8/21/10

Chuck versus LuthorCorp

Chapter 7

Part 1

Sarah stared at her reflection in the mirror. Or what would have been her reflection in the good old days before she had received the green ring.

It had been three months since the ring had selected her back on Earth in the storage room deep within Fort Knox. And it had been fourteen days since the Guardians had finally held their conclave where her worthiness to be accepted into the Green Lantern Corp had been one of the items on the agenda. With a lot of hard work, preparation, and the support of a couple of Guardians, she had successfully argued her case.

So finally, after months of studying and nearly countless hours in the Hazard Simulation Facility rather than the real training she should have been undergoing, she had gotten her ring back. And it had almost surprised her that after only possessing the ring for three days before it had been taken away for seventy-six days, it still felt like the two of them had been connected almost forever. Even if she hadn't had physical possession of the ring, its semi-sentient A.I. system had been able to talk to her mind from time to time. And sometimes she wondered if it hadn't been the A.I.'s efforts that had swayed the Guardians, both by providing her the necessary data to support her argument and, she suspected, lobbying the Guardians directly.

But regardless of what had been the deciding factor, Sarah had the ring back now and she was determined to never be parted from it again.

And now that her training could really move forward, Kilowog, her mentor, had immediately begun field work. So here she was on the planet, Zerbon; the third planet they had visited in the last two weeks.

She had expected the training to focus on the 'weapon' side of the ring's capabilities, but Kilowog had surprised her. He contended projecting the giant green energy constructs were easy for anyone with the mental strength and willpower to be selected by the ring and therefore needn't be the focus of her training. And she had to agree based on her ability to create giant fists, flyswatters, and protective spheres within minutes of receiving the ring. Therefore most of their training involved mastering other aspects of the ring's powers.

So that was why Sarah now found herself staring into a mirror and looking at the large, sapphire-colored, gilled creature staring back at her. Today's training exercise involved the simultaneous use of several of the unique abilities bestowed by the ring, which was a test of her ability to stretch her willpower in multiple directions at once.

First, the ring allowed the user to change their physical size. Kilowog had told stories of being reduced to microscopic size for a couple of missions, but today wasn't going to be anything so extreme. Sarah had increased her size until she was nine feet tall and weighed three hundred twenty-five pounds. And she couldn't suppress a small smile as she glanced over at Kilowog, who was now shrunk to a mere four and a half feet and one hundred fifty pounds. It was fun to dwarf him for a change.

Second, this was a test of her ability to project a holographic disguise. This had turned out to be much harder to master than changing her size, as it seemed to continuously require an appreciable portion of her attention to maintain. It wasn't until her A.I. had shown her how to offload most of the task to it that she had been able to maintain a disguise while doing more than staring blankly at a mirror or a wall. As she turned her attention down at her hands, she was glad the disguise was just a very effective hologram. For it would have been extremely difficult to wear her ring, if the fully webbed hands she was seeing were real.

And finally, she had to maintain a force field which would allow her to breathe in this aquatic environment. It was hard to believe the Zerbonians had managed to develop a technologically advanced civilization completely underwater, but she had learned in her studies that far more improbable civilizations had developed across the last five billion years and 6.4 x 10^22 known stellar systems.

"Enough looking in the mirror, already," said Kilowog, although just like his appearance, his normal gravelly voice had been softened to match their disguises. "Your appearance will pass inspection for today's training exercise."

"And what is today's exercise?" asked Sarah, as she glided towards the room's exit in Kilowog's wake. And moving added one more aspect to the things she was controlling simultaneously through the ring's powers. Her external appearance might look Zerbonian, but her true body had never been optimized for movement underwater and therefore most of her forward motion was achieved through use of the ring rather than by stroking with her arms and legs.

Kilowog paused to look back at her and she once more had to work not to gape at his appearance. He now looked like a cross between Admiral Ackbar, the bug-eyed fish creature from 'Return of the Jedi', and the mythical Medusa with hundreds of squiggling tentacles in place of hair. She knew from what she had seen in the mirror that her outward appearance was similar and it was enough to send shivers down her spine. She knew Chuck would be eating up this adventure, but if she had known before she had put on the ring that she would end up looking like some fish creature from a late night horror show on a planet half way across the universe, she really wondered if she would have put it on.

