could never repay that amount of money to us!
shouted James Beck. His seat represented the interests of the institutional
investors from Wall Street. Even the combined power of Wall Street
could not net a working plurality. The major Investment Banks, Insurance
Companies, and Brokerage Houses barely held twenty percent of Minervas
stock. Split between fifteen different companies, that meant it
had taken massive coordination to get the one seat that Beck held.
We are in the envious but admittedly precarious position
of moving the nation to a more secure power supply, responded
Lex. Without this divestiture, Minerva will be generating
a revenue stream that competes directly with all Public Utilities.
Think about how that will play when I am in the White House. People
will be paying the company founded by the President of the United
States for their power! Minerva must spin off this subsidiary -
at least on paper. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is neutral
on this issue, but I can tell you that the States arent happy.
The room had been full of whispers during Becks outburst,
but slowly quieted as Lex answered. Now silence had the floor. Philip
glanced around the room and wished he dared try to read the minds
of the people in the room. A small laugh shattered the silence and
Philip was shocked to see that it was James Beck.
We spin it off and buy back the stock? he asked.
Lionel answered, No, we announce the intention of divesting
and begin the process, but it will remain a partially spun off subsidiary.
The power contracts will be processed as they normally would and
this Board will provide little direct oversight.
So it remains in Minervas hand, but has the illusion
of independence? Tony Stark inquired.
Tristan nodded. Weve sunk over thirty billion into
this project and we are going to recover our expenditures. We might
have to wait though before building a plant in Europe.
Philip shifted again and schooled his features into the neutral
mask his father and
grandfather taught him. Everything at the Board seemed weird to
him. The way they talked to his family was different than hed
expected, but he could not place his finger on why. The realization
of just how much wealth flowed from Minerva into his family coffers
made his head spin. And to think that Minerva is only one
leg of the tripod of LFK wealth. Were fucking loaded!
What impressed him about that, of course, was what it meant in
terms of power, not the cash.
Damien laughed as he read the news first thing in the morning.
Victoria and Varian stared at him, but Damien continued to laugh.
Finally he wiped away a few tears and sighed. It appears as
though Lex Luthor has decided to commit political suicide before
hes even in office. He folded the paper and handed it
to his son. Hes all but driving the opposition into
fits of hysteria. Hes making a mutant named Doug Ramsey a
sub-cabinet member. In the State Department no less!
Varian looked up and smiled. Dr. Essex or Dr. Corbeau would
opportunity knocking. Though I fail to see how this does anything
to benefit us.
Victoria rolled her eyes. My darling son, things have been
in motion since before
you were born. You are part of plans that have been brewing since
the beginning of the century. Though revenge has been brewing long
before that. She gave Damien a cold look as she ruffled Varians
long locks. However, most plots involve your own moves and
change according to the actions of your enemy.
And this information will be used to adjust our plans, son.
It is all a matter of how to do so. Damien chuckled and shook
his head. I think I know a way to exploit this and make it
Gen. Pierre Hardcastle looked around at the bombed out city and
spat, disgusted at the situation. Yes, Mr. Director, Ill
see to it that we have Intel on Kazakhstan, he muttered, mimicking
himself. Didnt fucking mean I wanted to come to this
shit hole in person. He had two battalions on the ground with
him. The carrier was over Western China. Still it would take the
fighters a few minutes to provide aerial support if the Russians
didnt take kindly to SHIELD being on the ground.
Sir, negative on the reports that Magneto was spotted in
the area. Must have been a computer malfunction.
Hardcastle scowled, but nodded. Expand the search. I want
to be certain that the bastard isnt close, he commanded,
waiving off the communications officer. He felt not a speck of guilt
about sending the man on a wild goose chase. The computer intel
that Magneto was in the area was a fiction created to justify their
presence to the Russians. 'Its well within our charter
to be here if we have a lead on Magneto, he rationalized
as he continued his quiet walk.
A major walked up and gave him a small pocket PC. Sir, there
is heavy biometric
radiation in several places. We cant say for certain whether
it was Magneto, but
there was serious mutant activity of some sort here.
Fuck! Hardcastle stormed towards the communications
area. Contact Luxor and have another survey team sent down
to Almaty too for additional tests. I want to know what the hell
is going on!
Groom Lake, Nevada
Henry Gyrich was a man who was not used to being in the dark. Hed
National Security Advisor for years with the highest clearance in
the government. He knew things that were known to less than a handful
of people. He was the Director of SHIELD and with that came a whole
new level of secrets. But now he was in the dark and it didnt
suit him well. Not at all.
He followed his guide down a labyrinth of corridors and descending
levels under the desert. How far are you going, major?
Sir, the containment facility is fifteen levels down and
more than two miles in
distance from the main elevator shaft to the surface. Every precaution
we could take, weve taken.
Precaution for what? demanded Gyrich.
You have to see it to believe it.
They came to the end of a ramped corridor. The major swiped a key
card through a reader, then entered a code on the adjacent panel.
Slowly a huge vault door was revealed as it pulled back. Lights
flickers on inside the room and Gyrich again followed his guide.
Inside was a room sealed in transparent steel. Gyrichs heart
rate nearly doubled when he saw what was in there? The Hell
The major hit a button on a command console and a close up image
came up. That sir, is a true blue space alien. Weve
no idea where he came from, but hes alive and in stasis. Hell
be SHIELDs problem from now on.
Gyrich stared at the blue alien with a long face and a humanoid
build. He arms were shackled above his head and his feet encased
in some device. I want his file before I leave. I want to
know what you know!
Dinner was held in the formal dining room on the first floor for
a change instead of the smaller dining room on the second. Guests
from across the country had come in for the long Martin Luthor Day
weekend and for the Inauguration the following morning.
Numerous boxes and personal items were being assembled for transport
White House in the morning. Now, many guests were gathering, glad
that the day theyd fought hard for was finally here.
Whitney sighed and smiled at the antics of his extended family.
His niece was flirting as always with Bruces adopted son.
His brother-in-law was trying to one up Peter, and then there were
his own sons. The suits for the swearing in ceremony were already
laid out and the tuxedos for the balls were hanging in the closets.
Everything appeared ready for the major changes coming the following
day, but as an Empath, Whitney knew that anxiety was running high
in the house. So much will change at noon tomorrow. Everything
Clark walked up and slid a comforting arm around Whitneys
waist. You are
worrying enough for all of us. Come and join us for our last night
of freedom for at least four years.
Whitney chuckled. How can I resist such a reassuring invitation?
Clark grinned and pressed a lingering, reassuring kiss to his lovers
things wont ever change, he promised. Come on.
Clark led Whitney to the third floor den where friends and family
were gathered. The teenagers were visible in the second floor playroom,
but it also gave them the privacy to have fun. The future Secretary
of the Treasury was busy chatting with the future president. It
was a normal scene except for the undercurrent of nervous tension
that thrummed through Whitney like the plucked strings of a guitar.
The two of them moved to sit near Tony Stark and Janet Van Dyne.
