IV: Coriolis Event
The Foundation Cracks
June 12, 2017
The First Gentleman of the United States of America made his way
out of the limo and into the main labs of Hermes Pharmaceuticals,
a wholly owned subsidiary of Minerva Inc. Whitney Fordman was not
there in the capacity of the First Gentleman though; his sister-in-law
summoned him as a family matter. Stephanie has never done
anything like this, which is what made Whitney rearrange
his schedule hastily to meet with her.
Stephanie Fordman was a doctor, researcher, and a professor. Her
husband was Whitneys second oldest brother, Sebastian, who
was also a scientist. Stephanie and Sebastian were wealthy as a
matter of their granted interests in LFK Ltd, but Whitney didnt
know Stephanie had any involvement with Hermes. He walked up to
his sister-in-law and gave her a hug. You rang?
Her smiled dazzled him. She was practically glowing. I flew
down once I was informed of the news. Lionel of all people called
me and put me on the plane. Whitney, its a miracle!
Whats a miracle?
Stephanie pulled him into a hug and smiled again. They did
it! Hermes has a cure for Cancer!
The East Coast was in the middle of a searing heat wave. Temperatures
were already in the triple digits and forecasters could see no relief
in sight for at least a week. Lois Lane made her way down a sidewalk
and tried to fool herself that the heat was a figment of her imagination.
An accomplished jay walker, Lois made her way to the café
where she was meeting a colleague.
Hi, Lois! Snapper Carr waved from the door of a delicatessen.
He pulled her inside to keep the cooler air from escaping. We
missed the lunch rush.
Lois scanned the still-crowded storefront and scoffed. This
place still looks packed!
Snapper led her to the line and they traded small talk while waiting
to order. After theyd received their orders they moved to
the back of the dining room and sat down opposite each other. Lois
took a bite out of her Rueben and sighed with contentment. This
is so good.
This Club isnt so bad either. Snapper winked
at her and then stopped as he was lifting his pickle slice. Ive
been looking into your request and I have to say that penetrating
Luthor secrecy is a job for a counter intelligence agency. The kids
have only gone to private school and those records arent public.
Theyve been able to hide everything behind a wall of
money. Lois set her sandwich down. His poll numbers
arent great, but they arent in the tank either. Going
after his kids could help him more than hurt him.
Snapper shrugged. His poll numbers have been steady since
he was elected. Hes hovering around fifty percent even with
all this Magneto mess. Though word on the street is there is trouble
between the First Gentleman and the President. It appears Mr. Fordman
isnt happy with his role.
Lois scoffed. Hes a pretty boy ex-jock; he should be
so lucky to have this pampered life. Hes not as respected
as his brothers. Hes probably dumb as a post, but spectacular
in bed. She smiled at Snapper. He and the president
have had a falling out before.
Yes, it was infamous and brief. However, this would be as
high profile as it gets should the rumors prove to be true.
Snapper offered Lois his cookie which she declined. I still
have people looking into the Luthor boys, but their records are
under lock and key. You of all people should know that Smallville
is their refuge. Nothing damning escapes that town about the First
You know, we still employ Jimmy Olsen and he apparently had
a torrid affair with Lionel Luthors senior aide. AP employs
Chloe Sullivan and she is very tight with the First Family. There
might still be avenues through which to gain information.
Lois smiled as she bit into her cookie. This is pretty good.
And how would we use them to gain the information we seek?
Snapper paused and looked around before continuing. Im
not above placing a bribe or two, but if they do know something
then Im sure that House Luthor knows it too.
Lois smiled again. We never have to ask them. Im sure
the information is available where it is accessible. She raised
an eyebrow and smirked. Its a simple of question of
finding out where.
Risky, but Ill see what I can find out. Snapper
smiled as he stood up. You owe me one.
Two armed marines were standing guard outside the SHIELD main conference
room to deter any who might wander in by accident. Inside, stacks
of binders, folders, and paper covered the large conference table.
Senior commanders as well as the senior civilian directors were
conducting a post mortem on the events in Los Angeles and around
General Thaddeus Ross, commanding general of SHIELDs military
components, cleared his throat. What we have here is nothing
short of a catastrophic failure of Intelligence.
I think that is an elementary way of assigning blame,
countered Brigadier General Wallace Kincaid, SHIELDs Intelligence
Director. There were operational failures under Fury and Isling.
This sniping is not going to get us anywhere, Henry
Gyrich complained. As SHIELDs Executive Director, he was the
man who reported to the National Security Council. Gen. Hardcastles
research group has delivered to us the air carriers and those are
priceless. Isling and Fury have had mixed results, but our enemies
have proven resourceful.
However, countered Amanda Waller, Deputy Director (SHIELD),
We need better Intel if we are to exterminate Magneto and
his Brotherhood. We want results, Wallace.
Gen. Kincaids face didnt break from its normal mask
of haughtiness and bored smugness. We didnt get a good
read on Exodus escape from Los Angeles. Weve replayed
the encounter and figure that the Green Lanterns death and
resulting spike in radiation scrambled part of our sensor network.
We have a vector on the reentry point, but South Africa is a large
Send an undercover squad to South Africa and see if we can
get a lead on the Brotherhood. Gyrich lifted a binder. His
face was tight with anger. This will go better than the wild
goose chase we had last month up in Canada. This agency is beginning
to suffer buyers remorse up on Capitol Hill. Im due
to meet with some of the presidents staunchest allies in the
Senate next week. If my head rolls then so do all of yours!
Kincaid nodded and slid a thin binder towards Gyrich and Waller.
Heads may well roll sooner than we think. Sec. Manheim is
pushing to bring SHIELD under complete DOD control.
Thats impossible, scoffed Gen. Ross. The
SHIELD Treaty created an international organization. Sec. Manheim
can rail all he wants, but we are independent to a certain extent.
Gyrich finished flipping through the small folder and tossed it
back to Kincaid. Do not think we are safe for a moment. Luthor
can lay everything at our doorstep and be rid of us all. Results!
We need results!
Kyle Rayner woke up in a sweat, shivering profusely. Peter Rasputin,
his art mentor, had helped him get into a summer program at USC
for graphic arts, but that piece of good fortune had somehow devolved
into an endless nightmare. Wanting to soak in some of his favorite
places in L.A. after having been in New York for so long, Kyle had
been caught in the riot downtown. Just his luck to get caught in
a war zone. Next time Kyle, buy a postcard.
Still shivering, he pulled his legs close to his body and tried
to get the images out of his mind. Hed seen the famous Green
Lantern killed. He could still hear the scream and the sounds of
flesh being torn at high speed. He could even recall how blood smelled
in the air.
His dreams were vivid and haunting, not just a replay of what hed
witnessed, but more visceral. Every time he fell asleep, he dreamed
that he was the Green Lantern. That the death was his own. Giving
up on sleep, he climbed out of bed and headed for the bathroom.
For a brief moment upon glimpsing his reflection, he could have
sworn his eyes were glowing green.
What the Hell is going on?
Steve Trevor rolled his neck as he tried to loosen up the muscles.
He was still recovering from the riot in downtown L.A. where hed
been smashed into a wall by a shockwave from one of the superhumans.
He was a Lt. Col. in the US Marine Corps and undercover for SHIELD.
However, the things that had happened while he was spying on the
Friends of Humanity made him recoil at night. Now his name was Steve
Wilson and in the name of getting in deeper with the anti-mutant
organization, hed blown up a lab and killed three people,
his target, Dr. Barry Allen, included. Hed also learned that
a teenager had been in the lab and had been blown clear. Didnt
know the kids name, didnt want to, but at least it was
one less stain on his soul.
It took a few moments to roll out of his lumpy twin-sized bed and
stand up. The living quarters the Friends of Humanity had arranged
for him and his fellow devotees were less than stellar. A flea bitten
roach motel might have had more space than the current dingy cramped
quarters he slept in. His six foot three inch frame felt confined
in the narrow room, but it was out of the way and in a part of town
where people could get lost with ease.
After his shower in the communal bathroom, he dressed in jeans
and a t-shirt. He picked up his SIG-Sauer handgun and made his way
downstairs. He was on time, but surprised to find that he was the
last to arrive.
Damned Wilson! You take longer to get ready than most women
I know, barked one of the other thugs that the Friends employed.
Like youve had that many women, Steve shot back.
He shut up as one of Graydon Creeds henchmen walked in.
Listen up. We got our asses kicked downtown and were
still pulling the pieces back together. Time to regroup and recover.
The man spat some of his chew into a Styrofoam cup. Tobacco juice
dribbled down his chin until he wiped it with the back of a hand.
Creed wants to move some of you to different locations. Some
of you are heading to Miami.
Steve nodded when he took his assignment. It was a blank piece
of paper. He looked up puzzled. Mines blank.
The man smiled a brown smile and shook his head. Creed has
special plans for you, Wilson. Youre staying in L.A.
For Steve Trevor, the news was great for his assignment, but for
Steve Wilson, the news made his heart rate increase. The chill that
ran down his spine made him think of an old childhood refrain Someone
just walked on my grave.
It was late when Whitney made it back to the White House. After
sleeping on the flight, he was still worn out, but the excitement
of the morning had not faded. There is a cure for cancer!
We can beat this thing globally! We can restore hope!
Hed said nothing and Hermes was in lock down on the news.
The light was still on in the presidential study and he walked up
Its open! came the response and Whitney walked
into the cozy room.
He slid into the chair opposite Lex. I have amazing news
for you. He held up his hand to stop a response and activated
the jamming device to prevent any of the listening devices around
them from picking up the conversation. Hermes has something
that needs to be announced ASAP.
Lex arched an eyebrow and put down the folder hed been reading.
You look insufferably pleased with yourself. He grinned.
Dont get me wrong, its a nice look on you, but
whats the announcement?
They have a cure for cancer. Whitney smiled and waited
for the reaction.
Lex stared for a moment and then rubbed his chin. Youre
My God! A real cure? Not some pie in the sky promise?
No. Its real. They did limited trials on Stage 4 patients
in Houston and the results are nothing short of amazing. Theyre
created a retrovirus that turns off the rapid cellular replication
of cancer cells. Stops the cancer completely, with none of the damaging
side effects of chemo or radiation. Stephanie calls it a Smart Bomb
for the body. Whitney explained some of the science hed
spent the day absorbing.
Lex was suitably impressed. How long will it take to push
it through trials to get FDA approval?
If we can keep it from becoming a political football, we
could be looking at full-scale human trials within a matter of weeks.
If those trials are as successful as the first, the treatment could
be made available globally within the year.
Lex frowned. Political football. He shook his head.
You can count on our enemies finding a way to put a negative
spin on this. Theyll claim its a hoax that were
perpetrating for political gain.
Weve got the science on our side, and a cure. They
wont be able to cry hoax for very long.
Lex came to his feet moved to the decanter of scotch on the credenza.
Whit, the treatment of cancer is a five-hundred billion dollar
industry in this country. The opposition to our cure
will be insidious, obstructionist, and very, very real.
Grinning, Whitney came to his feet and moved to Lex. Ive
got nothing but time to fight them. I think the First Gentleman
has found his cause, Lex.
Lex smiled and took his lover in his arms. Then I pity anyone
who tries to stand in your way. Lets do this right and make
sure we catch everyone flat footed. We cant lose.
Vitaly Kirov sat down with his senior Security staff and the ranking
officials at the Defense Ministry. How long before we control
all of Kazakhstan?
Olev Kimski, the deputy Defense Minister, shrugged. The American
presence in the south remains stationed and has given no sign of
withdrawing. Iranian and other Muslim nations continue to press
for a peacekeeping force to make sure Russian aggression is held
It is of no consequence, countered Kirov. Our
presence cant be denied now and control is ours over a vast
majority of Kazakhstan. We hold all the oil fields and that is what
matters most. He pushed a single sheet of paper across the
table. That is the amount of reserves we found there. It will
increase Russian reserves by thirty-five percent.
Kimski raise an eyebrow and smiled. If we wanted to we could
invade Iran and then close the Straits of Hormuz
Effectively cutting off all oil supplies from the Gulf,
added another general. It would take time to gather our strength
for such an operation.
Kirov raised his hand to silence to the gathered crowd. First
things, first. Ukraine is next of the list. I want it back in the
Russian Empire. We will declare our greatness by taking Iran, but
first we need Ukraine to secure that border. The world will tremble
once we are done.
Tatiana walked into the room after the Cabinet left. How
do you wish us to proceed?
Send Longshot and the Shadow Squads to Kiev. The Russian
Underground awaits them. Ukraine will be ours in a matter of weeks.
Security was tight around the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln
Center for the Performing Arts. Societys elite, including
many of the Hellfire Clubs members and the First Family, would
be in attendance for the command performance of The Clash
of Kings the newest attempted take on King Arthur and Camelot.
It had taken London by storm and now it was opening in New York.
Secret Service agents were thick around the large Lincoln Center
Limos bearing the Presidential Seal pulled up and the Secret Service
moved quickly to open the doors. The lead limo held the President,
First Gentleman, and Dr. Kent. The second limo carried Philip and
his date, Franklin Richards, along with Hamilton and his date, Amber
Thompson. Ben and Wes were also in the car, but neither decided
to subject a friend to the horrors of a night at the
Cameras flashed by the dozens as they made their way towards the
entrance. Ben smiled and waved at the cameras, giving all the Society
pages fresh photos to update their Most Eligible Bachelor files
with. Wes elbowed his brother in the ribs causing him to lose the
smile for a moment. What was that for? Ben demanded.
Youre not the Worlds Most Eligible Bachelor!
Wes hissed. You may think that that, but Im the blond
in the family and that makes me the most desirable one.
Bens face opened in shock and then a small feral grin crossed
his handsome features. Youre so full of shit, Wes! You
dont want the burden of being Most Eligible; it doesnt
fit with your artistic persona.
ENOUGH! barked Philip is a whispered yell. Pop
is going to kill you if you dont stop acting like children!
This is a Society function and you will behave!
The younger twins got quiet and continued to wave for the Press.
The President stopped and gathered his family around him for a quick
Photo Op. It wasnt lost on several reporters that Franklin
Richards was allowed in the picture, but that Miss Thompson wasnt.
Making their way inside, Lex paused to greet a number of well wishers
and supporters as he headed for the box suite. Clark ducked into
the box to avoid any small talk with people that annoyed him. Whitney
played his role and waited for Lex to finish schmoozing.
Wes was flipping through the program taking in the gift left for
him by the opera company. This is the most complex music Ive
ever seen. Ive no idea how they can play this and with a hidden
choir as well.
Franklin leaned across Philip to look at Wes goodie bag.
Man, someone really likes you; a signed music book as well
as a signed photographic essay about the creation of this production,
Ben rolled his eyes. Someone is sucking up to the Second
Most Eligible Bachelor in the country.
That would be you, Don Juan, Hamilton interjected.
Im number one until Im engaged. He shot
a weak smile at Amber. Dont get your hopes up yet, this
is our second date.
She gave him the finger and turned to talk to Franklin.
Whitney moved around the assembled delegation and smiled as those
members of the Society of Justice drifted into the room reserved
for this meeting.
It is still dangerous for us to meet openly, Diana
Prince announced as the doors closed. UN Security still doesnt
know who was following me, but it is best if we continued to meet
Were looking into it as well, Diana, Lady Elizabeth
Braddock answered. However, this groups resources arent
completely pooled in a way to make such inquires openly.
I have Sean Cassidy of X-Corp examining security arrangements
around New York, Ms. Prince. However, New York is a cesspool of
intrigue under normal circumstances and these times are anything
but normal, intoned Charles Xavier. The Mutant Research
Institute has been forced to increase security twice over the last
four months. Events are such that this may remain the case for some
Oliver Queen cleared his throat. The Friends of Humanity
remain a threat that cant be underestimated. The losses in
the election have only given them an excuse to push violence as
an ends to their means.
And then there is SHIELD, Bruce said as he moved toward
the center of the room. Given the debacle in Los Angeles and
their mandate, they will move to either scapegoat someone or something
with more dire consequences.
We must focus on the events of Los Angeles and make sure
that anti-mutant activism suffers as a result of those actions,
Betsy added. Its a rare opportunity to push the issue.
Someone died, Whitney said flatly. However we
can tie the Reavers to the Friends and that opens up a whole new
range of issues.
Indeed, Bruce noted.