And Sarah felt sort of disappointed she was still halfway across the universe from Earth. The Guardians had divided the known universe into 3600 sectors to each of which were assigned two Green Lanterns, plus, of course, the Green Lanterns 'without portfolio' who went wherever the need was the greatest. So when she had learned today's exercise was going to be on Zerbon, she had looked it up and discovered it was in sector 2816, the same as Earth, she had been so happy. If she wasn't allowed to go home yet, at least she would be in the immediate area. But then she had checked further and discovered how the Guardians divided up the Universe didn't follow any logic she could see. No, sector 2816 encompassed parts of, but not all of 25,612 galaxies. In fact, her own Milky Way galaxy was split between no less than 47 sectors. So even though Zerbon was in the same sector as Earth, she was still 425 million light years from home and though a light year was a unit of distance she had a hard time grasping, she knew it was one helluva long way.

And after three months of being stranded in a place millions of light years from home, she had to admit her homesickness was getting steadily worse rather than better. Oh, it wasn't like she had hundreds or even tens of close friends she missed talking to on a daily basis. No, her work and perhaps even her personality, if she was truthful with herself, precluded her from maintaining lots of long term relationships. But not seeing a single human for months was carrying things to the extreme. She would love to spend a few minutes in quiet conversation with Chuck, but she was almost ready to settle for a few minutes with Jeff and Lester, even if Lester would spend the whole time staring at her chest without a hint of remorse.

"We are here to assist the Zerbonians in an investigation," announced Kilowog, breaking through her thoughts of Earth and her meager handful of friends and acquaintances. "One of their leading scientists was found dead under suspicious circumstances and foul play is suspected. The Zerbonians are generally a peaceable race and this is potentially their first murder in over forty years, which is why the Lanterns have been called in."

For a moment Sarah couldn't help picturing an oversized version of one of the goldfish she had had as a girl. She hadn't had a 'green thumb' or whatever the equivalent term was for the ability of maintaining a thriving aquarium. No, in the two years she had had it before giving up; she had seen more than her fair share of dead fish floating upside down at the top of the tank or at the bottom partially eaten by the others. She shuddered at the thought of seeing a dead Zerbonian, even though she had seen a lot of dead humans during her tenure with the C.I.A.

Trying to force her mind back to the situation, Sarah asked, "If it's that important, why all the rigmarole with changing sizes and wearing disguises? I mean wouldn't it be more appropriate to appear in our normal Green Lantern gear to 'wave the flag' so to speak?"

Before Kilowog responded they passed out of the room they had been using and the abrupt drop-off once again took Sarah's breath away. She had used the ring's power to fly a few more times since the initial time during their escape from Fort Knox. And it had always been a case of lifting off from relatively level ground. However this time, while she wasn't exactly flying – more like some cross between flying and swimming, it felt like she had just stepped off a thousand foot cliff. A sense of falling sent her heart racing and she forced herself to focus on Kilowog's back to fight off the vertigo.

Went she felt a little more under control, she looked around. She had always thought of New York as a three dimensional city with its row after row of towering skyscrapers. But now she realized it was at best a two-and-a-half dimension city compared to this metropolis designed for swimmers. Every level of every structure had exits to the surrounding ocean and none of them, no matter how tall, contained a single elevator. And the design wasn't all tall buildings separated by uniform rows of streets. No, the structures were at least as tall as the Empire State Building back home, but they all flowed together in a freeform structure that reminded her of some spots she had seen in Australia's Great Barrier Reef when she had managed to dive there with Bryce three years earlier during a break between a couple of Far East assignments. Of course, there were a couple of big differences – everything here seemed to be scaled up by a factor of one hundred compared to what she had seen before and the shark-sized creatures she was seeing here were all civilized and quasi-humanoid.