Janet leaned over and chuckled lightly. So is anyone going
to get any sleep
Clark shrugged. The President-elect and First Gentleman are
going to Blair House in a few hours and Lex learned how to sleep
anywhere thanks to his campaign.
Franklin shifted and would not sit still. Ben finally had enough.
Dude, do you have ants in your pants or what?
Blushing, Franklin stammered, Getting nervous about tomorrow.
told me Im expected to dance with Philip at the Palladium
Yeah well, get over it and sit still, groused Ben.
We are all going to be on display tomorrow. At least we dont
have to go to Blair House tonight.
The bright side is we dont have school tomorrow or
Tuesday, added Wes. We can have all the fun we want
at the Palladium!
Zach cleared his throat behind his nephews and tapped Wes on the
shoulder. My brother has already threatened me and Peter with
permanent body damage if you guys so much as think about drinking.
He reached over and patted Bens head. So kill all thoughts
of getting drunk and accept that your total alcohol consumption
will be the champagne toast when your father arrives at your ball.
Dick was laughing on another couch when a pillow went flying at
his head. Zach
pointed and him. Bruce told me the same rules apply to you
Well shit! cursed Ben and Dick at the same time.
Philip chuckled and pulled Franklin to his feet. Dont
worry about the dancing; they will be watching me or them, but you
will simply be photographed. Welcome to my world.
Franklin rolled his eyes, Hel-lo! He pointed to his
own chest. Son of two members of the Fantastic Four and everyone
thinks Im a mutant. I think Im already a charter member
of your world.
Oh, yeah. Philip blushed and then kissed Franklin quickly.
Sorry. A pillow went
flying at his head. BEN!
Ben shrugged and pointed at Dick. Dick tried to look innocent,
but failed. Philip
glared for a moment and Franklin picked up the pillow and smacked
Ben in the head. That is for thinking about hitting me with
I was not
the protest died on his lips has Franklin
tapped his temple. Ben sighed. Yeah, okay, but you arent
supposed to read peoples minds.
Franklin laughed. I didnt have to. I know you.
Ben grumbled, but was quiet. Peter walked over and pulled Ben into
a full hug.
Everyone is always picking on you.
Yeah, agreed Ben. They dont know perfection
when they see it.
Elsa rolled her eyes and asked Hamilton, How do you live
Hamilton shrugged. We cant kill him so we cope.
Monday, January 23
Winter was in full swing as Lex left Blair House with Whitney at
his side. It was clear, but very cold: Perfect weather for the start
of a new era in American politics. The Secret Service was out in
full force as Lex was set to become the 46th President of the United
States. His own aides were waiting for him as he walked down the
covered steps to have a quick breakfast with Winston Trask and then
they would head to the Capitol for Lexs taking the Oath of
//A penny for your thoughts?// Whitney asked as they climbed in
the back of the limo for the very short trip over to the White House.
//Everything will be fine.//
Lex gave him a small smile and nodded. This is everything
and nothing like I expected. The culmination of my fathers
dreams and my own ambition to reach this one point and suddenly
Im finding I cant savor the moment.
Perhaps psychology would have been a better use of my talents
instead of finance, quipped Whitney while intertwining his
fingers with Lexs. This was never a dream of mine, not
even a blip on the radar. Im just along for the ride.
He smiled and squeezed Lexs hand. And what a ride it
is. Victory at your age is an incredible achievement. Tonight when
we are dancing at a ball, take the time to enjoy this one moment.
The world will be there tomorrow. Russia and Kazakhstan will wait
for a few hours. This is your moment, my love. Enjoy it.
Clark guided his sons down the front steps and into the limos that
were flanked by the familys Secret Service detail. Clark nodded
at the lead agent. Has Lex left for the Capitol yet?
No sir, the President and President-elect are just now leaving
the Oval. Clark nodded and continued down the steps. Part
of the family was already at the Capitol. Nick and Jeff had gone
to witness William McKenna being sworn in as Vice President. Bruce
came down the steps with Betsy being trailed by other members of
the Household. The boys came down last and Clarks heart stopped
for a split second. Philip and Hamilton looked stunningly mature
in their tailored suits. Their features were slightly hidden by
sunglasses, but they radiated maturity. Their younger brothers,
for all their lack of that maturity, still gave off a sense of power
that made Clark swallow hard. God, this is happening too
soon. They arent ready for this!
The cold whipped through the front courtyard prompting the boys
to pull their loose overcoats tighter. Lionel beckoned the boys
to hurry and the personal aides to the boys pointed them to the
right car. The motorcade was going to be several cars long with
all the family members and dignitaries staying at the Resort.
Clark climbed into the lead limo with Lionel, Katlan, Anne, Lucas,
and Martha. The second car had Tristan, Lisa, Sebastian, Stephanie,
and Michele. The third held the boys, Zach, Peter, and Franklin.
The fourth car was carrying Bruce, Dick, the Richards, Elsa, and
Betsy. And those were just the actual household members and their
guests, not the supporting staff. Justin and the Aides-de-Camp were
riding in armored Hummers. Clark waited for the police escort to
get moving to relax.
Son, you are too stressed. Relax, everything will be okay
today, said Martha as she patted her sons hand. The
boys look fantastic.
Anne nodded. They are so big. Id say they were mature,
but Ben and Wes were having another play swordfight in the Den this
morning. Im glad they are still kids at heart. So much is
expected of them.
As Lex said, To those that are given much; much is
expected. They will be fine. Lionel smiled. Though
Id be happier if they listened to Philip more often.
Siblings dont always listen to each other out of rivalry
sometimes, mentioned Anne. Still the boys do very well
with each other. Besides, Ben is good for Philip. He cant
get his way in everything. Her eyes twinkled as she said that.
The motorcade slowed they approached the Capitol. Clark got out
first and moved up the steps, then waited for the rest of the family
to exit their vehicles so they could enter the grand building together.
A State Department Protocol Officer met him at the top of the stairs.
Dr. Kent, if you and your sons will follow me first, another
officer will lead the rest your entourage to the main stage for
the ceremony. The President Elect and First Gentleman will meet
you in the Rotunda. The Greeting Committees of the House and Senate
are also there.
Clark shook his head slowly and motioned for the guys to hurry
up. Can we skip the Rotunda part and go right to the main
Sorry sir, the Presidents immediate family comes in
after he walks out. There is limited space and it sets up a better
photo op as well.
Philip walked up with his sibs in tow. They started walking down
the main hall towards the Rotunda. Hamilton and Ben were whispering
softly while Wes moved up next to him. Papa is about to be
President. Hard to believe.
Yeah and hell have his hands full. We need to be sure
not to add to his worries. Philip patted his brothers
shoulder. How come you didnt invite Kyle to be your
date? I mean not like date date, but as someone to hang
Youre asking me this now? Philip your timing is terrible!
Wes avoided the question and gave a small wave as his father and
dad appeared in the Rotunda. Look at all these people. I hope
we dont get introduced because Ill never remember all
Ben came up and whispered in his twins ear, Dont
worry about it. They think we are dumb kids. They dont take
us seriously and Grandpa Lionel always says that is a huge strategic
I believe that my days on this Earth are now numbered!
