THE SUPERWOMAN FROM KRYPTON: THE ETERNAL COURSE (I)
Written by MalloryDyatlov59 :: [Tuesday, 28 March 2023 16:01] Last updated by :: [Friday, 31 March 2023 15:03]
This is the first chapter of my fanfic about Superwoman.
In this installment Clara Kent deals with the complications of the post-war and arms race, while Lex Luthor and Maxwell Lord get closer to an ancient evil.
For character context, introduction and fanart you can check here
Central Africa, April 27, 1948
It was not yet dawn. The four trucks of soldiers arrived in the village, about forty men in all. All armed with old but loaded rifles. Almost none of them were white, all were mercenaries. They were commanded by a blond man with an elegant face but with a frayed and dirty khaki uniform. The soldiers mounted their weapons and surrounded the straw and wood barracks where men, women and children crouched in fear.
Just two weeks before, the conflict had started in the region of Urangi. A belgian foreman had killed a child after he carelessly caused the collapse of a rudimentary wooden derrick in the mines, after this came the strike, three dead in the village of Zandi when the guard (they were nothing more than mercenaries) tried to break up a demonstration. The whole region had risen up demanding better working conditions, the replacement of the regional mercenary guard and the punishment of their leader, Pierre Reill, an elegant but unkempt and sinister man, who had appeared in Urangi only three years ago, before the end of the war, and who was rumored to be a Nazi collaborator in Belgium. However, Reill had gained the trust of the lazy and indifferent local governor, and was becoming the master of the region.
-Everyone comes out, we just want to talk and ask you a few questions. We just want to identify the criminals who destroyed the company's equipment and who are helping the communists. Hand them over to us and we will leave.
Reill repeated the message with little conviction, mixing French and the local dialect. It was not his intention to comply, he just wanted them to get out of the huts. No one listened to him, the wait was tense.
-Well, you know, break the doors, set fire to the roof, get them all out...then we'll select twenty and teach them a lesson.
The troops complied immediately. They smashed the doors and dragged or shoved the families out, poured some kerosene inside the barracks and the flames began to crackle. If they found a very old radio, a camera almost two decades old, a fountain pen or a steel pan, rare possessions in the region, they would carefully carry it away and deposit it in the vans. Reill and his men were also fond of looting.
They had not had to fire a single shot except into the air. Although the screams disturbed the dawn, the punitive operation was going smoothly for Reill, who was smiling almost happily. However everything changed when someone knocked down a mercenary with one blow using a wooden bar. Then they decided to shoot the crowd they were gathering against the only stone building in the locality, which served as school, bar, telegraph and radio station.
But before the bullets hit the crowd, in a split second impossible to determine, the bullets fell to the ground as drops of molten metal. At the same time a blue and red blur moved everywhere, throwing the guards to the ground and smashing their weapons, which flew in pieces through the air and fell to the ground as splinters and shattered pieces of metal. It all happened in just a second or two. Reill flew through the air and hit a wooden wall. As soon as he could sit up and open his eyes like the rest of his men, all the fires had been extinguished.
Barely two meters above them, standing between the crowd of the village and the guards, floated a woman with her arms crossed. She wore a dark, windblown, disheveled hair with a curl floating over her forehead. The woman stared almost furiously at them with her deep blue eyes, wore a wide bright red cape trimmed with gold that floated in the light breeze of dawn and a strange, very tight blue meshes that were impossible to identify if they were made of leather or metal, with a red and yellow symbol similar to a stylized letter "S" over the generous breast.
Reill cursed his luck. It had to happen, sooner or later, Superwoman would appear. It was inevitable, she was everywhere. Reill despised and feared her, who the hell was this super-powered flying woman who spoke at the newly created UN and appeared everywhere intervening in the slightest…but Reill also desired her and collected magazines where the superheroine appeared with her arms around her waist, flying or chatting with children.
The floating woman spoke in more or less correct French.
-I think you should leave immediately. You have tried to commit a massacre. I do not leave you in the hands of those who would have been your victims because I do not want a single dead person, and I do not tie you up with the bent barrels of your guns and hand you over to the authorities because I know it would be of no use at the moment. Return what you have stolen, and leave in haste before I regret it.
-I am the authority, there are criminals here who are planning assassinations, I am defending authority and the law.
Superwoman did not answer him, she landed softly and went to try to comfort some crying children or to help some elderly people to sit up. She tried to shake hands with some adults in the village but they looked at her with distrust or strangeness.
Who will they think I am...I can sense their distrust and nervousness," Superwoman sighed to herself. What she had just done was a mere stopgap. The conflicts and violence would continue. She was some kind of foreign savior from who knows where who would fly away in a few minutes. She had saved their lives but she was almost a footnote in an endless conflict. "He who saves one life saves the whole world" she sighed to herself remembering some words Louis once said to her. Sometimes she doubted if it was enough.