"The Zerbonians are extremely xenophobic," Kilowog said in answer to her question through the communication channel provided by their rings. "From my experience, it is the same with most aquatic-based life forms. They simply don't look out towards the stars in the same way as air breathers. So while they have known about the existence of other civilizations for millennia, very few of them have ever ventured off planet. And most of them are even uncomfortable dealing face-to-face with members of other species. So, when members of the Corp need to be on-planet, we try to blend in."

As Kilowog led them away from their room and into one of the twisting and turning tunnels that served as thoroughfares here, Sarah tried to mull over his words. But she found her head swiveling around seemly of its own accord to help her take in all the almost impossible sights. When they had arrived from Oa in the green transport beam a mere twenty-five minutes earlier, there hadn't been time for sightseeing. No, Kilowog had been concerned about her ability to maintain an invisibility shield for any length of time after the shock of intergalactic translation. And while the invisibility shield was just a variation of the holographic disguise shield they were currently maintaining, it seemed to require ten or even twenty times the effort and willpower to hold in place.

When she had first learned of the invisibility aspect of the ring's power, it had sounded so cool, and it still was. But she knew Morgan would have gotten a lot bigger kick from it than she did. And she could just picture the first thing Morgan would do if he suddenly had the ability to become invisible – he would head straight for the Staples Center and the Laker Girls' locker room. For just a second she had to wonder what Chuck's first destination would be if he suddenly had that ability. A secret little voice in her head hoped it would be her bedroom or perhaps her shower with its clear glass door.

And abruptly she felt her eyes tear up as her thoughts drifted back to Chuck and her other friends. God, she so desperately yearned to go home. The ring was important to her and she understood she needed it and this training in how best to use it for the potential dangers she and her planet might one day face, but without anyone she truly cared about to share it with, it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain her enthusiasm.

At least being underwater behind a holographic disguise should hide her tears she thought with a small, rueful smile, as she fought to get herself under control by focusing on their surroundings. They were just exiting the tunnel they had been following and as they swam out into the sprawling space beyond, Sarah realized it was much more brilliantly lit then the location from where they had begun. Glancing up, she saw the sparkling, frothy surface of the water a mere hundred feet away. Apparently, the twisting, turning tunnel they had been following had trended up.

Kilowog immediately set off on a diagonal, slightly downward course that indicated he knew exactly where he was going. Sarah wasn't sure if this meant he had been here before, or if he had received instructions, or if it was another ability of the ring she hadn't yet learned.

Quickly they approached a massive structure that seemed to stand slightly apart from the other structures she had seen. And somehow, even if it was millions of light years from home, it still managed to radiate a feeling of power and authority.

"What is this place?" asked Sarah, as they approached the imposing edifice.

"It is the regional government center. They don't have anything quite like police or police stations or morgues like you are probably used to. So this is where they have brought the body for our inspection."

Apparently there wasn't going to be any way of avoiding looking at the body, thought Sarah as she followed Kilowog through the structure's largest entrance. Just inside they were met by a Zerbonian of similar size and coloring to what Kilowog was displaying in his current disguise. As soon as he began speaking, Sarah discovered he was also male and suddenly she realized this species was like some of the insect species back home; the females were all about twice the size of the males.

After the introductions were made, their guide turned and swam deeper into the structure. As they followed, Sarah asked through their communication link, "Kilowog, why did we have to adjust our physical size? I mean the holographic images we are projecting would work just as well if we were our ordinary size."

Kilowog glanced over at her, although the hologram obscured most of the gesture and turned it into a mere swiveling of the nearer eye on its somewhat protruding eyestalk. "My experience is that a sense of size is important in how we interact with others. I am sure you have experienced how you behave subtly different with people who are much shorter or taller than yourself, for example when dealing with much larger opponents. Your size colors your response whether you are fully aware of it on a conscious level or not. On this world the female is the dominant half of the species and you need to subconsciously project the appropriate body language when dealing with the Zerbonians. The ring will do its part with the disguises, but I find being of the right physical scale helps maintain the proper frame of mind."

Sarah quickly read between the lines and grinned, although she wasn't sure how the grin would be filtered through her disguise or even if it could. The Zerbonians' faces certainly weren't as mobile or fluid as her own.