They are a threat to global security, Warren Worthington
said as he shifted against a wall. We have to confront them
Yes, but how? asked Diana. Our knowledge of the
inner workings of the Friends is limited. We need to infiltrate
them in order for any operation to be effective.
Charles Xavier nodded. We must have a clear course of action
and the President of the United States must not know about this.
Agreement came from all corners of the room. Whitney nodded. Then
I will step out and return to the party. If I need to know something
I trust I will be informed?
Betsy smiled, Of course you will.
As Whitney stepped out Bruce nodded to Tony Stark. Tony shook his
head. Betsy has a point when it comes to pooling our resources.
X-Corp was a good start, but it doesnt go far enough for all
the Societys needs. Studying the Friends is a primary point.
We have no way to coordinate such activities and make sure we know
Charles cleared his throat. Perhaps X-Corp can be of further
help. Weve developed the Mutant Underground as a way to rescue
teens from dangerous places. The protocols are in place to get many
places in a short amount of time and I dont see why we couldnt
us them to get people into needed areas.
Oliver frowned. While I appreciate the offer, the Underground
is there for rescue operations. I dont think we should jeopardize
that mission by using it as a spy network.
If it comes to the Underground being our only option then
we have to use it, Warren argued. We may not like it,
but we have to place all options on the table.
Bruce, Tony, and Diana shared a quick look and all nodded in agreement.
Charles tapped a panel on his wheelchair. In the meantime
we must communicate more effectively and optimize our resources.
We need to use X-Corp in a way that is easy, but secure for
us, Bruce noted.
Ill come up with something, Oliver replied. Give
me two weeks.
The thundering chorus was concluding and Wes leapt out of his chair
to lead an equally thundering applause. That was simply magnificent.
Everyone should see this opera.
Ill admit that Im impressed, Ben said as
he stood up to add his applause to the rest of the audiences.
Franklin draped an arm across Philips shoulders and gave
him a kiss on the cheek. It was the most open sign of affection
either one of them had displayed that evening. Thanks for
the invitation. I hope to see more of you once youre at Harvard.
Clark cleared his throat. You can spend more time together
if his grades dont suffer. Hes there to learn, not play...
He paused for a second and shook his head. Hes there
Philips eyes lit up and he winked at Franklin. Im
up for all kinds of learning experiences.
Clark turned and walked away muttering, I did not just hear
The Vice President stared out of his house at the Naval Observatory
and tapped the side of the window to a beat only he knew. The meeting
hed arranged was one long in coming, but nerves still jangled
in his stomach. Loyalty is something earned and hes
William McKenna, former two term governor of Florida, and current
Vice President turned to greet the man who walked into the private
study. Frank Craft was a man of mystery and power. His Consortium
had held significant sway over American political affairs for decades
culminating in Winston Rockefeller Trasks Presidency. Now
he was the key is gaining relevance for William McKenna.
The door opened and Frank Craft was ushered inside. McKenna nodded
and motioned to a sofa and took the chair opposite it. Thank
you for coming on such short notice.
My pleasure Mr. Vice President. How may I be of service?
Is your offer still on the table? These first few months
in office have been an eye-opening experience and I dont like
what I see.
Craft nodded sagely. I understand and the offer is still
on the table. Many of the policy initiatives have been given to
key Cabinet Secretaries and not your office. Ive heard that
Luthor wanted to chair National Science Foundation meetings instead
of letting that remain in your portfolio.
McKenna scowled and then shrugged. Vandeaver talked him out
of it considering how stretched our dear president is at the moment.
A wise move on his part. Luthor seems the type that would
succumb to overreach at an early stage, hes lucky that Vandeaver
is such a pro. Craft looked down at his hands and then at
McKenna. I am not comfortable telling you everything at this
point, but youre in. Make arrangements to come to my West
Virginia home in two weeks. Dinner will be at six and you can meet
several of my associates. I promise that this will be educational.
McKenna nodded. I think I can arrange for dinner in two weeks.
Hovering several thousand feet above the ocean and a few hundred
miles off the coast of Newfoundland; the air carrier Luxor hosted
the commanders and civilian directors of SHIELD.
Henry Gyrich sat at the head of the conference table. Every member
was flipping through the thick binder that held a long awaited report.
He cleared his throat. I trust everyone has had some time
to look through this assessment?
How were these conclusions reached, Gyrich? demanded
To be honest, we used a variety of movie studios and game
developers because of their ability to generate a variety of scenarios
for their games and movies. We farmed out different aspects of the
project and we pulled it all together in-house.
Amanda Waller sat back in her chair and shook her head slowly.
How much credence do you assign to this?
Dr. John Denning cleared his throat and started speaking before
Gyrich had the chance. Credence is not what we should be thinking
about Amanda. This document is a blueprint for SHIELD to follow.
What this document says, Dr. Denning is that SHIELD cannot
win a war with the superhumans and mutants simultaneously! We are
in a no win situation. Waller sat back and scowled at the
national security expert.
Retired General Sam Thames tapped the table and smiled at Waller.
If you read the deeper subtext of this document then you see
there is a way to prevail if war was to come.
Thank you, Sam; I was going to get to that before we had
histrionics. Gyrich stood up and went to a monitor and pointed.
The report that you are reading does offer a few sobering
conclusions, but nothing that we didnt already have in the
back of our minds.
If SHIELD was to go to war with the mutants and the Ultimates
followed orders then SHIELD prevails after a long struggle. Therein
lays the conundrum. As Dr. Trask mentioned back in November, scenarios
where the Ultimates do revolt are not in SHIELDs favor. We
undertook the arduous task of modeling what happened if the full
contingent of Ultimates rebelled.
On the screens around the room came up several animated battle
sequences all featuring different superheroes. Gyrich pointed to
one that showed Superman. The hardest to define in these simulations
was Superman. The upper limits and source of his abilities is unknown.
Weve extrapolated that the source of his power is that armor
and it links to possible mutant abilities. Pure guess work, but
drawn from inferences over the past several years of seeing him
Waller pointed to a monitor with Thor and the Hulk. What
do we do about the Ultimates?
I was coming to that, Amanda, Gyrich chided. In
every scenario, but one SHIELD lost. The only one that allowed for
victory was the one where SHIELD used a total First Strike option.
He let that sink in for a moment before continuing. What I
mean by total is a surprise that takes out the Ultimates
and moves the Sentinels into major American cities within hours.
Everyone in the room sat back as scenarios continued to play on
the various monitors. Gen. Ross spoke up first. Achieving
this is politically unviable. President Luthor would trust the Ultimates
before he would trust us.
Gyrich nodded. Very true and unfortunate, but the safety
of the nation is more important than a presidents wishes.
We walk a fine line here, Henry, warned Denning. What
you are saying can be viewed as treason.
Waller cleared her throat and pointed at the monitors. We
are under siege now by forces we cant control or hope to win
against! Look at this report! Project Wide-Awake, our seven special
brigades, and our own military units cant be deployed fast
enough to offset the full scale rebellion of the mutant and meta-human
population. If the Ultimates and other superheroes should join that
rebellion then SHIELD falls that much sooner!
We begin with Intelligence that knows where the Ultimates
are at all times, Gen. Kincaid said quietly. It must
be a surgical strike and it has to be fast. If we miss then the
Ultimates are against us and even with our forces where we need
them we could lose.
Gentlemen and lady, this report is a blueprint, but it needs
details and real operational pieces to make it work. We may never
need it, but we have it if it all comes down to it. You have two
months to pull together everything into a functional plan. Everything
depends on this everything.
Hamilton was deeply engrossed reading lines of code. The Information
Technology staff was designing new defenses for the House computer
systems, and Hamilton was assisting.
The attack three months ago still preyed on Hamiltons mind.
How did they know where to attack us and how did they randomize
the points so quickly? I know there was a mind on the other end,
I felt it.
Proving it, however, was proving virtually impossible, and that
bothered his scientific mind to no end. The logistician in him knew
that everything could be quantified and explained, and yet hed
seen things that seemed inexplicable. His own life, for example
He was one of four children whose DNA was the product of a sexual
union between an alien father from a long-dead planet, a billionaire
father who was now the President of the United States, and a third
father who was more or less ordinary if handsome, brilliant,
athletic empaths could be considered ordinary.
Inexplicable? Not according to The Keeper, but it was improbable
at the least. And yet it was fact.
It was also fact in Hamiltons mind, at least
that despite any evidence to the contrary, his own kidnapping included,
his family was invincible. They had advanced technology and powers
that could only be described as supra, but the attack on their technology,
the very foundation of his familys superiority and wealth,
bothered Hamilton. No, not bothered. That was too mild a word. It
challenged the very core of his belief in himself and his family.
It drove him to find out how the unsuccessful attack was engineered,
to reveal the mind behind that attack.
he had one chance to take us down. He wont
get another one.
His mind was deep inside the code when Philip sat down next to
him and opened the book hed been engrossed in for the last
two days. Philip was immersing himself in the life of Alexander
the Great, and Hamilton wondered if Franklin was beginning to get
the feeling he was being groomed for the role of Hephaistion. There
was no question that Philip was looking for ways to trump Alexanders
achievements in conquering the world before he was twenty-one. Grandpa
Lionel often told us that Papa thought he was Alexander, but hes
one generation too soon. Philip is going to make history.
The brothers sat in companionable silence; each absorbed in his
own pursuits, and yet somehow connected. Hamilton didnt miss
a line of code when his thoughts reached out to his brother. What
do you think is going to happen, Philip?
Philip put down his book and frowned. Newtons First
Law extends well beyond the realm of physics, Hamilton -- for every
action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Look at politics
or markets and you can see causality in them. Our family has a great
deal of power and influence over, not just this nation, but the
world. Yet it is that very power that has engendered a considerable
amount of fear directed at the heart of this family. He paused
and stared at his twin and dropped his voice. I honestly dont
know what is going to happen, Hamilton, and its impossible
to plan strategies when there are too many unknown variables.
Hamilton nodded. I think we need to start thinking about
the worst that could happen and plan accordingly.
Philip nodded. Ive been thinking along those lines
myself. And since no plan survives the first engagement, our contingencies
must be flexible.
Hamiltons nerves settled a bit. He was good at pulling apart
complexities, and Philip was pure strategic genius, like his hero,
Alexander. He smiled and felt it. So when do we start?
We just did, answered Philip with a smile.
Diplomatic Immunity has its advantages, Bruce
Wayne chuckled to himself as the limo whisked him straight to the
United States Embassy in Brussels. The G-8 finance ministers were
meeting and then the NATO finance ministers were slated to have
a rare meeting to discuss Aid packages in light of war in Central
Asia and the Balkans.
Im not sure I want to thank you for making me tag along
yet, Bruce, muttered Dick Grayson. I could be down in
Costa Rica having a great time.
We all have to do things that are required of us and this
is one of yours. In fact after dinner I believe that you are heading
to Moscow to meet with some friends from school?
By friends you mean classmates from a class you forced me
to take on comparative cultures, then the answer is yes. Dick
tugged on his tie and looked up at Bruce. Though the chance
to get away from you for three days is nice.
Bruce walked to his waiting limo and waved at the assembled press.
He was one of the wealthiest persons on the planet and had made
the cover of several magazines dubbing him the Sexiest Man
Alive though his personal favorite was the title of a Forbes
cover declaring him Man of Mystery. As Treasury Secretary
he was the nations finance minister and the chief architect
of financial policy. Lex Luthor trusted him to move the nations
finances in the right direction.
The NATO ministers were meeting to discuss how to rebuild the ravaged
areas of Bulgaria and Romania. The heavy debt burden the United
States was carrying wasnt going to allow much flexibility
to help, Bruce had already managed to cut two hundred billion from
the proposed budget over the next three years without changing tax
policy. The American people arent going to like what
they see next year, but there is no room at the inn for everyone
As the landscape whizzed by he listened discreetly while Dick talked
to Elsa on the phone. He was of two minds about how close they were,
but refused to voice any of his thoughts. Dick will have
to deal with the consequences of whatever he chooses. Though I cant
blame him for being interested because Elsa has grown into a lovely
young woman, but she is very young still.
He turned his mind back to other problems. The Friends
of Humanity are too organized and funded to take lightly. The events
in Los Angeles showed us just how organized they are. However, the
group used in Los Angeles had weaponry remarkably similar to that
used in Kazakhstan. Far more is going on than is apparent and yet
I am now bound to this job. He smiled and glanced at Dick.
However, he isnt fettered to a job and hell
have to be my eyes and ears when I am as limited as I am now.
Major Brett Black pulled his jacket tighter as the cold winds swept
across the plain. His team was on the ground looking for signs of
the Brotherhood and the open plain held the highest concentration
of radiation that was associated with Exodus. No one knew SHIELD
was in the area. Instead Blacks team was disguised as an archeological
field team from Duke University.
Two teams composed of six soldiers each fanned out and began using
equipment disguised for the supposed academic purpose. However,
their ground penetrating radar was far more sophisticated than anyone
Major Black walked in a slow circle and tried to line up GPS coordinates
that an aerial survey had figured was a good place to look for Exodus.
So far nothing was leading to any clues.
Sir! called a Lieutenant as he ran up to the Major.
something that looks like a possible lead.
Black followed his soldier to a small gully that drained the plain
when it rained. His Geiger counter registered a brief spike before
settling down again to nominal levels. He checked the levels again
and found that there was no spike. What is going on?
The Lieutenant pointed down and handed Black a printout. Theres
something down there and it isnt part of the normal rock type.
Whatever is down there is weird.
Thanks, Jason. Ill call Duke and report these findings.
Well need a bigger field expedition if we are going to dig
that deep. Black walked away and quickly keyed in a signal
for a Priority transmission to SHIELD Headquarters. South Africa
was about to get invaded.
Dick scowled as he adjusted his night vision goggles. He was Bruces
protégé in more than one way. He learned of Bruces
alter ego about three years ago and demanded that his surrogate
father train him. After two grueling years, he was able to go out
on his first patrol and he did well. Hed gone out instead
of the Batman who was busy leading his alter-ego life. Now, Dick
Grayson had an alter ego as well, Nightwing.
His boss had him out in Moscow looking for specific information
and he could get it in his Nightwing persona. Batman was stuck in
Brussels for now with the Finance Ministers meeting. Dick peered
towards the Russian Intelligence Service building and did a quick
infrared scan. It was late and the group of students he was touring
with was already asleep in the hotel. Dick wasnt
due to arrive until the morning and had a limited amount of time
to find what he needed.
A quick swing across the buildings and he landed on the roof of
the Intelligence Services Building. An electronics scan quickly
gave him what type of systems he was up against. Two quick flicks
of his wrist sent small micro-transmitters to opposite corners of
the roof. He keyed in a few codes and soon those signals were being
fed a loop of repeating signals instead of new input. Dick smiled
as he jimmied the lock and walked down the darkened stairwell.
Where are the cameras? He scanned the area visually
and electronically and found a video sensor at the bottom of the
landing. Idiots! They expect people to try to go to the
roof, but not come in from the roof. Another wrist flick
and the video input was set to ignore Dick as he entered the top
It was late, but that didnt mean someone might come back
to work for a strange reason. He moved quickly and quietly. Long
training with Bruce told him to expect the unexpected. A terminal
with the information he required was on this floor and only behind
a single locked door. The schematics that hed been given by
Bruce had to be accurate otherwise Bruce wouldnt have given
them to him. Dick found the door and quickly picked the deadbolt
The computer terminal was against the wall and Dick stopped before
he walked into the room. A small aerosol canister reveled infra
red lights along the baseboards. Damned! With
a quick leap and a tuck he landed on the desk and didnt knock
anything onto the floor. That was close.
A few seconds later he was accessing the computer and pulling all
the file directories and remote IP addresses. Bruce wanted a way
to remote access the system. Dick pulled the files he needed and
installed the virus Bruce wanted in the system.
It took a few moments and a bit of luck, but Dick made it back
on the roof and left with his mission accomplished. Now
I can get some sleep. Cant wait for the tour of St. Basils
Air Carrier Luxor was hovering off the coast of South Africa and
receiving remote telemetry from the field units on the Highvald
Plain. General Isling was waiting for a high speed low level pass
from the three Talon stealth aircraft. Their instrumentation was
far superior to the field teams and would give a 4-D composite of
the area in question.
Thirty seconds, General, before sensor sweep.