An elderly woman awkwardly made the sign of the cross for her and she bowed her head with a smile.
While Reill mumbled trying to get up from the ground, his mercenaries were taking the stolen items out of the vans with their heads down and trying not to make eye contact with the superheroine.
-If you have finished, leave immediately.
The mercenaries hurriedly mounted the vans as the locals insulted and cursed them. Reill was still on the ground cursing and bellowing, and threatening his mercenaries for leaving the place.
Superwoman walked over to him, and with one hand grabbed him by the arm and lifted him up.
-I'm afraid you're coming with me.
She had barely finished saying these words when they both rose at full speed and disappeared into the morning firmament.
In Sant Pierre sur Urangi, capital of the region, Prefect Ixelles was proudly tasting toast and jam without getting out of his soft bed, when a clatter sounded and someone threw a body on top of him. Cups with tea, coffee and milk flew, and the other body pushed him off the bed. They both rolled on the floor and when a terrified Ixelles could sit up, he realized that Pierre Reill was coughing in front of him.
-What the hell," Ixelles stammered, not understanding anything.
A beautiful woman in a red cape that he recognized instantly grabbed him by the collar of his pajamas and sat him on the bed.
-That man you have there is a monster and you know it...he has been on the verge of murdering men, women and children...I suspect it is not the first time he has done so. You know who I am...my advice, and it is only advice, is to get rid of him and send him back to Belgium...maybe there are people looking for him. I also advise you to apologize publicly for the repression of the last few days, demobilize that troop of mercenaries and negotiate with the strikers. I will not forget about you, if there is a single murder I will fly you and that monster tied up to Brussels and throw you on the Prime Minister's table.
Before the stunned prefect could respond, the red-caped lady had disappeared and the window curtains were fluttering as if they had just suffered a hurricane wind.
April 1948 was proving to be an unbearable month, thought Superwoman as she flew at full speed over the Atlantic. She was flying at such a speed that no human eye would have noticed anything except some strange and immediate disturbances in the shapes of the clouds.
She would arrive in Metropolis at nightfall, which meant more work and more patrolling all over the country. From preventing a hit-and-run or a liquor store robbery in Boston, to putting out a fire in Phoenix, clearing smoke from an old lady's house with a broken furnace in a Montana town and tossing a rapist to the cops in Milwaukee. That was an easy job.
In the last month Superwoman had had to intervene in Colombia, where she had not arrived in time to prevent the assassination of the opposition candidate but had been able to save civilians from the shootings and fires between gangs that followed the assassination... She had also had to intervene three times in the Middle East: once to lift with her arms and deposit-despite British protests-in the port of Tel Aviv a ship carrying three thousand Jewish refugees fleeing Romania, which had been left adrift in a storm, another to prevent a massacre of Palestinians in a village at the hands of Israeli troops, and yet another to prevent the murder of a convoy of Jewish nurses and doctors at the hands of Arab troops. In all cases she had followed the protocol she herself had proposed to President Truman and which he had reluctantly accepted: move the civilians away, disarm the aggressors and drive them at super speed to a prudently distant point. It was only a stopgap, but it saved lives. She had become a nuisance to governments and diplomats, a source of official complaints from foreign ministries, and for many she oscillated between heroine and villain in a matter of hours.
There was more to it, the post-war world was getting more and more complicated. In Indonesia she had had to disarm some Dutch soldiers in the same way as she had just done in Urangi, she had even had to do the same thing once with some American patrol in Japan that was abusing civilians. On the right side there was also reprehensible behavior. She had already had problems with the Soviet Union within months of starting to fly as Superwoman. Soviet troops were pushing a caravan of thousands of German refugees from East Prussia into an ice storm, it was the winter of 1946...she took to flying at super speed and using her laser beam vision to turn the icy storm into a fine warm rain. She spent several hours helping refugees and warming children. The Soviet troops, at first fearful, knew Superwoman would not stand up to them, so as the hours passed they started shooting her in the back or firing into the crowd to watch the bullets bounce off the superheroine's body and how she just responded with an icy stare. Pulling cats out of a tree or rescuing planes was a delight compared to avoiding attacks on civilians, when she felt alone and surrounded by mistrust...yet a single smile of thanks from a child made her burst with joy and she flew off with a big smile. No matter, duty was duty, and she truly believed in Love, Truth, Justice, and the American Way.