"Are you saying I'm in charge while we are here?"

"You will have to project the image of being in charge," answered Kilowog. "Fortunately, a female would never deign to interact with any male except her own consort. And since the males attend to most of the mundane tasks of the civilization, you probably won't have to deal with anyone directly while we are here."

Sarah couldn't keep the mirth out of her voice as she responded. "So the men do all the drudge jobs here? I think I am beginning to like this world."

But her brief vision of what life would be like back home if Chuck, Casey, and all the other guys kowtowed to her slightest whim quickly faded as their guide led them into the chamber with the body.

Due to its dorsal fins, the body was lying partially twisted on its side on top of a table rather than flat on its back like a human would in a morgue back home. And it was large, at least as large as herself, which made it female. Sarah remembered Kilowog's earlier comment about the victim being a leading scientist, so obviously scientific work was not beneath the females of the species.

Slowly Sarah circled the table. The first thing that registered were the straps holding the body down – of course unlike back home gravity alone might not be sufficient to hold the body in place in this aquatic environment.

And then the next thing she noticed was the large gash in the creature's side, a large wound from which fluids were still oozing before slowly dispersing into the surrounding water. Sarah was suddenly thankful for the ring's force field. She had been in enough morgues in her life for the distinct overpowering antiseptic smell to spring to mind. But then she realized here it wouldn't be smell but taste that would be involved, if she was actually a water-breather like these creatures. She almost gagged at the thought as she glanced at the guide and realized he was hanging well back by the entrance and that the room had a distinct current moving away from the doorway and towards a large vent in the opposite wall.

"So, are you ready to speak to the dead?" asked Kilowog.

"What?" exclaimed Sarah, as she turned to her mentor. An extremely creepy chill was suddenly running down her spine.

"The ring can reconnect and reactivate the synapses of a brain that hasn't been dead for more than a few hours. You just need to rest your hand on her forehead and, like everything else, with the proper exertion of your will through the ring, it will happen. It is the quickest way to discover what caused her death."

Sarah's gaze swung between the body and her ringed hand. She had absolutely no desire to touch the dead creature let alone try to reach into its mind.

For a moment she was frozen in place and her thoughts flickered back to the day she had met Lana Lang, the day that had ultimately turned out to be her own last day on Earth for the foreseeable future. When she had seen Lana throw around large men in the stained glass store without even touching them, it had been so bizarre and unexpected it had felt like her life had jumped into the Twilight Zone. But now here she was millions of light years from home looking like some grotesque parody of a mermaid and about to reach into the mind of a dead alien. What she wouldn't give to go back to the now seemingly simple life of witches and metahumans!

Part 2

Chuck stared out through one of the ten foot tall, panoramic windows lining the west wall of Lana's condo. The sun was just setting and from here on the nineteenth floor of the building a sliver of ocean was visible along the western horizon. And for the moment the sliver was a blindingly bright orange as though it was on fire.

It was less than twenty-four hours since he, Gordon, and Casey had returned from Gotham City. Lana had invited them over for dinner so she could get an update on their search for the elusive Lex Luthor.

After the events at Fort Knox and since she was the former Mrs. Lex Luthor, General Beckman had agreed to let them pool resources with Lana on this one aspect of the Intersect mission. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, that left a lot of gray area. Surprisingly, Gordon had gone with an extremely liberal interpretation, but then it might be one more aspect of her F.B.I background versus the C.I.A., N.S.A., and military intelligence backgrounds of everyone Chuck had dealt with before she joined the team.

Chuck wondered if the liberal interpretation was going to extend to Bruce Wayne and Wayne Industries. He had been momentarily shocked when he had flashed on Wayne during the gala ball at his palatial home, but then once he thought about it; he realized he shouldn't have been surprised. Like Lana Lang and Oliver Queen, probably every billionaire in the country would rate a mention in the Intersect. And all three, who were the only billionaires he had ever met, had their fingers in various areas of high-tech research that truly warranted their inclusion.