Isling ignored the technician and stared at the monitors. The three
craft were almost invisible to the naked eye as they swept down
across the target zone. The field team was dealing with all the
dust the Talons kicked up, but that was the lone mark that they
had been there. Isling watched a new monitor as the data was transmitted
and reassembled on the Luxor.
Sir, we have it. Feeding it to your station now.
Islings mouth dropped open as he saw a series of null areas
in the rock strata. There was no way to tell what was actually there
except that it was unnatural. I want a full detailed map of
this entire plateau! Something is down there and I need to know
what it is! I dont care if we have to dig up all of South
Africa, I want to know what these areas are!
Chloe Sullivan was multitasking as she usually did when she was
working on an article. She was a serious investigative journalist
and had heard rumors that she was up for a few awards. Her connections
didnt hurt much either. Currently she was on a conference
call with an editor and publisher about her book on travelling the
world and always getting into trouble.
No, the Kazakhstan experiences need to have more than one
chapter since that really plays into current events as well. Hold
a sec. Chloe paused as she clicked her PDA to see a new email
message that came through with a high importance flag.
She scrolled through the message and started to reply when she
noticed a guy staring at her from the corner of the intersection.
Manhattan was busy and full of people on the street so she paid
no attention to the mans looks.
Im back. No we need to make sure that Vicky Vales
photos can be included because the two of us did all that work together
and words needed the images to make the impact they did! She
kept walking and was about to hail a cab when she saw that man out
of the corner of her eye again. She frowned, but moved too late
when she noticed him reach for her purse. A knock to the head sent
her sprawling and she lost consciousness.
The vice president climbed out of his limo and walked up the steps
to an old plantation style house. This was a well known retreat
in Washington; spending an evening here wasnt going to raise
any eyebrows. The doors were opened by a tuxedoed staff member and
McKenna followed him into a Parlor for drinks.
Frank Craft shook the vice presidents hand and walked him
around the room. Sir, you know Pete Ross already. This is
retired General Sam Thames. This is Dr. Taylor King, of Hadden Industries;
Porter Fields, of Goldman Sachs; Shea Hildebrandt, of Walter, Carver,
and Litsch; and last but not least, Henry Gyrich, of SHIELD.
McKenna shook each of their hands and when he got to Gyrich he
smiled. So, you are a member of this group?
I have worked with Mr. Craft for a number of years. He was
introduced to me by President Trask. Gyrich smiled. You
should know that this is not all the executive membership. These
are the people that are allowed to be visible, at the club
so to speak.
Of course, every organization must have secrets. I assume
the only one who knows all of yours is Mr. Craft, countered
Actually, Mr. Vice President, I know most everything, but
not quite all. There are some operational secrets that even I do
not know and cant for safetys sake. This organization
was founded in the aftermath of World War II to safeguard the United
States and it has done so for seventy years. Its roots are deep
McKenna nodded and was soon immersed in conversation with several
members. When dinner was announced, they made their way into the
ornate dining room, where McKenna was treated as the guest of honor.
Gyrich cleared his throat after the first course was removed. Mr.
Vice President, if I may be so bold, what do you think of our President?
A pause hung in the air for a full minute before the Vice President
responded. I find him fascinating as an individual. Lex Luthor
is dynamic, charismatic, and brilliant, but a true leader he isnt.
His vision of the future is one of strife and conflict. His dealing
with the mutant situation has inflamed the population and we could
be heading towards a conflict without resolution.
Gen Thames spoke up for the first time. Do you think hes
up to the job of president? Can he make the calls that need to be
No, hes a bit sentimental about some things. Hes
wedded to the Mutant issue far too much. He sees registration as
an all or nothing concept. He doesnt understand how beneficial
it would be for a significant portion of the population to know
that the Mutants were cooperating. McKenna shrugged and leaned
back in his chair. I think hes blind to the dangers
confronting the nation. I mean, he has a handle on a lot of the
fiscal stuff, but the real pulse of the nation he doesnt
Frank Craft nodded and hid a smile behind his napkin as he pretended
to wipe his mouth. I think we do understand each other very
Bobby Drake ran into the lobby of Incarnate Word Hospital and searched
for the way to get to the Emergency area. Making a beeline for the
reception desk he panted, Im here for Chloe Sullivan?
The nurse looked up and quickly typed in the name. And you
Im Bobby Drake, he huffed out.
Mr. Drake, if youll wait a moment, a nurse will take
you back to room 14. The nurse turned away and went back to
Bobby moved over a few feet and waited for what felt like an eternity
for a nurse to grab him. He was ushered through a maze of gurneys,
corridors, and rushing doctors. He found the place and sighed with
relief when he saw Chloe awake, if bandaged. Hi.
Chloe offered a soft smile and winced when she did. There was a
large gauze pad above her left eye and one arm was in a cast. Hi,
yourself. She tried to stand up, but leaned back in bed. A
little help here!
Should you be getting out of bed? Bobby asked with
some trepidation. He knew that she was stubborn and didnt
want her moving unless it was authorized.
Shes to be released, said a nurse as she walked
in. Under her breath she muttered, and not a moment too soon.
Bobby chuckled and helped Chloe get dressed. What happened?
I was mugged. I think.
You think? Youre not certain?
Well, the police think it was a mugging, but Im not
What self-respecting mugger leaves a purse full of cash and
only takes a Palm 99?
He took your cell phone?
With all my datafiles.
The apartment building had been new a decade ago and Jimmy would
never have been able to afford it then, but now it was a run-of-the-mill
complex. Deep in thought about the exhibition of his photos that
were going on display at a local art gallery, he stepped off the
elevator and shifted his camera bag to the other shoulder. The exhibition
was a real feather in his cap, but any excitement or satisfaction
he might have felt was muted by the fact that he had no one to share
it with. Since his demotion at the Planet he was something of a
pariah, and he hadnt had a relationship since hed broken
up with Justin two and a half years ago. Rather than making him
happy, the Gallery showing was bringing home just how deeply hed
cut himself off from everyone and everything.
Absentmindedly, he came to his front door and as he touched the
key to the lock, the door swung open.
Cautiously, he stepped inside, his gaze scanning from right to
left. Nothing was out of place, but his heart was racing from the
gush of adrenalin that had flooded his veins. Phone in hand, he
dashed into his office and found the room had been ransacked. His
first flush of relief that his computer was still in tact and obviously
functioning was followed quickly by the realization that he hadnt
left it on when hed gone to work this morning. Someone had
turned it on, and it didnt take long for Jimmy to come to
the realization that his entire hard drive had been copied.
Justin Daniels walked up to the door with his heart in his throat.
He still felt horrible for all the fallout Jimmy had taken after
their relationship had become public, but hed done as Jimmy
had asked and stayed away.
Thats why the frantic phone call hed received 30 minutes
ago had been so alarming; Justin knew that Jimmy would not have
called if it hadnt been vital.
His knuckles barely touched the door when it flew open. Justins
drew a quick, involuntary breath at the sight of his former lover.
Thank God you came! Jimmy pulled Justin into a hug
and then backed off. I didnt know who to call. Someone
broke in and copied my computer files. They trashed my office, but
as far as I can tell, nothing is missing.
Justin ignored the stirrings of his body and called up every scrap
of professionalism he could muster. Are you working on a story
No, Jimmy cut him off as he led the way into his office.
I havent had a decent assignment since
for a long time, lets say. I cant imagine what anyone
could have been looking for unless they were on a fishing expedition
because of, you know
Youre connection to me and House Luthor, Justin
finished the sentence for him when it trailed off.
Jimmy nodded. Thats why I thought I should call you.
Justin examined the room and then pulled out his Pocket PC. He
connected it to Jimmys computer, then phoned House tech support
and explained what he wanted.
Standby, Mr. Daniels: we have you online and are accessing
Mr. Olsens computer. There was a long pause, and Justin
tried hard not to fidget in the uncomfortable silence. Jimmy apparently
found the silence unnerving, too, because he stepped out of the
Justin was more disappointed than relieved. It seemed an eternity
before the tech finally came back on the line and told him, The
full registry was copied, including a number of files relating to
the House, but the data is old and known. Security threat is deemed
minimal. We are installing trace software into his system and are
going to upload matching to several known ISPs for possible leads
into who did this. Leave your PC connectedwell call
you back as soon as were done. Ten minutes, tops. The
line went dead.
Ten minutes. He wasnt going to hide out in the office. He
stepped into the living room and found Jimmy coming out of the efficiency
kitchen with two mugs that Justin knew would be filled with Earl
Thanks. Justin smiled, relaxing a little. Jimmy couldnt
hate him too much if he was willing to be this hospitable. He explained
what hed learned from the House back-trace and what was happening
now. Im sorry if this break-in had anything to do with
the House. How are things going
besides the breaking-and-entering,
Jimmy shrugged. I have a gallery showing at The Loop in a
few days. A few of the pictures are already pre-sold.
Thats great! You deserve the success. Justin
plopped down on the couch and Jimmy perched cautiously a few feet
away. Justin took it as another good sign when Jimmy sat, too, choosing
the sofa instead of one chairs a safer distance away. Are
is there any one in your life? Justin asked, trying
to sound nonchalant.
Jimmy looked away and shrugged. Life has been a roller coaster
for the last few years. He paused before sighing loudly. No,
there is no one in my life since you. No one measures up.
With a quick move, Justin pulled Jimmy into a tight hug and kissed
his cheek. Im sorry that I made a mess of your life.
I would undo all of it if I could.
Jimmy tightened the hug and then pulled out of the embrace. Not
your fault, not all of it. I wish I could go back and unsay things
I said, but
Time heals some wounds Jim, Justin carded a few fingers
through Jimmys messy hair. I still love you.
Melting into the unexpected closeness, Jimmy placed his head on
Justins shoulder. I never stopped loving you.
He pulled Justin closer and kissed him deeply. Im sorry.
Justin smiled and kissed him again. Apology accepted.
Perry White felt the change in the air of the press room before
he saw anything, but then they came into view and he silently cursed.
He knew the two people walking his way and wondered what happened
to warrant a visit from the Luthor family lawyers.
Jackson King and Kelly Ling smiled as they made their way to the
office of the Editor-in-Chief. Jack opened the door and Kelly went
in first. She offered her hand, Good morning, Mr. White. Im
Kelly Ling and this is Jack King
I know who you are, Perry said as he cut her off. What
brings you here today?
This is more of a social visit than anything else, Mr. White,
responded Jack trying to keep the atmosphere light. One of
your employees was vandalized last night and we were concerned.
Perry leaned forward. Vandalized? Who?
Jimmy Olsen. Kelly sat down without being offered a
chair. A person or persons unknown broke into his apartment,
trashed his office as though searching for something, and made a
copy of his computer hard drive.
Perry didnt like being blind-sided like this, but considering
how low on the totem pole Olsen had fallen, he wasnt surprised
that the kid hadnt come running to him with the news of a
break in. But that begged the question
How the hell
could House Luthor know this before the Daily Planet?
Since the purpose of the raid seemed to be information and
Olsen isnt currently working on anything of a sensitive nature,
he called Justin Daniels.
Perrys frown turned to a deep scowl. Olsen and Daniels
Severed their relationship after it came out that the Planet
had sent Olsen to Smallville to spy on the Luthor family,
Jack said mildly.
Perry ignored the implication that he had pimped out the young
reporter. Any information Olsen had in his computer had to
be ancient history notes and photos from a story that was
published years ago.
Quite true, Kelly confirmed.
Then what are you really doing here? Why does the theft of
some worthless information warrant a visit by two of Luthors
Another associate of our House was attacked last night in
New York and as with Olsen, the purpose appears to be the collection
of information about House Luthor. The similarity has raised internal
alarms. Jack sighed and shrugged. We dont know
whats happening and thats an admission we dont
like to make. However, we wanted you to know that were on
Is that a threat? Perry demanded.
Why would it be Mr. White? Kelly countered.
It sounds as though youre insinuating the Daily Planet
had something to do with these thefts.
Not at all, Kelly said calmly. But you do have
a reporter who has built a career on her obsession with the Luthor
family. You might want to warn her that someone is targeting media
figures with a connection to the House.
How magnanimous of you.
Kelly treated the sarcasm as a genuine compliment. Think
nothing of it. She stood and nodded to Jack. We will
be in touch if we find out more information, Mr. White. Have a good
Neither of the two lawyers spoke until they were out of the building.
Jack hit a number on his phone and got Enrique de Santos. Weve
planted the bait and now well see if we can find an ant trail.
Aerial reconnaissance photos of a small chain of Greek Islands
were strewn across Damiens desk. Several photos were of the
coastline taken from fishing trawlers. Damien needed this heist
to go off perfectly and to plant the seeds of destruction inside
Victoria moved a few photos around but said nothing as Damien stared
at enlargements of detailed satellite images. A few minutes passed
and Victoria cleared her throat. What are the chances that
this succeeds, Damien?
His eyes darted from the maps to his wife in a brief flicker and
then back to the map. Planning must be precise, but we know
that this is where Katlan Anderson wants to honeymoon. We already
see the additional personnel arriving and with those clues can map
out a brilliant plan to take Lionel Luthor down.
Your son is antsy for the master plan to be placed in motion,
Damien. Youve raised him to believe in his own destiny and
he wants it as all five-year-olds want something.
Damien looked up and scowled. He isnt five, Victoria.
Hes a true teenager and ready to claim his rightful place.
The beginning is here, he pointed to the map. The trap
is being set. And once the exchange is made, we can penetrate their
defenses and take everything. Their empire will be ours.
Several oil exploration companies were setting up shop on the Highvald
Plain. SHIELD had leaked the findings of its aerial mission to a
few analysts and the result was a wildcat exploration that the South
African government was only too happy to exploit for its own profit.
Lt. Col Jamison Brand was dressed like other people on the crew
of Royal Dutch Shell contingent that was examining places to drill.
The government had allocated sites for exploration based on contributions
to the Ministry of Interior, which controlled all natural resources
in South Africa. Thanks to SHIELD, Brands group was going
to explore the null area that was the largest. In all SHIELD has
getting several corporations to fund this wild goose chase and no
one would be the wiser.
The readings on the sonar systems used by the companies showed
the null areas to be possible large deposits of oil or natural gas,
but SHIELD knew better. All we need to know is what is
down there. If it is a hiding place for the Brotherhood, so much
Bruce Wayne sat down at the posh restaurant, Dulorn, with Emma
Frost, Betsy Braddock, and Oliver Queen. They were soon joined by
Warren Worthington and Diana Prince.
Meeting in so obvious a spot is sure to raise suspicions.
Im not sure this is a good idea, intoned Bruce. We
know that SHIELD suspects something about us.
Which is exactly why we should adopt a Hide in Plain
Sight strategy, countered Oliver. Weve been
doing this all wrong. Were all major figures in the East Coast
social circuit we see each other at events and are known
to be friends. Not being seen in public is much more suspicious
than an occasional lunch among casual acquaintances.
Diana smiled. I like it. Deception works sometimes, but open
deception is much better. Not only that, but our enemies will be
confused by our change in tactics.
Warren shrugged and then nodded. Ill go along with
this to a point. However, I do want it noted that we take our fate
in our own hands by doing this. Charles and Jean arent so
sure this is wise.
Wisdom is in the eye of the beholder, Warren, said
Tony Stark as he and Janet Van Dyne joined the exclusive group.
Besides Charles is used to hiding in the shadows and for good
reason. We, however, arent required to do so any longer. We
won and theres no need to skulk around like misbehaving children.
I agree, Betsy chimed in. Its refreshing
to actually enjoy our get-togethers. Not that mansions and amazing
lofts arent nice, but New York dining is so much fun,
commented Betsy. Though how is the Society doing to meet our
Were working closely with X-Corp to establish the mutant
underground and the Mutant Policy Institute to make sure that there
is a public arm working to lobby Congress. Oliver smiled for
a second. However, as for the actual Society becoming public
not sure that would serve our best interests.
Bruce shook his head. It would not serve our interests or
the presidents either. The Society members can meet openly,
but the organization must remain cloaked, otherwise all the conspiracy
theorists will come crawling out of the woodwork. He threw
Betsy a soft smile before continuing. Our combined wealth,
industrial, and financial influence is enough to make people wary.
Couple that with our ties to the White House and many people would
panic. I think it would be best for the Society remain discreet.