Lionel said with a laugh. I have been quoted by Bennett Andrew
Luthor-Fordman-Kent. He is correct though, Weston; they will see
you as only children, even those who have met you a few times. You
should learn from Philips example how to use that to the familys
Ben rolled his eyes, but Wes gave a pious, Yes, sir. We always
strive to learn from the example Philip sets.
Lionels mild frown suggested that he didnt know whether
to take Wes seriously or not, but applause from the huge crowd gathered
in front of the Capitol made conversation difficult. Lionel patted
Philips back as he and the rest of the Household went to take
their places outside. The boys waited as the Members of Congress
went out to their places as well. Whitney and Clark stood on opposite
ends of the boys while Lex chatted with the Speaker of the House,
Vice President McKenna, and the President Pro Tempore. The Chief
Justice was also standing there talking with the Leadership.
The Marine Band struck up God Bless America and the
Vice President was led outside followed by the Congressional Leadership.
Finally Lex went out with the Chief Justice. The First Family followed
and took their places a few feet from the ceremony. The band finished
playing one song and went into The Star Bangled Banner
while the party at the podium got fully settled. The opening invocation
was said by one the nations most prominent Clergymen.
The Chief Justice stood on the right side of the podium and Lex
the left. A hush went over the crowd as the Chief Justice told Lex
to repeat after him. I, Alexander Joseph Luthor, do solemnly
swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of
the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve,
protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
The Chief Justice shook his hand and the Marine Band struck up
Hail to the Chief as Lex moved to take the podium. The
cheering crowd was partially drowned out by the twenty-one gun salute
being delivered. Lex took a deep breath and waved to crowd.
My Fellow Americans thank you for
choosing to chart a new course for this great nation of ours.
Today marks the beginning of a new era, an era of dynamic change
and a glowing future for all of us.
There are challenges a plenty waiting
for us to confront and that we will, but we must not give into
our fear that we cannot overcome these obstacles. As Franklin
Roosevelt told America during the Depression and World War II,
the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That holds true
now as it did then.
We are a blessed nation. We are blessed
with diversity and freedom. One should not hinder the other. It
is our differences which makes us so great. We are a nation of
immigrants. We all came from someplace else and we now call America
home. There have been great periods of intolerance that swept
the nation and once again we confront that challenge. This time
though it is not xenophobia, racism, or homophobia that we must
confront but a fear that anyone might be different.
Anyone might be different: it strikes
at the very heart of our security. It makes parents worry about
children. It makes friends suspicious of each other. Any why?
It is fear! We must confront our fear. Mutants are among us, but
they are not as pervasive as some fear mongers would have you
believe. The scourge of Magneto is a grave threat, but he is only
one man. And he is a man, but a man who has an agenda can be a
monster as well.
We must look to the future, not heavy
with worry, but with the knowledge that if we face our fears then
the clouds on the horizon signal not a coming storm, but are instead
a gentle spring rain. Signs of doom are always there to see for
those who would see nothing else! It is here and now that we must
turn the tide and confront our demons that would have us turn
against one another. Nature is always changing and we must acknowledge
that failing to change means that we stagnate and wither.
There are more challenges facing
us than our fear of our fellow citizens. Change is on the march
across the world and it is not all for the better. Energy needs
will continue to confront us as we move forward and as much as
we change, we are still dependent on energy for our lifestyle.
But it is the push by some nations seeking to reclaim an Imperial
past that has us worried. Domination by one country over another
by force is wrong and this government will not stand for it. Freedom
must shine where it can. The Right of Self Determination cannot
be denied. Great Powers are seeking to play the game that led
to the First World War
There will be challenges ahead of
us, but we will succeed because we are Americans. We are optimistic
by nature. There is nothing so great that we cant meet it
and move on to different challenges. We are Americans. We believe
that we can do anything we try. We are Americans; we come from
across the world. We must be an example for the world in dealing
with energy issues, mutant rights, and with global climate change.
This is a promise; my government
will seek solutions rather than play politics as usual. There
are too many issues which require attention to try to play the
blame game. Time is short, but we can meet those challenges and
prepare for those that we dont yet know.
This is my call for Americans to
work for solutions instead of seeking blame. We are the United
States of America. United we stand, divided we fall. Our greatness
is us, our hope is us, and the future is in our hands. We must
seize this opportunity to make a bright future for all of us!
Thank you! God Bless you and God
The crowd roared with applause and the band struck up more music
as Lex waved to the crowd. The Members of Congress and assembled
dignitaries also clapped for the new President. Lex waved and took
in his moment of ascension to the most powerful man on the planet.
From the weapons design director of DARPA to working for
fucking Gyrich at SHIELD! Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Raven Darkholm clicked off the Inauguration. The commentators were
rambling about the Congressional luncheon and then how the Senate
would meet to confirm the presidents nominees to the Cabinet.
Ravens friends were on the list for quick voice votes. Val
Cooper was about to be Deputy Defense Secretary and Holly Jones
was being elevated to FBI Director. I got moved before
he came into office for some reason. Gyrich would never let me leave.
Something must be going on because the weapons program here is already
She moved around her lab and lifted various files to see the current
assessments of weapon programs. Still her assignment was not without
benefit. Her access was not at the highest level, but she was able
to spy on some of the things that SHIELD was doing. It had not been
a shock when she found out that Scanner was under SHIELD control,
but she had no clue where to find him.
One thing that did worry her was a project called Destiny. The
overview was vague about experiments with manipulating the future.
That frightened her. She knew a mutant Destiny and if SHIELD was
after her then things could get very bad. Destiny never saw the
true future, but mere probabilities until all the choices ran out
and by then any future knowledge was too late to do any good. What
good is a five second warning?
However, she knew Gyrich and if he got his hands on Destiny then
probabilities would not matter. He would use his knowledge and consequences
be damned. Magneto must be warned, but how? If I am compromised
then the entire Brotherhood could be discovered!
As a beggar I come to this man; bereft of all power and
a most of all my influence. And lo the mighty shall fall from the
heights! Frank Craft made his way down the hall of the
offices of The Friends of Humanity. The Consortium's influence was
gone now that President Trask was out of office. Vice President
McKenna had not answered him yet and Luthors hold on Congress
was greater than Craft could combat at the moment.
But a man with Crafts connections could still garner a meeting
with one such as Creed. He was shown into the office and greeted
I must admit, Mr. Craft, that this meeting is unexpected.
You and your group were considered to be a rumor on Capitol Hill
when I was an aide. Creed handed Craft a drink and sat back
down. What brings you to Los Angeles?
A new Administration is now running Washington. One that
is very direct in its views and one that views me as the opposition.
Craft sipped his drink before setting it down. Your influence
is stronger than the Media gives you credit. I have some influence
in higher circles than you, but you have the ground muscle.
To what end? Do you have an agenda right now that must be
done? Creed shook his head and sighed. My best political
operatives tell me that Vandeaver will be able to get much through
the House at Luthors behest and Luthor himself can marshal
the Senate to his needs at any time. What good is your and my influence?