And Wayne Industries seemed to be involved in even more bleeding edge technologies than either Queen Industries or LuthorCorp. Nanotech, fusion power, stealth and camouflage materials tech, A.I. research, advanced communication theory – Wayne Industries was heavily involved with them all.

Most worrisome was the fact his 'flash' had brought to light several possible connections between Wayne Industries' subsidiary companies and some of the technology used in the warbots they had encountered at Fort Knox – connections never previously uncovered even after three months of research by the General's staff.

Was Wayne involved with the people who had made a play that night for the Green Lantern ring? Or had someone merely contracted certain details of the design and fabrication of the bots to his companies, much in the same way some of it had come from Queen Industries?

Since Diana had been at the gala, too, and she had been looking for Wayne's assistance in some of her work, Chuck took it to be a sign Wayne might be one of the 'good guys'. However Diana had her own agenda, which she had never fully explained, so there was certainly the possibility she knew Wayne wasn't one of the 'good guys', but was using him anyway.

Chuck sighed and turned away from the window after the sun dropped the rest of the way below the horizon. Nothing had been clear and simple since the day he got saddled with the Intersect, so he shouldn't have been surprised Wayne's status wasn't obvious either.

"Dinner's ready," called Lana from the far side of the room.

Chuck couldn't help but glance around again as he turned in the direction of the dining table. The condo had an open floor plan to maximize the feeling of space. The dining area was at one end of the living room, not unlike his apartment. But the comparison ended there. This dining/living room combination had to measure at least forty by forty feet compared to the similar twelve by sixteen foot space in his apartment. And the walls of his apartment were covered by cheap framed posters, mostly movie posters from classic sci-fi and horror shows. But Lana's walls were adorned with real works of art like something straight from the Getty.

He had just reached the table, at roughly the same moment as Lana and Gordon arrived from the kitchen and Casey arrived from the liquor cabinet carrying an expensive looking glass filled with some rich amber-colored liquor, when Lana's cell phone began to ring. It was playing the 'I Dream of Jeannie' theme song Chuck knew indicated the call was from her friend Chloe Sullivan. Less than five seconds later, before Lana even had time to set down the platter of 'Swordfish a la Siciliana' she was carrying to free up a hand, Gordon and Casey's phones also began to trill.

Something must be going on, thought Chuck. Whatever it was, he was almost a little annoyed no one felt he rated a similar call.

He stared expectantly at the others and Lana was the first one to respond. But rather than saying anything, she dashed across the room and grabbed up the remote for the 102" plasma TV mounted on the far wall. Being a geek at heart, it had been that TV which had impressed him the most the first time he had entered Lana's condo.

It took fifteen seconds for the giant display to come to life and then Lana immediately switched it to CNN and hit the record button on the attached DVR.

The customary CNN icon was displayed in the lower right corner of the image. The lower left corner stated 'Live from Metropolis'. But none of them noticed these standard attributes of all news channels. No, what absorbed all of their attention was the central image of Lex Luthor standing at a small podium in front of some high rise office building. With the time zone difference, it had to be 10 P.M. in Metropolis, but Luthor was well-lit by floodlights indicating this was some planned event. And, from what Lana had told him over the last few months about Luthor's personality; it made sense. If he was announcing his apparent return from the dead, he would time it to coincide with the late night news' time slot for the East coast and the Midwest.

". . . and finally I want to thank you for attending on such short notice. The upcoming days should be an exciting time for the city of Metropolis and the entire country. Once again, thank you," Lex Luthor was saying in conclusion, as the sound kicked in. There was a clamor of questions from the assembled reporters, but Luthor just gave a polite nod and wave before stepping back from the podium.

Lana stared almost in shock at the image of Lex on the screen. She had always suspected he was still alive. Gordon and her team had finally gotten forensic evidence to support her case. But it wasn't the same thing as seeing him in the flesh.

And Lex looked like his old self. There hadn't been any photos of Lex since before the events up in the Artic, but rumor had it he had been severely injured and permanently maimed. But that obviously wasn't the case now. Immediately, her thoughts flashed to her Prometheus nanosuit. Was Lex now equipped with one or something similar? Or had all the rumors been a simple ruse initiated by Lex to convince his enemies he and his situation were weaker than they really were?