I agree, Warren stated. But we need to make sure
X-Corp is a public entity even though some of her activities will
remain hidden. The underground needs to be top secret.
Diana nodded. We can keep parts of our activities hidden
and still achieve our objectives.
Andre, Chris, and Alan sat down in the Security office and pulled
out the final plans. Alan rubbed his forehead and sipped his fourth
cup of coffee for the day. The Phoenix is already en route
to Gibraltar. Lionel, Katlan, and their entourage will meet them
there and then sail to Ios, arriving three days after the wedding.
He looked at Andre. Whats the status on the advance
The advance team is in place and has declared the island
secure, Andre announced. They will remain in place until
the Phoenix arrives and hands off security to Justins team.
For the record, I must tell you that I am not happy with the arrangements
per se. Id rather Mr. and Mrs. Luthor stayed on the Phoenix,
which is far more secure than the villa.
Mrs. Luthor wants to honeymoon in Greece and she shall,
Chris said flatly. Mr. Luthors standard security team
of nine will maintain a presence on the island, and the Phoenix
will be anchored just off shore. It will be up to Justin to make
adjustments in the deployments as needed.
Are we sure we want to give him operational control of Mr.
Luthors security? Andre asked. Hes very
good, but this is a huge responsibility for anyone to undertake.
Mr. Luthor has full confidence in Justin, and with Philip
and Hamilton moving to Boston after the wedding, were spread
thin. Alan scrubbed a hand through his hair. We all
trained Justin. Now its time to trust him.
Andre and Chris both nodded in agreement and the security review
The tailor raised Bens right arm straight out to shoulder
height and made three swift chalk marks on the tuxedo pattern. When
he lowered the arm, a pin pierced his armpit and Ben yelped.
Sorry, sir, the tailor murmured and made a quick adjustment.
Somebody tell me again why I have to get stuck with pins
once a month? How many tuxedos does one man need, anyway?
It isnt a question of quantity but quality, Anne
replied. If youd stop growing then this would not be
an issue, Bennett. Her gaze swept from Ben to his three siblings
who were lounging in various stages of the fitting process. Frankly,
Ill be glad when all of you stop growing, since you already
tower over me.
Wes leaned over and gave his grandmother a hug. Well
always be your little boys.
Hey, speak for yourself. Not so little, Ben said as
he flexed his biceps. Im all man.
Lex entered the boys common room, gave Ben an affectionate
shove off the measuring stool, and climbed on. My dear son,
you arent even close to being a man. He winked at Wes
and gave Ben a smile. Your dad is a man, but you have a ways
to go before youre full grown.
Hey, I was there first, papa, whined Ben. Some
one might think being president has gone to your head.
Oh, he thought he was the most important person around long
before this, son, laughed Clark as he came in and took a seat
to wait his turn. Cutting in line is something hes always
Presidents dont wait in line, Lex informed them
pleasantly. Havent you seen my motorcade? They close
highways down for me.
Forgetting about the pins, Ben made a big production of yawning
as he tossed his lanky frame into a chair next to Clark. Holy
Porcupine! he howled, and everyone in the room who wasnt
bleeding cracked up.
Whitney sat in his office in the East Wing of the White House with
his closest associates and political advisors. We need to
manage this carefully. Im having a few of Lexs allies
briefed on the finding for the launch of the national initiative.
Alice Mitchell, one of the presidents pollsters, cleared
her throat. We have two small field polls out that include
generic questions on cancer, but I think we can assume that a cure
for cancer will be a huge windfall politically.
This isnt about politics, Alice. Dont anyone
lose sight of that! This is about helping humanity overcome a scourge
that kills millions yearly, Whitney stated fiercely. I
know there are political calculations that have to be taken into
consideration, but we want this couched in terms of health news,
not political news.
That is a little naïve, Mr. Fordman, said Keith
Broder, another of the political pollsters. Everything this
family touches is political and has been for some time now. While
this is great news and will certainly increase the presidents
popularity, there will be unexpected backlash. Some will see this
as a boondoggle for Minerva and others as a publicity stunt. And
you can count on our political enemies in Congress doing everything
in their power to slow down the FDA approval of the protocol.
Perception may color some views of this announcement, but
the overwhelming evidence is simply too great to ignore: a huge
change in human history is before us, Whitney argued. I
want a plan in place to sell this to the American people and the
world. This benefits everyone and if we have the public behind us,
even our enemies wont be able to slow this down.
Several heads nodded and Whitneys Chief of Staff, Yolanda
Jackson, spoke up, That may be true, but were not there
yet. This wont be easy and we cant count on our friends
to help, but well do our best.
Is this really necessary? Hamilton asked for the fourth
time. Why cant we just have Katlan pick all the furniture
for us and be done with it?
Because its our house, Hamilton, and I dont want
it reflecting tastes that arent young, hip, and modern,
Peter rolled his eyes and continued on with them as they entered
their sixth store in search of décor for the new townhouse.
Has it ever occurred to either of you that you arent
going to have the hip house? Most college kids decorate with whatever
they can find cheaply or that serves a party function. Neither of
you has to worry about that.
Philip huffed and then replied, While we arent typical
college students, we do want the new place to reflect some idea
Does this us reflect both our House attendants
and Secret Service cordon? Hamilton quipped. Because
with both those lines of defense I dont see us entertaining
Dont forget you have to pick up the wedding gifts for
your grandfather, Peter interjected, hoping to divert the
argument, but Philip wasnt easily diverted.
We can at least attempt to have a sense of style, he
countered. And besides, we have a number of friends at Harvard
and no small few at Yale who are already quite familiar with our
excess baggage. I think we can count on a fairly active social life.
Hamilton frowned. Lets just find some stuff and get
this over with. I have enough to worry about without adding a social
life to the mix.
Lt. Col. Jamison Brand felt the tremors before he saw the explosion
at the drill site. Flames shot out of the well hole
and high into the air. He knew instantly it wasnt a blow out
of an oil well, but something far more sinister. There was no oil
where they were drilling--that was merely a SHIELD ruse; instead
they might have found exactly what they were looking for.
The ground shuddered again and men who had been running fell to
their knees as the ground shifted in violent upheavals.
Colonel Brand, this is Luxor, were registering a Magnitude
5.2 earthquake in your vicinity.
Brand watched as several people came out of the explosion zone
and the alarms began to blare across the communications network
that there was a mutant detection. Were under attack!
was all Brand managed to say before his comm lines cut out.
In moments, three strike aircraft came streaking in from the Luxor
and fired on the mutants position. Satellites that had been
tasked for geosynchronous orbit over South Africa were recording
all the telemetry for SHIELD.
Brand found shelter and watched as his few troops counter-attacked.
His computer was still linked to the satellite system and he was
able to see that four known members of the Brotherhood were present.
Then, as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone. He was still
hooked into the network when he saw that they had a perfect reading
of Exodus teleportation signature. Now it was only a matter
of tracking where it went.
We have Exodus reentry point somewhere in the Sahara
Desert, announced General Kincaid.
Gyrich smiled and watched as satellites mapped out the area that
had Exodus returned to. General Isling, prepare a comprehensive
recon of the area with intent to immediately hit it with a full
scale assault. He smiled at Gen. Ross. We have them.
I learned a long time ago not to count my chickens until
the eggs hatched. Even then, count the chickens twice.
An aide ran up to Gyrich and handed him a printout. He smiled and
pointed to one of the main screens in the room. A map of the Sahara
zoomed in on an area in southern Algeria.
Sir, the mountains in that region make it hard to pinpoint
exactly where Exodus returned, but we can place him in a ten mile
radius of the Ahaggar Mountains. The problem arises
Gyrich cut him off. Algeria is not a SHIELD signatory, but
we can work with them if they know Magneto may be hiding in their
southern highlands. Ill get clearance. You tighten the noose.
Have I ever mentioned that I hate rappelling? asked
Jamison Brand of no one in particular. Several Army Rangers were
already lower than him and exploring the null areas that had been
detected weeks ago. The quick flight of the Brotherhood allowed
Brand to explore more openly. The drilling crews were gone and now
a true SHIELD outpost was above.
Colonel, we detect no life signs, came the report from
the scouting party below.
Brand continued his decent and started unhooking the cables once
his feet hit the floor. Night-vision goggles were put in place and
he pulled out his M-19 with mounted light. Report!
Sir, the area is abandoned, but they left in a hurry. Theres
a great deal of equipment around here.
Brand moved quickly through the cavernous halls into areas that
appeared to be work labs. He stopped in a room with several computer
banks. Ill bet these were Scanners.
Begin preparing all of this for transport; I want this ready
in two hours.
He stepped off a few feet and dialed in a code on his comm link.
Sir, this is Brand; were bringing in a haul of computers.
These may have everything we want.
The report on the latest trial showed that the Stage 4 cancer patients
were in complete remission. All of them. Elated, Stephanie Fordman
jotted a few notes and handed a piece of paper to her Aide-de-Camp,
Russ Lind. Send that over secure lines to Whitney. Things
are ready for him to proceed.
Doing her best to maintain a professional demeanor, she continued
her rounds, checking charts twice just to reassure herself it was
real. Her colleagues on the research staff seemed to be performing
the same reality check.
This is a miracle, Dr. Fordman, one of the doctors
Yes, Stephanie replied, it is. Now if we can
just get it out to the public quickly. We can save so many lives
with Melanivol. We just need to make it available.
Its a shame it only works for Stage 3 and Stage 4 patients.
Stephanie nodded. The treatment was too strong for smaller carcinomas.
It inhibited some of the cellular replication that the body needed.
One miracle at a time, okay? We cant prevent cancer
yet, but now we can destroy it out once it has begun to be a major
threat to a body. For early treatment well focus on other
From the Vulcan Energy control room, Tristan watched as the fusion
reactors in North Dakota came online. Power output levels?
Well maintain forty percent capacity this week, slowly
building to ninety percent by Labor Day. We can begin selling energy
on the open market by the end of the month.
And how long before the second reactor is up and running?
Tristan looked at his nails before turning his gaze on the engineer.
We anticipate the second reactor will be online by Labor
Day and delivering full power by Halloween, sir.
Tristan hit a button on his phone and was quickly connected. This
is Fordman; I want our power being sold on the open market by Labor
Day, and I want it discounted by twenty percent to all other sources.
He was about to drive the markets nuts and give consumers a huge
boon. Most of all he was about to make a ton of money for Minerva.
Ahaggar Mountains, Algeria
Four Talon strike aircraft off the air carrier Luxor vectored their
approach from the south. This is Talon One, confirm time to
Talon One, this is JSTAR. Confirm range at five hundred nautical,
ETA two minutes. Go to Stealth Mode. Raptor flights time to target,
The heads-up display in the cockpit was designed to show any and
all obstacles on the Talon approach vector. There were none. Telemetry
from the JSTAR flight controllers and satellite imagery showed a
clear deck, which allowed the Talons to drop to about thirty feet
above ground for their approach.
From the north, three Raptor flights advanced on the target. The
twelve fighter jets hit their positions and received confirmation
to engage. An instant later, twenty-four missiles streaked toward
their target. Large plumes of black smoke and fire filled the air.
Talon, Raptors have softened the target; engage with bunker-buster
The Talons accelerated and locked on the burning area. Three large
ordinance missiles flew through the air and soon impacted in three
Talon One, this is Luxor, we have seismic readings confirming
impact. Return to base.
Aerial photos of the target area showed that a mountain had collapsed
as had been designed. Now a satellite was tasked to watch the area
for the next few days before a ground force could check out the
It was the toughest invitation in Official Washington,
harder to get than even Super Bowl tickets. The elite of the elite
were gathering to witness the marriage of Lionel Luthor to Katlan
Anderson in the East Wing of the White House. It was a command performance
for the worlds most well connected, and the queue of limos stretched
around Lafayette Park as the guests arrived for the Wedding
of the Century.
Hamilton, Ben and Wes were assigned to greet the guests, but no
one could possibly have mistaken the three handsome, impeccably
tuxedoed brothers for ushers. Welcome, Your Highness,
Wes said solemnly to the Prince of Wales as he entered the White
Greetings, Your Excellency, Madame Navarre, Hamilton
said, nodding in turn to the United Nations Secretary General, Etienne
Navarre, and his wife.
Navarre cast an eye over the three young men. The infamous
Luthor-Fordman-Kent boys, he said in his heavily accented
English. I thought that there were four of you.
Hamilton smiled graciously. My brother, Philip drew the short
straw, he explained, and when Navarre frowned, he explained.
Hes in the wedding party.
Ah. Navarre smiled and moved on. I shall look
forward to meeting him later, then.
The never-ending procession continued
Friends of the Family gathered at the Residence. Katlan and her
family were staying across the street at Blair House. Most of the
family guests were at the Resort, a few minutes down
the street, but a completely different world from this one.
The guests rose in unison as the organists struck up Here
Comes the Bride. Her luminous white dress sparkling with diamonds,
Katlan Anderson walked down the aisle on her uncles arm. The
East Wing of the White House was resplendent in the wedding colors
of silver and gold.
On the dais with Lex beside him as best man and Philip in a progression
of six groomsmen, Lionel Luthor watched his magnificent bride stroll
toward him. He really was a very lucky man, he reflected with a
dignified smile and Katlan was lucky too. They were going
to have a splendid life together.
Her uncle handed Kat wordlessly to Lionel, and the couple turned
to the celebrant, the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D. C. He
began the service with a prayer, invited the congregation to be
seated, and launched into the traditional ceremony.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to witness this
Holy Rite of Matrimony. It is a union of love that we witness in
the eyes of God and the State
Hymns were sung, prayers said, vows exchanged and then, You
may kiss the bride, the cardinal said. Lionel leaned over
and kissed Katlan in front of the worlds elite.
The reception was in full swing and Jason Wyngard was reveling
in his invitation to this event. He was Bruce Waynes senior
aide at Treasury, but that alone didnt meet the requirement
for an invitation to this soiree. However, the ace up his sleeve
in garnering this invitation was his membership in the Hellfire
Club. All those attributes combined gained him this most exclusive
Mr. Wyngard, its been a long time.
Jason whirled and managed to keep his hands at his side. Mystique
was in the White House clad in her favorite role of
What are you doing here?! Jason spat. How did
you get in?
Mystique smiled and shrugged. Valerie Cooper wanted a friend
with her and I fit that bill. I wonder how you got here though.
Im a senior member of the Treasury and a valued asset
to the Administration. Jason put down his champagne flute
and moved closer to the wall to keep their conversation from being
overheard. What do you want?
Im stuck at SHIELD for now and my avenues for accessing
information are limited. Magnetos Brotherhood was attacked
twice in Africa in the last few days. I need to know what you know.
Jason swallowed hard. I dont know anything about an
attack. I do know that hes a top priority for President Luthor.
Any fool knows that! Mystique looked around, then placed
her had near Jasons throat. You have several masters
Wyngard, but none is as strong as Magneto. If you value your life,
youll find out what Luthor is planning.
I would think youd know more about that since you are
inside SHIELD now! Jason countered. Dont contact
me in public again! He straightened his tie and smiled at
her. I will see what I can find out, though. The last thing
we need is Magneto rampaging across the globe.
Graham Miller rarely complained about being Kane Millers
son; the advantages usually outweighed the negatives. He wasnt
quite sure which category the wedding of the century fell into,
but he was here anyway, dressed in his formal Marine attire and
trying to hide in plain sight. The furor over his dance with Philip
Luthor had fallen off the tabloid radar map as other scandals swirled
through social circles. However, in this setting he was feeling
a little out of place. Hed met a number of these people before,
but his father was now Secretary of State and that meant that he
was related to a Very Important Person.
You look like you could use a drink.
Graham turned and smiled at Zach Kent. I could, but Im
on my best behavior here at the White House. How are you?
Bored out of my skull. Zach rolled his eyes and sighed.
This is a convention for the wealthy and boring. Id
pay the band to jazz up the music, but I dont have the cash
to counter Lionels bankroll. Zach motioned for Graham
to follow him. Theres no point holding up the wall when
you can come over here and be bored with the rest of the hip set.
Philip will be happy to see you.
And his boyfriend even more so, Graham muttered as
Ben was chatting up a socialites daughter, but made an escape
when he saw Zach. Man can we port yet because this blows.
Peter Rasputin was less than two feet away and cleared his throat.