Craft sat back and gave a small smile. Events on the ground
drive a presidency. I dont share your hatred of mutants, but
I do think they represent a dangerous and unstable element of society.
The mutant killings have subsided, domestically, for the past few
months. That could reignite at anytime. Magneto was a plague on
Trasks house and then there is the situation in the Balkans
and Kazakhstan. We must be prepared to use these events to hammer
Luthor. Power is a zero-sum game, Creed. You either have it or you
dont. A president is never without some power, but it can
be reduced and ultimately broken.
Why do you care so much? asked Creed.
My organization has been protecting America since World War
II. Luthors views are a threat. Besides, power for powers
sake is not something foreign to you. Craft smiled broadly.
Luthor threatens stability and that isnt something I
That I can understand. Mr. Craft, I think we can come to
some form of agreement. Creed lifted is glass in a toast.
Now all we need is an opportunity.
Well know it when we see it. Craft saluted Creed
and smiled again. To our new alliance, may it be very fruitful
for both of us.
Fireworks exploded over the Washington Mall as the Inaugural celebrations
continued. Whitney smiled as his sons walked down the steps towards
the waiting limos. Their dates had arrived earlier and were also
getting in the first caravan to the Palladium Ball. They had all
come back to the White House to change and from there head to the
various balls for the evening.
Whitney motioned for Eric Abbott to join him. Have Peter
and Zach left the Resort yet?
Eric talked into his comm link for a moment and then nodded. Sir,
their car is arriving at Palladium now. They will greet the guys
there and escort them inside. Jack King is taking overall command
Did Jack lose a bet or something? laughed Whitney.
I would not have wished that duty on anyone!
He, April, and Kelly had a poker game to see who would get
the honor of being senior Aide-de-Camp watching the guys. Jack isnt
a good poker player.
We already knew that. Whitney chuckled as he made sure
his sons were presentable. You guys clean up very well.
He shook the hands of Ben, Wes, and Hamiltons dates. He gave
Franklin a clap on the shoulder, and though his glance swept all
of his sons, his gaze ultimately landed on Ben as he said, Well
see you in three or so hours. Have fun and make sure you dont
embarrass your father.
Why are you looking at me? Ben exclaimed with more
humor than pique. Grandpa Lionel, Nana, and Granna have all
told us the same thing, as did Miss Rachel, and they all said it
looking at me! Pay no attention to them, he told his date
as he placed his hand on her lower back and guided her to the waiting
car. Im not dangerous, just misunderstood.
Thats too bad, Bens date said with a flirtatious
giggle as she slid into the limo. I like dangerous.
Deadly! Im positively deadly! Ben exclaimed,
ducking onto the seat beside her. Just ask any of my body
guards and theyll tell you about the time I
Cracking up, Whitney was sorry to see the limo door shut on whatever
outrageous whopper Ben was about to tell. Whats so funny?
Clark asked as he joined Whitney at the curb.
One will do it. Ben?
Yep. The motorcade left the White House headed for
the Palladium Ball Bash. We need to get moving too if we are
going to be at the Prairie Ball on time.
The evening progressed quickly for the guys once they arrived at
the Palladium Ball. Several of Americas biggest bands were
playing that night. All of the guys walked in with dates on their
arms. Philip led the way with Franklin followed by Hamilton and
Ben with their girlfriends. Wes was taking a friend of the family.
After them came Elsa on Dick Graysons arm. Zach was already
at the Ball with his date. Milos Revenge finished playing
as the opening act. This Ball was the toughest ticket to get and
all of the elite youth of America wanted to attend. The Whos
Who of American twenty-somethings were in attendance as were a few
teenagers. The youngest in attendance were the Luthor boys.
Philip walked in and started greeting people hed met over
the years at St. Albans as well as those from Washington Society
gatherings. He introduced Franklin to them while his brothers did
the same with their dates. The music started up again as Frankensteins
Ghost took the stage and began to let it loose. Pounding drum beats
filled the Ballroom while heavy guitar rifts started to get the
Come on, you promised me a dance, Franklin tugged on
Philips jacket lightly. I know were supposed to
behave, but we can do a little grinding.
Philip blushed but followed Franklin to the dance floor. The music
took on a heavy dance flavor as the song went on. Soon both of them
were moving with the music and dancing closely, oblivious to their
surroundings. Every so often a hand would move to touch the other,
but they managed to remain separate by the thinnest of margins.
The music shifted to one the bands signature hits and the
dance floor grew much more crowded. Philip and Franklin started
sweating with all the body heat gathered around them. The press
of people made it hard to keep away from each other and it wasnt
long before Philip had to grab Franklins hand and pull him
off the overcrowded dance floor or get caught doing something that
would get them both in a lot of hot water.
Wes was sitting at their table laughing with his friend when Philip
and Franklin stumbled back. Dude, you are so making the national
tabloids. You two looked like you were having sex out there.
Wes paused and then started laughing again. And you look like
it now as well.
His date, Brittany Roberts, laughed as well. You two are
flushed. You look hot and I dont mean in the sweaty-sense,
Philip was about to say something when Jack and Peter walked up.
He opened his mouth, but Jack cut him off. We can expect dirty
dancing photos of you and Franklin to begin appearing on the Internet
within the hour God help us if anyone got streaming video!
Ive already called your uncle to let him know.
Jack waved him to silence. You didnt do anything but
have fun, so go back and have some more. Just be ready for the firestorm.
Great, Papa is going to kill me, Philip said, sulking,
but he didnt object when Franklin started rubbing his back.
That feels good.
Peter cleared his throat. While I know you two didnt
do anything wrong on the dance floor, I dont think giving
people a show right now is the best thing either.
Franklin blushed realizing that Philip was practically in his lap.
Sorry, he muttered.
Go dance. I see Zach and his date are giving you a run for
top honors in the Couple Taking Up the Least Space Contest.
Jeff took the phone call from Jack King and sighed. At
least that Ball is going well. This is our third and Ive had
to stop myself from yawning at all of them. He walked
over to Clark and Whitney and gave them a quick run-down. Clark
rolled his eyes and Whitney chuckled. Sensing the bemusement of
his partners, Lex extricated himself from a group of Mid Atlantic
supporters and joined his lovers. He was briefed on the events at
Well, I dont think anyone could say theyre not
having fun, Whitney commented mildly.
Someone please make sure Philip doesnt become suicidal
over the publicity. If this is the worst thing he ever does in public,
then hell qualify for sainthood.
//Oh, this is only the beginning of our tabloid woes,// Clark predicted.
//Just keep Ben away from my prep school press clippings,// Lex
advised, smiling as he turned to greet Senator Adkins. Mary
Alice, a pleasure as always.
A dance, Mr. President? she asked, offering her arm.
He accepted and they strolled to the dance floor for a mellow tango.
Congratulations again, Lex. You are the right man at the right
time. The nation needs you.
The nation needs all of us to act as adults and in the nations
best interest. Though with a significant portion of the nation refusing
to deal with me it will be difficult.
She nodded and led them off the dance floor. You are the
president now and your friends in the Senate will follow your lead.