After several rescues, she entered at super-speed through one of the windows of the Planet Building, where the Daily Planet office was located, and emerged through the door of a file room dressed as Clara Josephine Kent. For a few minutes she was not the superheroine, but an assistant reporter, former nurse and former elementary school teacher, thirty years old, with a slight midwestern accent and a gentle but somewhat awkward manners. She wore her hair up in a sleek bun that she had managed to learn to do at super-speed after a thousand tries, a salmon-colored double-breasted suit jacket, a white shirt and a beige silk scarf around her neck, plus her trademark large horn-rimmed glasses.
Clara had no trouble moving around in her super suit and cape under her normal clothes. The Superwoman uniform, actually a ceremonial Kryptonian costume, fit her body perfectly and was extraordinarily thin and sturdy, made of a kind of super-soft metallic fabric. Clara felt in it simply as if she were wearing a silk bodice under her clothes. Moreover, the cape-which was not exactly small-and the sleeves could be folded over and over, and it was so thin that no one could notice that she was wearing it underneath. Only if she folded the top of the suit and the crest-the symbol of the house of El-which people mistook for an S-as she did if she wanted to wear a short dress or cleavage, did the supersuit begin to bulge. Once, at a cocktail party, Patricia Lane-Louis's wife-had mischievously asked her if she wore a cummerbund under her evening gown and she had blushed so much that she feared the dress would come out on fire.
Clara trotted toward her office-there he will be, there he is, the highlight of the day-indeed she checked with her X-ray vision, there was Louis Lane, the man she had long ago acknowledged to herself that she loved and deeply desired, and with whom she had a relationship that long ago infuriated her and now she was beginning to accept.
-Good morning Louis
He came up to give her a kiss on the cheek and took her arm. He was a tall, elegant man, the mustache made him appear older, but he was only six years older than Clara, he had brown eyes that sometimes looked green, dark, curly hair like hers, which he disguised with hairspray and a look that although usually tired or sad sometimes threw flashes of joy or desire that drove Clara crazy.
-I think it's the first time I've arrived before you, I understand that means I'm losing authority.
-Oh Louis, don't be picky.
-Hey...the bus, a lot of traffic jam
-Well, never mind, I was reading the two articles you left on the table yesterday and I think we'll go with the one you wrote about interviewing refugees coming in from Europe, the one about your eternal fight with the police and whether or not they admit blacks into some departments we'll bring it out on Sunday...you know I don't agree with your approach and we are close to election season, but Perry liked it...the only thing is I would ask you to add that the police issue is the city council's issue and not the governor's.
-Are we back to "Dewey Planet" again?
-No, but it's the city council's problem, the state laws are clear.
-And they leave such a confusing margin of applicability that it is practically possible to skip them.
-I doubt it but if you want me to put that in the article I need you to talk to two lawyers and put their opinions. You're not a political editor or reporter, we have an editorial line and an obligation to contrast everything without demagoguery...you're lucky Perry wants you to run it that way. He's furious at the mayor for a thousand things and the civil rights issue is very sensitive to him lately, and you're lucky he's kept Cat Grant away from anything that smells like politics for a few weeks
-Are you not concerned about it?
-Yes, and Dewey too, but there are forms and forms. There is no demagogy, Clara.
-I do not demagogue.
-You do activism that looks a lot like it.
-Exactly the same as you do.
Normally the political discussions ended up irritating Clara, who had little patience, but today Louis did nothing but smile as he confronted her, and she ended up answering him kindly and challenging.
-Not in my columns Clara, other side, I'm off tomorrow, I'm meeting with Dewey's campaign team.
-They're concerned about a couple of issues. They know me, they know Perry, they want to know my opinion and what we think the public thinks of a couple of relevant issues. I'm not going to be involved in the campaign at the same time I'm in the paper, but I think they want to get closer to our approach.
-What do you mean?
-This has just arrived-Louis handed her a sheet of typed paper with Associated Press letterhead.
"OFFICIAL COMPLAINT FROM THE BELGIAN GOVERNMENT ON SUPERWOMAN: The Belgian Foreign Minister has issued an official complaint this morning to the U.S. Ambassador over the activities of the U.S. citizen known as "Superwoman" who engages in heroic activities. According to the Belgian government, Superwoman yesterday captured a dangerous criminal under a false identity in the Congo but did so without properly alerting the authorities and violently breaking into the home of a local prefect. The Belgian government considers even such a service a violation of sovereignty and calls on the U.S. government to set a protocol for Superwoman's humanitarian actions outside the border."
Clara smiled-Well, they were quick to protest, but at least they recognized that Reill is a criminal-she said to herself.
-I don't understand Louis, what do you mean?