Your grandfather expects you to remain here until the cake
is cut and the final toasts are said.
Graham laughed at Bens hangdog expression. We all have
to get used to this at one time or another, he told Ben. However,
it helps when youre deployed elsewhere a lot.
Ben rubbed his chin for a moment. Hmmm
That might be
The Marines might be just the trick to getting
out of this stuff, and women do love a man in a uniform. Everyone
Philip walked over to Graham and pulled him to Peter. Graham,
this is the guy I mentioned to you. Peter Rasputin meet Graham Miller.
Peter and Graham shook hands and smiled. Nice to meet you,
they both said at the same time. At that moment the music stopped
and Lex rose to address the assembled group.
I beg your indulgence for a moment, he said quietly,
but it carried across the State Dining Room. It is not very
often that The White House celebrates a wedding. I believe it was
the Nixon Administration that last had one and lets pray my
Administration concludes better than his. The gathered laughed.
I want to wish my father a great deal of happiness. Katlan
is an amazing woman and I am proud to welcome her to our family.
Dad, you have been an immeasurable influence on my life. May all
your hopes and dreams come true.
The guests applauded and Lex hugged his father. Lionel smiled and
took a sip from his glass. I believe that there is nothing
else to do, but to cut the cake.
A throat was cleared from behind Philip, Graham, and Peter. Philip
smiled brilliantly as he turned and pulled Franklin forward. Graham,
Id like you to meet Franklin Richards.
Franklins eyes twinkled mischievously, The infamous
boyfriend finally meets the other man. He offered
Graham his hand. Nice to finally meet you.
Several chuckles from that group caused Graham to smile warmly
at Franklin as he too joined in the mirth. The pleasure is
all mine. You are both very lucky.
Philip smiled and placed his arm across Franklins shoulders.
I like to think I am. Though if you play your cards right,
his eyes flickered towards Peter briefly, you might be too.
Across the room, Hamilton stepped up to one of the four champagne
fountains that flowed through the room and filled two glasses.
Arent you a little young?
Hamilton glanced to his left and found Tony Stark, who seemed,
as usual, just on the verge of inebriation. I wont tell
if you wont, sir, Hamilton replied amiably.
Youre Hamilton the Genius, right?
The question surprised him. Stark had been a frequent guest at
the Palace for years, but hed never made any effort to differentiate
between Hamilton and his brothers. The closest hed gotten
to actually addressing them by name was the weekend hed called
them John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Well, I am Hamilton, sir,
but technically all of us have astronomical IQs. Im the smartest,
I thought so. Your dad tells me youre building a robot.
Stark frowned. Which robot?
He took a sip from his highball glass. Cute, hotrod. Pick
Hamilton grinned. Probably the Prez. Hes especially
proud of having spawned a Super Geek whos experimenting in
Very cool, Stark pronounced. So, A.I.?
Hamilton shrugged. Whats the point, otherwise?
Any chance I can see where youre going?
There was a time when a younger Hamilton would have been thrilled
with prospect of sharing advanced robotics theory with the billionaire
genius, but Hamilton was long past the theoretical stage. Still,
this was Ironman.
Sure, Hamilton told him. Next time youre
at the house...
Ill look forward to it, Ringo, Stark said with
a grin and ambled off.
Philip appeared at Hamiltons side. Did I hear Ironman
ask to see your robots?
Hamilton nodded. Yep.
Philip raised one dark eyebrow. And you agreed to show him?
Another nod. Yep. Hamilton paused. But I didnt
say which bots Id show him. Remember R2DToot?
Philip laughed. The little squat bot that farted every time
Hamilton grinned. Think Stark will be impressed?
Longshot and his Shadow Squad moved through the old city toward
the rendezvous point where they were to make contact with the Russian
underground. Tensions in the Russian Old Imperial Zone
were running high. American troops were still in southern Kazakhstan,
but they were slowly withdrawing. As American forces withdrew, tensions
grew greater in Kiev and the rest of Ukraine. For years the Russians
living in Ukraine openly called for political reunion with the Mother
country. Native Ukrainians could see signs of increasing Russian
belligerence as precursors of their own fall. All of this served
Longshot and his troops well.
Tatiana told us to get ready and be prepared. Im not
sure whats going to happen, Longshot informed his team.
They waited near the night club district, not far from the areas
of new wealth along the Dnieper River. Scimitar put out his acrid
smelling cigarette and leaned against a damp wall. Humidity from
the river hung over the city like a blanket.
What are we waiting for? hissed Scourge, a young new
member of the Squad.
Longshot nodded his head in the direction of an approaching person.
He moved quickly and offered his hand. Marat?
The man nodded. We need to get moving. The police keep this
area under tight watch. Marat moved quickly and the Squad
followed. They moved away from the river areas and into an industrial
zone from the Soviet era. Much of it was not in use and offered
great hiding places. We are here.
Longshot looked around and was satisfied they wouldnt be
seen here. So, what can we do for you?
Im told you can bring back Russian rule. If so, then
you can help me a great deal. Marat pointed toward an area
that had been an assembly zone for some kind of product. Three old
style tanks were there. Weve cleaned them up and they
are ready to go, but they are not enough to take the city, much
less the country.
How many men do you have? asked Longshot. If
you have enough then those tanks will be for show only.
Marat smiled. We have almost three thousand ready to start
Whitney and an array of smartly dressed but mostly-unknown professionals
lined the dais as Lex stepped up to the podium and motioned for
the assembled White House Press Corps to be seated. The buzz of
anticipation fell to a hush as Lex began, It is not often
that a person can say knowingly and with all honesty: This is an
historic moment, but I can in good conscience make that claim today.
As you well-know, cancer is a disease that has touched everyone
in this country. It takes lives, destroys families, and decimates
economies both personal and national. Over the years, trillions
of dollars have been spent on treatment of cancer in all its forms.
More trillions have been spent on research to find a cure.
Today, I am thrilled to be able to tell you that the years
of research have finally paid off. There is now a life-saving treatment
for Stage Three and Stage Four cancers of all varieties. No one
need ever die of this disease again.
There was a sharp, stunned intake of breath among the press corps,
followed by an immediate surge of questions too many for
Lex to hear let alone answer. He gestured for those who had come
out of their seats to sit back down, and finally got enough silence
to continue, Open trials on what is being called the Melanivol
Protocol begin later this month at the University of Texas M.D.
Anderson Cancer Research Center as directed under the National Cancer
Act of 1971.
Where did this miracle cure come from? the Washington
Post correspondent called out.
While I agree that this is miraculous, I want to be very
careful with the terminology we use here today, Lex replied.
He gestured toward those flanking him. Ill let the doctors
and scientists explain more in depth, but the Melanivol Protocol
is a treatment that has proven in early clinical trials to be 100%
effective in eradicating Stage Three and Stage Four cancers. It
does not prevent cancer thats a miracle were
still working on. But we can treat it and eliminate it, so in that
sense, this is a cure cancer.
But where did it come from?
The medical research division of Minerva; Hermes Pharmaceuticals,
Your company? someone else asked in a voice dripping
One of the Luthor family holdings from which I removed myself
when I began my election campaign, Lex replied carefully.
Although Im proud to say this has been one of the familys
most important projects. Hermes Pharmaceuticals has produced several
leading edge drugs and contributed vast arrays of research to medical
science since its founding. It is not important that my company
is responsible, but the big picture is what must be focused upon.
Whitney Luthor-Fordman-Kent has shepherded the Melanivol
Protocol Project through all of its research trials up to this point,
and he will continue that role, stewarding the Protocol through
Congress and into the public sphere. This is a bold new day, but
it is only one day. We still have to get the drug through trials
and out to the hospitals -- with all due speed, hopefully. Now,
Im going to turn this press conference over to the Whitney,
who will introduce you to the team that developed the Melanivol
Whitney stepped up to the microphone, and the deluge of questions
that swamped him as the press corps came to its feet threw his prepared
remarks completely out the window.
It was a long afternoon.
Whitney hit the mute button on his remote control, silencing yet
another skeptical pundit on CNN. The press conference had ended
hours ago, and the media coverage had not been what hed hoped.
He sank back into his office chair in the East Wing and massaged
his temples. Well, that could have gone better, he decreed
with a touch of bitterness.
His senior political aide, Yolanda Jackson, shrugged. We
knew the announcement would be greeted with a measure of skepticism,
but I have to admit I didnt expect quite this much cynicism
in the immediate wake of the announcement. The media so far seems
to be regarding the protocol as a band-aid instead of a cure.
And those are the charitable ones, Whitney countered,
Its unsettling that the first round of responses have
been this critical. Were being accused of giving false hope
In this case though, the people screaming the loudest will
be eating the biggest slices of crow once the public trials prove
the cure is the real thing, Yolanda said with a smile. Just
remember that you have to be gracious once they apologize for being
The dock at Ios private pier was well-organized chaos as
the Phoenix disgorged its complement of security and staff in preparation
for embarkation of Lionel and his new bride. Lionels personal
security force a complement of eight -- were the first off
the ship. They would relieve the advance team and take up their
duties. All of them had been to Ios before, but this would be the
leanest security force any of them had experienced here since there
were only two members of the House in residence.
As security slid into place, ships stewards began transporting
luggage up to the villa under the watchful eye of Lionel and Katlans
personal staff of six. Provisions were off loaded, and finally,
Lionel escorted his new bride off the yacht and into the gleaming
white convertible that was waiting for them. Lionel insisted on
Justin Daniels watched them drive off, then returned to the ships
security office where all available telemetry registered into the
security profile of the island. The island was populated by House
Luthor alone, but it was far from deserted. Aside from the palatial
villa at the center of the island, there were a bevy of support
buildings for the staff, security, supplies, and maintenance. Merchants
and contractors from nearby islands had been coming and going for
weeks, readying the island for the bride and groom under the watchful
eye of Justins on-site security team, but despite all the
preparations, Justin was still bothered by the lack of protection
the island offered. It was beautiful, but small and hilly. The rocky
terrain and two winding roads from pier to villa made it important
to keep a constant lookout.
Two aerial drones circled the island, providing constant updates
on the shoreline. The drones were cloaked, which gave Justin a small
sense of security. He didnt like being so near the Middle
East, but that argument had fallen on deaf ears. Katlan had wanted
a Greek Isle honeymoon, and Lionel hadnt been about to deny
his new bride anything she wanted. And of course, no one was going
to deny Lionel Luthor, either.
Justin glanced at Monitor 3 as the convertible pulled up to the
villa. The Honeymooners have arrived, the leader of
team one announced as Lionel and Katlan disappeared through the
carved double-doors on the expansive veranda.
Copy that, Justin acknowledged. He turned his attention
to Monitor 1, which displayed an image of the pier. Three trucks
slid single-file from the Phoenix cargo hold. Garvin, take
the south route to the villa, he instructed and received an
acknowledgement from the lead vehicle.
Justin tapped a key to pull up another bank of monitors. Pleasure
craft of an alarming variety skimmed by the island in the crowded
Aegean Sea. They seemed oblivious to the presence of the Luthor
entourage, but Justin wasnt reassured. Three large schooners
caught his attention. Do we have the registry on those schooners?
he asked no one in particular, but got a prompt answer, Working
on that now, sir. One is a fishing rental from Ahkanos.
Templeton just came aboard, someone else informed him,
referring to the leader of the advance team. He would officially
abdicate his responsibility to Justin momentarily and head back
to D.C. to with his team to help with the impending move of Philip
Get him on up here, Justin replied, not taking his
eyes off the monitors. I want a final report before he and
his people leave. And pull two speed boats out to patrol the waters.
Were way too exposed for my tastes.
Damien tried to keep his heart rate from spiking as he watched
the palatial yacht pull alongside its pier. Local merchants and
suppliers had been co-opted prior to the Luthor arrival, providing
Damien with everything he needed to create a swift, surgical strike
on House Luthor Med. Despite the best efforts of the House, Damien
had people on the ground ready to make sure there were plenty of
surprises in store for Lionel.
Your day of reckoning is at hand, brother.
Damiens schooner tacked starboard, heading into slightly
deeper waters as speed boats began making runs around the island.
Damien could not prevent his laugh from becoming audible. Youve
got to be kidding me! Is this the best that the vaunted House Luthor
can do in their defense?
He looked at the sonar graph of the area around the island and
smiled. A surplus submarine Damien had picked up from the Indian
Navy for a very good price was waiting in a small underwater ridge
off the western coast of the island. Half of his men, all of them
of the super clone variety, were on that sub awaiting the appointed
Sir, the Phoenix is leaving its pier.
Damien watched with pleasure as the massive ship took up anchor
nearly a mile off store, stranding Lionel and his bride on the small
island. See? It is as if the Gods were smiling upon us this
day. He grabbed a red marker and circled the hill that held
the villa on a topographic map. And so falls the king. Soon
the rest of the House will follow.
Dr. Stephanie Fordman looked at the bank of security monitors that
showed the crush of people that grew larger every day trying to
get into trials for the new cure for cancer. The news of a cure
and that only University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in
Houston was going to have the drug until the FDA allowed it to go
to broader testing had people descending on Houston in droves.
Stephanies office had been flooded from calls from other
cancer treatment centers across the country and around the world.
We underestimated the number of people who would volunteer
for the human trials, she said her associates.
No, we didnt. We underestimated the speed with which
people would fly to Houston. Dr. Sherry Langley had been a
senior researcher on this project for four years. It was her baby.
Houston Police were out in force trying to keep order. The Texas
Medical Center was the densest conglomeration of hospitals, medical
research facilities, and medical teaching facilities in the world
and it was swarmed by people trying to get a place in line.
We know this will work. I just wish President Luthor could
waive regulations and allow us to bring the drug to full scale usage
right away, Sherry said.
He couldnt even if didnt own the company. He
has to follow the rules because his enemies and the portion of the
health care industry thats makes its fortune treating cancer
are going to do everything they can to kill this program. Lex has
to let this play out.
It was a little after four in the morning when Damiens fishing
trawler glided across the water less than a mile from the island
where Lionel Luthor was sleeping. The submarine with thirty of his
special troops originally designed for Russian President Vitaly
Kirov was now moving into a cove that offered some protection as
they surfaced. In the dockside warehouse where supplies from the
Phoenix had been unloaded, seven of Damiens agents were waiting
for the signal to strike.
Through his binoculars, Damien watched three bright, thin streaks
of light from an antitank missile as they flew toward separate targets
two headed toward the Phoenix, but Damien stayed focused
on the guardhouse gate that sat halfway between the dock and the
villa on the highest peak of the island. The explosion broke the
peace of the late night, illuminating the hillside in the ensuing
It was all going according to plan. Nine fishing trawlers were
in blockade formation around the island. One yacht and two small
trawlers were in position to intercept the Phoenix. Evacuation routes
from the island were closed off. Antiaircraft missiles were ready
to take out the ships helicopter; it would never get near
the island if it attempted a rescue. Lionel was going to be Damiens
captive. For a time, at least. And when the Luthor scion was eventually
rescued, the clone Damien had been grooming would be
unleashed on House Luthor and no one would be the wiser.
The brilliance of it was almost more than Damien could bear. Finally.
Genius would have its reward.
And its revenge.
The blare of klaxons jolted Justin awake but he barely had time
to register the emergency call on his comm before two explosions
to port rocked the Phoenix, nearly throwing him to the floor.
He grabbed the com badge off the bedside table. Report!
he bellowed as he drew on a pair of pants and grabbed his shirt
from the foot of the bed.
The island is under attack, came the reply from the
war room. The gatehouse has been taken out by an antitank
missile and were starting to record small arms fire.
The villa? Justin was already sprinting toward the
Being surrounded, Mike Compton replied. I dont
know where the hell they all came from. Must have been a sub off
Justin burst into the war room and headed straight for the Situation
Well where holograms generated by the cloaked drones were displaying
movement all over the island. In a glance, he assessed the blob
of red dots that showed enemy heat signatures, at least a dozen
of which were moving at top foot speed up the hill to the villa.
The Phoenix rocked again as another attack hit the hull.
It was a trap. Justin stabbed a comlink that broadcast
his next command through the ship and directly to his security force
on the island. Implement Sierra Bravo Delta. Repeat. Sierra
Bravo Delta. He switched channels. Smallville, this
is Phoenix; we are under attack. Engage telemetry scan from all
available sources and pipe it into my sit-well, stat!