I must remind you, though, that many of us have to defend our seats
as well. We can hang with you on a lot of things, but self-preservation
is also something we have a deep instinct for.
He laughed and nodded. I have that political instinct, as
well. If you will excuse me, I have to make another round and then
head to another Ball.
She smiled again and nodded. Remember that you have friends,
but you have to know who they are.
Solar Storm was in the middle of their set when Lex arrived at
the Palladium Ball flanked by his full cadre. The roar of cheers
and applause for the new Commander in Chief drown out the band,
which quickly wound down, and Lex made his way to the stage where
he shook the band members hands and greeted other bands that
came from back stage to meet the youngest elected president ever.
Eventually Lex made his way to the microphone and waved to the crowd.
HBO was carrying the Ball live on its primary channel, but went
live on several news feeds for his address.
I thank you all for coming, and heartfelt thanks to the bands
playing here. I know my sons have been looking forward to this event
for weeks. Even I appreciate Frankensteins Ghost for their
subversive and lyrical brilliance. Though Solar Storm here is a
bit more my speed. They remind me of old school Metallica.
This event is to honor and acknowledge the participation
of Americas youth in the political process. Voting is a right
that should not be taken for granted and it all too often is. End
of lecture. Thank you again. As president I will make sure all the
voices of America are heard. As the father of four teenagers, your
segment will have an equal shot at my ear. Let the fun continue!
Lex made his way off the stage and onto the crowded floor of the
ballroom. He shook hands with many of the college students until
Whitney pulled him into a dance.
Weve danced at every other Ball and well dance
at this one. Maybe we should give the tabloids a picture to make
them forget about Philip and Franklin. Whitney leered and
then gave Lex a deep kiss. Whitney pulled back and went back to
//You are an evil, evil, man!// Lex smiled and then swooped Elsa
into a dance. Youre safer to dance with than your uncle.
Youre better than dancing with dad. Hes giving
me the third degree about Dick. She kept dancing while Lex
looked at his nieces ball gown. It was elegant, tight fitting,
open backed, single strapped, and expensive. She smiled at him.
Katlan had this designed for me. Said it was very modern American
princess-like. I agreed. Mom thought my figure would work with it,
so here we are.
Lex stepped back and noticed that in her high heels, Elsa was nearly
his height. You are a stunningly beautiful woman, my dear.
She blushed and then moved back to dance. I think I gave
dad a heart attack when he saw this on me earlier. Mom says he was
in denial at the other balls, but freaked when he saw me with Dick.
Hes a father and if I had a daughter as beautiful and
as you, Id act the same way. He hugged her. Give
him some slack and it will be fine. At least Dick is a good guy
and knows the family well. Dont worry about it too much.
Ben and his date moved close followed by Hamilton and his date.
Lex moved off the floor with Whitney near him and they laughed as
their sons all started dancing up a storm to the latest band, Tarot
We have one last ball, Lex. Our Midnight Ball. Whitney
motioned for Philip and smiled as his very sweaty son came up to
him. You look a mess. Were heading to the final ball.
We expect you guys to come to this one, since were hosting
it. The guests just started arriving, so you can stay here another
twenty minutes, then you have to head directly to the Museum. The
toast to your father is at midnight sharp.
Philip nodded. Well be there in time. We have to drop
dates off and stuff.
Lex turned back from a group of supporters and winked at Philip.
Arrangements have been made already.
Fireworks illuminated the skies above the resort and the House
standard blew in the cold wind. Guests milled about in the sculptured
gardens that had only evergreens still alive. Holograms provided
the illusion of ice-covered flowers. Multiple doors to the museum
and library were open, allowing all the guests to see the spectacular
display as the bell began tolling midnight.
To my son, rang out Lionel as he lifted his glass.
Our friend and the President of the United States! Hearty
hears, hears rang out from the crowd as the fireworks
continued to explode and the bells tolled.
Philip and Franklin were huddled together, as were many of the
guests. The air was freezing, but the night was magical with possibilities.
Philip clapped when his father finished his brief remarks, and as
the finale of fireworks exploded overhead, he pulled Franklin even
closer for a kiss.
Apparently, the great heir of the Luthor Empire has taken
Philip tensed at the mocking tone and whirled toward Vice President
McKenna and his senior aide. Philip reached for Franklins
hand. Mr. Vice President, this is Franklin Richards. Franklin,
this is William McKenna, he said with strained politeness.
I know who Franklin Richards is and I know that you two are
quite close. Palladium will be on everyones mind for a few
days. McKenna chuckled. Not the ideal way of starting
off an Administration, but we can play it off as youthful indiscretions.
Franklin squeezed Philips hand and pulled him back a step.
Nice to meet you sir. We have to go find something to drink.
He pulled Philip again and headed up the steps to the large building.
They walked down a hall until they came to a wall. Philip touched
something and a hand plate appeared. After his palm was read and
his code verified, a door appeared and he led Franklin in. He waited
for the door to shut before heading down the corridor. As he walked,
he hit his lapel pin. This is Philip. Franklin and I are headed
back to the residence.
This is Ops; we have you and a guest moving from the party
to Access Tower 2. All security measures will be dropped as you
move towards the main building. Anything else I can help you with
Philip shook his head. No, thanks though Max. He closed
the channel and another door appeared in front of them. They climbed
the stairs and were soon moving across a bridge that connected the
museum and gardens to the walled estate. The heavy doors parted
for them as the got within five feet. The doors that shut behind
them cut them off from overt surveillance and Philip finally felt
free to demand, Why did you pull me away from McKenna?
Hello, telepath here. You were broadcasting your anger so
strongly that it nearly knocked me over, but McKenna wasnt
worth the effort. Youre only a high school senior. No one
is going to care what happened tonight! Franklin grabbed his
hand and continued their march the residence area. I get the
feeling youre pissed at me.
Philip stopped and shook his head. Im not pissed at
you. Im angry that I cant defend myself against men
like that. I know what he was insinuating, Franklin.
What was he insinuating, Philip? All I got from him was amusement
that we were huddled together so closely. I liked that by the way.
Franklins change of direction threw Philip for a moment.
He smiled and sighed. McKenna has no power here and he was
happy to get in an insult on the presidents son. Hes
right though. Im going to be the poster boy for bad behavior
Franklin sighed this time. We did nothing wrong. Now, if
we were found naked in your bed, that might put you in contention
for the Bad Behavior Poster Boy. He arched his eyebrows and
Blood rushed from Philips brain to his nether regions. Do
Winking, Franklin headed toward Philips room. Philip stood
there a second, digesting Franklins suggestion, then took
off after him.
As soon as the fireworks ended, Hamilton, Ben, and Wes headed back
to their floor. All of them were yawning. Ben had already stripped
off his jacket, tie, vest, and had his shirt open. Wes simply had
his tie in his hand while Hamilton was still fully dressed.
If Philip saw you, Ben, hed have a fit. Hamilton
shook his head. Youre a mess.
After tonight, I dont think Philips going to
have any room to criticize. He took off with Franklin while the
fireworks were still going on and I really dont want to know
what the big hurry was. Ben made a face and gagging noises.