-Dewey has to modify his discourse on Superwoman. The electorate most suspicious of Superwoman seems to prefer him to Truman, except in the South where they prefer Thurmond and the more left-leaning ones who prefer Wallace. But the liberal and moderate conservative who are wary of Superwoman support Dewey. Those voters consider Truman is letting a super-powered alien do whatever she wants...Dewey has promoted and supported her a lot, now he wants to nuance his position, he's not going to go anti-Superwoman unfortunately but he is going to ask Congress to legislate about it. That woman can't be guarded only by three or four goodwill notes from the President, the Pope, the UN and Stalin.
Clara sat back and sighed and looked at Louis gloomily...her red cape was an impassable wall standing between the two of them...it seemed to her an iron wall, actually stronger than Louis' failed but almost unbreakable Catholic marriage.
-They are interested in my opinion, and well, informally they want me to help them with the speech on the subject. I will do it of course. It is possible that I will speak on the radio, on KBBL about it, but the newspaper is not related and I will not publish anything about it here.
-Oki douki," said Clara wearily, trying to be polite.
Why won't he understand anything, why will he distrust me so, why does he obstinately see me as a danger...why is he so hypocritical...the times I have saved him, everything that has been about to happen between us...I have felt his desire when I have carried him in my arms, and he obstinately refuses me...and how can he not realize that it is me...how can he look into the eyes of both of us and not see that there is only one woman...why is he so hypocritical?
Clara tried to change the subject-what do we have today?
-Don't you remember?
-Let's have lunch with that scientist you say your dear friend Bruce Wayne got you - here Louis sounded harsh - let's see what he tells us about the Rand Corporation that is going to be created and the relationship between Luthor and Maxwell Lord.
-That's right, Smotrich
-I had forgotten all about it. Clara was thrilled. A scientist who had worked for Wayne Industries and then for the government had been fired for political reasons, had gone to Bruce for help, and Bruce had slyly recommended, among other things, that he should talk to a friend in the press.
-It can be a good story, a great story.
-Prudence Clara, a lot of prudence....
-I have Mr. Wayne's word of honor that Smotrich is not a communist and that he has been the victim of an injustice.
-If he were a communist, it would seem to you the same injustice, and we cannot be the loudspeaker of personal revenge, let's see what he tells us, but with maximum caution.
-It may be of interest to the public that in military research, injustices and excesses are committed....
-Of course, and three-quarters of the public would find it reasonable to do so. We’ve just come out of one war and we're already looking at another...people are just quiet because now there's the girl in the red cape....
-Whatever, Louis” now she was really exasperated.
-Well, enough, since we have our articles for the week ready, why don't you spend the morning walking around and having breakfast with your boss until we meet with the mad scientist?
-Oh Louis," Clara's eyes lit up.
Louis and Clara had breakfast and walked around Battery Park discussing books and some politics. She was also entertained by some mothers and their babies which she found adorable-she dreamed of being a mother, but it was getting farther and farther away-then she argued with Louis because he pretended to have a whiskey at eleven in the morning. Cleverly Clara took advantage of the anger to sneak out and act as Superwoman to rescue the injured from a car crash. She returned after ten minutes but had to repeat the same twice more times, using the excuse that she had to go to the toilet or that she had to phone Smotrich. On the way back Louis had bought her a silk handkerchief as a gift from a peddler and an old book by Maria Abdy, a 19th century English poet of religion and politics who Louis found very amusing. Sometimes a morning with Louis was a transition between anger and happiness, but she was not the most patient woman in the world with men either.
We are like two teenagers...sometimes I look like his mother and he is an unbearable man, but at other times he is charming...and he is an excellent father.
-You can't complain about how much I pamper you, Clara, even during the election period.
-I don't need you to pamper me Louis
-I don't want you to leave for the Metropolis Times.
-Why would I leave for the Times?
-Maybe you're sick and tired of being a righty like us and putting up with me," laughed Louis.
-You're the only one who's a jerk, and I think I can handle you.
Since a few months ago many barriers had been broken between them and they showed each other in public with little propriety. Nothing had really happened; they did not even hold hands in public. Just one day, two years after meeting her and having her in his office, Louis told her coldly after an absurd argument that she was a "crucial" person for him, she did not know what to answer. From then on, he started treating her with more affection and skipping any social conventions, she went along with it. They ate together every day unless duty called Superwoman, one or two evenings a week they went dancing at a hotel, and if his wife was away Clara would visit Louis' Park Avenue home to be with him and his daughter, Emily. Many people whispered about it and Pat Lane herself had angrily referred in public to Clara as her husband's auxiliary wife, she had heard it with her super-hearing. But Clara had long since not cared what people thought of her-much less the snobbish people of Metropolis among whom Louis moved and with whom she had no relationship-she had already had a bad time at school and high school. It was Louis who had changed and was letting go of social conventions, smiled more, and stopped being a taciturn or caustic man when he was around her. If only they were lovers Clara sighed, as more and more people believed, but the strange relationship they had made her happy. Louis and his daughter didn't understand it, but they were the superheroine's haven of peace, respite from the war, Clara's favorite refuge along with her mother's house. She couldn't ask Louis for more, that and not to drink. She would like to ask him to trust Superwoman too but that would take longer.