Since they had missed the gist of Lex's remarks, as he had obviously announced more than his simple return, Lana was about to hit the rewind on the DVR to back it up to the beginning when she saw Lex walk over to join two people standing at the edge of the small raised area behind the podium. Immediately, she hit the pause button rather than the rewind button on the remote.

The pair were a middle aged man and a young girl of perhaps fourteen or fifteen. The man didn't ring any bells with her, but the girl looked startlingly familiar. It was one of those weird times were the person looked almost too familiar to fully register, so it was Casey who was the first to speak.

"Damn, except for the dark red hair, the girl could be a younger version of you, Lana."

Lana stared at the image and realized he was right. With the slightly asymmetric features all faces possess, it was more like looking at a photo of herself rather than the image she saw every day in the mirror. And between that and the auburn hair, she hadn't instantly made the connection.

"Why the hell would Lex be parading a clone of me around in public? I know he has the technology to do it, as I stole an earlier clone from him when I needed to fake my death to get away from him. So a select few of us know he has the tech, but why be so blatant about it? Certainly someone who sees this footage is going to make the connection and start asking questions."

Chuck, too, had been staring at the image of the girl. And then abruptly a detail from the 'flash' he experienced on the first day he had met Lana all those months ago popped to the front of his mind. Without even thinking it through, he simply blurted it out.

"I don't think that's a clone. I think she's your daughter."

Lana, Gordon, and Casey all turned away from the screen and stared at Chuck.

"Daughter?" asked Lana in a small, momentarily uncomprehending voice. "I don't have a daughter."

"Remember when you told me about your miscarriage way back on the first day we met? The Intersect contains conflicting data supporting three different versions of the events. The first version indicated you never had a miscarriage and the pregnancy was strictly a fabrication to get Lex to marry you. The second version indicated you had been pregnant and cloning technology had been involved. The third version hinted the fetus had been at least partially alien and had been removed and re-implanted in a secret host to be brought to term."

"And you're just telling me this now?" demanded Lana in a tone close to anger. Although whether she was angry with Chuck or Lex or herself wasn't clear.

Chuck gave a small shrug while a hangdog expression spread across his face. "Sorry, but at the time I didn't know if you were one of the good guys and I couldn't reveal the information without revealing the Intersect. Then, well, nothing ever came up again to trigger that memory. Sorry."

"Lana, you're what? 24? How could you have a fifteen year old daughter?" asked Casey in a quiet voice.

They all turned back to look at the image frozen on the screen.

"My miscarriage or at least what I thought was a miscarriage was only three years ago. Lex must have used some of his cloning tech to accelerate her growth."

"Wait a second," interrupted Gordon. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves. All we have is some obscure reference from the Intersect that you might not have had a miscarriage. It's a big jump to say the girl is your daughter."

"No," said Lana with a small shake of her head. "I simply 'know' Chuck is right. She is my daughter."

"If you believe that part, then what about the other part stating she is at least partially alien?" asked Gordon.

Lana backed up a couple of steps and sank heavily into the deep leather sofa as the enormity of the situation suddenly hit her. She had suspected some of it at the time, but after she lost the baby she had forced herself not to think about it. But if Chuck knew about the alien aspect from an alternate source, then her worst fears were probably true.

Lana lowered her head into her hands before starting to speak in a quiet voice.

"That second part, about her being partially alien is probably true, too." Lana began. Then she forced her eyes up to meet the others before continuing. "Do you remember Black Thursday? She was conceived on that day.

"I don't think the true events of Black Thursday were ever completely known by anyone except myself and Lex, although a couple of my friends were involved and know some parts. And until now I didn't think Lex had any memories of the events, but obviously if he used the miscarriage as a cover to steal my unborn daughter, then he has known all along."

Lana climbed back to her feet and began to pace back and forth in front of the image still frozen on the TV. Sometimes walking helped her think and she had a lot to get straight in her head while she explained, as best she could, to the others.