Wes giggled. I think theyre cute together. You give
Philip too much of a hard time, Ben.
Whatever! Philip is the golden boy of the family and everyone
at school thinks hes great. I mean hes an okay brother
majorly bossy, but okay. Ben shrugged. If he
did have sex with Franklin then ewww!
Hamilton rolled his eyes and waited for the heavy doors to seal
off the upper tower access point before speaking. Dude, leave
his relationship with Franklin alone. They are still getting used
Ben shrugged. For a general, he sure is a wimp at this love
Lex leaned back against the headboard as Clarks mouth worked
its magic. Hed decided to stay the night and start sleeping
at the White House tomorrow night. He relaxed further as Whits
mouth started working his nipples. Its good to be the
king, he murmured.
//King of what?// asked Clark. Clark nipped Lex in a sensitive
spot to stop any reply. //Im the prince here
whispered Whitney. If this is
going to be a pissing contest then Ill go sleep in another
Lex reached out and pulled Whit into a soul shattering kiss. //Oh
no you dont. Youre the knight in shining armor and hes
supposed to rescue me against alien invaders. OUCH!//
//Alien what?// Clark asked innocently. He continued his sucking
without further comment.
Silence settled in the room except for the occasional moan or groan.
The heat of the room built and sweat flowed as the three lovers
sought release and were granted it. Whitney rolled away and wiped
the sweat from his brow. So when do we christen the White
House in similar fashion?
Lex chuckled and Clark started to snore. Well, the President
and the First Gentleman are going to be awfully busy, but that does
bring up an interesting question of protocol
the President go through your social secretary, or mine?
For an answer, Lex got a resounding smack of Whitneys pillow
before they settled into a comfortable embrace and joined Clark
Clark made his way to the boys floor already knowing that
something was different. Franklins bed had not been slept
in, but House Security showed that he was on the floor. Dr. Reed
Richards had a meeting at the National Science Foundation with National
Science Advisor Ray Palmer and Dr. Hank McCoy. Susan Richards was
out with Lisa, Anne, and his Mom. Clark had an idea where he would
find Franklin. Zach had company in his room, but he hadnt
expected Philip to have company.
The door to Philips room opened and Franklin and Philip walked
out and almost into Clark. Philip smiled. Morning, Pop.
Clark chuckled and sighed. Good morning, Franklin
Franklin, your parents have gone out this morning. Philip, your
brothers arent up yet so why dont you two grab breakfast.
Your father has left for the White House. Your dad wants to talk
to you about last night. Clark smiled inwardly at getting
some payback on Whitney.
Philip gulped. Is he mad?
Clark shook his head. Mad isnt in the realm of possibility.
Concerned is closer to the neighborhood, but thats not really
accurate either. Clark squeezed Philips shoulder. Go
see your Dad.
Philip and Franklin headed toward the breakfast nook. Im
sorry about this, Philip said quietly. Between security
tracking, and parents with empathic vibrations, its kind of
hard to have any privacy.
Its okay, Philip, Franklin said, shooting him
a shy, slanted look. Im not ashamed of what we did.
Philip smiled one of his rare, brilliant smiles. Me neither.
He stopped and proved it with a kiss, then they moved on, rounding
the corner to find Whitney sitting at the counter seemingly engrossed
in the Wall Street Journal. Did you have fun last night?
yeah dad, we did, answered Philip. Those
are some amazing bands.
Whitney looked up from the paper. Have some breakfast. I
have a feeling you both worked up an appetite. Both boys blushed.
All I want to know is if you both are okay this morning. I
dont need specifics, but I know things changed last night.
Franklins blush deepened and he cleared his throat. It
a nice step for us to take, but it wasnt a leap either,
Whitney gave them an encouraging smile. Nicely put, Franklin.
Im not upset. Youre both mature young men, but I dont
want you rushing into anything either. In fact, strongly encourage
you to step back and create a little space between you. He
raised his hand to stop objections. Im not saying you
need to break up or that you cant see each other. Its
obviously that your relationship has plenty of potential, but youre
young. You both need to experience life before allowing your feelings
to develop the type of intensity I sense from you at times.
So you want us to be together, but see other people?
asked Franklin, frowning. Im confused.
I didnt mean to confuse you. I want you, now that youve
taken a step forward, to take a step back. This isnt punishment,
but a way for you both to see if what you really want is each other.
Youve been friends for a long time and thats very important.
Youve only been boyfriends for a few months. A small break
may be difficult, but it wont be the end of the world. Consider
this semester a possible break and then you can see where you stand
when Philip graduates. Whitney patted them both on the back.
Ultimately, its up to you.
The Oval Office was exactly as Lex wanted it. Pictures of his family
lined the credenza behind his desk while three pen projectors were
set on his desk to deliver him all the information he needed. He
sat down and he pulled off the top briefing folder when Nancy McNally
and Greg Vandeaver walked into the room.
Mr. President, we need you in the Situation Room at once,
McNally shook her head, No sir, this is about Romania.
They made their way down to the sub-basement and went right in.
Secretaries Miller (State), Wayne (Treasury), and Manheim (Defense)
were there, as were the Joint Chiefs and the Intelligence services.
At ease, Lex said as he sat down.
We have reports that Dr. Doom has an army hiding in the Carpathian
Mountains. SHIELD has been on site, but conditions are very bad
in that area during winter. SHIELD had to redeploy out of the mountains
and into two bases. CIA thinks Doom is planning a campaign in the
snow, which is especially bad because SHIELD is not combat-rated
for winter fighting. Nancy pointed to a few overhead shots.
Were seeing movements that are unusual for people during
the winter months. Signal intercepts are scrambled and NSA cant
What are our options? asked Lex.
Sec. Manheim pointed to Sec. Miller and nodded as he stated, We
urge NATO to deploy troops near Romania. Norway and Iceland have
winter combat-ready troops. The Danes, Dutch, and Germans might
also be able to help out. Our first moves should be diplomatic.
Having to rely on NATO to deploy the forces needed to stop
a Doom incursion isnt going to give us a strong hand to deal
from. Sec. Miller pointed to the military aide and a series
of photos came up on the monitors. It appears that the world
is attempting to test the new American President.
Lex looked at the images and frowned. What am I looking at
Satellite images of Iranian naval forces amassing. We have
Signal intercepts that indicate they are planning on crossing the
Persian Gulf. The Islamic Republic of Arabia is not capable of repelling
an invasion. Nancy motioned for several more images to be
displayed. We have reason to believe Iran will make its move
in less than forty-eight hours.
While Americas energy needs are not fully dependent
on Persian Gulf oil, a war in that region will send prices into
orbit and that will have economic shock waves, Sec. Wayne
commented. The main Arabian oil field is not far from the
Gulf and the offshore transfer terminal is vulnerable. The Iranians
can hold the oil hostage.
Get me Gyrich now. Lex waited until Henry Gyrichs
face appeared on a screen. Gyrich greeted him, but Lex cut him off.
Henry, redeploy the Luxor from Western China to north of Iran.
Prepare to move another one of your air carriers to the region as
well. Overall command will be given to Admiral Kimmel.