At half past twelve they arrived at the restaurant, a modest but well known Italian place that Clara had booked.
-We could have taken him to Harry's," said Louis.
-I don't think he wants to be seen in public, and Harry's is very expensive.
-I would have invited
-It's my source, it's on me
-It's absurd for you to invite, women can only invite their sons or other women, or even their fathers.
-Your treatment of good manners is horrible. And if you think it's so absurd you can raise my salary, Louis," said Clara, looking at Louis with an amused look.
-I tried twice, but it was blocked by Cat Grant this semester.
-You're getting into the habit of holding Cat responsible for everything, I'm going to start doubting soon.
Louis laughed and took Clara by the hand.
-You are beginning to have a sense of humor, how wonderful.
-There is Dr. Smotrich.
Dr. Smotrich was a short, thin man in his fifties, with a neat beard and Central European appearance. He shyly approached them
-A pleasure, Clara Kent of the Daily Planet, and Mr. Louis Lane.
-So much pleasure
The three sat at the table.
-You are Mr. Wayne's friend, right?
-Yes, it's like that, I have a very good relationship with him, and he trusts us a lot,” said Clara, Louis rolled his eyes.
-I worked for him and Lucius Fox until '42, he's a very nice man," the scientist began.
-I am very sorry for what has happened to you, Mr. Wayne has told me that you have been the victim of a great injustice.
-Something like that....
The scientist didn't seem very willing to talk, he was a shy man and often looked down at the table. Louis, who had a certain talent for making people feel comfortable, began a small talk by asking the scientist about his family and his time in Metropolis.
-I am Galitzian, when I was born it was still the Austro-Hungarian Empire, I have been in the United States since 1921, first in Detroit, then in California, then in Gotham and in Nevada....
-What a coincidence! My father's parents also came from Galitzia, from the town of Lemberg, perhaps you have heard of my great-grandfather, Dr. Ferdinand Lantzman," said Louis jovially.
-It rings a bell, but I'm not sure
-The surname is common, my grandparents came to Metropolis in 1880, Lane is Lantzman. I know many other families in Metropolis who come from Lemberg: Rottenberg, Ullman, Schlein...the Schleins have been here for many years but they still say they are tinsmiths from Galitziia, although now they only bring very annoying lawyers into the world...my good father, American one hundred percent, and he married an Irish shiksa, so I’m a jewish-catholic, the most difficult way to gain admission to a country club in this city
Smotrich laugh, he began to feel more comfortable. He knew the Schleins vaguely, one of whom had helped some relatives to gain American citizenship many years ago. Then he began to talk about his career, his years teaching in California and at Arkham University, the turbine work at Wayne Industries. Clara smiled and nodded. She envied Louis' people skills. She was too direct, fine for certain interviews and interrogations, but sometimes frightened her sources...she was only really good with children. Smotrich began to get into the subject matter gently prompted by Louis: how he was recruited by Oppenheimer, how two years ago he joined the AEC that oversaw atomic development...he explained it all with subtlety without wanting to go into too much detail, his voice getting softer and softer.
-But in July of last year, the problems began....
-Politicians? Clara asked
-Not exactly, last year as you know a government device, a balloon they say, crashed in Roswell.
-I remember," the reporter replied...she had tried to investigate as Superwoman as soon as she found out, but the president insisted it was a stupid balloon accident. She even flew to the crash site but it had already been cleaned up...there was nothing there. As Clara Kent she tried to start a journalistic investigation but ran into a wall of silence and ridicule, and Louis' refusal to look further into the case.
-Well, the first few moments were absolute panic in the strategic office where I was stationed, technically my position was at Berkeley and the AEC but I was working in an office that I can't tell you much about, but well, nuclear power.
-The people believed that '46 had happened again, that we were surrounded by aliens again, that maybe Superwoman hadn't wiped out all of them...but suddenly we were told it was a balloon and there was silence. But why did it take so long to tell us it was a balloon?
-I imagine it would be a strategic project that you didn't know about and belonged to another branch of the army," said Louis.
-I thought so, but I decided to keep quiet. A couple of months went by and I got a call from some superiors, I can't reveal rank or name...even if they mistreated me. They took me to Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, a private company. In the office I entered there were only military personnel, I didn't recognize any civilians. They made me sign some confidentiality documents...and they showed me some drawings. They were some kind of turbines placed under a circular structure, but they didn't make much sense and I couldn't help them. It didn't look human, honestly, it was quite strange...