"Chuck and Casey saw the Green Lanterns who escorted Sarah away, so they know aliens exist. Gordon you are going to have to trust me for the moment, but there are other aliens out there who from time to time visit Earth. And some of them are scarily powerful.

"One member of the race I am thinking of, they are called Kryptonians, took possession of Lex's mind, beginning a couple of days before Black Thursday. And while this being, his name was Zod, was in control of him, Lex's body manifested all the abilities of a native-born Kryptonian. If Lex's body possessed all their unique abilities of speed and strength and everything else, then it is not unbelievable he might be able to pass along those gifts to any offspring he produced during that time period."

"What was he trying to achieve on Black Thursday?" asked Casey, as he once again thought back to the events he had witnessed in Star City over three hundred miles from the epicenter in Metropolis.

"He was beginning the process of terraforming the Earth into a second Krypton. If he hadn't been stopped, he would have happily wiped out most of the human race leaving only a select few to act as personal slaves. He was also intending to use me and a few others as breeding stock to replenish the Kryptonian race."

"Why did he need to replenish his race?" asked Chuck. Lana had said almost no one knew the true story behind the events on Black Thursday and she had been right. All they had heard in L.A. was how Metropolis and the surrounding area had simultaneously experienced earthquakes from never-before-suspected fault lines and freak weather conditions which spawned over three hundred category 4 and 5 twisters within a hundred mile radius.

"The Kryptonian home world was destroyed as a result of a civil war. Only a handful of individuals, who were off-world at the time, survived."

"And how was he stopped on Black Thursday?" asked Chuck.

Lana pondered how to respond for a few seconds. It wasn't her place to divulge Clark's secret. When he was ready to go public, if that day ever came, it would have to be his decision. Still, her new friends were going to have to know at least part of the truth if they were going to be prepared for what she suspected her daughter might be capable of doing.

And Lana couldn't help but wonder what ideas Lex had been feeding into their daughter's mind. Was she going to be loyal to Lex and do whatever he requested? If she had even a fraction of the gifts Lana could imagine, she would be an unbelievably powerful asset for Lex in whatever mad scheme he was currently dreaming up. And she had to wonder if the girl even knew of Lana's existence. Getting in touch with the girl had just moved to the very top of her personal agenda.

Finally, Lana forced her thoughts back to Chuck's question. "There is another Kryptonian living on Earth, but I am not at liberty to divulge his identity. He was the one who ultimately defeated Zod, the Kryptonian in possession of Lex's body."

Gordon, who had been mostly listening and trying to comprehend the situation, now spoke up. "Lana, worst case scenario – what kind of abilities are we talking about for the girl?"

"Ah, the term 'god-like' comes to mind," began Lana with a small shake of her head. "Zod could fly and not just fly, but fly unbelievably fast like New York to L.A. in under a second. He was incredibly strong - as in picking up the Empire State Building and tossing it into outer space. He had heat vision which could burn through a foot thick block of steel in an instant. He had x-ray vision allowing him to see through solid objects and enhanced hearing at least a thousand times better than any human. As I said - 'god-like'."

Chuck stared at Lana, as his mind raced. He had read a lot of comic books in his time and he couldn't remember any single fictional superhero having so many gifts. And then just like that he remembered the conversation between Lana and Oliver Queen when they had all been across the road from Fort Knox and the giant spider robots had started parachuting down. One of them, he wasn't certain which but thought it was Queen, had made a comment about needing Clark and his big guns. The comment hadn't made any sense at the time, but suddenly the equation 'big guns equals god-like' made sense. Could the mysterious 'Clark' Lana had referred to on several occasions be the unnamed Kryptonian?

But now wasn't the time or place to bring it up since Lana obviously didn't want to divulge his identity. So instead, Chuck decided it might be best to try to lighten things up a bit.

"Is that all?" asked Chuck. "And here I thought we might be going up against someone really scary."

"She's my daughter, Chuck. I don't want to go up against her at all," responded Lana.