Gyrich took a moment before nodding. Yes, Mr. President.
His image vanished.
Move two carrier battle groups to the Gulf at best possible
speed, Lex directed. Sec. Miller, contact the NATO Foreign
Ministers and tell them that the United States has to try to keep
the world economy from being disrupted and that their help with
Dr. Doom in Romania would be much appreciated. Bruce, its
up to you to calm the markets and prevent oil futures from getting
out of hand. Lex stood up and nodded. Kane, contact
President Kirov and tell him that I am not in the mood to deal with
his illegal actions at the moment. He has two weeks to get his ass
out of Kazakhstan.
A smile ghosted around Kanes thin lips. Should I couch
that sentiment in carefully-crafted diplomatic terms or quote you
word for word?
I dont care, so long as he gets the message that he
doesnt want to see what the new face of America looks like
when it gets pissed off.
The crunch of gravel under his heels annoyed Longshot, but this
was as quiet as he could walk. This is a nightmare. Tatiana
wants us to find a hidden Prime Minister for some political reason.
I could if I were in the right city and not this blown up worthless
piece of land. The sunset only increased the deep cold
around the city. Scimitar followed behind him as they made for the
rendezvous point. I want out of this nasty country and enjoy
a nice fire at home.
Home for us is a dank sewer that has been dried out. At least
the air here isnt stale, countered Scimitar.
Silence returned as they walked through the quiet, broken streets.
Finally they came to the bombed out shell of the Intercontinental
Hotel. It had once been a gleaming tower of glass and steel at the
heart of the city, now it was little more than a skeleton. The lush
gardens that had framed the hotel were torn up and ruined as well.
Took you both long enough to get here! Tatiana emerged
from behind the rubble of a fallen wall. This city is not
secure and we cant leave it open to rebel counter attack again.
There are some high powered operatives here that must be found and
killed. I want the Shadows to do it and quickly. Other plans are
on hold until Astana and Kazakhstan are under firm Russian control.
She handed Longshot a small envelope. Time is essential!
Luthor is going to decimate this agency! Amanda Waller
clattered down the stairs to the main conference room. Col. Trevor
was right behind her. Luxor and Excalibur are being deployed
to the Middle East when we have issues in Kazakhstan and Romania.
We are a specialty agency and he has us playing traffic cop!
She slammed her book on the table.
Why are you upset Amanda? Gyrich asked. The president
is being more aggressive than I ever would have thought possibleimpressively
so. Kane Miller is laying down the law on Kazakhstan to the Russians.
NATO has moved a combined Nordic brigade near the Romanian border
and we have placed enough fire power in range of Iran to send them
back into the Stone Age. We may need to reassess our file on Luthor.
Gen. Ross coughed. Your smarmy psychiatrist Crane was useless!
I see no need to go through that expense or aggravation again!
He sighed and pointed at Trevor. You are going to be assigned
to the Joint Operations Directorate at the Pentagon in the next
two weeks. You will send General Hardcastle updates regularly as
Trevor nodded and left the room. Gyrich leaned back and frowned.
We have few regular troops in reserve. Im thankful that
Luthor got NATO to help in the Balkans. I can pull Excalibur to
do double duty in the East Med, but thats not good in the
Luthor shouldnt be using SHIELD like this! Waller
shouted. Has DOD done anything to try to help other than send
the fucking Navy to the Persian Gulf?
General Isling nodded and smiled. We arent supposed
to know, but Space Command has moved Orbital Defense Platform V
into position to support any operation in the Gulf. In fact, it
is on stand-by right now and tasked to nail anything hostile leaving
Gyrich rubbed his chin. Luthor is acting aggressively and
thinking in broader strategic terms than I thought possible. We
need a spy in the White House ASAP. Waller, that is your top priority.
Diana Prince smiled as Betsy Braddock and Emma Frost walked into
the living room of a friends borrowed luxury apartment. She
served them a beverage and then sat down. Thank you both for
coming. It seems as though the Society will have to return to operating
in secret for the time being.
Betsy shrugged. Its hard to have a meeting with the
Secret Service guarding many of our key members.
Thats not entirely what I meant, countered Diana.
Im being followed. I know this because my protection
group caught someone trailing me. I ordered them to see if they
could find out who he was working for, but it was for naught. NYPD
found the man dead a day later.
The person following you was killed? Emma sat back
and tapped her fingers on the arm rest of her chair. Thats
not something I would expect from a government agency theyre
too concerned about the waste. Clearly, this is someone deep in
the shadows. Whats going on with Kazakhstan?
X-Corp has received a report from Sean Cassidy, whose convoy
was attacked in Southern Kazakhstan. Hes recovering from his
ordeal. The country is a mess and there is an attack rebellion going
on against the Russians. But there were signs that didnt make
sense. Diana shrugged and handed each of them a data chip.
Xavier said hed look into it further through X-Corp
and Ill take him at his word.
Ill see if my contacts in London can tell me who is
following whom here in New York. Betsy paused and looked around.
Are you sure this place is safe?
Yes, its registered to a French family who are currently
living in Australia, but in actuality it is owned by a friend of
mine who is a very private man. Diana smiled and then laughed.
I never thought I would get caught up in spy games.
Emma and Betsy joined her in a good laugh. Betsy sighed and ran
a hand through her hair. Being involved with Bruce has given
me a feel for the clandestine though. The man takes privacy to a
whole new level.
Emma flashed Diana a wry smile. We thought things would be
easier with Lex in office, but his enemies appear to be bolder.
No, Betsy said. They are more desperate. Lex
is in a position to accomplish things they dont like. Though
why they would follow Diana is puzzling.
My office has been looking into rumors of human trafficking.
Wed heard that a container ship in Manila was found to have
five human bodies in some kind of hi-tech coffin. The whole thing
was covered up and Ive been on it ever since. I suspect this
is linked to missing mutants in various parts of the world, but
I cant prove anything.
This could be ominous if mutants are being treated like cattle.
Emma shuddered and stood up. I think X-Corp needs to examine
this closely. I cant contact Xavier directly.
Betsy nodded. I can talk to him without raising too many
eyebrows and it will limit Dianas contact as well. She
pointed at Diana and said, You be careful. This feels nasty
whatever it is. Emma, you watch your back as well. I have a feeling
that those perceived to be Luthor allies are in for a rough time.
Automatic gunfire echoed through the broken city and cement dust
rose in the air to obscure sight. Scimitar coughed to clear the
dust from his mouth. When are the troops going to arrive to
clean out the city?
Longshot waved him off and returned fire from his high caliber
automatic rifle. Knock out that wall and force them to move
towards Holocaust. Hell take them down with his plasma waves!
He stood up and moved quickly to another clump of debris to attack
the areas were the gunfire was originating.
Scimitar focused his might on the wall and caused it to crumble
into the road. More dust and debris filled the air. For good measure
he let loose two more energy waves into the area to force their
attackers to relocate. Longshot fired as well and then executed
a series of spins and jumps to navigate over the debris. Scimitar
followed the leader, but climbing the pile was harder for him.