Halfway across the world in Kansas it was 8:00 pm. Senior security
staff were still on duty and they were too well trained to so much
as blink before bursting into action. Copy, Phoenix, we are
engaging full satellite telemetry. Feed to Phoenix being routed
now. We are registering several vessels in your immediate vicinity.
The holographic detail in the Situation Well went from vague translucent
blobs to solid images in full Technicolor as Justin replied, Phoenix
has been hit, but were not taking water at this time. Evac
routes by sea are compromised. Justin watched as more red
dots heat signatures of the invasion force -- emerged from
the far side of the island. More were moving up from the dockside,
and he didnt even try to count the ships that were closing
in on the island and on the Phoenix.
He had a security staff of five here on the Phoenix, nine on the
island, ten unarmed staff members in the villa, and the father of
the most powerful man on the planet pinned up in the bridal suite
no doubt wondering what the hell was happening and cursing up a
They were definitely overmatched.
For the moment.
Request backup, Smallville.
Alan Owens voice came over the line, Roger, Phoenix.
Initiating the Secondary Protocol.
What the bloody hell is going on? Lionel bellow
to no one in particular, sword-cane unsheathed and clad only in
a pair of russet silk pajama bottoms as he looked out the French
windows at the conflagration below.
Lionel, please come away from the balcony, Katlan instructed
with deceptive calm. She was hastily changing out of her diaphanous
penoir and into something more practical, but really, what did one
wear to an armed invasion? If they have weapons capable of
taking out the guardhouse, they can probably locate the window youre
But my island is on fire, he informed her, reaching
for his robe. Moonlight and the red-gold glow of the flames down
the hill were the only illumination in the room. A dim but distinct
rat-a-tat-tat of automatic weapons fire punctuated the darkness.
Where the bloody hell is my security team?
They were on their way when you first inquired sixty seconds
ago. Katlan slid her feet into her most comfortable running
shoes. Although I believe Mr. Jeffers and his men like to
call themselves Alpha One at times like this, she reminded
Lionel tapped his bracelet impatiently. Jeffers, report!
The reply was almost immediate. Mr. Luthor, Sierra Bravo
Lionel furrowed his brow. Sierra Bravo Delta was the second highest
House code, indicating imminent danger to the life of Lionel Luthor.
The idea that his security team might not be up to the task of
repelling whatever force had taken out the guardhouse finally began
to sink in. Clearly, being awakened from a sound sleep after a night
of vigorous lovemaking had dulled his senses far more than hed
imagined possible. He gave the required response to authenticate
his identity and assure them he was under no immediate duress. Responding
Zulu Beta Gamma.
Affirmative, sir. Please stand by for air evac, ETA five
He turned to find Katlan beside him holding out a pair of trousers
and a shirt.
As delightfully swashbuckling as that ensemble is,
I think these and a pair of loafers would be more appropriate to
the situation, she told him.
The tremor in her voice betrayed her fear, but the irony in her
light tone spoke volumes about her strength. Lionel hadnt
thought it was possible to love his bride more, but he found he
was wrong. He reached out and gently placed his hands on her shoulders.
Dont worry, Kat. Well be all right.
As if to make a liar out of him, an explosion rocked the building.
Perhaps I should get dressed. He did so hastily
while Katlan rummaged through the dark closet for a suitable pair
The White House
I understand Stephanies cancer center is being overrun
by trial volunteers, Bruce commented as he absently waved
off the sommelier, who quietly moved on to the President, who made
no effort to discourage him from pouring the exquisite red wine.
The remains of dinner in the residence had been cleared, and Lex,
Bruce, Clark and Whitney were enjoying a marvelously quiet evening.
The world wasnt falling apart, the cure for cancer was beginning
to generate worldwide excitement, and SHIELD had a lead on Magneto
or at least the Brotherhood.
It was a moment too good to last, though.
Yes, Whitney answered. Hope and fear are powerful
Whitney stopped abruptly and all four men turned when Jeff Fordman
burst in without preamble and announced, Sierra Bravo Delta.
The code-words for Lionel and his party in danger. Similar codes
like that were used for individuals or parties under duress: it
was the second highest security level the House had in place; the
only one higher was a House-wide threat.
Clark started to spring to his feet, but a quick hand from Whitney
stopped him. Let me get the facts, Whit said as Lex
demanded, Get him out of there NOW. Whitney flipped
open his PDA, quickly assessed the situation and told Lex, Secondary
Bruce leaned forward and asked quietly, Could someone clue
Lex lifted a finger and then activated a privacy circle before
explaining. Dad is under attack in Greece. House security
Bruce raised an eyebrow. With the Secondary Protocol? Is
this their first deployment?
Clark nodded. Weve never really used the Midnight Guard
outside of training scenarios. How long? he asked Whitney.
Whitney looked again at his PDA. Three minutes until Ios.
Clark shook his head. I could be there
No, Lex cut him off. Not until we understand
more about whats happening. For all we know, this could be
the precursor of a broader attack. No. We wait
Justin watched as red dots swarmed the villa. The Phoenix was moving
at top speed to break the blockade around the island. Hed
used two drones to pinpoint the threats to Phoenix and they were
now burning wrecks. The anti-aircraft missiles being fired at them
made sending his helicopter after Lionel impossible. His men on
the island were down to five. Shit, they need to hurry!
Two more explosions rocked the villa and the gunfire was getting
closer. The sky was ablaze with streaks of missiles, and Lionel
had never felt more impotent in his life. Katlan jumped and Lionel
instinctively shoved her behind him as three guards burst into the
Its about damned time, Lionel snapped. What
the hell is going on?
Jeffers and his men surrounding the principals and got them quickly
on the move as he explained, Sir, we are taking heavy fire.
I have two men down and one missing, presumed lost. The island is
surrounded and the Phoenix is also under attack. We have to get
you to the air evac point.
In case Justin hasnt noticed, our enemy seems to have
enough airborne artillery to take down Air Force One, Lionel
said he and Katlan were hustled down some stairs. You cant
be suggesting that the Phoenix helicopter
No, sir. We have cloaked support coming in with the Secondary
Lionel let that sink in and felt somewhat reassured, but not much.
Two guards were in front while one trailed. After another turn they
were down another short series of steps. Lionel knew they were about
to pass through the wine cellar and out a passage that led past
the garden. Communication lines burst quickly. Unknowns on
the grounds! The Villa wall has been breached!
Shit! spat the lead guard. Turn around. The grounds
are compromised. Well take up a defensive position in the
cellar until help gets here. He looked at his watch. ETA,
Damien could barely contain his glee as he listened to the limited
chatter of his troops. Resistance had been far more organized and
heavier than he expected. The quick loss of the boats attacking
the Phoenix had been a surprise, but it was still on the way in.
He had fifteen minutes to get his prize and get away.
The report that they were about to enter the villa sent his heart
racing. He was about to start the path to glory. Flashes of light
came seemingly from nowhere and three of his trawlers were suddenly
on fire. Deafening sonic booms echoed across the sea and reverberated
back across narrow straights. Three aircraft of unknown configuration
appeared out of nowhere, hovering over the island, decimating his
fleet. His people fired missiles in response, but all exploded before
impacting their targets. What the fuck?!
Chatter quickly grew agitated. On the opposite side of the villa
from the docks, one of the aircraft used Vertical Take-off and Landing
technology to park on the island. Damiens troops rushed to
contain that treat, but the Phoenix was on the way to the pier with
little opposition now that the blocked had been broken. His containment
plan was shattered.
Get people to cover the docks keep them from rendezvousing
with the Phoenix. Get Lionel out on the sub!
Lionel listened to the firefight growing ever closer. Sir,
the Midnight Guard just touched down, but they are going to have
to fight through the enemy to reach us.
Midnight Guard? Katlan asked. Shed been quiet
till now, taking instructions with uncharacteristic docility, but
this demanded an explanation. Whats the Midnight Guard,
Lionel quietly explained, Several years ago, enemies of the
House tried to create an army of genetically engineered mutants.
We foiled their plan, rescued the mutants who were little more than
unstable robots and were able to use nanotechnology to restore their
higher brain functions. Theyve been trained as an elite army
of super-soldiers. Theres nothing like them anywhere on earth.
Theyre known in House security parlance as the Secondary Protocol.
Is that why youve been so remarkably calm? Because
you knew they were on the way?
Lionel slipped on arm around her. My dear, I am anything
but calm. But you have been remarkably brave.
Katlan managed a wistful smile. I married a man who has never
been caught without an ace up his sleeve.
But this is far more than you bargained for, my dear.
Katlan laid her head on his shoulder. You warned me.
And you chose the dangerous path anyway.
She raised her head and looked at him. I love you. What other
choice did I have?
Lionel tilted his head to meet her lips, but the kiss was interrupted
by the appearance of a hologram that flickered with light in the
dark room. Dad, you just have to complicate my evenings, dont
Compared to all the headaches you gave me in your youth,
this hardly counts as more than a minor inconvenience.
Lex chuckled. Dad, Justin has determined that getting you
out by boat or shuttle is too risky. You and Katlan stand by for
What do you mean Emergency tele--? Lionels
words faded and the whole world turned upside down for a second
and then he and Katlan found themselves in a brightly lit metallic
environment. Where the hell
? He reached for Katlans
Lex appeared again in holographic form. Welcome to the Watchtower,
Dad. Sorry to be so abrupt, but this was the nearest destination
that we could be sure of a clean transport.
Lionel walked to the door and it opened. The room beyond was a
large control room with a long bay of windows that showed Earth
displayed against an infinite starfield.
Oh, my God, Katlan whispered as she joined him at the
Lionel smiled at her. Well, youve always enjoyed a
room with a view, he quipped.
Katlan tsk, tsked. Lionel, Lionel
Why didnt you
tell me I had the option of a honeymoon in space?
Justin lobbed a concussion grenade onto the docks and watched as
people came out running. His men from the Phoenix moved quickly
to retake the docks. He had word that Lionel was already out of
harms way and that allowed Justin to unleash the fury of the
gods on the attackers. The Secondary Protocol was part of that fury.
It gave House Luthor a small private super army that no one could
match. And now a dozen members of the Midnight Guard were inflicting
pain on the attackers. Justins orders were to keep one or
two alive for questioning. The rest could meet their Maker.
Damiens boat was coasting off the coast on the far side of
the island, but not part of the flotilla blockade. Daylight was
not far off and he ordered his boat to move off. The attempt to
take Lionel was going to end in failure. House Luthor had reinforcements
close at hand and they had superior firepower. His troops were fighting
and loosing, which was not supposed to be possible.
Get me out of here.
Several million dollars and months of preparation down the drain.
Damien was angry and frustrated, but not deterred. House
Luthor will have to be taken down in an old fashioned war. They
Alan Owen stared over the secure line to Washington and frowned
at his compatriots, Chris Smith and Andre Comeaux. None of them
were comfortable being in Smallville while the action was in the
Aegean. Justin arranged things as best he could, but considering
the sophistication of that assault, the island had to be compromised
long before Justin put his security plan in place.
Chris nodded. He has taken three prisoners and the sensor
network is pulling all data from the area as we speak.
What about containment? Andre asked. To avoid having
to answer questions about the familys advanced technology,
it was standard protocol to do whatever was necessary to keep events
like this as private as possible.
Hollography units have been deployed to camouflauge the worst
of the damage and security is so tight there now that an iguana
couldnt get on or off the island without Justin knowing about
it, Chris replied. No ones going to see the real
damage, and if they do, weve got that covered. The press secretary
will lead the morning briefing of the press corp with a story about
a fire in the building being used to store fireworks for the fireworks
display that had been planned for the honeymooning couples
final night on the island.
Andre grinned the first smile anyone had cracked in hours.
I didnt know any fireworks had been planned outside
of the bridal suite.
Chris smiled too. When she heard the cover story, Katlan
was irritated that she hadnt thought of a fireworks display
Alan was in no mood to see the humor in anything yet. Obviously
we cant suppress eyewitness accounts from passing fishing
vessels or pleasure craft, but the fireworks explosion should cover
us. Unless someone had a satellite tasked immediately over Greece
last night, we should be able to keep rumors of an attack on the
island to just that rumors.
Chris looked at Andre and asked, When do the prisoners arrive?
ETA two hours. Justins preliminary interrogation suggests
that none of them have any idea who was calling the shots.
But theyll know something that will put us on the trail
of whoever planned this, Chris replied. The President
wants to know whos to blame and hes magnanimously given
us 24 hours to suss out the mastermind.
Andre chuckled. Oh, well. 24 hours. I thought we were going
to be under pressure.
The President will accept our answers when we get them,
Alan said dryly.
My money is on that Friends of Humanity militia group, The
Reavers, Andre offered.
Alan shook his head. Too brazen, even for them.
Obviously not The Brotherhood, Chris intoned. Theres
no evidence of any mutant powers being used.
SHIELD? This from Andre.
Possibly, Alan allowed, but SHIELD could bring
a lot more firepower to bear. And why go after Lionel?
Leverage against the President? Chris suggested.
Or they saw an opportunity to extract family secrets,
Andre provided. Its not often any member of the House
is this exposed. Someone was taking advantage of a golden opportunity
and Lionel is certainly a primo target.
Alan was scowling. Im more concerned than ever about
our ability to protect the family, especially with the boys
impending move to Boston.
We cannot stop that event, noted Andre. Philip
and Hamilton are leaving, and any change to their plans would ignite
a flurry of questions in the Media that the president will wish
to avoid. We must maintain as if nothing has happened.
Alan tapped his fingers on the desk for a few minutes and then
spoke quietly. Chris, find a way to beef up our intelligence
on the Secret Service. There is an unknown threat, we are spread
too thin, and I dont trust anyone.
The Secondary Protocol got us out of the mess in Greece,
but the Midnight Guard needs to be placed more on the Eastern Seaboard
for easier access to Washington and Boston. Andre rubbed his
chin for a moment. They are very limited in number, but a
dozen in Washington and a half dozen in Boston should do it. We
can use the Weyland-Yutani safe-house network to house them.
They would make good guardians of that network and it would
mean we have better safety in Washington and Boston. We should deploy
a few in Metropolis as well. Evacuation points to be maintained
for all the House points. Alan took a deep breath and massaged
Chris cleared his throat again and frowned. I only see one
problem with this plan. He paused for a moment and got his
partners undivided attention. It seems as though we are trapping
ourselves in Smallville. We need to set up a remote base and make
sure that our enemies waste time trying to get here and well
be long gone.
In the boys game room, all eyes were on Philip as he came
out of his second trance that evening. The first had come hours
earlier. When he had sensed Lionels panic, he tapped into
the connection, seeing very little of any substance, but feeling
his grandfathers fear and experiencing enormous pride at the
strength of will and courage that that carried his grandfather through
the danger. Philip hoped that when the time came for him to be tested
(and he had no doubt that time would come), he would have the same
In this trance, though, Philip sensed very little and knew the
danger had passed. For now. He shook off the lethargy and nodded
at Hamilton. Its over. Grandpa is safethough he
feels very far away. I cant explain it. But Im not sensing
any immediate threats to the family.
Ben, whod been laying on the floor feigning a lack of concern,
rolled onto his stomach and began doing push-ups. Do you know
who attacked us?
No, I dont, answered Philip. I get images,
but theyre rarely clear. I can piece things together sometimesenough
to know that it was a mess in Greece, but the attack failed. Someone
sent a great deal of firepower after Grandpa.
Wes settled back in the recliner. That can be traced with
some effort. Whatever was used can be tracked to some point of origin.
I agree, said Hamilton. Ill get what I
can from the Internet first and then Ill see if the FBI knows
Wes frowned. I dont think Alan would appreciate you
mentioning this to the FBI.
Who said I was going to mention anything? Hamilton
wiggled his thick, fair eyebrows. With the FBI, a one-way
flow of information is always preferable.
We could just ask our fathers to tell us what happened,
As one, all three of his brothers hooted with laughter. Oh,
yeah, thatll work, Ben said, And when you spot
those flying pigs coming in for a landing, be sure to let me know
cause I wanna watch.
Wes tried not to laugh as he protested, It could happen!
Philip leaned over and ruffled his youngest brothers spiky
blond hair. Thats what we love most about you, Weston.
Your unflappable optimism and abject naivety.
Ben flopped over and came to his twins defense. Tell
him to take his abject naivety and shove it up his ass, Wes.