-Maybe it was a Krpytonian device, from the invasion two years ago?
-No, I've seen pictures of the wreckage of the ships that Superwoman threw into space and it didn't have much to do with it, this was something else...do you know what Vimanas are?
-No," Clara replied intrigued.
-The flying ships of the Vedic war. Were a kind of flying circular castles according to the texts," said Louis.
-Exactly, it was something like that but with turbines. Since we know about the existence of Superwoman and what we saw in 46, it's forced to accept that they could have been real...
-So it was an alien device," Clara was becoming more and more intrigued and Louis looked at her with annoyance.
-Not necessarily. After the meeting at Douglas headquarters I forgot about it for a while, but about a month later we got a report from Europe. It was a series of poorly done clippings of "Nazi pseudoscience," taken from pseudoscientific publications that had been seized from low-level German laboratories. They were mere clippings without context, I don't know who had prepared them, nobody had supervised them. I was reviewing it when I suddenly came across an illustration almost identical to the one I had been shown at Douglas headquarters. The same circular structure with some turbines underneath, only it was a freehand drawing, barely a sketch. I tore it up, I think perhaps in a state of rage and went to General Hardy, this name is important, who was the one who had taken me to Douglas headquarters and asked him why we were using Nazi pseudoscience. Hardy ignored me completely. I think I lost my temper a bit, I don't know why but I was worried and started making calls to colleagues. Then I learned that the Rand Project of the Douglas Company had just become the Rand Corporation and with the promotion of General Curtis E. LeMay, General Hardy himself, Lex Luthor and an undesirable...Maxwell Lord...who had just entered Lockheed's capital and Douglas' capital with small stakes. Lord is an undesirable, a rich boy, an unhingedly ambitious person, a Nazi and an anti-Semite. Don't you remember anything about his campaign for neutrality in 1940 and his pro-Hitler comments in 1938? In theory he was marked, during the war he ran out of contracts with the Federal Government and now he reappeared at the Rand Corporation?
-What about Lex Luthor," Clara asked anxiously.
-I have nothing against Lex Luthor, he is the opposite of Lord, I am very surprised that he associates himself with Lord, but TELCORP is the most important company of connectors for aviation and jet engines, and there had always been talk of a merger with Lockheed and Douglas...but he is a straight man and a great scientist...I have written him, but he has not yet answered me.
Clara tried to hide her displeasure at hearing praise for Luthor with a nervous smile.
-What is the Rand Corporation?
-It was a research project on aviation techniques and strategy, I believe, for the Douglas Company. But it's grown tremendously in the last year. Just since Roswell...they're hiring a lot of people...and they get all kinds of funding. Supposedly they are not for profit but they in turn fund other weapons or aviation companies. It's a gigantic public-private entity.
-And what is the problem with this corporation? Clara asked
-The people inside and the secrecy. Maxwell Lord and Generals LeMay and Hardy are some of the founders...they are very extremist people, they want war with the USSR...but the one who got them the government authorization to go from a private public project to a kind of foundation was Lex Luthor, who is the one who has the trust of the government.
-This is interesting, we knew that Lord and Luthor had gone into Lockheed and Douglas together, and that Lord wanted to get back into the armaments business as Luthor wanted to get into the newspaper business. Also that Luthor had shelled out to Lord Industries several tens of millions of dollars to develop his prototype television and television antennas.
-Money calls money, Luthor needs money for research and Lord needs political protection and money just like that, and he knows the future is aviation and weaponry.
-But what does this have to do with the injustice you have been the victim of and what you have told us about the drawings of the strange ships?
-That's what I want to tell you now. Some members of the AEC we were invited to a meeting, those of us who had a background in aviation or turbines, but also magnetics, with the Rand Corporation, to introduce ourselves. It was organized by General Hardy himself. Those who were military were the same people who had had me review the drawings in the Santa Monica office. There were also two foreign men, they didn't talk, they were relatively young...one of them looked very familiar...and a blonde woman who was taking notes and they kept her out of the way, she also looked very familiar to me. I was quite suspicious of them. There were also some people who introduced themselves as employees of Lord, TELCORP, Lockheed. We didn't talk about anything relevant, generalities and technological rivalry with the Soviets. Days passed, then it dawned on me who were the woman and the man who sounded so familiar: Paula Von Gunther and Bruno Mannheim. The former is a nuclear physicist and the latter an aviation engineer. They were two convinced Nazis.
-Nazis? German scientists?