Holocaust says nothing came his way. Something is not right.
Longshot scanned the area and frowned. He came up to a small burnt
pile of rubble and found the remains of a mounted automatic gun.
Weve been had! He hit is comm link and contacted
his full team. Search everywhere! Its a trap! Look tight!
Longshot crouched and had his weapon at the ready. Why are
Because Tatiana ordered us here, answered Scimitar.
No fool, why were we lured here? This area is useless!
Longshot! The comm link chirped then the blast wave
and echo reached them. The convoy of troops was just hit.
I dont know how many are alive, but the convoy is in flames.
A thick column of smoke was now visibly rising from across town.
Now we know why we were lured here, Longshot stated.
Lets see if we can salvage anything.
Rain pelted the downtown area as Frank Craft stared at the bleak
view from his hotel room at the Peachtree Hotel. The world was drifting
and he felt as though he, too, had lost his moorings. Power
so long held is now gone. We should never have tried to rule directly
through Trask. Now our power and influence is at a nadir and all
could be lost. A knock at the door broke his train of
thought. He moved across the room and opened it without hesitation.
Its good to see you again Mr. Gyrich. Craft stepped
aside to let Gyrich into the room.
You called and I came, Mr. Craft. I owe you a great deal
and will never forget that, sir. He moved to the living area
and sat down. How can I be of service?
The Consortium has never been this weak outside of an Administration
before. We gained influence throughout FDRs term and have
remained a force since. Now we are beggars at the door and at the
worst possible point to be this dumb. Frank sat down and leaned
back. Besides you and Sam Thames, the only other member of
the Consortium that is well-placed in the new administration is
That is very unfortunate, Gyrich said with all sincerity.
Indeed. You may not like what I am going to propose, Henry.
You never make a move without thinking it through carefully,
Gyrich said. You know how deeply I respect that. What do you
Allies. Political allies with muscle, but who can be manipulated
with relative ease. Craft smiled and looked Gyrich in the
eye. Any thoughts?
Henry realized where Craft was going. The Friends of Humanity?
Precisely. I met with Graydon Creed and came to an amicable
Henry didnt ask for details of the agreement, but warned,
Theyve never struck me as much more than a one trick
pony. Creed is a master political manipulator, but he comes across
as blind to larger issues.
To him there is no larger issue than saving the human race,
but he can be manipulated. No question about it, but he has secrets
that concern me.
What do you need from me? Gyrich asked.
Craft stood up and paced thoughtfully toward the ugly view out
the hotel window. I need you to spy on him find out
what those secrets are so they dont come back and bite us
in the posterior. And I believe the effort would be enormously valuable
to you. Think what a great human intelligence asset the Friends
would be. They have members in seventy countries across the globe.
Thats nothing to sneeze at. If you can infiltrate his organization,
a spy or two could get you information outside of official government
channels. Do you trust the people Luthor will put in place to run
I dont trust Luthors people to keep me in the
loop, Gyrich answered. I do need information. Information
that could be garnered outside of my own official Intelligence directorate
if necessary. An infiltration will take some doing and some money
Craft smiled. The Consortium is weak in influence at the
moment, but not in assets. I can get you as much as you need to
run clandestine operations. Will you do it?
Gyrich offered his hand and shook Crafts. Youre
my real boss, Frank. Just say when and where and Ill make
sure that SHIELD backs you up. Anything to make sure this nation
isnt destroyed by men who claim superior knowledge yet lack
any moral fortitude. How soon shall we begin?
Yesterday, Henry. Time is already running short.
Franklin Richards walked out of his room in the famed Baxter Building
and ambled toward his classroom. Except for the classes he took
every few weeks at the Xavier Institute, Franklin was home-schooled,
but he was having a hard time concentrating on his lessons this
week. Everything had been off since his night with Philip. It
was fun and exciting, but I dont understand why hes
backed so far off. He liked it! I liked it too! So whats wrong?
He would have given anything for someone to talk to, but there was
no way he could discuss it with his parents, and he was certain
his Uncle Johnny would laugh his ass off if he knew.
He entered his classroom and went to the work station. His current
assignment from his father and Dr. McCoy was to theorize about how
his powers might be able to alter reality at a sub-atomic level.
The inhibitors that Prof. Xavier had him on kept his power levels
from getting out of control, but didnt prevent them from growing
as he matured. Sitting down, he focused on the mathematics of the
problem and scribbled down several equations. A pile of discarded
attempts grew near the waste basket.
Shit! Concentration on the project was beyond him.
He slipped into a light trance and reached for the most familiar
mind he knew, Philip Luthors.
//Hey, can I talk to you a second?//
//Im in class right now, Franklin. Talking to you and paying
attention in my Ethics class can be a strain.//
Franklin ignored the rebuff and gave Philip a mental hug. //I needed
to say hello and give you a hug. I cant concentrate.//
//That makes two of us.// Humor colored Philips response.
//Are you okay? You sound really
//I kinda want to know what is going on with us. No --// He corrected
himself, //I really want to know what is going on with us. I liked
having sex with you, Philip, but the mind-to-mind part was the best.//
Franklin sensed a moment of hesitation before Philip answered,
//You didnt think so?//
A burst of humor again. //Well, the sex part was pretty damned
good. I didnt expect --//
More hesitation, then, a small flush of embarrassment, then the
admission, //I didnt expect there to be such a difference
between jacking off and being with someone. Being with you.//
Understanding tumbled into place and Franklin suddenly realized
why Philip had been keeping his distance. //You want to take your
Dads advice, dont you?// Franklin asked, wishing he
could conceal his disappointment, but knowing that wasnt possible.
//About taking a break from each other.//
Philip ducked the issue, //Dad couldve blown a fuse about
us sleeping together, but he didnt.//
//No, instead he makes us try to be mature about the situation.
Talk about harsh!//
Mental laughter rang across their link. //He keeps giving me knowing
winks and its driving me crazy. Papa is too busy running the
country to notice and Pop is hard to read. But having Dad on my
wavelength is really weird.//
Franklin gave Philip a mental kiss. //I know he cant sense
that. You could call me, you know. Or IM me.//
Frustration welled from Philip, but it was quickly quelled. //Franklin,
I understand what dad was trying to say in his crass way; we need
to be sure. And I need to show my parents that what you and I have
isnt some teenage romance.//
Franklin did his best to project supportiveness. //Okay. Well
keep our distance from each other. If you want to go out with one
of the guys hotly pursing you Ill understand. Although you
should probably warn him that your soulmate will be plaguing his
That earned another laugh from Philip, but what allowed Franklin
to finally relax was the sudden surge of joy hed felt when
he used the word soulmate.
//I might go to one of the famous senior parties with someone,
but if I go out with someone then you have to ask someone out too.
So long as he understands that if he lays one hand on you, I will
plot a revenge that will be the stuff of legends.//
//Gotta go, Dr. Riley called on me and I have no idea what he asked.
Franklin dropped the link, his mood was somewhat improved. Okay.
Who can I ask out on a date that will make Philip jealous and at
the same time not get me into too much trouble? He shrugged
and tackled his homework again.