Wes shrugged. Naa
Theres no point. Franklins
going to get here tomorrow and Philip would have too much fun sending
him in to retrieve it.
Philip threw a pillow in retribution and there was a brief period
of good-natured roughhousing that quickly fell into companionable
silence as they each dwelled on the events of the evening. It was
Wes who finally broke the silence, You know, we could ask
the Keeper to see what he can find out. He has access to all kinds
of information and some of it we may not even think about being
related to our House.
Philip smiled and nodded as well. Great idea! Well
wait until our guests leave next week and then well ask him.
This might be opening a can of worms we dont want to make
Security arrangements didnt appear any different as Philip
and the boys awaited the arrival of their friends for a ten day
visit to Smallville. It was the perfect place to hide out and just
have fun. Franklin, Dick, Elsa, and Kyle were coming and that made
the brief summer vacation worthwhile.
Elsa arrived first with her little sister and two of her sisters
friends. Martha took charge of the young ones and Elsa hurried upstairs
to the game room. Her heels clicked on the marble floor as she entered.
Hamilton received her first huge hug. I think Ive worked
out the problem with your glider!
Hamilton shushed her. Elsa, please! Secrecy if of the utmost
importance in delicate work like mine.
Oh, screw secrecy. You just want to make a grand show out
of everything. Now, do you want my help or not? she teased,
but Hamilton was already ushering her toward his room. They still
collaborated on most of his projects and Hamilton was thankful that
her interest in fashion hadnt dulled her extremely sharp mind.
Dick arrived with Franklin in on one of Mr. Fantastics creations,
the Fansti-Car. Franklin loved flying it, even though it drove his
mother insane. Dick was begging to get to fly it back to New York
when Philip sauntered out to meet them on the steps of the palace.
No one had to know hed run most of the way from the game room
as soon as Franklin had touched his mind about the same time the
Fansti-Car touched down.
Hey guys! Philip said. You get here okay?
Dick grinned ear to ear. Man, that is a great machine! Ive
got to see if Bruce can get me one!
Franklin skipped a couple of steps to get to Philip and give him
a hug. How are you?
Better now that you are here.
Franklins smile faded. Whats wrong? he
asked quietly, sensing the hum of Philips anger that was leftover
from the night before.
//There was an attack on the family last night. Grandfather and
Katlan. Theyre fine. Ill explain later.//
Franklin nodded and they joined the others.
General Wallace Kincaid smiled at General Pierre Hardcastle with
a feral gleam in his eyes. The White House morning briefing
reported a fireworks munitions accident near the Luthor villa last
night, but local television and radio stations in Greece are claiming
there was a great deal of gunfire in addition to rockets and explosions.
Hardcastle rubbed his jaw for a moment or two. There was
a brief period of silence around the Presidents party at the
White House last night, then everything resumed as normal.
What kind of silence?
Total dead space. The normal ambient hum just disappeared,
as though the President had suddenly winked out of existence.
The president is using that technology of his again and more
than just those damned dampeners. Kincaid pointed to a monitor
and several satellite images flashed over the Aegean Sea. We
can see that there were explosions of some kind, but none of our
satellites were tasked over the Aegean last night. Weve got
two birds looking now, but there are no signs of any battle having
We know better than to ask the Ultimates to drop by and see
what might have happened. Luthor would know in a flash. Hardcastle
leaned back and shrugged. Have NSA pull all the audio in that
region and see if there might be cell phone chatter that gives us
Kincaid looked at another folder and frowned. Our mission
to the Ahagger Mountains hasnt turned up any bodies, but we
found caverns similar to those we found in South Africa. Some of
their equipment was abandoned in haste, so we came close to getting
someone, but until we analyze the equipment we wont now who.
Hardcastle nodded and put his copy of the report down. Im
tired of playing cat and mouse. Its time to go on the offensive.
The mutant Destiny
We know they value her above all
others. I think its time that we find this mutant and force
Magneto to come to us.
Lets put Isling in charge of that little project. Without
Gyrichs knowledge. If Isling fails, its only his head
that will roll. Ross can fire him and were in the clear. But
if he succeeds, then we all win. Kincaid smiled again. Just
And a damned good one, Hardcastle decreed. Make
Graydon Creed put down the LA Times and looked over at his breakfast
companion, the Rev. William Stryker. It appears that the White
House is preparing to launch an all out push for this supposed Cure
for Cancer. The political power he stands to gain from this could
elevate him to God-like status within certain segments of society.
That cannot be allowed to happen! Luthor is an evil man bent
on ruling the world. I wouldnt be surprised if that so-called
cure was merely a device for more sinister goals. Stryker
wiped his mouth and frowned. Who knows what the cost of that
cure will be for people?
Creed was silent for several minutes while he stared out the window.
What if the cure is really a retrovirus set to turn normal
humans into mutants? Or a genetic tag that allows people to be tracked
wherever they go? Who knows what Luthors scientists have been
planning for when he came to power?
Indeed, agreed Stryker. Im sure our followers
would not be happy to hear that Luthor is using his Cure to cover
up more sinister plans for world domination. All that power in one
mans hands... Unthinkable.
And all that gratitude, continued Graydon. Yes,
I think it is time to expose Luthors plans and see if we cant
rescue the nation at the same time.
Philip did a final, spectacular somersault on the rings and nailed
a perfect landing just as Franklin entered the cavernous gymnasium
clad in dry swim trunks with a towel draped around his neck.
Show off, his boyfriend teased. You sensed me
Philip grabbed a towel and wiped his face. A fine sheen of perspiration
covered his skin and his white leotard clung to every line of his
legs and torso. Despite the exercise, he was barely winded. Did
it work? Are you impressed?
Franklins pale gaze swept Philip from damp hair to stirrupped
foot and he grinned shyly. Always.
Good. Adrenalin still coursing from his workout, Philip
pulled Franklin in for a long, deep kiss, and as their bodies responded
appropriately, Philip half-stumbled, half-guided them across the
floor until they collided with the pummel horse. Franklin was pinned
with nowhere to go not that he wanted to and after
several minutes of increasingly frantic kisses, Philip spun him
around, plastering his body against the smaller, slightly-more-fragile
young man. I think we need to talk about our sleeping arrangements
His voice was husky with need.
Franklin blushed, but that didnt deter him from taking Philips
hand and guiding it down to his erection. //You do this to me and
youre going to make me wait till Boston?// he asked incredulously.
Philips chuckle reverberated through Franklins body.
Ill close the- he started, but before he could
perform the mental action, before the words were even out, the doors
on both sides of the room slammed shut and bolted, and the bay of
windows that overlooked the Olympic-size pool next door turned opaque.
The gymnasium will look empty if anyone goes in for a swim,
Franklin said, turning in Philips arms without allowing a
sliver of space to separate them.
Philips slid his hand into the waistband of Franklins
swim trunks and fisted his lovers fully engorged cock. His
lips and tongue played with Franklins ear as he whispered,
Can you maintain the illusion while were doing it?
//It may slip a little when you do this to me// Franklin reached
out to Philips mind and planted a full-sensory image of exactly
what he wanted Philip to do to him.
The image and the psychic connection almost made Philip come right
then, but he took control of himself and Franklin both, and the
illusion Franklin had created did, indeed, vanish when Philip fulfilled
Fortunately, there was no one next door in the pool at the time.
//Your powers are growing,// Philip projected with a wicked grin
an hour later as they floated lightly in the deep end of the pool.
Their soul-stirring sex had been followed by a playful swim that
had turned into an all-out contest Franklin won by a full stroke.
Philip was a gifted athlete, but Franklin was part fish.
//Maintaining intensity is still a problem for me,// Franklin replied.
Philip grinned. //You couldnt prove it by me.// He kissed
Franklin hard, then pushed away to prevent anything from starting
to build again. Philip knew as surely as he knew anything that Franklin
Richards was a part of his soul, connected to him in a measure so
powerful he wasnt sure even his psychically-connected fathers
could have understood it. It was a source of strength, but sometimes
it was also scary, like those rare occasions when they were having
sex and their telepathic gifts merged
The magnitude of it was sometimes more than Philip could handle,
but it also provided him a thrilling glimpse into the power that
he and Franklin could wield if they could merge their minds outside
of sex, harness it, control it
It was a level of power that was intoxicating. And attainable.
And maybe even dangerous.
That didnt stop Philip from wanting it.
//Im told the power will get stronger as I get older, but
now I can have powerful bursts of energy, but I just cant
hold it.// Franklin was saying when Philip forced his thoughts back
to their conversation.
Philip nodded at him. //I know what you mean. No one seems to know
how strong my brothers and I will be, but Pop has started testing
us once a quarter.// He grinned. //Just what I want, more tests.//
Have you heard that my Dad is lining up people to go to Congress
in September to testify in favor of the Cure for Cancer? May not
be his area of expertise, but he knows lots of people.
Thats good news.
Yes. //Now tell me about this attack on your grandfather.//
Varian listened in the hall as his father ranted at the top of
his lungs about his failed plan to replace Lionel Luthor with a
I tell you Victoria, that House is cursed and blessed at
the same time. There was no way for them to marshal aid that quickly!
The ships that came were simply amazing! With that kind of technology,
it will be impossible to defeat them by any means other than pure
What did you expect Damien? Lex and his mighty House are
pushing the boundaries of knowledge and human capabilities everyday.
Did you expect them not have a few tricks up their sleeves? How
short sighted of you, Damien!
Varian loved his mother. Her tone was laced with venom at his fathers
rashness. She was the only human Varian knew other than himself
who didnt quake in the face of his fathers rages.
The attempt had to be made and Lionel doesnt leave
the protective comforts of the United States often. This was the
one chance to make the switch. Instead, I shall accelerate my plans
for destabilizing Australia and Russia. We must move quickly or
Kirov will be beyond our reach as well.
Varian smiled as his father outlined the changes in the plan. The
path to power was riddled with potential disasters, but the ultimate
goal was worth any risk. He had only to wait until the time was
ripe and he would seize the destiny that his father had been plotting
Victoria cleared her throat. The last shipment will arrive
in the Crimea in three weeks. I suggest that we move on InterGang
then, or we will find ourselves out in the cold.
Weve learned very little from the prisoners, Mr. President,
intoned Enrique, getting the meeting between the triumvirate and
security heads off to a start. They were all seated at the sleek,
curved console that framed the Well in the Security briefing room.
Weve thought about asking for a telepath, but given
what weve learned about the prisoners
Clark leaned forward. What is that?
Andre manipulated his panel on the console and a hologram sprang
to 3-dimensional life in the center of the well. The three
prisoners knew nothing. Their weaponry was standard black market
Just hired muscle, then, Whitney observed.
Clones? Lex asked quickly. I thought cloning
technology was very limited and not fully up to humans yet. I know
we can do it, but for someone else to do this
Sir, there is another thing, Alan added. The
DNA is mutant in origin, but these men show no overt powers that
we could find. And their cellular structure seemed stable.
Disturbing and worrying, Whitney commented. Who
has access to this type of technology and the ability to field that
type of resource against us?
Chris spoke up finally, We dont have an answer to that
sir, but we are going to take extra steps to increase House security.
We have to keep this quiet though or the Secret Service will catch
Lex swiveled his chair away from the conference table for a few
minutes deep in thought. He could hear a few whispered comments
back and forth between the gathered men. So many different talents
and skills were present at the table and hed need all of them.
He turned back and looked at Chris. Your friends in various
places; could you be so kind as to call upon them to see what they
and warn them that things are getting dicey.
Chris swallowed and nodded. The international part of the
Weyland-Yutani safe house network needs guardians and Ive
not turned that fully over to X-Corp. Ill give them safe passage
if they need it. They need to know that were on full alert
Andre leaned forward and rubbed his mouth for a second. Several
of them could lose their lives if we arent careful. Many are
in dangerous positions within governments or powerful organizations.
Yes, we have a few that left government employ for more lucrative
jobs, but still have all their contacts. The network is in place
and gives us what we need for the most part. Ive got highly
placed contacts in the FBI and CIA as well as the UN and EU. Ill
see what they can all come up with on the Lionel front and begin
sharing the intel among them for leads. I fear the time for compartmentalizing
may be coming to end.
Whitney sighed, As Ben Franklin said, We must hang
together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.
And he is right. Do what you have to Chris. Were running out
options and, I think, time.
Aside from being cute-as-a-button and marginally precocious, Michele
Fordman was the quintessential six year old female. She loved frilly
dresses, stuffed animals, tea parties, and hugs. Today, it was frilly
dresses and tea with the friends who had accompanied her to the
palace. Something seemed to be missing, though, so she scurried
off to her cousins old playroom, which was now referred to
as the Common Room. She opened a cavernous closet and picked up
Wes old panda, which was nearly as tall as she was, and toted
him to the high tea that she was hosting. Then, she returned for
an even larger playmate. Grabbing Teddy by one threadbare ear, she
dragged him out of the closet and into the hall.
Hey, Munchkin! Ben called out as he came around the
corner with Wes, Hamilton and Dick. Where are you going with
Were having tea and hes thirsty, Michele
said with a very serious look on her face. He wanted to come.
Ben stood there for a second and very nearly winced when Michelle
shifted her grip to the bears other ear and resumed dragging
him down the hall. Okay, Ben said weakly, then stronger.
Are you upset that she has Teddy? Wes asked quietly.
Who me? You gotta be kidding! Dont be silly.
The other three moved on, and Ben said suddenly, Hey, you
guys dont happen to know where Franklin is, do you?
He was downstairs in the Master Library last time I saw him,
Great. Listen, you guys go on and Ill catch up in a
few minutes. I need to ask Franklin about, uh, a surprise. For Philip.
Wes stopped and looked at his twin. What surprise?
Ben looked at him, exasperated. It wouldnt be a surprise
if I told you.
I thought you said it was a surprise for Philip.
If looks could have killed, Wes would have been pushing up daisies.
//LET IT GO, WILL YOU?//
//Jeez, no need to shout// Wes replied. Come on guys. Lets
leave Ben to his plotting. The three went on to the Common
Room and Ben dashed downstairs.
Hey, Franklin! he said boisterously, patting the young
man vigorously on the back.
Franklin said cautiously. Whats
I was just wondering
kind of thinking of making a bet
with Wes, but, you know, wondering
Can you plant thoughts
in peoples heads?
Im not supposed to, but I do have that kind of control.
Franklin rubbed his chin and stared at Ben for a moment.
Show me, Ben demanded flatly.
Well, I dont want to bet on something unless I know
its a sure thing. So I need you to prove you can do it. Something
small, on an easy target, like Michele, for instance. Maybe you
could just plant an idea in her head
Your cousin? What idea?
Ben shrugged nonchalantly and made a great show of thinking it
over. I dont know
maybe, plant something like its
time for a nap. Alone. Or, give her the idea to go find the Fralicks
and play with them. See, no biggie.
Franklin shook his head. You know, Ben, one of the advantages
of telepathy is a built-in lie detector, and youre setting
off what Uncle Thing would call The Bullshit Meter.
Ben frowned and let out in a slight whisper. Michele stole
Teddy and shes about this close- he held his thumb and
forefinger an inch apart to ripping him limb from limb.
Franklins eyebrows met his hairline for a moment, and unfortunately
for Ben, Philip chose that moment to join them. Michelle stole
Teddy? Oh, No! Poor widdle Ben. He wuv his teddy bear so!
Knock it off! Ben demanded, lunging at his brother,
and Franklin sat at the library table shaking his head as the two
brothers rolled around on the floor in an old fashioned sibling
Im so glad Im an only child, he muttered
and went back to his research.
A week and a half had passed since Longshot and his Shadow Squad
had made contact with the Russian Resistance. Longshot didnt
trust them to pull their weight, but it would not matter. Over the
course of the last decade Russian Intelligence Services had been
infiltrating Ukraines government and military. Border incidents
had been trumped up to force Ukraine to pull back its troops from
the border with Russia. Ukraine was a growing and prospering nation,
but its proximity to Russia was the cause for great concern.
The Resistance had membership and arms, which meant that they were
mere shock troops to Longshot. The more confusion that could be
sown the better for his Shadow Squads. His small band was waiting
in the old industrial warehouse that had held tanks until three
days ago. Those old rust buckets had been moved and now were in
position to launch a change in the political order.