-Brilliant people but who spread terror in the German university before the war and then made essential contributions to the Nazi war effort. I flew into a rage and went to General Hardy, demanded to know why the Rand Corporation had Nazi scientists and whether we were developing Nazi technology or research. That it was dangerous, and we needed due control and authorization not only from the government but from the American people. He ignored me again. I then wrote a letter complaining and requesting that there should be an official visit by the AEC to the Area 51 facility in Nevada, which is the Rand Corporation's aeronautical testing facility. I sent the letter to Lex Luthor, Generals Hardy and LeMay, Oppenheimer and several other people. No one responded to me, only Oppenheimer, who told me that he was going through a similar situation and isolated...that there was nothing he could do. Then my misfortunes began. I got two security clearance withdrawals in a row, then I was asked to leave the office. I resigned from everything but the University, and a month ago I got a letter of dismissal and a summons for an internal investigation...I was accused of being a communist! I have never been involved in politics, I never even signed petitions for the Spanish war. They found me donating to Roosevelt's campaign in '36 and Willkie's campaign in '40. But they accused me of being a communist sympathizer, of pouring out anti-American opinions in my workplaces and of being related to a communist militant with whom I share a last name and whom I have never seen...they also presented a photo of me with several professors, one of them also a communist, as supposed proof of my involvement with communism.
Smotrich began to sigh and lament his fate. He didn't know much more and didn't want to talk about the drawings of the circular turbine ships. Clara tried to comfort him. Smotrich was calm because his daughter and wife still had jobs and he was a U.S. citizen and could never be deported. But he was terrified of political accusations. Wayne had promised to reinstate him in the company in a few months. Then he left in a hurry. Louis and Clara paid and walked outside somewhat dazed.
Clara was nervous about what she had heard and Louis thoughtfully with his head down.
-Do you believe him? Louis asked
-Of course I do. simply does not have a lot of coailing skills. The collaboration with Nazi scientists has already been leaked, and we knew Luthor and Lord were becoming partners. I didn't know about the Rand Corporation or that they are firing and pursuing with false accusations anyone who demands a modicum of accountability...and then there's Roswell....
-I wouldn't go that way Clara, it's clear that it was an accident of some secret prototype, you're not going to get anything out of it.
-What if it wasn't a prototype? What about the plans for those strange airships?
-Nazi madness. Some of the German scientists who have been integrated in our technological effort are trying to convince the government that we can travel in airships like those and somebody asked Dr. Smotrich for a second opinion. There's a lot of frustration because Superwoman destroyed all the technology left behind by the Kryptonians in 1946. Anything that smells strange or alien is going to be investigated and taken seriously.
-Big businessmen collaborating with disreputable military, Nazi scientists and experiments, an opaque foundation, political persecution... I think it's news.
-The first news dear Clara is that Lockheed, Douglas and TELCORP are collaborating and in a possible merger, that Maxwell Lord is landing in the armament industry and that the meeting point for all is the Rand Corporation, which has a test field in Nevada. That is the news. With that we stir the waters and see how they breathe about it. They're not going to deny it. Then you can start asking about Nazi scientists. Prudence.
-I'm going to call two or three congressmen on the defense committee, I want to get confirmation that there is a field in Nevada.
-They will deny it, but it is a statement that we can put, that we have contrasted with other sources.
-What about Dr. Smotrich?
-They're going to chase him, and I hope they didn't follow him today and saw him talking to us....
Clara took Louis by the hand. Nazis, Luthor, Lord, the army collaborating with them...she felt dizziness but also an enormous determination, a deep desire to open her shirt showing the coat of arms of the house of El and unfold her cape, fly to wherever Luthor and this Corporation were and demand the truth from them and make them answer in front of the American public.
Louis smoked silently
-I will not sign the article, it is not cowardice, I will support you and ultimately I will answer for you, but I am a retired major in the army. Don't forget that. We can't let ourselves be crushed by the Soviets, in an arms race things like the one we just heard about happen. We can defend Smotrich if he is truly being pursued in earnest and report on Luthor's and Lord's operations...but I wouldn't put the Army or any defense program on the spot. I respect that you want to do it, it's your reporting, you got the source, but I can't.
-But Louis this is about the quality of our Democracy and the future itself...there are things not to do...Why do you think Superwoman dumped all the remnants of Kryptonian weaponry and ships from the 1946 invasion into space?
-Because she does not trust this country.
-Oh please Louis, sometimes you are so reactionary, so petty and naive. What you say is stupid.
-I am not going to attack a defense program head-on.
-What if the defense program endangered lives and rights?
-There is a government elected by the people to prevent it.
Clara sighed. Louis was not military by training but almost four years in the army and the rank of Major had probably changed him forever. What would he be like before the war? Would he be the jovial, caring man he sometimes was with her or the dark, distrustful authoritarian? She was headstrong but Louis seemed much more so. He had a skull of Kryptonite or lead, impossible to see inside, she thought in frustration.