And saying 'she's my daughter' triggered another aspect of the situation that hadn't yet occurred to Lana. The girl was her daughter, which meant she might have also inherited the magical abilities which ran down the female line in her family. Lana herself hadn't ever accessed them except when Isobel was in control of her body, but the magic was there. And magic was one thing even Clark wasn't immune to. No, if the girl had inherited most or all of Zod's abilities plus Isobel's magic, she would be virtually unstoppable. One more reason, she needed to get in touch with her daughter before things escalated out of control.

"And that might not be all," continued Lana. "Those are the potential things she could have inherited from Zod. She also could have inherited special abilities from me." Lana paused to recall some of the things Isobel had done while the witch had been in control of her body. "She could be able to cast spells to control people's minds or inflict pain from a distance. She could be able to transmute metals. She could be able to travel through the astral planes. Hell, anything ever attributed to witches or wizards might be within her reach."

"Shit!" exclaimed Casey and the others couldn't do anything but nod in agreement.

Lana couldn't imagine how the situation could be any worse, but then her phone again began playing the 'I dream of Jeannie' theme song.

"Hey, Chloe," began Lana trying to keep the rising panic out of her voice.

"Lana, did you see who was there with Lex?" asked Chloe.

"You mean the girl? Yeah, we saw her and I think I know who she is," began Lana before she was interrupted by Chloe.

"No, not the girl," interjected Chloe.

Lana could hear the fear in her best friend's voice. Even without the advantage of Clark's gifts or her own nanosuit, almost nothing flustered the unflappable Chloe Sullivan. But Lana could hear panic in the other girl's voice she had never heard before.

"Lana, the other man with Lex, he's . . . he's Dr. Curtis Knox."

Now Lana understood Chloe's panic. Knox had tried to harvest organs from Chloe's Kryptonite altered body to rejuvenate his dying wife. And during Clark's search for Chloe's abductor, he had found evidence Knox was some kind of immortal. He had found photos, paintings, and sketches of the doctor extending into the distant past. And Knox always appeared to be associated with the most vile, ruthless rulers down through history. Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Maximilien Robespierre, Elizabeth Bathory, Vlad Tepes, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun – there was evidence Knox had been associated with all of them under an assortment of names. And now he was associated with Lex.

Perhaps things could get worse!

End of Chapter 7

Author's Notes

As I was writing the section about Sarah, a scene from near the beginning of many James Bond movies kept flashing through my head. It's the scene where Q would explain to Bond all the gadgets you would see later in the movie. I tried to spice up this part of the chapter in an attempt to make it more interesting, but like in the Bond movies, it felt necessary to me. Most of the animated movies I have seen that include the Green Lantern seem to focus almost exclusively on the giant green energy constructs and don't explore many of the other abilities attributed to the ring. There is a pretty long list of abilities available on wiki. I went through the list and selected a number of them I felt would be interesting to explore. I could have waited and sprung them on the reader later in the story, but I thought it would be better to introduce some of them now so it wouldn't be a case of 'where did that come from' later. Sarah is, after all, going through training now.

I think we will see Sarah in training situations once or twice more before she returns to Earth. There are a couple of other abilities and limitations I want to address plus the story hasn't quite reached the right spot for her return.

As usual, when I started this story I had no real idea where it was going to go. But now it is a lot clearer in my head. This is going to be my version of the Justice League origin story. And the situation needs to be pretty dire when none of the big guns - Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, or the Green Lantern thinks they can handle the situation alone and they are forced to band together. So while Lex Luthor, his daughter, and Curtis Knox (Vandal Savage) are pretty scary, I think we need a little more to make the bad guys feel like more of a threat than any of the Justice Leaguers could handle individually.

And speaking of Lex's daughter, it is interesting how a character who has never appeared on Smallville or in any of the Superman movies keeps creeping into my stories. Different variations of her have appeared in 'Kandor', 'Biological Families', and now here. I seem to have a real fascination with her. I think this is going to be my most powerful version of her yet. If she has inherited both Kryptonian strengths and magical powers, she is one of the few adversaries with the real potential to defeat Superman!

As always, I look forward to any thoughts or suggestions you would like to share.

Have a great day,

Duane