His phone chirped and he quickly answered it. Yes?
Tatianas voice rang through clearly. You are to move
in three days. Other things may happen by then to influence events,
but three days is the word. Good luck.
Longshot closed his phone and nodded at Scimitar. We have
work to do.
It was barely dawn when Whitney began touring the Palace to check
the status of preparations for Lexs birthday tomorrow. It
was his first as president and Whitney wanted it to be special.
Lex would leave for the G-8 Summit in Florence, Italy, the morning
after his party. It was the beginning of an intense travel schedule
that would culminate with the departure of Hamilton and Philip to
Boston and college life. Whitney didnt want to ponder that
He was lost in his thought when the Keeper appeared before him.
//Sir, there is something unusual happening on the estate. I am
having difficulty pinpointing it.//
Memory of the recent events in Greece generated a panic in Whitney
that was soul-deep. What kind of event?
//A cosmic radiation event, persistent, but low-grade. It comes
and goes, but it is building as we speak.//
Find it! Now!
The sun was barely over the horizon and no one was stirring in
the guest wing of the Palace when Kyle awoke again, sweating, his
pulse pounding from another dream about Green Lantern. Hed
been having them regularly since he witnessed the superheros
horrible death, but lately the dreams had changed. He was no longer
just reliving Lanterns demise; he was the Green Lantern.
Stumbling into the bathroom, he splashed water on his face and
looked in the mirror to discover his eyes were glowing green, just
like in the dream. He wiped his face with a towel and squeezed his
eyes closed as he tried to convince himself he was imagining things,
or still dreaming, or maybe just plain losing his mind. But when
he opened his eyes and met his own gaze in the mirror again, his
eyes were still glowing, still green
What is happening to me?
His head was buzzing and there was a pressure that hed never
felt before. Stumbling blindly, instinctively, as though moving
could somehow let him escape the growing pressure, he made his way
out of his room, down the stairs and into the garden. The pain grew
with every step and finally he fell to his knees and cradled his
head. All he could hear was blood pounding in his skull. Green light
engulfed him and it pierced his brain even though his eyes were
screwed tight. He screamed as the energy burst around him and he
//Sir, the event is concentrated in the garden just outside the
guest wing. Energy is unstable and building!// The Keeper vanished
in a flash.
Whitney took off running. He hit the door to that garden at a full
run and witnessed the green flash of light as Kyle fell in a heap
on one of the walkways. The Keeper was standing next to Kyle as
Whitney ran up.
What was that? Whitney knelt to check on the young
//Sir, the energy signature matches that of the Green Lantern.
If required to speculate, I would say that young Mr. Raynor is showing
all the signs of a undergoing a conversion to the Lantern Corps.//
Whitney stood and shook his head. I thought the Green Lantern
//The Green Lantern Corps has existed for millennia. The corpsman
assigned to Earth died, but they are replaced as needed. Apparently
Mr. Raynor has been chosen.//
//I dont know what their criteria of selection is, sir. The
Corps is only slightly know to the Kryptonians.//
Ill get him to the infirmary and see what we can do
for him. He sounded horrible. Personally, I think the Lantern Corps
needs to re-examine their recruitment methods.
Kyle awoke in a strange room with Peter sitting on one side of
the bed and Wes another. Though there was no medical equipment attached
to his body, a screen over his head seemed to be displaying his
vital signs. Even viewed upside down, they looked a lot more normal
than Kyle felt. His head was still pounding and he was slightly
nauseous, but at least he no longer felt as though his brain was
being split in two. He tried to sit up, but the world went spinning
so he lay back down.
Good to see you awake, Peter said as he leaned over
and tucked in the sheet that had been dislodged. You gave
us quite a fright.
If you were feeling bad, all you had to do is say something,
Wes said with something of a pout in his voice.
I felt fine until this morning, Kyle tried to defend
himself, but lacked the energy to place much effort into it. Now
I feel like Ive been run over by a bus. Twice.
Dad found you in the garden in your boxer-briefs and he had
Aunt Stephanie examine you long distance.
What did she find?
Wes quirked one eyebrow skeptically, You think theyd
tell me? What were you doing outside so early?
Kyle moved his head gently from side-to-side, afraid that too much
movement would bring back the pain. I dont remember.
That wasnt quite true the moments before the world
went black were a blank to him, but he vividly remembered the world
engulfing him in green.
Well, dont worry about it. Theyre going to do
some tests. Poke and prod you some, see if they can figure out whats
going on. Peter frowned and handed Kyle a glass and a few
pills. Take these. Stephanie prescribed them. Were supposed
to let you get some sleep, but if you need anything push the call
Thats okay, Wes spoke up. Ill sit
here until he falls asleep.
Kyle managed a smile for him. Thanks.
Peter hid a knowing grin and left them alone.
Lex blew the candles out on his cake as friends and family looked
on. I can always count on all of you to make this day lively.
The cake was decorated in dark chocolate and the candles had been
specially made to look like bones. I assure you that the White
House will not be the death of me.
Clark chuckled and produced a small box. The older you get,
the more difficult it is to find a present for you. What do you
give the man who has everything including nuclear launch
codes and a key to the Chief Executive Wash Room?
Everyone laughed as Lex accepted a small box and a kiss from his
husband. Thank you. He pulled off the bow and wrapping,
then frowned quizzically as he pulled out a small, glowing crystalline
rock unlike any hed ever seen. What is it?
A new paperweight, Clark smiled broadly. Its
a nearly-burned out Kryptonian power gem. Normally they give up
all their energy, but this one has enough to glow for the next three
decades or so. Theres not enough energy in it to register
on any kind of power-detector, but it will shimmer and will change
colors as the day progresses.
Lex nodded and smiled. Like a cross between a Mood Ring and
a sundial. Very nice. It will be interesting to see how people react
to it in the Oval Office. Thank you.
Two of the bridges that crossed the Dnieper River fell in a series
of explosions that rocked the late night. Sirens blared across the
now bisected city. Only one bridge remained, effectively cutting
the city in two. More explosions illuminated the skies near the
Longshot stood on a rooftop several blocks from the fighting and
watched as the Russian Underground attacked government forces that
werent prepared. He nodded at his pal, Scimitar. Russian
Intelligence had infiltrated the Ukrainian Intelligence groups years
ago. They had no idea that a Russian Underground existed in Kiev.
They thought it was only along the eastern border.
When do we get to move, Kyril? asked Scimitar, He was
anxious to get into the fight now that it started.
Patience. Even with all the deception, we have to wait to
see how effective the governments response will be. We will
be the move to their counter move. Longshot smiled and winked,
Besides, Im told that there is something special in
the works. We only need to stay around to make sure the government
Several more explosions punctuated the night and glass could be
heard shattering all over the city. The old tanks were rumbling
near the river and firing at predetermined points. The wail of sirens
competed with explosions for dominance in the night. Longshot peered
across the river and flicked his cigarette in the direction of the
river. We will know soon enough if we planned well enough.
Kyle stared out at the lake, studying the sparkling patterns made
on the water by the setting sun. Part of him wanted to capture the
beauty of the days end, but part of him wondered if his world
was ending as well. It had been three days since the attack
thats how he thought of it, as an attack, and since no one
could explain it he was free to label it any way he chose. Dr. Fordman
had flown in from Texas to give him a battery of tests, but it had
taken 24 hours for Kyle to get up the courage to tell her about
his bizarre dreams and the unsettling aspects that had been chasing
him into his waking hours since the death of Green Lantern. Shed
made him repeat the incidents to Whitney, and although thered
been a lot of whispered conversations going on around him, no one
had actually talked to Kyle.
It was starting to piss him off. He was safe in the lair of the
most powerful family in the world, people with mind-blowing technology
and well-known sympathies to mutants and meta-humans and freaks
of all shapes and forms, but no one seemed inclined to help him
understand out what the hell was happening to him.
I dont blame you for being pissed off, Kyle.
Startled, Kyle sprang to his feet and turned to find Whitney a
few yards behind him.
Sorry. Didnt mean to surprise you, Whitney said,
approaching. Sit, sit.
Kyle felt a little embarrassed, wondering how Whitney had known
what he was feeling. These people didnt owe him anything.
He didnt have the right to expect anything. He suddenly felt
like an ungrateful bum.
Whitney dropped onto the bank and motioned for Kyle to join him.
You have to be incredibly frustrated. Confused
Kyle understood instinctively that this was his chance to get answers.
If there were any. Whats happening to me, sir?
What do you think is happening? Whitney countered.
Kyle looked away and fixed his gaze on the sunset. The light
that attacked me
It was like the energy bubble that Green
Lantern used to generate.
Yes. Thats what it reminded me of, too.
And in the dreams, Ive got a ring and powers and I
can manipulate the energy without even thinking. But
But what? Whitney prodded.
But those are only dreams. Arent they?
Whitney gave a little shake of his head. What happened to
you in the garden wasnt a dream, Kyle. And I dont think
the glowing green eyes you saw in the mirror were a dream, either.
Kyle took a deep breath. Am I being possessed by the ghost
of the Green Lantern?
Whitney tried hard not to smile. I dont think so, Kyle.
But you do know something youre not telling me, dont
Not a lot, but some, he admitted. We know that
your body is undergoing some type of transformation.
Like a mutant? Kyle said, unable to hide his alarm.
No, no, Whitney reassured him. Youre giving
off a low-level energy signature almost identical to that of the
he didnt even know how to form the
words, but he finally got out what hed been thinking all along.
Am I becoming Green Lantern? Or like him?
We think its a definite possibility youre being
groomed by the Lantern Corps as their planetary emissary.
Jeez. It was what hed been thinking, but putting
it out there was something entirely different. Somehow it makes
the impossible, possible. The unreal, real. What if I dont
want to be a superhero? Im an artist, not a warrior.
Whitney shrugged. Some people seek power; some have it thrust
upon them. When that happens, our only choice is how we use that
Kyle nodded and tried to think about his choices, but they were
too overwhelming. It was easier to think of the immediate future.
What do I do now, sir? I mean, do I just go about my business
and wait for the next wave of green light to come and knock me down?
Thats going to make me real popular at the Frat house.
Whitney grinned. We have an idea for solving that problem.
Youve been offered a scholarship to an outstanding school
where you can continue your education.
But the nightmares, the green light
Whitneys grin became a smile. Dont worry, Kyle.
Where youre going, nobodys going to think twice about
a glowing green light. Youre going to fit right in.
Air Force One
Lex was reading over the briefing materials as it was announced
that they had just passed over Newfoundland on their way to Paris
for a meeting with the French President before heading to Florence
for the G8 Summit. Whitney was somewhere playing cards with the
staff while Lex tried to catch up on the endless reams of paperwork.
There was a perfunctory knock on the door and Nancy McNally walked
into his office. She handed him a small slip of paper. It
appears that CIA and NSA had this pegged in analysis five. Kiev
is experiencing massive unrest and Russian troops are moving closer
to the border.
CIA and NSA had been tracking Russian signal intercepts and had
been trying to match what they heard with what they saw. The first
three analyses showed Russian moves on the Baltic or possibly taking
Iran, but Ukraine and Belarus were key options. Lex had figured
Ukraine was simply a matter of time and he was right. How
do you suggest we play this? he asked her.
I say let Kane Miller do some heavy lifting for us first
and when you get to Florence, you politely suggest to Kirov that
he back the hell off. Of course, youll need President Barnier
and Prime Minister Tildens support on this. Nancy smiled
briefly and then said, Kirov is pushing too hard and too fast
for the Europeans to be happy. All you have to do is make sure Kane
is tough. Tilden, Barnier, and German Chancellor Schmidt may do
all the work for you.
Lex leaned back again and shrugged. Then we have Kane lay
the ground work and all I have to do is smile. Also, inform Gyrich
to move Excalibur over the Black Sea and see how Kirov likes that.
Nancy chuckled. A little show of force never hurt a thing.
Where are we going? Kyle asked as Peter led him through
the East Garden and along a path Kyle had never noticed before.
Its a surprise. Be patient. Peter said with an
Oh, great. Just what I need in my life. Another surprise.
Youll like this one, I promise. Peter threw an
arm across Kyles shoulder as they moved into a grove of trees.
I have a pretty good idea what youre dealing with, Kyle.
in a broader sense, at least. I remember when my powers
first began to manifest it was frightening.
Yeah, Kyle mumbled in agreement.
Dont worry. Well all be here to help, Kyle. Im
the big brother you never wanted. And Wes thinks the world of you.
Whitney and Clark, too. The most important thing to remember is
that you arent in this alone.
Kyle sighed and nodded. Guess I need to get used to being
hunted as well.
None of us can see the future, but youre not alone.
Peter hugged him again. Life has changed, but you are still
Kyle Raynor; artist, comedian, performer, and all around good guy.
Remember that as you come into these powers; you are still who you
were two months ago and two years ago.
They emerged from the grove a dozen yards away from a lonely tower.
Peter opened a hidden door at the base and took Kyle down a series
of steps, through rough-hewn corridors, and more steps. Kyle was
lost in the labyrinth, but Peter obviously knew where they were
going. They finally emerged into a huge cavern. It looked as natural
as the day God carved out the earth, but Kyle suspected the Luthor-Fordman-Kent
clan had made some modifications. Where are we?
Clark emerged from a passage that Kyle would have sworn wasnt
there a moment before. This is our hidden training area, Kyle,
Clark told him. Its completely shielded. You can exhibit
pretty much any kind of power down here without fear of being detected.
Wow. Cool, Kyle said, wondering what kind of power
Clark exercised down here. He knew better than to push his luck
by asking, though. I really appreciate it, but so far my only
power is having really freaky nightmares.
True, Clark allowed, but that shouldnt
keep you from training. Peter is going to be your mentor, and there
are others at Professor Xaviers school who can help you develop
skills that will come in handy if you do begin to exhibit powers.
Whats most important is that you understand youre
not alone, Peter told him. You have friends.
Kyle knew they meant it. They were investing a lot of trust in
him just by letting him know this place existed. They talked for
a few more minutes, then Clark and Whitney left Kyle in Peters
This place is massive, Kyle said when they were gone.
I wonder what surprises exist here?
Peter laughed and cuffed Kyle on the back of the head. Very
subtle. Dont it push, kid. He tapped his wrist. Until
you get one of these bracelets, you dont get let into the
Raven Darkholm was working in her lab as usual, but the files she
was accessing were well above her security clearance. Since her
visit to the White House for the Luthor Wedding shed been
on edge. Though she couldnt have explained why, everything
in her past had trained her to pay attention to her instincts. Information
was the only weapon she had against the mounting fear that the noose
was tightening around Magnetos neck.
She had cautiously but systematically purloined security IDs and
passwords from colleagues in every department, which gave her access
to almost every security level in the building and beyond.
That made hiding her trail possible, but it was dangerous to use
any of the stolen identities from her work station. She had little
choice, though, since SHIELD was getting closer to the Brotherhood
and by extension, Magneto.
The information she found on the Society for Justice was interesting
and she downloaded it to a secure drive. A chunk of Luthor pals,
Ultimate multimillionaires, and goody-goody Uncle Tom
mutants were the main members. The Xavier School was also involved,
but getting to Xavier would be difficult under ideal circumstances;
that campus had four psychics on the grounds and Mystiques
abilities could only hamper telepathy, not completely evade it.
Infiltrating the campus would be easy, but evading detection by
uber psychics Jean Grey and Charles Xavier was too dangerous to
The information SHIELD had collected on the Society did point her
in several interesting directions that were well worth exploiting.
Most members were wealthy and very connected. There was a good chance
that their secrets could be used as blackmail against the President
to keep Magneto from being captured, or if SHIELD got him, executed.
There were other matters that SHIELD had going as well, but she
could only do so much. For now, Raven had her hands full trying
to figure out what SHIELD was doing and how to keep the Brotherhood
one step ahead.
The index of the membership of the Society didnt lend itself
to easy targets at first glance. Diana Prince or Oliver Queen;
one of them should be easier than the rest to crack. Which one though?
Alarms went off and she logged off her computer and quickly checked
her PDA for alerts. AIR CARRIERS EXCALIBUR AND EXCELSIOR deploying
to Black Sea. All SHIELD operations are now at level 2.
She frowned and put her PDA down. I have to hurry and
use this time to figure out what else is going on. Most of SHIELD
is busy doing other things. Ill have a few days window and
that is it.