-Louis, I will bring out a first news item soon as you have recommended, but if there are Nazi scientists doing improper experiments I intend to follow the thread whatever it takes.
-And I'm fine with that, you're probably right in the end. It's also quite possible that this is like Roswell, a silly thing that no one wants to talk about and it comes to nothing.
-I don't think Roswell is nonsense but if it is I will stop.
Louis took her hand and kissed it. Clara's heart skipped a beat. He had only done it once before. She felt like her heart was beating at a hundred thousand beats per minute and that she was going to burst into flames. Some energy must have been released because the light from a couple of nearby storefronts flickered.
-Another power surge," said Louis quizzically.
-A lot of electricity is consumed," said Clara.
-The weekend I'm going with my little girl, my sister and my two nephews to my parents' house in Oyster Bay. The house is very big. We’ll leave Friday after lunch and come back Sunday night... Patricia won't be there, she's staying in town. There is plenty of room in our house. You might prefer it to being in town. That way you could be with Emily and join us to try to sail a little...and you can take advantage of reading and writing...I won't bother you. Besides on Sunday we will spend the morning and lunch with the people of the Catholic parish there, you don’t need to come if you don't want to, you would have the house and wharf to yourself most of Sunday and....
-Enough, adjudicated, yes, of course I'll go," Clara amusedly and happily put a finger in his mouth.
Clara was trotting happily down the street, they had returned to the office and worked in silence, it always happened when they got too close...but they were moving forward! If only Louis trusted Superwoman, and not just desired her...she would rip off her glasses and dress in front of him so he could see her as the Superheroine and there would no longer be any wall between them, just the marriage to Pat, and Louis and his family would surely find a way to annul it or reach an agreement with his wife....or not...maybe she was too naive, maybe it was all so far away...and in between Luthor, Nazi rockets, state secrets and faceless soldiers targeting children anywhere in the world.
Clara was exhausted, burning with the desire to get home and take a leisurely bath, then fly to Smalville to have dinner with her mother at home. Her super-hearing picked up some distress calls...there was a flood in Thailand...it overlapped with a factory fire in Louisiana.
-Looks like a job for Superwoman," she said with determination.
Clara ran at full speed to the nearest phone booth. She took off her glasses, hat, jacket and shirt, pulled down her skirt and stockings, exposing her blue tights and El's house crest, and slipped off her shoes while unfolding her cape. In a split second he was flying at full speed. A careful observer would only have seen the door of the phone booth open and close in less than a second and a sort of red and blue spot of light flickered on it.
Aleutian Islands, over the sea.
Maxwell Lord and Lex Luthor were sitting across from each other in a military plane. Luthor was reading Herodotus and Lord was reading a cowboy comic strip. They couldn't have been more different. Luthor was a thin, sharp-faced man, completely bald and with an overly stern expression, wearing a rather austere gray suit. Lord was a strong, young man, tanned, blond and with a permanent expression of joviality.
-What do you read, Luthor?
-Herodotus, the earliest historian
-Is he the one talking about Genesis?
-No, it doesn't go back that far," Luthor said, trying to sound friendly. Lord was a lout but he knew how to make money
-We are arriving, gentlemen," said a man in a colonel's uniform.
They were flying over a group of volcanic islands, mostly covered in snow, over a turquoise ocean.
-The second island on the left that you see in the distance is already Russian territory, their planes pass by from time to time, that's why we only talk about oil on the radio and all the facilities have the Exxon logo.
-Handsome thinking," Luthor said.
-That's our little island," said the military man pointing to a large flat island with a lake in the center, "they called it Dead Island or Death Island, but the radiation levels are too low for us. That lake you see is two kilometers in diameter, it is the crater that the ship made when it crashed. We have found pieces of machinery buried in mud at quite a few meters, but very interesting as we had warned you. Under the sea we believe there are ruins, we have even detected the base of a pyramid larger than those of Egypt but we believe that the force of the explosion of the crash of the ship collapsed it completely.
-So there was a city here? asked Lord
-We don't think so, taking into account the climatic conditions that our scientists have calculated were here 12,000 years ago. The truth is that it would be like living in Vladivostok today...we do not know how these people lived or even if they were human...maybe it was a military base or an auxiliary port. We do not know why the big ship crashed here.
-What about the lake?
-We hope to drain it in three months, but the large object that's buried under it keeps emitting electromagnetic pulses and something that's sort of an S.O.S. We can get to it in four months. It's about fifty meters long, it's probably some kind of survival capsule that was embedded deep inside the ship that crashed. It has been there for thousands of years.
-This is not like Roswell, Lord, we may have found El Dorado here," smiled Luthor.
-If it were real oil we could sell it faster, Lord laughed.